Thankful for Shame
Does this seem like a strange thing to be thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving? I have been pondering the subject of shame. When is it helpful? When is it toxic? How does God use this feeling we all try to avoid? Shame is a part of knowing evil in ourselves. It started in the garden…they ate. “And then both of their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked and they were ashamed and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (And then they hid from God and blamed). Adam and Eve were exposed before a holy God and he pronounced judgments then made his own covering for them out of animal skins. Exposure and covering. It’s the story of the gospel.
The good side of shame:
We can’t see our need for Christ or experience salvation until we stand exposed before a holy God and we know we need to be wrapped in His robe of righteousness and clothed with garments of salvation. (Isa 61:10). Salvation involves shame first which is the exposure of the need. Painful, but necessary. Probably every step of sanctification and growth involves some element of shame as God “exposes” areas of our humanness that he wants to bring into Christlikeness. If we were not wrapped in His robe of righteousness it would be unbearable.
I think of Peter’s denial of Christ after the disciple’s brave promises to fight to the death with and for Jesus. He wept bitterly after fear caved in his courage. He was exposed. He undoubtedly felt shame. Jesus told Peter, “Satan has demanded to have you and to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith wouldn’t fail and once you have turned strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22). Satan wanted to use the exposure, shame and failure in a destructive self-defeating way. Jesus always wants to use exposure and the resulting shame in a faith building, character transforming way. Jesus predicts Peter’s shame filled failure, prays for him and then restores him during breakfast on the beach after the resurrection. ( John 21:15). Our Lord is so gentle when he exposes.
The more exposure (the more shame) the more we see our need of a savior and discover areas we are unlike Him. I know more deeply now the depth of my sin than when I was first saved. When we are forgiven little we love little. But when we are forgiven a great deal, we love more deeply, are more grateful for grace and more gentle with ourselves and others. Something amazing happens in that revelation where we see our brokenness and feel the shame and then find we are loved right there in our ugly places. We become less judging and more loving. Less self-reliant, more God reliant. Less boastful, more humble. Vulnerability is less and less frightening because we have experienced the freedom and healing exposure it can ultimately bring.
To walk a path of sanctification is to be exposed over and over with the security of the covering of “no condemnation in Christ.” I think recognizing and accepting our humanness and brokenness on an ever deeper level makes the vulnerability of exposure and shame easier and more tolerable as we grow. Another messy place in me…well no surprise I am full of them but I can be loved in messy places. God can bring restoration and healing to this dark place in me. The more I see the mess in me the more I am not surprised by the mess in others.
I think shame is toxic when we forget that we are wrapped in a robe of righteousness and covered with a garment of salvation. Shame is poisonous when we feel condemned by God or hear our own self condemning voice. Exposure (shame) never results in rejection in God’s family. It is always a pathway to restoration and healing. Romans 8: 31-39 is a safe haven when shame becomes toxic and in our humanness we feel mortified, humiliated and sometimes even disgusting. Can you let yourself be seen and loved in your messy places? Can you love others in their messy places? Remember, when God exposes a yucky place in you, that you are covered with a robe of righteousness. That’s how shame is healed. I am weak, human and prone to doubt just like you. Sometimes we soar and sometimes we bite the dust but we keep on trusting because Christ is praying, interceding for you and me that our faith will never fail. I am thankful for shame. It is God’s pathway to loving well.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
We love you and are grateful that you want to grow!
Blessings, Milan and Kay