Here's what shame does. He swoops in, plants a thought, steals my joy, and leaves me as quickly as he came, feeling dirty, defiled. He attaches himself to things I've done or not done (my shame is often the result of my perfectionism); to things others have done to me; or to people who've done bad things and to whom I associate myself. No matter which vehicle he uses, I'm left looking a lot like this...
Then, before I know it, I'm wallowing...languishing in the messiness...
Dirt sticks. It dries. It cakes. The problem is that it's caked to our souls, not our bodies. When it's caked to our souls, we know we're defiled. There's no way we can be holy. No matter what anyone tells us. We can confess to a priest, but inside we still feel dirty. We can try to cover it with a medication, but that only helps for so long. We can turn to drugs, or alcohol, or some other method for forgetting, but it's only a mask, and underneath, in our sane moments, the dirt and defilement still loom large.
In the pictures above the dirt can be washed away, a good hosing, a soak in a tub, and the body can be clean again. How is the soul washed? And, once washed, how does it stay clean? How do we recognize shame, who never gives up, and persistently attacks again and again? More importantly, how do we make it stop?! Secular author, Brené Brown has written books on her years of shame research. They are good. They are helpful. I've quoted her often. They just aren't complete (sorry, Dr. Brown). The helpful things she's told me are:
* don't silence shame - wrap words around shame - we need good COMMUNICATION
* find safe people to whom you can share your story - we need CONNECTION
* be kind to yourself; talk to yourself the way you would a friend - we need COMFORT
* we must learn to be truly vulnerable - it is through vulnerability we will develop COURAGE
* courage leads to CONFIDENCE
* confidence steps over shame and allows us to live in CREATIVITY (shame-gone)
These are good things...they are right...they are even Biblical. Yet they don't clean the soul. What cleans the soul? Blood. That's what the entire book of Leviticus is about. Moses unveils THE LIST - here are the things that will defile you. When you are defiled, you must go to the temple. Bring or purchase a lamb. Give it to the priest. The priest will sacrifice it, take it before the Lord, and you will be washed clean from the blood. Done. Done. Done. The people believed Moses. They came...in fact the outer courts of the temple were a bloody mess. Yet, when they left, their belief in the WORDS OF THE LORD and the blood spilled were visible signs that they were cleansed. DEFILED-NO-MORE!
We don't sacrifice in our temples/churches anymore. I'm so thankful. I'd have to camp out at the temple. I'd be lamb-rich and penny-poor. Instead, the rest of the story is JESUS. The spotless lamb. The ONE who chose to die, once for all, to cleanse me of shame's attempts, for ALL TIME. Yes, I need communication, it's called REPENTANCE. I need CONNECTION, it's called BELIEVING on the Lord Jesus Christ. I need comfort, it's called SALVATION (past, present, and future tense). I need COURAGE, it's called the HOLY SPIRIT dwelling in me. I need CONFIDENCE, it's called a NEW IDENTITY in Christ. I need CREATIVITY, it's called MISSION.
The break down comes when I don't walk belief... I go through the steps, I acknowledge the truth with my head, but I must transfer it all to my heart. That's why we've been given a visible sign. Our sign is the cross. Again and again, when shame strikes, I must look at the CROSS (that's the one thing missing in Dr. Brown's list). When I look at the CROSS, Shame flees, taking his bag of seeds with him.
This weeks #lessononjoy: Always stand within the shadow of the cross. There is JOY. SHAMELESS JOY.