Shame On Me, Again
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (ESV)
It happened suddenly and without warning.
One minute I was sitting in a booth, laughing over a cup of coffee with my youngest son on his college campus (which just so happens to be my alma mater). The next minute, I'm driving away from my old college stomping grounds when the mere sight of a corner drugstore triggers a painful reminder of my past.
It just so happened to be the same corner drugstore that one of my roommates and I ducked into late one night under a cloak of darkness to purchase a pregnancy test. She was late and had assumed the worst. It turned out it was negative, but it just as easily could have been me purchasing the test.
In fact, at age 17 it had been me, which is what triggered my sudden feelings of shame that day. Back then, I was the one taking a pregnancy test, only my results were positive. This, in turn, led to my decision to terminate the pregnancy. I've spoken openly about this part of my past and have been walking in victory for many years, but every so often, the feelings of shame still come.
And that's what shame does. It shows up uninvited to steal your joy and accuse your soul.
Dictionary.com defines shame as "the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another."
We avoid talking about shame because it is messy.
We see the earliest account of shame in the immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve's sin in the garden (Genesis 3). Prior to their sin, Scripture tells us they were both naked and unashamed. One chapter later they are sewing fig leaves together and playing a game of hide-and-seek with God. With that one forbidden bite came our first bitter taste of shame.
Like Adam and Eve, our human instinct is to hide our shame. We attempt to cover it with modern-day fig leaves, ranging from addictions to breakneck busyness. We bury our shame beneath perfectionism, good deeds, and yes, even ministry service. Been there. Done that.
Some people are more prone to experiencing feelings of shame, while others seem better equipped to avoid its sting with a healthy understanding of guilt and grace. Those who grew up in households where shame was a mainstay of the family diet will often turn around and serve it in their own families, passing it down from generation to generation.
Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, "What you did was bad." Shame says, "What you did was bad, so therefore, you are a bad person."
Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, "If I could go back and do things differently, I'd do this ... or that." Shame says, "I'll never get it right. I'm a failure."
Shame is not the same as embarrassment. Embarrassment says, "Everyone experiences embarrassing moments." Shame says, "Yet another reminder that I'm a loser, and nothing will change that fact."
Guilt is always connected to behavior, while shame is always connected to identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.
We can't completely abolish painful reminders of shame that show up uninvited on the doorsteps of our souls, but we can refuse to answer the door.
And that's exactly what I did that day driving past the drugstore when the old shame tapes began to play. I hit the "eject" button and boldly declared out loud today's key verse, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Over and over, I proclaimed it until, once again, I believed it. I showed shame the door. And you can, too.
Heavenly Father, when feelings of shame pay me an unexpected visit, help me immediately usher them out by declaring Your unfailing love and forgiveness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
When was the last time you experienced a painful encounter with shame? Did you allow the shame tapes to play in your mind or immediately turn to Christ, hit "eject," and show shame the door?
The next time shame pays you an unexpected visit, show it the door by confidently declaring Romans 8:1.