Defying Shame

Shame.

It’s often described as a blanket. It kind of wraps around you. The devil fools you thinking it’s comfortable, it’s where you belong.

We experience shame in any number of things. Our past haunts us, our marriages feel like they’re failing, we never measure up. Sometimes we put shame on ourselves. The guilt sits long enough and we don’t even notice it’s there. The devil tricks us into believing that it’s part of who we are, what we deserve. That it may be, what we deserve. But that’s not grace and it’s not the way we were intended to live.

Shame is all around us. It’s so much a part of our culture that we normalize it. We judge ourselves in accordance with what the person next to us is doing. We’re either “not as bad as all that” or “I’ll never measure up to that.” We turn on the tv and judge our bodies based on false images, and feel the shame creep in. We hide our whole selves, only letting pieces out, because we know that judgement eventually looms with each person we meet.

Shame is at its worst when it comes from a brother. How often do we give someone the benefit of the doubt? How often do we fail to see the story behind the pain? People everywhere are afraid to walk into churches (including Jesus-loving, church girls…even pastor’s wives), because shame waits.

Half of it is a lie of the devil, and half of it is a lie of our culture.

Church isn’t for looking a certain way or getting it together so we can meet with God. Church is for the abused and the abuser. Church is for the faith-filled and the faithless. Church is for the hurting and those who have hurt.

It’s time to throw off the shame.

It’s time to defy it.

As a person, as a church, as a culture.

As a woman, I have particular battles with shame I can name and by naming, I can begin to take some power from it. I don’t feel beautiful enough, smart enough, good enough, or just plain enough. So, I get up each morning and defy shame. You are not a part of me, shame. You are not invited to this party. Christ promises me in John 8 and Romans 8 that he doesn’t condemn me and who else should? No one. I’m throwing off the blanket and letting my whole self out. I’ll mess up, as I have in the past. I’ll say words that should have been more careful, but relationships will be healed because I will be real. I’m not enough, but Christ in me is.

He looks on me and I am radiant. He tells me I will never be in shame.

I’m going to believe His promises, place them on repeat and believe them again.

Those who look to Him are radiant; and their faces are never covered in shame. Psalm 34:5

* This is my good friend, Erin. Who lovingly reminds me everyday that shame has no place in my life. We all need an Erin.

God of even this…A God Who Sees

This last week has been pretty miserable. Like anyone in crisis, I feel like most of what I do is wait. Wait for an answer, wait for help, wait for things to get better…and…nothing.

Well, not nothing, but struggle can feel like a void of unchanging hopelessness. I know some of you have been there. I also know that some of you are standing on the other side. Some of you have shared your stories with me, of God working, of moving from hopeless to hopeful, of trust in God and Jesus’s time, healing the deep places of your heart. Our stories keep one another going on this journey, bringing the truth of light at the end of a tunnel and the reality of the other side.

Here, the middle of hopelessness, we meet Hagar. She seems like a pawn in someone else’s game. She is sent away with a skin of water and a loaf of bread. She sits away from the bush, unwilling to watch her son die. Here is hopelessness at its best.

But El Roi answers.

“The God who sees…”

He sees her pain. He sees her struggle. He sees her hunger. He sees her aching heart. I need to know that. I need to know that God sees me.

And so He shows me.

I had a friend cry with me yesterday. Cry. Audibly.

I have rarely felt so loved.

I had a friend tell me that he finally understood what Paul meant when he said he was suffering for another person. He felt my pain, our pain, as his own.

My sisters have told me countless times that they would lift my burden if there was any possible way they could.

I am not just given a loaf of bread and a skin of water, but meals come, food is served, and sometimes I don’t even know where it came from.

There are prayers said, sometimes in the wee hours of night, on our behalf.

This is one reason why God created the Church. This is the visible Church lifting up our arms, when we ourselves can not. This is the visible Church, wrapping their arms around me and letting me cry. This is the visible Church seeing through the compassionate lens of a Savior who came to redeem our crisises and heal our broken hearts.

This is a God who sees me, through you.

He sees each of us. It is His name. And He can not deny who He is. Whatever our pain, whatever our joy, whatever our struggle.

El Roi…He sees me. He sees my husband, my kids, my people. He sees, and that is my Hope each day.

He sees.

The woman in the pew next to me

My supervisor left a sweet note in my box the other day:
    Heidi,
      I saw this and thought of you. 🙂 

(A generally good way to make someone’s day is to leave a note like this!) Attached to the note was a small magazine with a post-it note marking one tiny article that ran down the side of a page.

The article was entitled “The Women in the Pew Next to Me.”

I didn’t even get a chance to read the article before my mind was working over time.

How often do we notice what is happening in the world of the woman sitting next to us on Sundays? 

Who knows if her marriage is happy?

Who knows if her heart is breaking over the decisions of one of her children?

Who knows if she’s losing her house?

Who knows if she’s waiting for a diagnosis from a doctor?

Who knows if she’s working two jobs?

Who knows if if she grew up losing her self-worth slowly to sexual abuse?

Who knows if anyone ever told her she’s beautiful?

Who knows if anyone told her God loves her despite her past, despite her present?

Who knows if she’s exhausted…chasing little people, slogging through laundry, sacrificing dinners out for family time in?

Who knows if someone’s words cut deep into her heart?

Who knows if she feels insignificant- searching for a friend who will listen and laugh, cry and hug?

Who knows if she lost one of her children to heaven in the early stages of her pregnancy?

Who knows if she struggles to control her weight, her beauty, her emotions?

Who knows if she still cries silent tears from the abortion so many years before, or just days ago?

Who knows if she struggles to care for a child whose needs seem more than she could ever fill?

Who knows…


At the risk of sounding too law oriented- have we taken the time to notice, to care, to ask about the tears, real or silent rolling down her face?

This, my friends, is the church. This pew is where Christ meets us in the form of people who love us, hold us up when we have no strength, and laugh with us in our deepest joys. 

What if that person is your pastor’s wife? What if one person asked her out to coffee or invited her over for a moment of friendship? What if we included one another in our lives to the degree that we open in our hearts and let Christ do His great big work of Love, and Forgiveness, and Compassion, and Kindness through those of us sitting in the pew together. 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

*The original article given to me by my supervisor was in Vol. 7, Issue 1 of Touchpoints (2011), put out by the Columbus Coalition Against Domestic Violence. and written by Poppy O’Guin Steele.