This summer on my blog sabbatical, I read Lewis Smedes’ book Shame and Grace. Understanding that the gospel of grace is the only power that deals with my shame, I was immediately curious. I would say some things differently than he does, but I love his pastoral approach and understanding of grace. I particularly enjoyed how he compared the heaviness of shame and the lightness of grace, and how shame depresses us and grace lifts our spirits. Smedes writes “If our spiritual experience does not lighten our life, we are not experiencing grace.” With Smedes’ help, let me try to capture some of the ways that we experience grace bringing lightness to our steps. Eugene Peterson in The Message quotes Jesus saying, “Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Mt 11:30).
Grace eliminates the heavy burden of shame.
Shame is heavy. It is like carrying a lead weight in my stomach. It always lies, never telling me the truth of who I am in Christ. It tells me I am filled with not-good-enoughness…and that I never will be no matter how hard I try. As Paul, a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, wrote in his journal, “I could not longer ignore the possibility there was something very wrong inside of me…I cannot tolerate another day of pain…I will never experience light-heartedness…I feel like they swept the floors of the people factory and pasted the leftovers together to make me.”
The gospel of grace is my assurance that the lies shame tells me have no validity, “…and its message of shame has no threat” (Shame and Grace, p. 154). It carries no weight. As God looks at me through the work of Christ, I am never so unacceptable as to be unaccepted. Never.
Grace eradicates the burden of perfectionism.
The gospel eliminates perfection as the criteria for God’s love and acceptance. I can’t look to my obedience and expect it to do for me what only His amazing grace can do. I don’t establish a relationship with God based on my behavior, Jesus establishes a relationship with God for me based on what he has done.
Grace lightens the weight of criticism.
The lie that I so often hear being whispered in my ear is this, my worth is dependent on what people think of me. When I don’t negate that by the truth of the gospel, I carry the heavy weight of pleasing people to find my worth. And it is a weight that never goes away. For people-pleasers, criticism is an unthinkable terror.
The apostle Paul, understanding grace, said this, “I’ve got a job to do and what is asked of me is that I do it as faithfully as I can. What is not required of me to do is to please you. So what you – or anyone else for that matter – thinks about the way I am doing my job does not matter much to me…The only thing that really matters is what the Lord thinks about what I do and how I do it.” (I Cor 4:2-4)
And I know what He thinks – he loves me just as I am, not as I should be.
Keep company with Jesus and live lightly.
PS: I constantly need to remind myself of the lightness grace brings to my life. I have a hunch you have friends who need to hear this good news as well. And so again, share this with your friends. Post it on your social media. Let’s not keep the lightness of grace hidden.