Shame-lifter, burden-bearer, Savior, Restorer

Shame does crazy things to us.

It keeps us in the dark, so much so that we can’t even see clearly for our own selves, much less someone else.

Shame stacks on itself also. I have shame from a past sin; I hide it deep within, trying to keep it even from those who love me most, packing it down, deep inside. This packing creates a new space. A space where new sin can come in and we won’t even see it. We’ll be blindsided. Blindsided by addiction, or depression, anxiety, or just a soft chipping away, separating us from people we love for fear they unravel the truth –

we aren’t worthy.

Or we swing the other way, holding our heads high, proclaiming in a thousand tiny ways that we know better, we have at least this part together, we’re just a tiny bit better than “them” at least.

I know I’m making this sound dramatic. Surely life isn’t this desperate, shame this commanding of our every day. And it isn’t, if you know Christ, and it is…just a little, anyway. Can you imagine life not knowing Him? Maybe you do life without Him.

Maybe you know life with no shame-bearer. If so, this blog is especially for you.

This is the language of Paul in Galatians 6:1-5 – Christ in our lives, one another sharing Christ’s love through the work of the Spirit, in order to put shame where it belongs…out of our hearts and on the cross.

Read Galatians 6:1-5 below:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. 

Paul’s burden bearing is most often associated with suffering and the struggle of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And this is most certainly true. We are called to and we do bear with others in their suffering and their rejoicing, via the work of the Spirit (see Galatians 5) and Romans 12:15:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

There is so much hope in Life Together.

But there is a darker side to suffering and I think Paul addresses this in Galatians 6. Sin happens. We are all sinful, all of us. Every one – you, me, and the guy sitting next to you.

God gives us one another for restoration.

We hear the grace of Christ, not from a sacred orb or a billboard we drive by, but the living, breathing person God puts in front of us. The Word does the work. The Word of God, in the Bible tells the Truth of God’s love and forgiveness, but you, my friend, are the one who changes someone’s life. It is in you the same Spirit Paul speaks of in Galatians 5 inhabits, to reach out to someone struggling in sin.

Galatians 6:3 is crystal clear –

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

We are not better than anyone. We have no less shame than the next person. It is so easy to hide the dark stuff, but we carry the burden of another by sharing who we really are, where we have really been, rather than the spruced up version.

Freedom in Christ looks like reaching across to someone, being real, and helping them hand that burden to Christ, because we know we’ve messed up plenty in our own time.

Greek for restoration in this passage is katartizete – to fit together, to put in its proper place, to get to its proper destination.

We aren’t here in this life for “a little bit better.” We are here for fitting together as the people of God, in the place and time God has put each of us.

Shame has no place. It doesn’t fit. Instead, God gives us restoration to free us from the weight of the burdens we each hold, whether it’s past or present.

“What are you going through?”

“What is Satan throwing in front of you today?”

“Let’s pray together.”

It is in these moments God works restoration through His Spirit, around His Word.

Dr. Curt Thompson, in his book, Soul of Shame, says it like this…

“Shame is not something we “fix” in the privacy of our mental processes; evil would love for us to believe that to be so. We combat it within conversation, prayer, and other communal, embodied activities…” (pg 17-18)

Be free – free to be a part of a life with other sinful people, just trying their best, but rejoicing that Jesus Christ fills in all the gaps.

Be free – free to love enough to share hard stuff, to lift someone else’s hard stuff and help them hand it to Christ.

Be free. Galatians 6:4-5 says we test our own actions, carry our own load. It sounds contradictory, but this is the walk of faith – examining myself, confessing my sin and shame, letting Christ wash it away, so that I can help you do the same.

It is for Freedom Christ has set us Free.

 

Discussion questions:

What methods does shame use to keep us from confession?

Tell us about a time you were able to bear someone else’s burden of sin, whether it led to confession or not? What was hard about it? What was good?

Confess one thing to a Christian brother or sister – even a seemingly tiny thing – within the safety of life together and grab ahold of the freedom of forgiveness.

Freedom to walk away

I used to work with offenders.

That’s a terrible way of saying it. Really, I worked in treatment with those who came to me with notes written on their file, like sex offender and domestic violence offender. We used fancy terminology like recidivism and compulsion, but mostly we were concerned with the recurring nature of the problems, the abuse.

I thought, going into it, that I would teach people skills and I would uncover lies; I would advocate for voices that had been silenced. I did, but mostly I learned a lot about others, about myself, and about grace; about what is dirty and clean, what is conceivable, and what is forgivable.

I had to look in a mirror in that work and come face to face with this Truth:

I am capable.

I am not better.

I am not above.

Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.

See, I have a slightly shady past. At this point in my life, I like to follow that up with, “don’t most of us?!” because it’s true. Most of us have struggled at one point or another with one big, bold question and it is robbing freedom right and left, for me, for you, for those who have rebelled, offended, abused, and every person in the middle of all of that-

Am I forgivable?

Until we answer this question our sins will haunt us and our offenses will remain the same. That was a giant lesson I learned. Mental capacity, family structure, employability – all were important, but slightly irrelevant in recidivism, that fancy word that means “Will they do it again?”

Galatians 5:17-21 tells us we have a flesh-and-Spirit war going on inside of us and around us, as believers or unbelievers. Satan wants our souls. The best way he can figure getting them is through the entanglement of shame:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul lists all of these deep and difficult things that separate us from God, quickly, or slowly over time as they are practiced. When we hate, when we have fits of rage, when we envy, when we act out in sexual immorality, we turn away from God just enough so that we can’t see Truth and then Satan uses shame to keep us turned, believing a lie that this thing, this sin cannot be forgiven.

A funny thing happens, we keep at it. Without a place to turn, we just keep walking straight into the desires of the flesh, into sexual immorality, into jealousy, into discord.

Jump ahead to Galatians 6:1 –

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

In hearing the Word of Truth, in another person opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work, we can walk away…

walk away from shame

walk away from unforgiveness

walk into Light

walk into redemption.

God forgives. He forgives division, He forgives dissension, He forgives sorcery. He forgives orgies, he forgives idolatry. He forgives every dark thing we could encounter and He breathes life into broken hearts who have been abused, used, and tossed aside.

He also gives us one another to fight the good fight and walk away.

Whether your past looks like sexual impurity and selfishness or that of someone else’s, whether you did pretty darn good and avoided rebellion altogether…

You are forgivable.

You are forgiven in Christ Jesus.

You are loved.

He restores. Walk to Him in the Spirit and away from all the junk of life.

Forgiven, Restored, Set Free.

Live free.

Discussion questions:

What sins do you think people label as “worse sins”?

How do labels for “worse sins” rob all of us of the freedom found in Christ Jesus? What part do you see shame playing?

What darkness have you seen Christ overcome in your past or around you that shines His Freedom into your life?

 

Finding Help and Healing:

If you need help and healing for sexual abuse or assault go to https://www.rainn.org/

If you need help and healing for domestic violence go to http://www.thehotline.org/

Find help and healing for porn addiction and sexual compulsivity at https://www.xxxchurch.com/

Find help and healing for violent behaviors in a specialized local treatment program. You pastor can help you find a local one, pray with you, and offer ongoing spiritual care and confession.

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior: Addressing our desire, our value and our worth


I’ll be honest, middle school was not my finest.

It was so difficult for me that when I started coaching a very fine group of 5-8th grade cheerleaders on a whim, I felt like I was stepping back into my 8th grade year and my internal anxiety was through the roof.

Who really wants to walk back into middle school?

No one, ever.

I have a theory that middle school is hard because we desperately want one of two things:

To be noticed or to be not noticed. Or the third option…a little bit of both.

In middle school we don’t know our desires, as girls, as budding women, or as people, but as we grow we begin to identify them more clearly.

We want to be loved.

We want to know we’re valued, worthwhile.

We want to feel safe, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

There’s probably more, but I think those are the big three, particularly for girls.

Some thing weird happens too, sometimes we have no idea where to find them. We start searching, searching, and searching some more…we look every where, but we mostly look at men to tell us, what only God can –

We are loved.

We are valued.

We are safely held by Him for eternity.

A few months ago, I wrote this article for Concordia Publishing House –

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior

It’s about our deepest desires, the problem of sin, the struggle of Satan trying to hide what is good from us, and the weight of expectations in relationships.

As the months passed, I wanted to hash all this out a bit more; to understand why my wild, young, and rebellious heart looked everywhere but to God for fulfillment in this life, and why it’s a struggle still today.

Why do I so often want a man to fill me, when I know good and well that only God can?

You’ll find a few of the answers I found here, in this new podcast episode: Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior.

It present 5 things I think we’re searching for, a few good questions for evaluating our expectations in our relationships, and also offers encouragement, whether you’re single, married, young, old, wild, or tame – to run to God, run. He’s already got you anyway.

You are loved by Him.

You are valued by Him.

You are safe in His arms.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your experiences, your thoughts, or send your questions. We’re all figuring our this life together, led, and fully filled up by our Savior.