Shaking Loose The Chains of Shame
I've done a lot of dumb things in my life. Even now as I am writing this, my mind is reeling a bit from the memory of some of those dumb things.
I've had fits of anger and said awful things to people I love. I've made mistakes, some of them grievous. I've made more than my fair of poor choices that have cost me financially, emotionally, and even spiritually.
I have taken wrong paths more than a few times in my life, and out of stubbornness and pride, I have kept going on them even when I knew I shouldn't.
Sometimes I've even stayed on the wrong path because to change it would mean losing my security, comfort, and certainty.
And lest you start thinking that I am somehow vulnerable and brave for admitting all of this, don't. I'm merely stating what we all already know about ourselves.
The reason why I am able to admit this is in large part because I know I'm not alone in these feelings. We all struggle with the angst that comes from knowing the right things to do, and then not doing them.
Or discovering that even though we thought we were doing the right thing, we've mistakenly done the exact opposite.
And many of us find ourselves overwhelmed with the guilt and shame that comes from dwelling on our mistakes, and living with regret. In fact, we often carry both around with us like huge burdens that we are afraid to set down--even for a moment.
The Apostle Paul wrote about this very thing in his letter to the Romans. He describes his own angst like this:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do... For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:15, 19, 24 NIV)
In a moment of vulnerability, Paul shows his frustration over the constant struggle taking place in his mind over the mistakes he's made and the ensuing shame and guilt he feels for making them.
I recently read a great quote from the author and perenially positive human being, Bob Goff, who wrote:
Shame tries to shackle us to who we were to keep us from becoming who we are.
Elsewhere in his writing, the Apostle Paul refers to the aforementioned challenges and struggles as a means of learning and growing. In fact, he claims to glory in those struggles because they produce perseverance, which builds character, which ultimately leads us to hope.
The people we are becoming are shaped by these struggles, and not defined by them. You and I don't have to live in regret, and we absolutely don't have to live shackled to shame.
We also have the strength to shake off the chains of shame---chains we've put around ourselves, in fact---and there are incredible reservoirs of Divine grace to draw upon as we step forward into our future.
Because of Jesus' example, we know that the worst thing is never the last thing.
So shake off those shackles and chains today, friends. Leave them behind, and live into the freedom that grace brings. Allow yourself to move closer to becoming your best and truest self.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.