Putting Shame in Its Place

ALICE KIM|GUEST

Through a series of events, it became clear I made mistakes that could lead to significant ramifications.  People assured me that this type of oversight was common, fixable, and not the permanent kind.  But their reassurances did little to prevent my body from sounding the alarm bells, ushering me to prepare for what felt like an internal state of emergency.  Instead of concluding “I made a big mistake,” it unraveled into “I am an utter failure.”

A persuasive voice persisted: be safe by staying quiet and small.  Don’t risk exposing your shame by sharing your plight with trusted family and friends.  Don’t dare to ask for support and prayer.  Save face; hide your face.

Staying small would mean a kind of recoiling.  It would be not showing up as one made in God’s likeness to reveal my Maker.  It would be to reduce such noble and honorable things like duty and responsibility to mere motions devoid of vision, purpose, and desire.  It would also mean becoming innocuous.

Impacting my sphere of influence with beauty and goodness would be weakened.  Being a witness to the power of the gospel would be foiled.  Something would shrivel inside of me, life would cease, but if this is the ransom to tame shame, albeit temporarily, I am willing to pay.

In the distance, a competing voice refuted; this is the oldest ploy to hijack you and cause complete mayhem.  You are defined not by what you do or don’t do, but whose you are.  Christ’s broken body in exchange for your brokenness.  He offers all of Him for all of you.  I desperately wanted to stand in these truths but next to the resounding roar of shame, they became elusive and muffled, fading in and out like a bad phone connection.

It was the presence of wise, tender, kind, steadfast, and brave faces like my husband and dear friends who kept me from hiding.  They drew near, entered my pandemonium, and joined the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) to tell the story of the One who is relentless in his pursuit of us.  They gazed into my terrified eyes and spoke life.  And when they had retired for the night and the haunting accusations reached its peak, I borrowed the words from the song, The Good Good Father.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am[1]

As I clung to each phrase —often repeating them over and over again until I began to believe what I was saying —I found strength returning to my limbs, breath filling up my chest, my shoulders broadening, and my head lifting.  I could stand and the foundation did not give way.

Shame tried to mar me with disqualifiers.  Shame wanted to have the last word.

Broken.
Irredeemable.
Liar.
Thief.
Murderer.
Disqualified.
Embarrassment.
Forever marred.
Not enough and never will be.
Unworthy.
No good.

But God’s opinion and judgment prevailed.

Beloved.
Redeemed.
Forgiven.
Chosen.
Called.
Made right.
With purpose.
Forever his.
Worthy of delight.
Invaluable.
Good.

In the first biblical account of shame, shame had left Adam and Eve utterly naked, exposed, and helpless.  Not God.  He does not forsake Adam and Eve in their quandary; He initiates a remedy.

“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21 ESV)

He cares for their physical well-being.  He is practical.  He exchanges leaves for leather to adequately prepare them for the environmental conditions they would face outside of the garden.

He cares for their intimacy with eternity.  He is at work, creating once again.  But this time, it would not be from nothing, darkness, the ground, or grand statements.  It costs a life.  There is shedding of blood.  And the first handmade clothing sets a plan in motion, foreshadowing Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

It is Jesus’ dead of night for ours, His wounds for ours, and His nakedness of ours.  He “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV) so that, we would live lives no longer marred by shame but rather clothed in His righteousness and glory.

Jesus, thank you for the cross.

[1] Song lyrics written by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown and sung by Chris Tomlin

About the Author:

Alice Kim

Alice Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Virginia.  In 2008, she opened Emmaus Counseling and Consulting Services (emmausccs.com) to offer gospel-centered therapy in the DC Metro area.  She finds deep fulfillment in engaging people’s stories and bearing witness to the good work of God to redeem and restore.  She is married to her husband, a pastor at Christ Central Presbyterian Church in Centreville, VA and they raise a middle schooler and high schooler.  Her past times include treasure hunting at thrift stores and catching up with friends over a cup of coffee.

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