BREAK FREE OF SHAME, HOW OUR HISTORY CAN HELP
I had no choice but to sit and wait in a town that has been passing through my entire life. It's one of those towns that just always seemed to be a intersect along the way between a destination and home. I have observed people living in this town doing everything I would do (or not do) as part of the normal day-to-day. However, this place on the map was never a destination for me. I'll be honest, If I lived here, I would feel "stuck"!
Sitting in this town at a local coffee house I was considering how my recent trip to Washington D.C. was a destination that not only taught me a lot of America's foundational moments, it actually brought me face to face with a foundational piece of family history.
History can be impersonal and detached like the Jamestown settlement, or the Louisiana Purchase. Or it is very personal and at times private like a divorce, a family secret, or little details that really only exist between shared experiences.
When we look back at some of the points on the map between our destination and where we started out at in life, we can feel many emotions. Nostalgia, regret, gratitude, and even shame can come to mind when life went one way or the other. Shame is one of those feelings that lives in the aftermath of condemnation and when we are found in a place of fault, violation, or falsehood. The natural response is to migrate harshly from places of vulnerability. We are vulnerable because we are seen in those moments of life as a big red dot on other people's radar for what our motives or needs are. These can be moments that bring us confidence or deep wounds if we are deemed in a less than hoped for reception.
All of us have shame because of the brokenness that exists between each other after the loss of Eden and our separation from God until we are reconciled through faith in Jesus.
Shame can be what sticks with us as an irritant that inflames pain, fear, and disgust. If we don't bring our attention of such moments to the truth that God's desire, plan, and power is for us to not to live there, we can hopelessly wallow in it. If we wallow too long or don't get help with our emotions and perspective, then we don't see the opportunity to realize how these moments can teach us how to grow, how to draw closer to God, or how to develop better relationships.
Most of the time when we have an area that may involve shame we use phrases like "We have history". Why can't we say that with our positive experiences? Why do we let the shameful moments stick with us longer or more tangibly than the historical realities that fuel a healthy sense of self?
Usually I have seen the reason is we as people like to reinforce ideas. If we have an experience that is negative, we reinforce a self talk that add's points to a shame cycle that after a few trips around, shame, self doubt, and even self hatred is engrained in our self talk. "I don't deserve that" or "its typical how others treat me" and "I am not worth it" move us through a cycle of shame, fear, and paralyze us from a God who always has us on his radar! He always has blessings that out number the cursing, and is twice as gracious as he is giving us his justice. (Psalm 103)
My wife, Jessica, remarked recently;
"the voice of God will Convict, not Condemn."
Boy I married a insightful lady!
How true that is and what a great starting place to rediscover in our history how God was seeking to convict us as a means to prevent decisions that would spur shame. How he now is leaving bread crumbs of grace in order to lead us out of traps of temptation that will leave us with ashes and fragments, instead of treasured hopes and intact relationships.
But why would we look back to our history when most of the times we want to forget it?
Well, as I made my way through the National Mall in D.C., my wife and I made it to the National Archives as one of our highlight stops. I admit, I had the "National Treasure" theme song running through my head.
Right on the lower level after the security check was an exhibit that featured a sheet of the Magna Carta! I couldn't believe it. This 1217 document was partially displayed for all the world to see!
Now this may mean nothing to you but we don't share the same family history.
I learned only weeks ago that I am a direct descendent of four of the Barons who ratified this historical document with the King of England. This document was a source text for the Constitution and is regarded as a very influential agreement between powers in authority and the people who are governed under such rule. Suddenly, there I was staring at a 700 year old piece of my history. I may be geeking out a little, but it was a significant moment for me because it has elevated the origin of my life to be connected to something relevant.
This is just an example of what we all stand to find when we examine our history with a lens that seeks to see how perhaps one moment in time took place not as a reason to break us, but to help define our conviction to associate our present and future with God's purposes and value.
To realize that there are moments to not live in condemnation, but to be aware of how God either brought you through or stands to have you walk in victory in still can be very liberating.
That no matter the history, we are to always believe we are significant to God for him to work in us and through us in obedience to arrive out of the traps, messages, and narratives of shame by the powerful love and redeeming nature of Christ.
When I survey the moment I was without a home in 2012, a deep sense of shame washed over my mind and my heart. I wanted to hide, not talk to a soul, and would rather pretend that I suddenly wasn't insecure in my living. It was 10 months of a reality that completely broke me in every dimension of my life. Some of it was due to reasons that God convicted me in and disciplined His son. Though I felt ashamed, the condemnation was replaced with the trust that God would break me out of this if I honored and obeyed him in every step.
Today, I look back at those months with gratitude for they shaped my heart into a willingness to accept God's call forward. Even though the first steps where like leaps over canyons from shame to redemption, I witnessed a work of worth within. Instead of holding my past as the reason to deny God's love for me, I watched him demonstrate to me my worth by his willingness to use my shame and failure as how he can and will use the lowly to bring himself glory and praise (1Cor.1:27)
When I find myself being tempted to view the current events of my day to produce shame or paralyzing fear, I quickly look back to the history of how God brought me out when I listened to the conviction and didn't give further reason for the condemnation. I refuse to put a negative label on my forehead over the label that God placed. That label on my head and your is "Beloved".
Beloved, how will you look to your history to see where God was with you all along? Where you can start to realize that he has and he will resolve to break you out of thoughts and patterns of shame because you are very significant to him?
Break that cycle of shame and break into redeeming your heart that desperately seeks to be defined by how God can take the ashes of what we burned down, and from it, sprout new life and meaning by nothing less than his power.
Keep Looking Up!