Shame has been kicking my ass all week. I should have expected its Karate Kid moves; its swift sweep of the leg because I called its bluff. Somehow, I defied my puny self-confidence, mustered all my gusto, looked shame in eye and courageously said, “Let’s do this”.
Somehow, I thought if I tried hard enough, worked intentionally with a well-organized plan (all other Type-A’s raise your hand!), I could snuff out this looming shadow of shame that seems to follow me everywhere I go. I’ve managed to outwit it here and there over the years; always temporarily; always reappearing when and where I least expect it.
Shame is not the same thing as feeling guilty or convicted; although it certainly does categorize itself alongside these other internal thrashings. The primary difference is guilt and conviction are based on truths; shame is based on lies. Shame’s lies subtly creep into our hearts and sabotage us, causing us to feel unworthy while choking freedom from our lungs, replacing it with constant doubt, evaluation, depression, isolation. We deeply desire acceptance, but we become invisible because we know we can’t measure up to our own standards or others’, let alone God’s. Ahhh, God’s standard.
Perhaps this is the standard I find myself falling short of over and over again. Who doesn’t? And I believe this self-imposed (I’ll get to this in a minute) standard keeps us from returning God’s acceptance, desire, embrace, and living life to its full. He pursues us and we hide because if He knew the real us…we assume He will reject us— and God’s rejection… would be unbearable.
Herein lays the great lie we tell ourselves; the one that keeps reinventing its packaging so we don’t recognize it at first: I am unlovable.
Or how about these: I am not worth love, attention, devotion, acceptance, protection, forgiveness, friendship… And when life kicks us when we’re already down, we nod our heads, both expecting and accepting it because we deserve it. We don’t fight back. We wallow in it. Its darkness rolls over us like storm clouds moving in from the east; quick, confident, all-consuming.
Shame is something we continuously feed. Think about that. Shame would cease to hold us captive if in fact, we starved it; stopped thinking, dwelling, and living in the regrets, embarrassments, the things we or others have done, or not done, to us.
Author and speaker, Christine Caine, points out that shame, “greatly hinders our ability to receive God’s unconditional love—and share it with others” —because it implies that our self-doubt, our shame, our insecurities– whatever you want to call it– overrides God’s purpose in our lives.
Shame filters everything.
For lack of a better analogy, it’s like wearing rose-colored glasses. Everything we view is distorted. We do not see truth, such as God’s unconditional love for us, accurately. It’s as if someone is talking about the yellow ducks bathing in the pond, but all we see are orange ducks. We argue with our friend that the ducks are in fact orange, but our friend as well as passerbyers insist there are no such things as orange ducks– and the truth is these ducks are yellow. We cannot see the ducks as others see them no matter how much we strain or squint our eyes because we still have on the rose colored glasses. Therefore, we cannot tell others the ducks are yellow; just as we cannot truthfully and emphatically share that God loves unconditionally. Make sense?
So what do we do?
We have to confront. Short sentence, huge undertaking. Brennan Manning (my favorite author) writes, “Great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted” when we don’t confront the lies that crowd out our freedom in Christ. Left un-confronted, shame continues to whisper insinuating lies to us, assaulting our character, destroying us piece by piece. Perhaps, the key to understanding this struggle is that when we are internalizing the whispers that destroy, we are unable to hear the ever-present voice of Christ. He is always, always communicating to us. We have to choose who we are going to listen to and who we will believe. This is imperative! It’s honestly, a matter of life or death.
I love how Steven Furtick, author and pastor at Elevation Church addresses this issue: “Sometimes we stand by passively waiting for God to fix the issues that He’s called us to FIGHT IN HIS STRENGTH. We have to GIVE UP HOPE that it’ll ever go away. Every second you wish God would take away a struggle is a FORFIETED OPPORTUNITY to overcome. YOU HAVE TO FIGHT BACK. Your spiritual life depends on it. Because the voice you believe will determine the future you experience”.
To fight this battle—and it is a battle—we must take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5) This requires up to take each thought and trace it back to its origin and then ask ourselves if it is in fact true, if it in fact it aligns with God’s Word.
So this week, feeling unlovable because of my past, I had to ask myself, “Am I really unlovable?” When I boil this down to the truth and make it obedient to God’s Word, I have to take off the rose colored glasses and see that in fact, the truth is:
I am ridiculously loved (Jn 3:16)
I am redeemed (Eph. 1:8)
I am forgiven (Col. 1:14)
I am completed by God (Eph. 3:19)
I am God’s masterpiece (Eph. 2:10)
I am not alone (Heb 13:5)
I am growing (Col. 2:7)
I am promised a full life (Jn. 10:10)
I am victorious (1 Jn. 5:4)
I am set free (Rm 8:32)
And here’s the kicker: I was gifted this identity all BEFORE I breathed my first breath, BEFORE I had the opportunity to earn– or ruin– His gift of unconditional love for me. BEFORE! (attempt to grasp that word). His love is not contingent on what I do or don’t do. His love is based on fact, not on our feelings. (Admittedly, I’m still learning this!)
That’s the truth.
“The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). I need this reminder—some days more than others, like this week.
God foreknew everything about me and chose me anyway. I have nothing to live up to, but everything to live from—from the “awareness of divine acceptance” (writing more on this topic next week).