Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Shape of Shame

The statue sat near the back of the table at the yard sale. My friend and walked past it several times without noticing it. In front of it rested a menagerie of useful items, although no longer needed at that household. Glassware. A quilt. Jewelry. Books. Clothes. Serving Dishes. The usual rummage fare.

We were heading out when the figure caught our eyes. Simultaneously, we turned to each other and sighed, “shame.” The form, slightly larger than the size of the human heart, was in the shape of a woman, eyes cast down, shoulders stooped, arms wrapped around curled up legs. We immediately bought it. She planned to use it with her counseling clients, and I desired to write about it. The statue cost a mere three dollars. It was cheap compared to the price of the thing that it depicted.

My friend and I have different life stories, as we all do, but we both know the feeling and underlying messages of shame. “You are the problem. There is something wrong with you. It’s your fault. If only you were different.”

Shame is different than guilt. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” Guilt should drive us to repentance. When we feel guilty over something we’ve done, it makes us want to ask for forgiveness and change our behavior. Shame says, “I am something wrong.” When we feel shame, we need to remember who we are, created in the image of Jesus, dearly loved.

It is part of all of us; some of us more than others, depending on our life experiences. When pushed in to, our hearts can quickly take on the shape of shame, and even our bodies as well. We find ourselves with down cast eyes, heads hung low, and shoulders stooped. We feel “less than” and it hurts.

So, what do we do when we feel our hearts molding in to the shape of shame? We seek the Lord and examine our hearts for whether we are experiencing shame or guilt. They can feel similar, and they can often meld together. It is important to realize the difference. If it is guilt, we repent. If it is shame we need to remember (or learn) God’s truth about ourselves – we are rescued, bought with a price, created with a purpose, not perfect, but perfectly, unfailingly loved by Him.

Psalm 3:3 says, “But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.” Do you feel His gentle hand beneath your chin, dear reader? There is a lot of invisible power in shame, but it is not as powerful as the One who made you. He is a shield around you. He is the lifter of your head. You have value. You are beautiful. You will make mistakes, but you are not a mistake. Look up, and into the face of the One who loves you, and believe Him.

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