Dictionary.com – *Shame – 1. The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another. 4. A fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret.
*Shame launches us into a sort of sacred suffering that gives us tools, otherwise illusive, that can actually save us. It can originate in our own conscience, or it can be “assigned” to us by others who are more then willing to serve it up and offer seconds. Constructively, it can provoke remorse and change, or when felt on behalf of others, comfort, grace and prayer. Yet it also can circle over our heads with landing gear down, powerless to make its mark, if we aren’t willing to humbly inspect our hearts.
Jesus was no stranger to shame. He didn’t turn from it, but conquered the sting of it for the joy that came from making a way to save us. Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame…” Shame can be a stalker and a haunter, especially if we’re prideful, but when we follow Jesus example and despise it, we shrink it to its rightful place and role and amazing things can happen.
When I worked at a local daycare, we often sang action songs including a favorite “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”. Within the lyrics, there is a great message, “we’re coming to a wide river, and there’s no bridge going over it, no tunnel going under it, it’s just plain old water, and we’re gonna have to swim…I’m not afraid. Are you?”
We’re often put in circumstances just like that. There’s no way around, under, or over. We just gotta go through and get thicker skin while the elements pelt us. The ultimate example is Christ on the cross. John Piper wrote an excellent post on what it means to despise the shame. He concluded Jesus “despising the shame” was like saying, ‘Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less then nothing…You think you have power. Compared to the joy before me, you have none…. You think you can distract me. I won’t even look at you….You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.’ There was once a man who over the course of his lifetime had experienced devastating parenting failures with dire consequences, committed adultery, and set up a murder to cover his own mistake. Yet because he loved God and repented of his sins, he was able to say, “Those who look to Him are radiant with joy. Their faces will never be ashamed.” (Ps. 34:10) If you guessed David, you’re right. I love reading the Psalms, and am thankful he despised the shame and told his story.
So yeah, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and so can you. That includes the boldness to be honest and humble for Christ’s sake, no pun intended. Some would rather avoid the power tools that can be earned in trials and shame, then admit anything shameful touched them or their families. Ann Voskamp said in a recent post “the worst grief is a grief that cannot speak…..Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.” The Bible is rife with examples of the type of guarantee that things are going to get tough, and that there’s no way around but through. There are no guarantees of turbulent free friendships, marriages, parenting, businesses, health, reputations, etc; only of a Savior who will walk beside us triumphantly through the turbulence and “keep” that which we’ve committed to Him, ultimately souls. He may allow some deep plunges, shame, grief, or heartache in order to refine and use what is of high value to Him.
For us, the hope and promise is that we have a Savior who showed us how to despise the shame and find joy. Have the filthy hands of shame and despair propelled you toward a destiny? Are you willing to share what might be useful to encourage someone?
As another Mother’s Day approaches I am leaning into hope and steering clear of man’s conclusions as I prod through my valleys. I refuse to compare myself to Mother Theresa, Susanna Wesley, Michelle Dugger, nor any young and idealistic mother full of preconceived notions about life and parenting, though I’m happy for all of them. But for myself, I’m madly in love with my kids and grandkids no matter what. Every single one. The sweetest celebration of my motherhood is not on any one particular day, or in reveling in any one of my children’s successes, though I do that. It is in the thoughtfulness of each one of them throughout the year. And then another year and another and another. It is in cards, calls, visits, and laughter. For the ones with children (my sweet grands), it is in the effort they put into guiding the grandkids to gift us with sweet indulgences of artwork, notes, hugs and chats. For seasons when there has been too much gap between visits or too much silence in the conversation, (on either end) it is in the celebration of a God who mends and heals in our lack, our uncertainty, and yes, even in our sin.
If I have ever doubted the lavishness of my God, and I don’t generally, I have only to feast my eyes on an azalea bush in May to settle the matter.
For my friends who have yearned to have children, but could not, I am sorry. Truly sorry. My heart aches for you. I am also sorry for those who have loved and held a child who passed away. There are no words to say I understand, because I don’t and can’t. Your hope for reunion is literally an eternity away. Then there are heart holes for those who have had to give up a child, parent a child without the parenthood “title” or for those of us who have miscarried without ever holding that child. As Ann Voskamp said in a recent post, “Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.” She went on to explain that God is the ultimate grief converter because He promises to invade our grief with joy and pour lavish comfort on us in our circumstances.
I hope that God fills your heart with hope in abundance this Mother’s Day…hope that you know how much love God has for you. If you are a believer in Christ as your Savior who died for you, that makes you a daughter of the King, and a joint heir with Christ. In other words, you are royalty! Since God has all the traits that were divided in Adam when He created Eve, He longs to love us and our children with a motherly type love, as well as a fatherly love, and of course, His agape love (which is not based on feelings). “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” from Luke 13:34.
This Mother’s Day I once again am thankful that God indulgently allows us to be a miracle in the middle of our circumstances. Our compass is always pointed to hope, as is beautifully expressed in a song about Christ and the church, “And though you’re in the dark here call me friend…not safe but worth it, so worth it…As you lead us away to valleys low, to acres of hope, acres of hope.”
Do you realize the miracle that He has allowed you to be and the acres of hope that He is leading you in from your “unsafe” valley?
Sitting in church Sunday, I glanced at my husband and was dismayed to notice that his shirt was inside out. Surprised, but not too ruffled, he exited out the side door right by him and made the switch. That was actually the second time my dear husband has been an inside out shirt trend setter at church. The first time I noticed it after we returned to our seats from the alter where we had stood, back to congregation, and prayed for our youngest son on Graduation Sunday, while sporting “Faded Glory” washing instructions across his back for anyone with a keen eye. While laughing at work the next day about our mishap, a sweet boss told me that it is the sign of a lucky man to find his shirt on inside out. I don’t know, but I was thinking about the inside out business of being a Christian.
When life seems overwhelming, I run to the Rock that is higher then I, and (sometimes after kicking and screaming inside first), I usually find this inside out truth – that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I make it my goal to…” take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10 HCSB) When I forgive others with the same grace I’ve received, knowing the ground is equal at the foot of the cross, and when I trust God to turn a situation around for the good, He is then willing to go to work on my behalf.
He picks up right where my weakness and faith invite Him in to take over. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Most everybody knows worry is a bad thing even in the most upsetting of circumstances. It might take me a little while to get to a place of peace. But the most inside out thing of all is to give thanks for my upsets and tragedies. Not that I am glad for tragedies, but that God can be glorified through them. For that I can give thanks with His help.
Here’s another inside out principle….storing up and coveting more and better without thought for the poor (and that is not necessarily defined by government) can make a selfish and hardened heart, yet generous sharing enriches a soul. God warns not to live in selfish luxury and indulgence. Giving, especially sacrificial giving, definitely softens the heart and just plain feels good. In another inside out twist, God has actually chosen the poor who love Him to be rich in faith.
I have been on both ends of rudeness and mistreatment before, (whether intentional or not) as likely anyone whose honest has. It happens, though the persecutions spoken of here are more serious and horrific around the globe, and on the increase even in our country. But the inside out perspective is this. There’s a reward waiting when I leave it in God’s hands and refuse bitterness.
The cool thing about being a child of God is the enemy can’t win. He’s already lost. Even when I’m down. God rushes to rescue (soul first and foremost) and uses it all. When I rally in my own strength this promise does not apply.
With God, the way up is down...bowed down in prayer that is. Praying His promises, believing He will fulfill them because I have died to self and live for Him. Just as a flower dies to drop it’s seed before renewal, so I have to leave my vision in His hands to fulfill or not, according to His best plan.
Here’s a great inside out truth. I look at what can’t be seen. But actually, in my faith, it can be seen and I hold onto it through His promises. Because of this I can let go and worship while still in the storm. I can “see” with my faith vision, and because of His love for me that I know so well, I know that I know that He is at work.
In my prayers, I go to war with the most powerful weapons not generally known to man. They are mighty weapons that demolish “invisible”, but very real, strongholds. They are the weapons of the name of Jesus, my faith in Him, and the Scripture promises that I stand on! There is nothing on this earth so effective as a devoted child of God praying with “clean hands” and a pure heart (because of Christ) and childlike trust. It’s here that often dismal circumstances turn with God’s miraculous touch, but whether or not, I definitely abide in His presence and know His love. No matter how my life is going here, where I am just a stranger, I long for the day I am with Him in eternity and these present sufferings behind me. I know it’s just ahead and I keep my eye on the prize.
That seems to be the ultimate inside out deal. Faithful unto death, gets the crown of life. Whether it’s death to a thousand little selfish things, or choosing death over denying Christ for eternity’s sake, this is the ultimate call. So next time you find your shirt on inside out, consider yourself “lucky” to be reminded that we live inside out. What have you worn inside out or turned around? Please tell me it’s not just at our house. What “lucky” application fits?
I am in a Master’s Degree School Program as I trudge through some one way valleys. After over 25 years of homeschooling seven children I have become accustomed to curriculum, whether bought as a package or whether I put it together hodge podge style. I spent many an August watching kids and sometimes grandkids swim at the city pool while I poured through the following year’s school plans and calender. Implementation of each year took off with grandiose thoughts of how organized I would be, how much they would learn and what balance of study versus hands on and field trips would be used. In addition to hours of planning, there were many, many more hours of reading out loud, drilling of tables and verses, etc. Admittedly, I did fall asleep a few times while reading out loud in the evenings, and my kids won’t let me live down the way I mastered “reading” in my sleep. There were a few such times when I sent them to bed, but still under the spell of sleepy delirium, told them to do such interesting things as “Brush your teeth and get in the toilet.” But none of those years of homeschooling required my focus as much as the intensive classroom of praying and keeping faith while an adult child wades through serious troubles.
As I focus on standing on many scripture promises, I can’t allow myself to indulge in logic and reasoning. Oh no. I serve a big God who is able to do exceedingly above all that I ask or think. (Eph. 3:20). Nothing is impossible for Him. (Luke 1:37) He can reach where I can’t. (Isa. 59:1) He will rescue my children, even when they’re not innocent if I keep my hands “pure” because of Christ. His rescue is first and foremost the soul, but sometimes he rescues circumstances also, if He chooses to bring glory to Himself from them a different way. (Job 22:30) His Word that we helped them store away, won’t return void. (Isa. 55:11) He is able to bring our children back to the Way; i.e. their own spiritual “land”. (Jer. 31:17) And best of all He is able to accomplish all this in spite of me, and all of my teaching efforts, because He will actually be their teacher and give them peace. Not only does He not judge me, He makes up for my lack. (Isa. 54:13) That is my teaching retirement verse. The very spring of my last year of supervising our home school, God caused that one to stand out in “neon” letters, both as a wake up call and a comfort, so that I can get on my knees before Him each day and give the teaching results to Him. Then I’m able to start a new day with renewed faith knowing He made this day for my faith to land on and soar in, no matter what circumstances I’m in. He causes me to repeat such promises as “What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.” (Ps. 56:3) and Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil. 4:6) And most of all, He brings me around to a sacrifice of praise to Him even when I’m down. My praises may come out in a sob but they switch my focus to Him and bring His presence into my circumstances or that of someone I’m praying for, sometimes with a surprising turn of events.
Giving the results to God as I bow my head in the “faith” school takes focus, but is rewarding. I have set backs, where I just don’t really want to display His glory. I’d rather stay under a pile of blankets (at least mentally) and indulge in some grief over some latest turn of events. He is patient with me as I need a little “down time” before forging ahead in this Master program He has me in. During those times I feel all the brokenness and all the pain and know that it is real. There is healing in this acknowledgement and in tears, which God collects and keeps. He hears my cries and yours!
But back in the faith classroom, He carries me to the table where I don’t see my brokenness anymore. I see things from His perspective and it’s so much better then my own. I’m whole and I know He is fulfilling His promises as He sees fit in my life and that of my family. This degree program doesn’t commence until eternity, but the dividends can’t be equaled in any other program out there. There is faith and peace for character enrichment and future crowns to lay at His feet. This is a program that some of the most intelligent folks don’t acquire; since it requires a surrendered heart.
Who am I to question His ways or His timing. It is enough that He carries me to a table I don’t deserve. Do you struggle with trials and His timing? What ways help you not see your brokenness, or that of a loved one, anymore, but rather the One who carries you?