August 7, 2016

Genesis 3:6-13

Psychologist Seth C. Kadish says that shame is “the unwillingness or inability to accept our imperfections.”

Our girls are growing up in a culture where every woman on every magazine cover has been photoshopped so they portray an unrealistic image of who they really are, and those are the images our teenagers and young women are comparing themselves to.

images-3You cannot Photoshop yourself as you look in the mirror, and women and men find it more and more difficult to accept our imperfections, which we all have.

How many of you women have ever heard that voice, “If you are not in your makeup, if you are not dressed nice, if your hair is not fixed, you cannot be seen in public; you are not a person of worth.  Your worth is tied to your appearance”?

Men feel shame when we show fear or vulnerability.  We are taught that tears are a weakness so we must maintain a rock solid exterior that doesn’t allow any feelings to penetrate lest anyone think we are made of anything less than steel.   We are taught that coming in second is terrible so the standards we set for ourselves set us up for shame if we don’t win at everything.

However, there is another narrative told in the Gospels.   We are not worthless despite our imperfections.   God would not have wasted his time on making a worthless creation.   Jesus did not die for worthless people.  Remember, we are made in the image of God.

Even though we are made in God’s image, we still make choices that lead us to shame.  Other people make choices that lead us to shame.  However, God has provided a way to deliver us from that shame.

If shame is prevalent in your life, I want to help you let it go today.

Unknown-1Corrie Ten Boom tells a riveting story of speaking in a church in Munich.   As she concluded speaking she was shocked that one of the men who served as a guard at the Ravensbrück Concentration camp came forward.

As soon as she saw him she remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since her release that she had been face to face with one of her captors.  She was stunned at the sight of him.

The feeling that rushed over her was the feeling of shame as she remembered that she and her sister Betsie had to walk naked past this man.  (Ibid)

The question that faced her at that moment was whether God would give her the strength to overcome her shame as she faced a man who helped kill her sister Betsie and tens of thousands of people just like her.

How could she let go of that shame?

Corrie Ten Boom had already begun that process by coming out of hiding.  Jews no longer had to hide in fear of being killed.

Quit Hiding from God

In order to let go of shame, we need to quit hiding from God.  We are all good at concealing parts of our lives that we do not want anyone else to see, but God sees everything.

Why would we want people to see the bad parts of our lives?  We hide what we are ashamed of.

In the beginning Adam and Eve had no shame in walking in the Garden in the buff.  It was only after they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit that the Bible says that they “suddenly felt shame and made themselves coverings.” (Genesis 3:7)

When God went looking for them in the Garden they tried to hide themselves from God.

Hiding and covering our sins are primary indicators of shame.   It doesn’t matter if you are a child, a teenager, or an adult, when you start hiding your behavior from those you love and those who love you, it just means that you are covering up something.

How many times have you gone looking for a child and found the child hiding because she knew she was in trouble for breaking a rule?

The English word ‘shame’ originates from the Indo-European word “kam,” which meant hide or veil. An s added to it means to hide or veil oneself.

Embrace Your Maker

It’s only when we come out of hiding that we can embrace our Maker.  As long as we try and hide our shame from God, we cannot fully embrace God’s love for us.

Shame causes us to feel unworthy of God’s love. However, our worthiness to be loved is not dependent on our goodness or on our ability to keep a set of rules or standards that God has made.  Our worthiness to be loved was established in the beginning when God made us and said that what He had made was very good.  It is not based on any goodness on our part, but solely on God’s grace.

The image Jesus uses of our worthiness to be loved is that of a shepherd going out to look for a lost sheep.   If we were worthless, Jesus, the Good Shepherd would not care about us, and would just allow us to go our own way without any concern for us.

Embracing our maker means letting go of doing things our way.

Adam and Eve experienced shame so they made their own coverings out of leaves from the Garden.  This seems like a very logical and creative solution to their problem.  They at least acknowledged their shame.  However, they then tried to make shame go away by providing their own solution, but it failed.

Leaves from the garden did not make adequate covering.  I have a feeling they might have been a bit uncomfortable, maybe a bit itchy.

When we try to cover our own mistakes or the mistakes of others, we often think we are clever but sooner or later, the truth comes out.

Stop Trying to Cover Up Your Mistakes

We learn to let go of our shame when we stop trying to cover up our mistakes.

When God went looking for Adam and Eve in the garden they thought they were clever hiding among the foliage.  Then they didn’t do a good job of taking responsibility for their sins.  Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent.

Take Responsibility for our Imperfections When Appropriate

We cannot let go of shame until we take responsibility for our imperfections.  That will never happen when we simply cover up our mistakes.  Covering them up doesn’t fix them or make them go away.

We embrace the fact that we all have messed up.   We all have baggage.

A lot of times other people leave their baggage on our doorsteps.  The shame we feel is sometimes due to the things others have done to us.

Don’t Blame Yourself for the Pain Others Caused

We all have issues which we must get the Lord God to help us navigate.  Many people have been abused sexually and emotionally, creating great difficulty in forming healthy, normal relationships.  They discover they have very low self-esteem, areas of high avoidance, and very low assertive skills.  They discover that intimacy and trust of others does not come easy.  They often blame themselves and even see this as a kind of covering.  “It’s my fault.  I deserve it.  I must be a bad person.  I am a bad person because that’s what I’ve been told all my life.”

If this is the kind of self talk you have, God wants you to discard these clothes.  He has a new set he wants you to wear.

Accept the Gift of Grace

In order to let go of shame, we must do what Adam and Eve eventually did.  They accepted God’s gift of a new set of clothing.

Genesis 3:21 says “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

While this verse seems insignificant, it is pregnant with meaning.  Let’s read it like this: “God covered their shame.”  God did for Adam and Eve what they could not adequately do for themselves.

I find it difficult to admit imperfections.  I don’t like admitting to others my weaknesses or my vulnerabilities.  Confession isn’t always the first part of my prayers.  Sometimes I am too proud to admit my shortcomings.

What about you?

Perhaps you need to accept the new garment that God wants you to put on.  It’s called grace.  Grace is what you put on when you let go of shame.

When God made skins from animals to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, it’s implied that a sacrifice was made so that their shame would be covered.

I want you to know that you can let go of the shame because God makes it possible for you to let it go through the sacrifice Jesus has made for you.

The world wants to shame you and wants shame to stick to you like Velcro.  But I want you to understand that Jesus came to free you from the shame of your sin and from the shame of the sin of others.

The writer of Hebrews wrote, “…For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

This writer says that Jesus dealt with shame on the cross but he scorned it. He rejected it.  He despised it.  He turned it down.

Unknown-2When we see drawings of Jesus on the cross, he is clothed with a lo[I]n cloth for modesty, but the Bible says he was stripped of his clothing when he was beaten and crucified.  It is not totally clear whether this meant he was totally naked but the Romans meant to totally humiliate their victims so it’s likely he wasn’t wearing anything.  The cross was a shameful thing.

He likely hung there naked.  His friends had abandoned him.  The people were mocking him.  He was crucified between two thieves.  All human dignity was stripped from him.  Shame came for Jesus just as it comes for us, but the Hebrews passage says that Jesus would have nothing to do with shame.

Shame had no claim on Jesus.  Jesus had nothing to hide. He had no imperfections.  He understood the reason why he was on the cross.  That reason involved you and it involved me.  Jesus was there to cover us.  He was there to clothe us.  He was there because he despised the shame that we have to deal with in our lives, whether it is shame we bring upon ourselves or shame we endure because of others.

Jesus was there to become our covering.  Jesus became the offering of grace for us.

Because Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of faith, he can do for us what God did for Adam and Eve.  He can provide a covering of grace for us that we cannot provide for ourselves.

This is how we learn to let go of our shame.  We embrace Jesus as the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith.

Let go of your shame by allowing Jesus to cover you with His grace.  Don’t hide your imperfections from God.  He already knows about them anyway.  Embrace the Lord God who made you and loves you.  God can see and God knows everything about you.  It’s foolish to play hide-and-seek games with God.

Let go of your shame.  Take responsibility for your imperfections.  Acknowledge that not everything that is imperfect about you is your fault, but you are the only one that can do anything about your emotions and your response to what has happened to you.

The man who came forward after Corrie Ten Boom spoke at that church told her that since the days of the concentration camp he knew God had forgiven him for the cruel things he did there, but he wanted to know if she would forgive him.

She had felt exposed by his presence.  She was reliving the feeling of shame all over again.   Today, we call what she was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  Nevertheless, the overwhelming emotion in her life was the covering of God’s grace.

With great honesty, she wrote of that day, “And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” (Ibid)

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” (Ibid)

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.” (Ibid)

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” (Ibid)

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then…If there’s one thing I’ve learned at 80 years of age, it’s that I can’t store up good feelings and behavior–but only draw them fresh from God each day.” (Ibid)

Shame can be scorned by the grace of God.  If shame is pouring over you for whatever reason, will you draw fresh from the Lord’s word and His Spirit today? Will you allow the Lord to cover you with His grace?

This is your God, a God who will have nothing to do with shame, who wants to root it out of your life.  Today, he offers a covering of grace for you.

Accept his love and his grace and let go of shame.  Let it go because shame may initially be an indicator that either we have done something wrong or that someone had done something wrong to us, but Satan wants us to remain in our shame so he can manipulate us and tell us lies about our worth.

Jesus wants you to come into the light and celebrate all the good things He has made for you.  Jesus wants you to affirm that you and beautifully and wonderfully made and that nothing can separate you from his love.