Day 8 – Releasing Shame
As we consider misdirected desires and bringing them God in prayer, we may encounter a sense of shame. Asking questions like Am I worthy? or What’s wrong with me? are quite common. And yet, God is not asking those questions. His posture toward us is that of grace upon grace. Romans 5:1-5 describes the salvation life that we have in Christ as one of hope, and “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Hope (or, confidence) emerges from suffering … a time in the wilderness. Notice the progression in Romans 5:3-4: “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” As we walk with God through the wilderness, not trying to escape our circumstances or our desires, it leads us to hope. And, the hope is specifically a confidence that we can draw near to God. No matter what our experience may be, He receives us in the same way He received Jesus in Matthew 3:17: “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
Sit with this for a moment … God is pleased with you. In Christ, you have been adopted as a beloved child. (Galatians 4:5-6) Don’t let this pass by too quickly. In many communities, the idea of being pleasing or displeasing to God is used over and over again, and we may use it as a grid through which we look at our life with God. The truth is this: with YOU, God is well pleased. He receives you and loves you beyond your capability to fully understand. Certainly, there may be desires or actions that are not pleasing to God, but you are not your behavior and you are not your thoughts. There is something deeper and truer about you as one made in the image of God and called His beloved.
How do we move this forward from a place of head knowledge to lived experience and identity? It happens as we actually relate to God with all of who we are. As we pray our desires (even the misdirected one), we connect with a God who loves us and receives us. What is incredibly pleasing to God from a “behavior” standpoint is when we choose to draw near to Him … and not a “drawing near” with thinking, believing, desiring, and doing all the right things, but coming to Him as we are … in need of a Father. At the core of God’s heart is a desire for us to experience closeness to Him. The truth is that we could never be any closer to God than we are at this moment, but we are often unaware of that presence.
With shame, we can tend to avoid or hide … desiring to get things cleaned up and figured out before we come close. This illustrates the movement from independence (I’ll get things together or I’ll deal with this on my own) to dependence (I need God and will seek Him in prayer).
The wilderness lays bare to us the reality of our hearts and our inability to deal with our “stuff” on our own. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 explains this beautifully, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” This may not be what we expect but it is how God works. It is certainly no coincidence that Jesus quoted verse 4 when He was in His wilderness experienc
Thomas Keating observed: “Our expectations of becoming paragons of piety, great contemplatives, attaining higher stages of consciousness – all subtly aimed at carrying us beyond the daily troubles of ordinary life – are not the way into the kingdom. Rather the kingdom consists in finding God in our disappointments, failures, problems, and even in our inability to rid ourselves of our vices.”
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that they can lead us into the confidence for approaching Him with no shame. The wilderness is harsh, and it is also a place where we draw close to the heart of God like never before … if we choose to be with Him in it.
Questions for reflection: are there ways that you can see shame at work in your life? What might be the invitation to release your shame?
Prayer: Lord, I am grateful to be Your beloved and to have the ability to draw near to Your heart. Give me eyes to see and then release shame when it is at play in my life. Amen.