It is September 1. And it is Thursday. Added together this means my August blog sabbatical is over. It has been wonderful. Lot’s of time in green pastures and beside still waters – allowing Him to restore my soul. My body is rested, my soul fed, and my journal is full. Thank you.
Here is the first post of our new season.
Embarrassed, Ashamed, or the Voice of Shame?
Three somewhat similar words. Three very different experiences. Three critically different responses. How so?
I am embarrassed when I do some surprisingly inappropriate. Not right, not wrong – just really bad timing and incredibly awkward…like knocking over my water goblet at an elegant dinner…or burping during silent prayer at church.
I was the guest pastor on the platform along with the worship leader and the assistant pastor – all sitting facing the congregation and waiting for the service to begin. It was at that horrible moment I noticed the zipper on my pants was down. I could measure my embarrassment by the redness I felt washing over my face. I will let you guess the rest of the story.
Then there was the time I was speaking at a large student conference. I meant to refer to Elizabeth Elliot – the great missionary to the Auca Indians of Ecuador who had previously murdered her husband. I was on a roll…heading for the climax of the message…when out of my mouth, instead of Elizabeth Elliot comes Elizabeth Taylor! Pandemonium broke out for the next five minutes! I am still embarrassed.
So what is our response to embarrassment? It is easy. Just join the human race. You have as much fun as your friends are having at your expense.
I am ashamed when in my foolishness I do something that is out of character and inconsistent with my identity as a follower of Jesus. I lie, I demean a friend, I break a trust, allow my eyes to wander, explode with anger.
I had heard (second handedly) that one of my staff said something quite critical of me…and in my estimation wrong. My anger was triggered. There was no way I was going to allow such behavior on my team. I jumped in my car, pounded unannounced on their front door, then sat in their living room and let them experience all my anger. And there was a lot of it.
Back home, I knew I deeply blew it. How I had acted was not Christ in me. I sinned. I was ashamed of what I did. I felt ashamed and guilty because my behavior was inconsistent with the new heart and nature God had implanted in me.
How do we respond to being ashamed? To the guilt of our sin? We ask forgiveness. First of God because no matter what we have done we have sinned against Him. Secondly, if our behavior has wounded or betrayed someone (and I think it always does no matter how hidden we keep it) we ask for their forgiveness. But not just forgiveness for what we did, but for what it did to them.
The Voice of Shame
The voice of shame tells me because I did something bad or evil that I am ashamed of, that I am a bad person. An evil person. I am a phony, unworthy, undeserving. The voice of shame condemns me with a false and fatal equation, “I did, therefore I am.” It tells me my behavior creates my identity.
How do I respond when I hear this voice? I go to the gospel and give thanks. The gospel tells me my behavior no longer creates my identity. Rather – the behavior of Christ is given to me and creates my identity. This is the truth about me – not the lies of condemnation. For me, I need to run, not walk, to Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
When I hear the voice of shame I need to name it for what it is – a lie. And then give thanks for what Jesus has done for me.