Shame is liar whose only intent is to divert us from or diminish entirely any chance for success. Shame can take a single mistake and make it our identity. In fact the very armor we were meant to wear for power in standing against the devils schemes becomes a buckling weight disguised as weakness and shame.
It is no secret that I love the stories of the women of the bible; Rahab the harlot, the Adulteress, Mary Magdalene and of course the Samaritan woman at the well. Each of these women felt shame, hid from others and ultimately experienced mercy and grace in their darkest moments of carrying guilt. Sure their shame came from what appears to be easily avoidable choices to us, but do we really know their stories? Do we know the backstory or simply what we choose to see selfishly and are we really all that different or innocent? Jesus saw the before and the after and chose love anyhow. Just like he did with Judas, he knew what he would do, and still fed him at his table. Do you ever wonder what it is he knew that made him choose them and love them any way? Or, us? Think of all your shortcomings and the fact that he still sees you blameless and worthy. Shame finds us guilty and Jesus sets us free.
We have a choice to use our eyes as they were intended; to look beyond situations and choices instead of a judgmental stare down. We also have a choice and the ability to see there is always more to what we see or hear as a “story” and have empathy and compassion remembering that behind that “story” is an actual human being living that reality. That behind the rumor, the imperfections, the mugshot, the divorce, the depression and the abuse there is still someone richly deserving of love, mercy and grace. If this is you, you need to know this truth. When I say you are not disqualified, I mean that. We can not fail when God is our qualifier. And, when we least expect it he levels the playing field whether we are prepared for it or not.
This pandemic has opened my eyes to the things we have been doing wrong and the first is forgetting to love others as ourselves – which means we NEED to love ourselves. We can’t love ourselves when our arms are full from carrying the weight of every mistake we have made. It is not intended for us to do so. Even more so, the weight you’re carrying may come from things you don’t even realize you’re hiding behind. Things such as using humor to hide behind depression. Or, facades to hide behind financial struggles, abuse or possibly low self-esteem. Addictions manifest themselves in so many ways besides drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships etc., what about our work? Or, a project? Our phones? Activities, hobbies and sports? A busy schedule to appear important when instead it is just temporarily numbing the pain that silence brings, becoming no different than drugs and alcohol. We hide and find guilt in more ways then we care to admit, and the truth is we all have our own well that we visit in the heat of the day. We just change up the route, however just like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, he will go out of his way, taking the longer route to meet you right where you are and remind you of his need to use your story, to have you speak life with it and that he loves you.
Sometimes we need to be stripped of all the things that do not hold true value and are no longer serving or benefiting us. If you ask me, God has done exactly that for us right here in this moment. He has leveled the playing field by redirecting our hearts and setting our eyes on him. When we are focusing on God, we don’t see others failures or our own because we are soaked in his word full of hope, promise and love. When we have nothing distracting us our focus is on the people and things we regularly take for granted and we no longer feel the need to hide away in shame or escape the guilt we can’t seem to shake. We realize that our trip to the well at the heat of the day is no longer healthy, it is a hindrance meant to distract us from our calling and purpose. We all have regrets, pain and have at one time or another struggled with the weight of guilt and shame, we are only made different by being obedient to the one who calls us to love one another and ourselves. Shame is not a description of who you are, and guilt is not something that requires being filled at a well that will never quench your thirst the way forgiveness for yourself and others will.
I want to be like the Samaritan woman. I want to drop my water buckets, run into town and tell the world about the man who went out of his way, in the heat of the day, meeting me at my lowest and chose me intentionally. A man who knew my whole story, and chose to cover me in compassion and grace. We deserve to be alive in and known for our transformation instead of our sin, for what we did AFTER, and who we BECAME. You deserve that too. So, go ahead and drop your buckets, cancel the well visits, find some shade and a few good people who love you first for all you are and all you are not. Allow God to use your story, to use your heart and shed a light to others around you that shame doesn’t live here anymore.