Shame, according to Merriam-Websters is:
a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.
As I’ve continued on this healing path, the one thing that continually sets up road blocks along the way is the painful emotion of shame that flows from a very deep wound in my soul that God is still healing. The wound given to me by the man who was supposed to protect me, but instead fed off of my soul to fill his own shameful wounds.
I didn’t know much about my adopted father’s early upbringing, because he didn’t talk about it much, but living near his mother for several years helped me to understand some of his own wounds. She was a very manipulative woman. I watched her off and on until she died pit my uncle and my father against one another. She bragged to my father on how good his brother was to her and to my uncle how good my father was to her. I saw an animosity between the two brothers that was ongoing and she was the constantly the match keeping the fire lit. I listened to my adopted father sit day after day spouting anger and bitterness about how his brother had hurt him and how what he did for his mother was never enough. Yet time and time again when she called he ran, even if it was to clean her toilet. As I look back on those times I realize my adopted father was ruled and trapped by shame. He’d also lost his own father at a young age, who was a drug addict. My father used to tell stories how his father would take him with him as a teen to purchase drugs and watched him shoot up in front of him.
As I look back on his life, I realize he never escaped his own shame and he was the most miserable man I’d ever known. And I also see, if at the root of who we are is ruled by shame we will never be free and we’ll constantly be looking for relief from our shame. In my adopted father’s case, sexually abusing me was his relief.
But thank God He promises a better way for all those who trust in Him.
For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Our perfect God has no shame to give us, only glory to share. When His love enters into our heart the shame that’s held us captive must die.
The heart of the gospel is the good news that we don’t have anything at all to be ashamed of. He took our sins on the cross and said, “It is finished.” We no longer need relief from our shame, because our perfect, sinless God took it all.
When this truth started to take root in my heart it changed everything. I’d been listening to Tullian for days this time last year preach on the ten commandments. Over and over again he reiterated that I didn’t have to do more try harder, that Christ’s death on the cross declared me sinless and free from shame and encouraged me to live in this truth. He also challenged me by saying that these truths would transform my heart and cause me to want to love my neighbor as myself. I was confronted by the lie I’d been living that was continuing to cause me to sin against those in my family and my church and I longed to be free. For the first time in my life I realized I didn’t have the responsibility to figure out what to do with my shame. It was on the cross. The consequences of telling the truth scared me to death, but His love did is perfect work in casting it out, so that I had the courage to finally tell the truth.
Though the process has been exceedingly difficult at times and very painful, I am able to look back now and see it was also necessary.
Allender and Longman say in Bold Love:
God wars against us like a surgeon who uses a knife to cut out a malignant tumor. The knife cuts through flesh and muscle. It draws blood and causes terrible pain. But the purpose is redemptive. He is destroying disease and ugliness that, left unattended, would eventually destroy the whole organism.
My own shame had caused me to be entangled in a relationship where evil had convinced me I would never escape. And the more I tried to ease my shame the more it grew. I was convinced my shame was too horrible for others to handle and my abusive pastor continued to tell me the same. It is clear to me now that evil wanted the sin to stay in the dark so I’d never be free.
Allender and Longman say in Bold Love :
Darkness has never been too fond of light. If you were to watch light enter a dark room at super slow motion, you would see light progressively force darkness to flee in its presence. Darkness cannot bear to inhabit the same environment as light. In the same way, evil cannot tolerate the intrusion of goodness. Evil has its own snarl, dress code, favorite beer, and sports team, and when someone comes into its lair sporting a smile, out-of-fashion wide lapels, and a root beer, it can hardly bear to coexist with this alien and stranger. It depends on its ability to mock and shame the intruder into retreat. What unnerves evil more than any one thing is someone who is not controlled by shame and yet is not (like evil) shameless. The one who does harm uses shame to force the eyes of the victim to look at some inner deficiency as the explanation for the pain. The abuser abuses, but it is the victim’s fault-she was too fat, too thin, too smart, too dumb.
Allow the words in bold to sink into your heart. Abusers use shame to keep their victims trapped. I know this is true for me. I believed I was so bad that no one would be able to love me or forgive me if they knew what I did. But evil shudders when we realize this is not true. God loves us no matter what we’ve done. He doesn’t hold our sins against us. And He also promises when we trust Him that we will not be put to shame.
And when I believed this, I was able to move forward out of the abuse.
Allender and Longman say:
The greatest shock to the abuser comes not only when the victim is no longer controlled by shame, but also has the power to expose the little man behind the curtain who uses big words, spouts angry commands, and sends innocents on long, dangerous journeys. In other words, goodness has the power to expose and shame the one who did harm.
Escaping my own shame, not only set me free, but left my abusive pastor to deal with the reality of his own shame.
And I pray that he knows the same truth that I do –
“Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”