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Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit,
you would stay out and your dog would go in.
I continue to find this quote amusing. The more I ponder it, the more theologically profound it becomes. It connects to my deepest longing and my deepest wound. The longing to be known and loved. Favor (grace) states it is finished. Shame asks for just a little more (or a lot) to merit it.
Far more paralyzing than guilt, there's shame. Guilt says you did something wrong. Shame declares you are wrong. Show them you're better. Show them you're a good Christian. Show them you can be pure. All the while shame continues it's malicious whisper: if they really knew you, they'd walk away. And, the kingdom of darkness is delighted to see that the wound inflicted in the beginning, in the garden, lives on.
Remember Adams response, immediately after the fall, when God shows up. It wasn't a surprise visit. They had a history of walking together, but this time
Adam (and Eve) hide. When God asks, "Adam where are you?" Which is, by the way, an interesting question. Had God lost track of them? Anyway,
back to the story.
Adam replies, "...I was afraid because I was naked."
They hid, not because of what they did but because they were
afraid to be seen. That is shame. Shame says hide. Don't let anyone see your nakedness, not even God.
Now partnering along with shame is the enemy’s half-truth promise, "...your eyes will be opened...You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil."
Which gives us the pathological state of fallen man. Don't let them see your nakedness but (and it is a BIG but) you know good. You know evil. Do enough good to outweigh the evil and eventually, eventually, just maybe, you can let people and God see you.
So how's that working out for you? For me, well not so good. Because along with this inherited (family of origin) wound are all the other paper cuts in life. Some by others, many seem to be self-inflicted. All saying I'm less than, not quite enough.
Oh, and because this is appearing in the PLA newsletter I suppose I should throw sexuality into the mix. Man, we're having some fun now.
You know John 3:16? This was my personal version for the longest time:
For God was so disappointed in me that he had to kill his Son to be able to tolerate me.
Let me iterate. I've been on this journey and inviting other men to join me for 25+ years and to a man each one of us experienced an event(s) that fused three things together:
shame – sex – secrecy
By this I mean that something took place sexually, but no one talked about it openly, so something must be wrong with me - shame - and thus,
the desire created or pain inflicted, must be kept a secret.
Sexuality, shame and secrecy have formed a traumatic bond. Keep in mind, some trauma can have a pleasurable side to it. So now we are set up to duplicate the event (in a myriad of ways) in pursuit of the original pleasure. Or, we can even pursue the original pain, as perpetrator or victim, in order to try make sense of it. All of this is being an attempt to answer or drown out shame's haunting question: What is wrong with me?!
Wow, this shame stuff is pretty powerful. If only I was a better Christian I wouldn't be dealing with it so much. Because I don't see those who followed God suffering from shame. Okay, well maybe, Peter after he denied Christ.
In Romans 7:24, Paul makes a deeply shame- based statement, "Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?" And Paul has an immediate reply, "Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord...So now there is no condemnation—shame—for those who belong to Christ Jesus..."
Which brings me to my closing thoughts. Have you ever felt, If I could just improve my prayer life, just stop doing this, read the Bible more, etc.? I wouldn't have to be so needy, so dependent on God. After all, a mature believer's behavior shows they aren't as weak as when they first came to Christ. And, right there, arguably, is the most sinister act of shame. To be ashamed of our need for a savior.
Remember Heaven goes by favor not merit.