After a failure, shame can cling to us like the smell of rancid garbage. Perhaps at the end of the day we look back at what happened and hang our heads with regret. That conversation with a friend when we talked too much about ourselves. That underhanded dig. That time we lost our temper with someone we were supposed to be caring for. We’ve done wrong, and we’re ashamed.
When our pastor was a young man, he accidentally defaced a much-loved dining room table. Beautifully crafted, it had been in the family for generations, but it was left with an ugly mark when he accidentally placed a piping-hot dish directly on it. Although his parents forgave him, he was overcome with shame. Years later when he saw an ad for a furniture repair specialist, he got the table fixed. Although he’d been forgiven, the sting of shame only faded once the mark on the table had been removed by the skillful hand of a master.
Peter’s healing of a crippled beggar drew a crowd, so he used the opportunity to tell them about the God who heals. He told them about Jesus, whom they had rejected and handed over to Pilate. “You rejected this holy, righteous one . . . . You killed the author of life” (Acts 3:14-15).
My friend was walking through a sculpture park when she saw the sculptor Rodin’s statue of Eve, which captures the moment Eve understood what she had done against God. My friend wept at Eve’s desperate, twisting figure, shattered by shame and fear, hanging her head and raising her hand in an attempt to block Him from smiting her.
Like many people with a guilt-inclined personality, accepting that the gospel is good news for me hasn’t come easy. Having grown up in the church, I knew the story, but could always think of why I might be exempt from sharing the joy of the gospel. I would worry about Jesus’ future separation between true and false believers (Matthew 25:31-46), troubled by the thought that even people who profess faith can be lost. I was haunted by the passage about the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:30-32), wondering if perhaps I could push God too far away to return to Him. Christ coming again is supposed to be the best kind of news, but I sometimes wondered for how many people it would feel that way.
Afriend opened up to me about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy. Prompted by God to face what he had buried for decades, he courageously began to unpack tragic memories of seduction and exploitation, events that shattered his innocence and left him drowning in an ocean of shame.
The small car shook as Frank pushed down hard on the accelerator while fixing his eyes on the headlights coming toward him. Having Christlike parents who ran a counseling organization, you would think that Frank would have had the skills to navigate his way through the trials and temptations of life. But his sinful choices, including the abuse of alcohol, had taken their toll, and he resolved to silence the shame and guilt. As he prepared to pull into the lane of an oncoming truck to end his pain, however, he was suddenly stopped by the palpable presence of God.
We all have that space in the home we would rather no one see—the messy garage, the cluttered study, or maybe, like me, it’s the yard. There are few things more beautiful than a well-kept lot with lush, perfectly mowed grass, neat hedges, and precision-trimmed roses. Our property’s hedges look more like an overgrown jungle and the grass is patchy and dry. So when our pastor’s wife, Mel, offered to help plant the roses she’d given me, I panicked! I was ashamed of our yard.
I wet the bed until I was 12 years old. It’s hard to put into words the agony of those moments when I would wake up in the middle of the night and find my clothes and sheets were soaked. Ashamed, I would scurry about, trying to quietly change the sheets and my clothes—doing my best to hide the evidence. But it was found out each time, and I felt a deep sense of worthlessness, failure, and disapproval.
I sat in church with my head bowed and eyes lowered. I’ve failed God so, I thought. He must be very disappointed. Then my pastor said, “Look into Jesus’ eyes. See how He looks at you, how He sees you.” So I did. And in that moment, I wore the Samaritan woman’s shoes . . .
If the book of Judges were turned into a miniseries, we wouldn’t permit young children to view it. The book shows life in early Israel as violent, ugly, and self-serving. Villains abounded. One such bad guy was Abimelech, the son of the heroic Gideon (see Judges 9:1-5,50-56). Spoiler alert: He killed all his brothers except one and usurped power for himself. He also met an interesting demise.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I pray for God to grant me a good parking spot when I pick up my children from school. I wonder if I do this because, deep down, I believe that God is able to take care of only the small things of life, and little more.
Attempting a quadruple toe loop, Olympic skater Jeremy Abbott swiveled into the air and fell. He careened into the rink’s wall and lay clutching his side. Amazingly, Jeremy then stood up and resumed skating. The rest of his routine included two extremely difficult, yet well-executed maneuvers. In the end, his perseverance after a serious mistake won the crowd’s heart.
Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!