An antidote to shame

This post follows on from last week’s Winter Pruning.

As long as I held on to my ‘one day’ dream, I hadn’t failed, it was still going to happen, it was just temporarily held up. But I’ve let that dream go, let it die.

As far as I know, that dream will never happen. I know longer expect it to, I’m no longer holding out hope that I can still make it happen somewhere down the line. So that hope, that task will never be completed, ticked off my bucket list.

I have failed this.

Or at least that’s what my mind is telling me. My thoughts spiral around and the prickly heat of shame floods through me. I burn.

This is familiar ground. The shame of not being good enough, not living up to my potential, not doing what was expected of me…

And it makes all the old defense mechanisms rise, the walls go up and I try to hide. But my shame comes with me, pouring, gushing out of the centre of my being, spilling over me, over everything I touch.

Stop focusing on the bad stuff,” I criticise myself, “just seek out the good, go do something productive and move on.

But it’s not working, the harsh words I speak to myself just make my shame flare higher, its heat beating down on me.

God! Help me with my shame.” My heart cries out.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8. That’s what I was trying to tell myself, but something’s not quite right.

What is true here? Belting on truth, I realise Shame is not speaking truth to me.

What does the Bible say about Shame?” I ask Google.

And it comes back with this: “Shame prevents us from intimacy with God because it makes us feel unworthy and distant from [God].

Shame tells me that I am a failure, that is what and who I am. And all the webpages saying that Good Christians have no room for shame if they are dealing with sin properly just make me feel worse, press that label of Failure even more firmly onto me, spreading it wider across my life.

But hang on, why am I so willing to accept this as my identity?

It’s all too familiar from living in it for years in the past, like an old pair of jeans that I can just slip back into. But if “there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), why am I allowing Shame to condemn me?

This identity of Failure might be familiar, but it is no longer mine. My identity doesn’t rest on my successes and failures, my achievements or abilities. My identity comes from the Great I Am, the One Who Saves, El Shaddai – the All Sufficient. God dictates my identity, not Shame. And God has claimed me as Daughter, birthed me again into new life.

Shame tells me to hide, to keep my distance from people and God. Shame tells me that I am not worthy of God’s love, of an intimate relationship with God, that I am not good enough for the tasks God is laying out before me, and it’s true.

I am not worthy, I am not good enough. But it’s not up to me. And it’s not up to Shame. It is up to God. God chooses to love me, to invite me close, to give me permission to confidently enter into the throne-room of Grace, to invite me to use my skills and giftings in God’s work. It’s not up to me.

I didn’t get to choose my earthly parents, my siblings, I didn’t choose my personality or natural talents. Likewise, I didn’t choose my Heavenly Parent, my spiritual family, or my spiritual giftings. God chose them, in God’s immense wisdom. Who am I to say God got it wrong? Who is Shame to contradict the Eternal Creator?

I think I might trust God’s voice about who I am, not Shame’s.

Hebrews 10:22 talks about drawing near to God with “full assurance of faith.”

We tend to understand ‘believe’ as a head knowledge, a choice between two incomplete sets of facts, a finger-crossed hope. But when talking about believing in Jesus, the Amplified Bible translates it as believe in, trust in, rely on, cling to, cleave to, lean on.

Pressing my weight into God and knowing deep in my bones that I will not fall.

And in that intimacy of being pressed close, of entering the holy of holies, there is no room for Shame.

Shame has no sway in the throne-room of God, no authority. But I am the daughter of the One who does.

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