Sometimes it helps me to understand a concept by attaching a picture to it.
For instance, shame looking like an Octopus.
Shame is one of those constructs that appear to be blurry at best.
With some degree of certainty I can state a few things I’ve discovered to be true about shame:
-Shame finds it’s origins in those who have been violated and those who have violated others.
(When God created us, He declared what He created as “Very good.” And good never harms.)
-Shame awakens us to the truth of, “This is not right, this is not good, this is not Heaven.”
Shame was first felt by Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God. (Shame is something we feel, like dirt on our skin.) Adam and Eve’s reaction is still our reaction today. Instead of running to God and confessing, they hid and became uncertain of how God felt about them. Which was exactly the serpent’s goal. Because if he can get us to believe God wants to be separated from us because of what we’ve done or what has been done to us…we are left alone to deal with our shame… and that taps into our worst fear.
People who feel deep aloneness for a long period of time self-destruct and can take others down with them. Ultimately fulfilling the serpent’s highest goal…”the thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy…” John 10:10
Shame steals, kills and destroys. It robs us of seeing clearly, leading to despair.
Apart from turning our faces towards the God who created us, shame wins. It’s the reason many commit suicide. It’s the reason people run, hide, rage and breakdown.
Shame from sins against us: Abuse-Betrayal-Rejection
Shame from our own sins: The list is numerous but all sin is rooted in our unbelief that God will not provide what we need and therefore we grasp for it in manipulative and harmful ways.
I despise shame but Jesus despised it first.
Jesus knew shame, took on shame and won.
John Piper described the shame Jesus faced:
“Shame was stripping away every earthly support that Jesus had: his friends gave way in shaming abandonment; his reputation gave way in shaming mockery; his decency gave way in shaming nakedness; his comfort gave way in shaming torture. His glorious dignity gave way to the utterly undignified, degrading reflexes or grunting and groaning and screeching.”
The shame Jesus felt was very real.
“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Three days after the Cross, Jesus arose and shame died. Forever. The joy Jesus saw through the shame was that His obedience would give us a place to come where our shame would also die. And this is our journey…for Jesus it took three days, for us it typically takes longer. Sometimes longer than need be.
The title of this blog came to me before I did research on the Octopus. It didn’t take long before I knew the idea was consistent with my picture of an Octopus. In fact, this ocean creature is mysteriously complex. And though it’s been studied for many years, there are some questions about its behaviors that remain unanswered. For instance, a male octopus will sometimes hand over his sperm and the female octopus always reaches for it with a right-sided tentacle. Scientist don’t know why. I won’t get distracted with the whole handing the sperm over behavior, only to say, there are times when shame can feel complex.
My research also revealed that Octopuses carry ink in their bodies that when sprayed on their enemies can cause harm:
“When sprayed in a predator’s eyes, tyrosinase (ink) causes a blinding irritation. It also garbles creatures’ sense of smell and taste. The defensive concoction is so potent, in fact, that octopuses that do not escape their own ink cloud can die.” (Ten Curious Facts About Octopuses: www.simthsonianmag.com)
And so it is with shame. Left unhealed, we carry it around, harming others and harming ourselves. At its deepest level, some die in their shame.
Shame begets shame. And Jesus is our only answer.
He is my only answer.
And now it’s story time.
A few nights ago I spent hours reading my email history from the last four years…
Four years that looked like: Kicking, screaming, groaning, surrendering, despair, hope, newness, warfare, struggle, breakthrough and if one word could describe it all- COMPLICATED.
The last four years have felt complicated to me…because of shame. Shame from my behavior and shame from the behavior of others.
I saw tentacles of shame spewing “deadly ink” like a thick cloud and blinding me of the truth of who God created me to be. In the emails, I saw my blindness of many truths I could not see. My heart felt soft. Soft towards those I expected to know what to do. Soft towards those who didn’t understand. Soft towards those made attempts to take away the blindness. Soft towards those who didn’t make those attempts.
I texted a friend who has dialogued with me throughout these four years telling him I was sorry…sorry I couldn’t see through my shame.
His response left me in tears and revealed his soft heart: “As far as the east is from the west, we both have been taken care of and I’m grateful.”
I’m grateful too. So, so very grateful.
Shame, you have not won.