David Letterman often had humorous top ten reasons for something. Today I am going to share top ten definition of something and see if you can guess what it is:
- Not meeting your responsibility to yourself.
- Blaming yourself for making a mistake.
- Loss of honor.
- Believing you are a bad person.
- Feeling inferior.
- Absence or deficiency of self-love.
- Failure to meet my own standard of behavior.
- Disapproving of your own actions or accomplishments.
- Dissatisfaction from your assessment of a decrease in stature.
- Feeling badly about yourself. ( http:www.emotionalcompetency.com/shame.htm)
Did you guess SHAME? I was fascinated by how many different ways one could look at this crippling emotion; an emotional state that can tie us up in knots and keep us from grace. Yet the one I think I like the best is Shame is an intrinsic punishment for bad behavior. Shame is an internal process, sometimes we feel shame because we are caught but that soon moves to guilt. But when it is just you and what you did, you and what you think you should have done, and you fall short then we are dealing with shame.
Can you think of a time of shame in your life? No one else knew, but you knew and you felt separated by shame; separated from friends, family, even God?
The woman at the well lived in shame. She came to the well in the heat of the day to avoid seeing the women who would not let her forget her shame. Not let her forget that she had five husbands, something that checks all 10 boxes on the definition of shame. She was a social outcast, she paid the price for this shame in that her world was shattered.
We do not have to be ostracized in order to feel the effects of shame. Shame creeps in when we least expect it. Helen Merrell Lynd describes the effects of shame: “The rejected gift, the joke or the phrase that does not come off, the misguided gesture, the falling short of our own ideals, the expectation of response violated- such experiences mean that we have trusted ourselves to a situation that is not there. We have relied on the assumption of one perspective or Gestalt and found a totally different one.” She describes this shame as a “shattering of trust” (Scenes of Shame J. Adamson, pg 23). A shattering of trust. Isn’t that exactly what shame feels like? Like your world is pulled out from under you and you want to hide.
The Samaritan woman at the well experienced the shattering of trust. The women who rejected her, the community who refused to welcome her, the religious leaders who saw her as tainted. All this was shattered trust from her shame.
Adam and Eve are the classic examples of shame. They broke the one rule God gave to them and then they hid themselves from God with fig leaves. The word “shame” comes from the word to cover or to hide. Yet at the heart of that story is the shattering of trust between God and humanity. God and those God entrusted with the new creation, with all that God had made. When we call that original sin it is not so much that it is our sin, because you and I did not eat the apple. No it the shattering of the relationship, the shattering of trust, that continues on through generations.
Even Isaiah speaks of the shattered trust of shame. You see the Israelites had been taken into exile, taken from their land, taken it felt like from their God. But Isaiah declares God will restore the relationship through the spirit of Lord and offers the call to serve those who are outcast. You see God knows we continue to create moments of shame, continue to shatter trust, we become the broken hearted, we are captive to false beliefs, we need to be freed from the prisons of our lives. We need to have our shattered trust restored! That is why Jesus takes Isaiah’s words and claims them as his mission statement, and charges us to do the same. Isaiah declares, “Instead of your shame you shall have a double portion… yours will be an everlasting joy (v. 7 RSV).
Princeton Seminary President Craig Barnes speaks of shame and starts by quoting Garrison Keillor, “We always have a backstage view of ourselves.” Barnes continues, we let the audience see only the neatly arranged stage. But behind the curtain all kinds of things are lying around: old failures, hurts, guilt and shame. We hear that we are living in a shameless society, and that people are no longer bothered by shame. I don’t believe it. Shame plagues our souls. Psychologists tell us that shame sweeps over us when we overstep our abilities, or when our fantasy about who we would like to be encounters the backstage reality of who we really are.
Nothing is more crippling to our souls than working at hiding shame. We lock up more and more doors, sealing off more and more rooms of the heart to prevent our true selves from being discovered. We think we are keeping the world out, but in fact we are keeping ourselves locked in.” (“Crying Shame,” article in The Christian Century, April 6, 2004, pp. 19).
That double portion, that everlasting joy Isaiah was talking about, only happens when we lay down our shame, unlock our doors, become our authentic selves before our risen Lord.
Jesus unlocks those doors, and sets you free.
Salvation is the grace of Jesus Christ saving us from our shattered trust. Just invasion a glass window pane shattered, then the motion stops and the image reverses, glass is being put back. The millions shards and pieces are reunited into wholeness, welcoming light. That is salvation. Restoring us to our right relationship with God, the relationship we were intended to have from the beginning. Through grace we say yes to God and no to the shattered parts of our lives. One commentator writes, then Romans 8:1 is a great comfort to all of us who struggle with leftover feelings of shame and regret: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are sinners, but we are justified. We have a shameful past, but we have a better future. We used to walk in foolishness and rebellion, but now we walk in newness of life (Titus 3:3–7; Romans 6:4). God has forgiven those sins we feel shame and regret over. We can move on. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Next week is Palm Sunday, Christ is about to deliver himself up to his enemies and the cross so that you can have your shameful shattered trust restored. So unlock your doors, be your authentic self as you come to Christ’s table. Whatever is shattered in your life, whatever is broken, whatever is shameful, bring that to Christ and lay it at the foot of the cross; because Christ has already died to make your brokenness whole. Christ has died to restore the shattered trust in your life. Amen.