“You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,
and in kindness you follow behind me
to spare me from the harm of my past
With your hand of love upon my life,
you impart a blessing to me.”
Psalm 139:5 (TPT)
Shame is something that I have been thinking a lot about in the recent weeks. The dictionary definition of shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” The odd thing is that as Christians we often feel the most shame, not about the things we can control, but the things that we can’t. Shame tends to come from a wrong understanding of what it means to have needs.
Christians too often feel shame about having a mental illness, expressing too many emotions, or even taking time to take care of their needs. Meanwhile, God is in their corner almost screaming, “I created you to have needs. Don’t fight it, let me and the people I have placed in your life fill them!!” He wants us to rely on Him for a reason. He wants us to rely on the people placed in our lives. Relying on the people He has guided into our lives is a variation of trusting God. We were never meant to be independent. This idea was his design from the beginning. After all, the name of the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete or counselor/advocate.
You, as a human being, were created to need things more than you were created to be needed. We equate having needs with being needy when that is not the case. There is no shame in having needs whether that is emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical. Mental and emotional needs are just as valid as physical needs. You need to take time for yourself as much as you need to take the time to sleep, eat, and exercise. We act like it is either/or when both are necessary.
The wrong things we do to meet our needs are a consequence of the wrong understanding we have of what God says about our needs. When we act out of our misunderstanding, the enemy will try to use shame to make us think the shackles Jesus broke still carry weight. Our instinct when we have done something wrong is to hide from ourselves, others, and most of all, from God. We ascribe the title of unworthy to ourselves before we allow anyone else to have a say. We give ourselves the final say, and essentially, we try to take the power away from God that was His from the start. We hide because we somehow think we are less than for having made a mistake.
But God is not looking at our past as a definition of who we are. God is not looking at our past as a qualification for what our future holds. God is not asking you to erase every mistake you have ever felt like you made. Instead, God is asking you to take his hand and to walk with him. The same God that called Peter a rock long before he was stable enough to lead the early church calls you out by name. Shame comes in the picture by shifting our gaze from the loving eyes of God and onto our own works. Righteousness does not come from our works, otherwise, it would be called self-righteousness. Your faith as someone who believes in God’s character is what has declared you righteous (Romans 5:1).
On this side of heaven, we will not know perfection outside of encountering God. Our standards are not God’s standards. God asks us to earnestly pursue him with a pure heart, but He is the only one that can make us pure of heart. We cannot make our hearts pure, we have never been able to. The entire Old Testament is a history of how we cannot make ourselves right with God. He declared us righteous, we cannot do so ourselves. We can only offer a willingness in surrender for him to rewrite our stories.
Therefore, the root of shame only has the power that we give it. God has given us right standing with him. All the power that Jesus walked in on this Earth now lives inside of us. We can choose to agree with shame and hide, or we can choose to agree with what God has already declared us to be, sons and daughters.
Author | Cristina Rosiles