Have you ever been startled, as if from sleep, to “awaken” at the bottom of a carton of ice cream or an empty cookie bag? You didn’t even see it coming, but somehow you binged your way through most of a half gallon of “Tin Roof Sundae” ice cream. What now?
Or, perhaps, out for Mexican food, you were physically hungry and planned to eat within godly parameters. After enjoying chips and queso, however, by the time your meal arrived you weren’t hungry any more and you ate half your meal anyhow. Each bite threw an accusation your way. What next?
What we choose to do with the moments that follow is vital!
So often, when faced with these or similar scenarios, we pull out what Thin Within calls “the club of condemnation” and beat ourselves up. The very things we need–comfort and forgiveness–are the very things we deny ourselves. When we refuse to rest in the grace that Jesus purchased for us with his life, his heart is grieved every bit as much or more than the thing we did that caused our shame in the first place. He created us for so much more than the shame we embrace when we find ourselves in a place of sin. In fact, when he died on the cross, he took on all the sin and shame. He doesn’t intend for us to wallow in shame now.
Last year, I studied the book Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee. He speaks about the affects of shame:
Shame usually results in guilt and self-deprecation, but it can also lead us to search for God and his answers. Our inner, undeniable need for personal significance was created to make us search for Him. He alone can fulfill our deep need. In Him, we find peace, acceptance, and love. The Search for Significance, p. 101 (emphasis mine)
When I trespass God’s boundaries for me, those “what then” moments can be spent the way he desires–redeeming what came before! He intends to use the very sin and “gunk” that I think makes me so awful in his sight to draw me even closer to his heart. When I overeat (again) or head to food when I am not hungry and fail to stop it before “damage” is done, in the “what now?” moment, I can choose to turn to him and experience his peace, acceptance and love.
I wonder…why don’t I? Why do I insist on living as if he counts all my sin against me? Why do I act as if the cross never happened and Jesus didn’t pay for my sin and shame? Why do I wallow in shame?
We often behave in a manner that is consistent with our perception of ourselves…seeing ourselves through the eyes of shame usually results in a pessimistic outlook on life and a lifestyle of destructive behavior. The Search for Significance, p. 102 (Emphasis mine.)
“Destructive behavior”…like repeatedly engaging in poor choices followed by self-condemnation!
When I allow shame to go unchallenged in my life, it has a way of seeping in to all the cracks and crevices, pervading every aspect of who I am, almost defining me if I let it. When I first realize that I have allowed myself to go down a path away from God’s best for me–when I ask, “What now?”–I want the answer to be to stop, confess, and repent or, to use a Thin Within term, observe (dispassionately) and correct (more about this after we start our study of the book on June 14). I don’t want shame to define moments that follow! When I feel shame, I tend to make more shameful choices. Shame doesn’t belong in the child of God!
Instead, I want to break free from this cycle completely, exercising the freedom purchased for me by Christ. Instead, I will live free from shame controlling me or my decisions. I will reject shame, which looks backward, and I will reject all of the things it represents in my life. I will embrace grace which embraces Christ in the now and looks forward to that for which Christ Jesus lay hold of me.
I choose to keep short accounts today. If I do find myself having eaten more than I should have (or snapping at the kids a bit more harshly, or having missed an opportunity to speak the truth to a pre-Christian neighbor), the “What next?” question will be answered with “observe and correct,” confess and repent. I will reject allowing my indiscretion in the past hour, day, month, or decade to define me.
How about you? Have you allowed shame to have a say in your life? What can you do to expose it and reject it? God calls us to press on and move forward!
NOTE: Don’t forget, we continue to have a random drawing for a free copy of Thin Within! Comment to be entered in the drawing. The next winner will be selected late Sunday evening.