Isaiah 50:7 But the sovereign Lord helps me,
so I am not humiliated.
For that reason I am steadfastly resolved;
I know I will not be put to shame.
This verse has been a sermon I’ve metaphorically preached from a mountaintop to others struggling with guilt and shame. What I’ve repeatedly said is that neither come from God. God (or more precisely the Holy Spirit) gives conviction and discernment, when we are doing something wrong. Discernment is the gut-check that provides a base to our moral compass and helps us know when we’re about to stray from a path of righteousness. It is NOT guilt. Conviction is a gut-check we feel when we’ve already made a bad choice. It’s the needle on that moral compass that tells us we’re now facing the wrong direction and we need to repent for the direction we’re facing. Conviction is NOT shame. Shame is embarrassment of the things we’ve done or the circumstances we find ourselves in. The root of shame is always either a refusal to repent and accept grace, or… pride.
Here’s the thing about making something the topic of a sermon that you repeatedly preach from a mountaintop, your words have no credibility unless you practice what you preach. A woman can’t lead others on a path to freedom from shame when she is hiding in shame from the circumstances of her own life.
On the first day of this year I shared that God had made it very clear that my theme for 2019 would be “grace”. In that post I revealed that having to make that word the underlying theme for an entire year scared the hell out of me. I knew that God putting it in my face everywhere I looked meant that I was either going to need a lot of it or need to give a lot of it. Needing to give a lot of grace meant that I would hurt and, I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a single time when I’ve woken up thinking, “Man, I hope I get hurt today so I can exercise giving grace.”
My favorite book of the Bible is James. First off he just tells it like it is. His book is basically the cliff notes of all of Jesus’ sermons. It’s Christianity for dummies. And since he grew up in the same house with little boy Jesus I’m guessing that he had a better understanding of who Jesus was and what it meant to follow him than any other author of the New Testament. Here’s the thing about the book of James… you can’t read it without getting through verses 2 and 4 of chapter 1… My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect so that you will be mature and lacking in nothing.
Joy… “consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials…” Maybe someone else has found a way for joy and shame to coexist, but I have not. This year has brought with it the biggest marriage trials we’ve ever faced. Instead of considering the trials joy, I have hidden in shame. It’s time to take my joy back. It’s time to lay down my pride.
At the very end of 2018 I received a partial answer to a question that had been unanswered for a year and a half. I entered this new year, the time that should be filled with hope and anticipation, filled with ominous dread. The rest of the answer to that one question was coming, along with jolting revelations that have only led to more questions and often more partial answers. Grace-giving has unquestionably been the overriding theme of my year.
And so, here I am, nearing the end of the year, unable to count the number of days and evenings that I’ve spent face-down on my bedroom floor with my face covered in snot and tears as I have cried out to God for comfort. I have hidden in shame as I have wondered how we got here. I never imagined that there would be a day when I would question whether or not I could handle the pain I was experiencing in my marriage for one. more. day. Life has dealt me pain and trials. My own choices have dealt me pain and trials. There is no trial I’ve ever walked through that prepared me to choose joy when security, safety, and unconditional love morph into insecurity, fear, and indifference. Every single time my amygdala takes over and tells me to “RUN!”, God reminds me of grace. Only He knows how much of it I’ve needed and how undeserving I’ve been of it. He also reminds me of how He pursued me no matter how hard or fast I ran from Him. And then I remember that the entire purpose of marriage is to model Jesus to our spouse. Lay down your life. Love unconditionally. Give undeserved grace.
Aside from the things God reminds me of, there are several things I know are certain. I know that God is good and He is true to His Word. I know that continuing to have faith in His goodness and trustworthiness produces endurance. And I know that endurance is the path to maturity and wisdom. I also know that hurt people hurt people. If you’re not yet married, I highly encourage you to work through your childhood trauma and lay down your baggage before you commit to love and honor another for the rest of your life. If you are married and you’ve experienced trauma since you made that commitment, run (don’t walk) to a counselor and start working towards healing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how tightly we try to seal the baggage we stuff our unhealed wounds into, they will eventually spill out on the people standing by our sides.
We live on a tiny little island that is positioned between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. From one end of our back porch I can see the sun as it rises over the bay. From the other end, I can watch it set over the gulf. Both the setting and the rising are breathtaking. But there is something that often happens in between that will capture my attention and sometimes bring me to tears with the power displayed. Tampa is often referred to as “The Lightning Capital of the World”. The lightning storms here will often last for hours. They are sometimes loud and booming, and sometimes completely silent. But they are always filled with awe-inspiring strike after strike that light up the darkness, and for a moment charge my body with an uncomfortable mixture of anxiety and excitement.
The jolting, and the anxiety, and the excitement, are all my story at the moment. Oh, but the sun…. it ALWAYS rises. JOY!!