The Shame of Shame
by: Lisa Robertson
There are a lot of stories in the Bible that I identify with. Mostly, they are the ones that tell the tale of people who’ve wandered away from God only to be drawn back to him by his mercy and grace.
But the one story that tells more about why I am in such desperate need of God’s forgiveness is the one of the first humans to ever inhabit our planet — Adam and Eve.
It is interesting that when God created the universe, Genesis says that God spoke everything into being. His word is so powerful that it compelled things to be that did not exist only seconds before.
However, when it came to mankind, Genesis employs another verb — formed. We read that he formed man out of the dust of the earth. And in forming him, he created him in his image. Man bears the likeness of God somehow.
Instead of simply speaking Adam and Eve into being, we get the idea that God used his hands to create his masterpiece. All of his affection was poured out on his children. He gave them dominion over the rest of creation.
But then the story takes an ugly turn. Because they bore the image of God, they also had the desire to be God. That’s why they were so easy to persuade that God was somehow holding out on them. They were convinced (with a little help from the Evil One) that they could do a better job of being God than God himself. So they rebelled.
And here is where the story takes an even uglier turn. Rather than simply going to their creator/Father and confessing their sin, they hid. And because they realized for the first time that they were naked, they fashioned clothing from fig leaves in a desperate and futile attempt to cover their nakedness.
In other words, they hid because they were filled with shame. They could not bear the thought that their sin against God would prevent him from ever loving them again.
I sometimes think about my darkest days when sin had a firm grip on me and I was under the control of Satan. Like a festering sore, sin caused shame to seep from my soul. Guilt can be good in the same way that pain signals my brain that I burned my hand taking a hot pot out of the oven.
But shame is different. We should feel guilty and ashamed when we reject God and attempt to sit on his throne. However, shame that is unresolved festers and threatens to take over our souls. It becomes toxic. It is a constant reminder that our guilt is unresolved.
In my case, the shame of childhood sexual trauma and the dysfunctional life that experience set me up for reared its ugly head every time I tried to “get my life together.” When I resolved to stop sinning, I could almost hear a voice that said, “Who do you think you are? God knows everything about you. Do you really think he would take you back?” I don’t know how many times I resolved to change only to hear that voice of shame reminding me that I was beyond hope.
So no matter what my life looked like to others, this vile pool of shame sat stagnant in my heart and convinced me that the only course of action for me was to simply put on a happy face and play the game.
Perhaps you know what I’m talking about. I suspect that you do.
At this point, you may be asking what the solution to such a dilemma is. Truthfully, the answer is quite simple. It’s not easy, but it is not at all complicated.
I can tell you this: When I finally came to the end of myself, when I finally realized that my life was completely out of control and that I had made such a mess of things that I could not personally put all the pieces back together, I was finally ready for God to do something about me — with me.
When God led me to this place of utter despair, I finally realized that the only way out was for me to admit that I could not fix it, that only God could, and that I had to appear before him with nothing in my hands to offer him in exchange for his grace.
The amazing thing is that when I became humble before God like this, he graciously took from me the responsibility for managing what other people knew about me. In other words, I stopped caring what would come of me if others found out what an evil and wicked person I had become. In fact, in time, I began to freely and publicly tell my “story” with all of the sordid details. I cast off the fig leaves. They weren’t helping me, I finally realized.
I did this for two reasons. One, I wanted others to learn from my mistakes. Secondly, and more importantly, I wanted to knock the props out from under Satan the next time he tried to used my past to heap debilitating shame on me. Once I stopped caring what others knew, how could he threaten me with exposure?
I still don’t like my past. And while I love the part of my testimony where I tell how God rescued me, I am so sorry that I ever chose to live in rebellion against him. But my story is not my story! It is a story of an amazing God who can take broken people like me and bring them out of sin into the kingdom of the son loves.
I don’t praise him because I am good. I praise him because he is faithful. Thank you, God for rescuing me!