Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Shame is a weapon that Satan uses to push many women behind self-sewn curtains of isolation. You see her over there—her eyes are averted, head weighed low by shame. Whatever her sin or circumstances, it is magnified by stares and whispers. The Bible draws this type of woman throughout its pages.
Eve is the first. Tempted and temptress that lures Adam into a sinful world. She conceals herself, like a child playing hide-and-go-seek. Head hidden and yet as seeable as a wine stained red on a white carpet. As if God cannot see the seen and unseen things. He sees her bare body covered in a patchwork of leaves. He knows the shame and mistrust that churns in her belly. Yet God comes, and calls.
I see the bleeding woman slinking through the streets. A soiled thing. Distasteful and discarded by society. Called out of hiding by a whisper of possible redemption.
Their stories are canonized, unlike our own encounters with shame that slide subtly by, layering lies on our hearts that dim our hope. But sure enough, shame creeps into and curls up in every woman’s heart. It rears its ugly head in a vulnerable moment and whispers lies. You lose your temper and yell at your kids, and the serpent whispers, “You’re going to scar your kids. You’re a terrible mom.” You say something stupid to a group you just met and you replay it again and again as you hear the hiss, “You are pathetic. They’re going to find out that you aren’t good enough.” You get caught in a lie, and shame confirms that, “You are a fake. You are a liar.” Yes shame is just as real and damaging for you and I.
I watch my daughter when shame grabs hold of her. Its fingers reach up to her heart and mind. Her two pale hands cover her spotted pink face. Her eyes water and her breath turns to quick puffs as if the air has been leeched of oxygen. In these moments, she becomes unreachable. Doubt and insecurity shroud her as her mind becomes thick with serpent lies.
As a young adult with Social Anxiety, I feared shame like a kid fears the dark. It threatened to hijack my body in any moment. Adrenaline coursed hot in my veins and my thoughts grew fast and fleeting. Like Eve I searched desperately for a hiding place, for some handmade covering to conceal my secret parts. I feared that all the lies I thought were true, and that I would be found out.
Oh Lord! The shame and lies that corrupt our hearts and make us hide.
But in the light of your love we are seen, and known, forgiven, made pure.
I wish I could say that it took one holy encounter to rid me of shame and hiding, but it isn’t true. In God’s economy, time isn’t a measure of his power. God healed me in the slow way that faith grows roots, and love grows hands and a face to look me in the eye.
God heals us as he grew himself small in a woman’s belly. As the incarnate learned to sit, and eat, and walk, and talk.
He healed us in his slow death and in his own hiding. He crushed the serpent’s head as he freed himself from death’s grip, from shame’s suffocating embrace, from sin’s darkness, as stepped out of the tomb.
“Compassion costs. It is easy enough to critizize, argue and condemn but redemption is costly and comfort draws from the deep. Brains can argue, but it takes heart to comfort.” Samuel Chadwick
God in the flesh heals and redeems us.
God in our flesh heals and redeems a hurting world.
But what does this mean in our own ordinary encounters with shame?
Brene Brown in Dare to Lead demonstrates how the ultimate antidote to shame is empathy. Empathy sees, feels, and tries to understand our human experience. Sympathy stands at a distance.
We disempower shame as we cling to the hope of connection and redemption.
Shame lies to us as it tells us we are alone. Love hushes the lies by reaching through the shame's shell to whisper, "I see you." When we pretend, ignore, and avoid someone's reality it doesn't make their experience less real, it makes them feel more alone in their circumstances.
We can beat back shame and isolation when we take the time to see someone, look in their eyes, and remind them they are loved-- and never alone.
We have a God that draws near, in our frailty and doubt, and cradles and sings over us. His holy hushes banish shame like the night monster it is. In his light the shadows are no more and we are his beloved child.
You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.