Maths was never my favourite thing. In fact, any time I look at the stuff either of my boys is learning at school I wonder if I ever learnt it. It’s like a foreign language. I remember one time in primary school I was invited over to the teacher to recite my 8 times tables to her. Most of the other ones had special tricks I knew that could help me. But the 8 ones – they were harder! I remember getting to “4×8=”, and I drew a blank, the rest was like a slow-motion face plant. I crashed and burned. She told me to return to my seat and I thought it was over. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After recess, this same teacher asked me to stand in front of the class and recite my 8 times tables. I was mortified. She knew I didn’t know them. Did she think I wasted valuable playtime to learn these stupid buggers? NO! So I dawdled to the front of the classroom, trying to quickly remember as much as I could silently in my head. I don’t know if my fear radiated across the classroom, but I’m sure my face showed everyone exactly how I was feeling. I got up the front and was so embarrassed. I was up to “4×8=” and I stood their silently trying to add eight quickly to my last answer. Some children laughed. The teacher asked “can anyone help Aaron?”, to which others called out the right answers. I couldn’t wait to get back to my seat where I could hide my head in shame.
That feeling of shame was one I have felt many times over. It’s not a foreign concept to me. As I’m sure it’s not to you either. Shame is a funny beast. A beast our emotional makeup just isn’t designed to handle. No amount of experiencing it will ever make us comfortable with it. Shame is not our friend, but it hangs around like it wants to be.
I read an article written by a Psychotherapist a while ago that said there are four types of shame:
UNREQUITED LOVE – loving someone but having that love be rejected or unreciprocated.
UNDESIRED EXPOSURE – being called out for a mistake publicly.
UNMET EXPECTATIONS – when you have set out to do something and you have failed.
UNWANTED EXCLUSION – feeling left out, unwanted or excluded.
Everyone has to deal with shame constantly. We all feel it in one of these ways. The problem is that shame lingers, it attaches itself to us and doesn’t let go. As it hangs off of us it begins to shape our identity. We begin to become people who we don’t recognise anymore. We can go from once being the life of every party, to the death of every conversation. We can go from being the eternal optimist to the damned pessimist. We can go from being joyful to sorrowful. We can go from being free to captive. All because of this thing called shame. But how do we deal with it?
In Genesis, there is this moment where Adam and Eve were ‘naked and ashamed’. But that wasn’t always the case. The reason the writer ever mentions this is because there was a point before this that they were naked and unashamed. Obviously the shame must have entered the scene because of the angry Old Testament God who had seen they disobeyed Him and ate the fruit right? Wrong. God didn’t introduce Adam and Eve to shame. In fact, God tried to rid them of the shame. Their shame came because they listened to the snake, and that’s where yours and my shame comes from too, snakes. These snakes are people who begin to speak authoritatively into our lives as though they are God, when all the while God is speaking a different language, the language of love, we just can’t hear Him over the snakes.
After Adam and Eve ate the fruit and realised what they had done they ran and hid from Him. God enters the scene and is calling out to them. “Adam…Eve…Where are you?” finally they returned with “I heard your voice in the garden, I was afraid (some versions say ashamed) because I was naked; so I hid myself.” God’s reply is my question to myself and to you as you read this. “Who told you that you were naked?…” Shame will always rob you of your innocence and your freedom.
“Shame doesn’t come from God’s voice. Shame comes from voices who say they are speaking for God. And that’s different.”Nadia Bolz-Weber
Who told you? Who told you that you are unqualified to be used by God? Who told you that you wouldn’t be a good parent? Who told you that you aren’t smart enough? Who told you that you are going to hell? Who told you that you aren’t good enough? Who told you that you were too fat? Who told you that you were too old? Who told you?
I have had to try really hard to block out the voices of shame in this season. I have learned that many want to be the voice of God and aren’t interested in studying His voice, listening to His voice or even honestly reflecting His voice. I have learned that even people with the best intentions can deliver a message of shame without even intending to. I have had times where shame has caused me to become someone completely different from the Aaron I know. I had thoughts of ending my life, I had become introverted, I had started to become cynical of people, I had become so pessimistic. I was a different person. Adam and Eve became different people because of shame too. Instead of being comfortable and free in their raw nakedness, they became self-conscious, afraid and embarrassed. They wanted to cover up and hide. I wonder how shame has potentially changed you at times.
This season has been one where I have felt an awful amount of shame, but I’ve also learned slowly how to let that shame go. It’s all about listening to the right voice – the voice of Jesus, who lifts all our shame. Here are some of the things He says about me, and if you believe in Him – you too:
I am chosen – 1 Thess 1:4
I am called – 2 Tim 1:9
I am being changed into His image – 2 Cor 3:18
I am a new creation – 2 Cor 5:17
I am home to His Spirit – 1 Cor 6:19
I am forgiven – Eph 1:7
I am redeemed – Gal 3:14
I am blessed – Gal 3:9
I am victorious – Rev 12:11
I am set free – John 8:32
I am healed – 1 Peter 2:24
I am more than a conqueror – Rom 8:37
I am accepted – Eph 1:6
I am complete – Col 2:10
Shame didn’t start with God but it was finished by Him at the cross of Jesus. When Jesus cried out “IT IS FINISHED” – it was over your shame. Don’t allow the opinions of others to place shame on you. Throw them off. Just as God asked Adam and Eve in the garden, I ask you now…”Who told you that?” If it didn’t come from love Himself, don’t carry it anymore.