Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Jesus Wants to Meet Us in Our Shame

Over at the CCEF blog, Ed Welch writes about the differences between shame and guilt. He says that guilt is usually black and white. You either did wrong or you didn't. Shame, however, is harder to pinpoint. He says, "With shame, we feel like we did wrong, but we can’t always identify what that wrong was, or we can identify a thousand wrongs, though none of them might be the actual trigger for shame."

He goes on to talk about how shame is not something that is talked a lot about in church or our communities. Because of that, shame is often left unidentified and continues to to plague us. We must seek to identify those things in our lives that have brought shame.

I began this process in my own life a few years back. I knew I struggled with anxiety and nervousness in different social situations but never knew why. I also knew I was an approval junkie, constantly needing others to validate me. God began revealing how I had believed certain lies growing up and had massive amounts of shame associated with this anxiety. Because these lies and the shame have been brought more into the light, God has begun bringing great amounts of freedom in this area, freeing me to let God's love be enough for me.

Back to Ed Welch's post, here are a few key paragraphs that I thought were helpful::
Shame has to do with your standing before God and your standing in the community. You think you should be unaffected by the opinions and words of other people? Not so. We were created to live in community, and anything that jeopardizes our inclusion goes against who we really are.

Worthlessness is an easy place to begin defining shame. Have you ever felt worthless? I am guessing that I am not alone in this one. I feel worthless when I notice student indifference after a lecture, when I preach and know that I was less than helpful, when I become alert to my weaknesses as a counselor and wonder why I am inflicting myself on people, and, of course, I could go on.

Worthlessness evokes images of value. It means that your standing with others has gone way down. You know you are a failure, so does everyone else. Our despair over our worthlessness could reflect our pride. That is, “I feel so bad because I want to be great.” And, no doubt, there is pride mixed in with worthlessness. But Jesus doesn’t go to lepers and talk about their pride. Instead, he touches them as a way to show his fellowship and acceptance, and he restores them to his community, though acceptance into the community of mortals like us is not guaranteed.

Shame. You feel worthless, rejected, dirty and exposed. Sometimes you feel it because of what you have done, in which case your badness must exceed community standards. For example, there are some things that Christians confess in public – a little bit of lust, anxieties about money, not listening to a spouse, erratic quiet times. These are the sins that, when you confess them, everyone is nodding in agreement. But there are other acts that leave everyone else in silence because these sins are less common and less acceptable. Shame attaches itself to these sins. But not only to these sins...

Shame does indeed have many faces. It seems to be everywhere and yet still be elusive. Maybe that’s why you can’t do anything with it until you put words on it. But God puts words on it, so we should too. That itself can be hopeful. It can also leave us wanting more. If you want more right away, just watch Jesus. He goes out of his way to meet, touch, bless, and restore the shamed:
  • a Samaritan woman who is not measuring up to community standards
  • a woman who sexual past identified her as a “sinful woman”
  • lepers
  • tax collectors
  • a woman whose bleeding renders her unclean
  • a disciple who denied any association with him
The Gospel of Jesus is “I am yours and you are mine, and I’m not letting you get away.”

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