Monday, October 29, 2012

Jesus meets shame

Shame WITH Jesus
David Powlison spoke on what the gospels have to say about shame and guilt. How did Jesus address the issue of shame during his time on Earth. David began with asking a question, “How can a cry of heartache, despair, and hopelessness become a song of love and rejoicing?” These men who are speaking at this conference have a deep abiding sense of life’s messiness and brokenness that coexists with a deeper, more penetrating sense of God’s faithfulness and His ability to mend the broken and clean up the mess. It is beautiful to sit under teaching that flows from that kind of worldview. Powlison pointed out that there is a particular kind of person who comes looking for Jesus. These people are messy and confused and each of them have an all-consuming sense of need. They are working with this pre-Theological notion that they need help and Jesus can help them. They don’t know that he is the Son of God, nor do they know that he is the Messiah who will die to rescue them from their sin. They’ve just seen him work. They’ve seen who he is. They don’t know how he will help, they just have a sense that he will. I love the story of the woman with the alabaster jar washing Jesus’ feet at Simon’s dinner table. Powlison shed some new light on the story for me when he said “Jesus can see that, despite her broken past and her skewed view of relationships, this woman has learned how to love. Love has always been unsafe for her but there is something about Jesus that she trusts. She intuits that he will bless her and not curse her, that he will keep her and not abandon her and as a result, she is freed up to love him in a way that she could never love anyone else.” It is so beautiful how Jesus honors this woman. Can you imagine how she felt? Before all of these men who have labeled her according to her sin, Jesus speaks forgiveness over her and honors her with his words. To know Jesus is to solve what is most wrong with our hearts. The way up is down—humility. Overcoming shame is about knowing your need, asking for help, saying thank you, and loving the one who helps you. What a beautiful picture of the saving grace of Jesus.
“I wanted to tell her that if only something were wrong with my body it would be fine, I would rather have anything wrong with my body than something wrong with my head, but the idea seemed so involved and wearisome that I didn’t say anything. I only burrowed down further in the bed.” 
― Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shame Interrupted

Have you ever listened to a talk and felt every other body in the room evaporate into thin air or melt into their chairs, all the while wishing it were you evaporating or melting? All of a sudden it’s as if the speaker’s eyes are boring holes into your soul. “This talk was written for me. “ That happens to me often and lately God has been speaking to my soul using various vehicles and what seems like magnified surround sound regarding shame. When I heard that shame and guilt were the topics of the CCEF conference this year, naturally, I was intrigued. My sometimes overly eager spirit of adventure committed to going almost immediately, without regard to the eight -hour drive or the distinct lack of company. I’ve had my moments of wishing someone were here to process with me but I’ve also duly noted that it’s probably good for me to be forced to be alone. I don’t do alone if I can help it but the truth is that the times when I’m quiet and alone are the times when I’m forced to get real about what’s really going on in my heart. Not to mention, God has been so gracious to provide sweet time with precious college friends in my free time. J

Shame BEFORE Jesus.
So, Friday morning, Ed Welch, who is one of my literary and counseling heroes spoke about shame before Jesus. He examined what the Old Testament says about shame.  Shame is the very first feature of the Fall. It is the human dilemma yet it is so rarely a part of our ecclesiastical conversation. Ed pointed out, as he made his way through the Old Testament, that God has a unique affection for people who struggle with shame. When he said that, what felt like hope leapt in my heart and my head lifted from staring at my notes. I gazed toward the stage for a second as if to ask, “really? Could that really be true?” I’ve never thought about that before. It made my heart glad to hear him speak from lots of the verses that I’ve been fighting to claim over my life this past few months. I call them “my shame verses.” The beginning of Isaiah 54 where God talks about being the husband of the desolate woman, promising that she will not suffer shame or be humiliated have quickly become my life verses.  This quote resonated in the deep places of my heart: “When your Maker is your Husband, you will never cease to be pursued.” I’m in awe of how beautifully and completely God meets our deepest needs and longings. Ed spoke directly to the difference between shame and guilt. Both include a deep need for rescue and salvation but shame adds a need for covering, inclusion, and cleansing. He went on to explain that these things can only be secured in Jesus. “You touch the Holy One and he touches you back.” We belong to him. There is nothing more profound than that for someone who struggles with shame. If you struggle with shame, then you are just the kind of person for whom God is searching. As I was listening to Ed speak, I realized something significant about my story. I absolutely love Ed’s book Depression, A Stubborn Darkness. So much so that I loaned it to someone who still hasn’t given it back and I ordered a second copy just in case. I’ve wondered for months why this book stands out among all of the spiritual “Jesus books” I’ve read as one that profoundly helps me.  The root of it is shame. I’ve struggled with Major Depressive Disorder for most of my life but have felt, for the majority of my 26 years, too much shame to admit that I need help beyond what I can do to help myself. I've jumped back and forth between desperation and self-righteousness, medication and counseling, all the while drowning in shame and fear. When I read the 1st sentence of the 2nd chapter in Ed’s book called "How Depression Feels," I felt inclusion for the first time in the area of depression. I felt like he understood what I was feeling and I realized for the first time that other people that God used in mighty and powerful ways for His kingdom, shared my struggle. Shame is one of the largest threads in my story, second only to the thread of the gospel that rescues me from it. I’ve lived most of my life with a sense of failure, feeling that somehow I just don’t measure up. I struggle with feeling like a fraud when I experience success or a compliment of any kind because I deeply feel that I don’t deserve success. I just never feel like I quite belong, like there’s always something that’s just enough wrong with me that I don’t fit. But as Ed pointed out in his talk, God’s story is the story of the naked covered, the outcast accepted, the unclean thoroughly washed, and of honor, glory, holiness, and beauty being bestowed upon his prized possession, ME. Even that sentence is hard for me to write. My very nature resists that kind of love and honor even though I know that it’s been bought with the precious blood of my Savior. However, regardless of my resistance, reality is that I BELONG to him, he is pursuing me. He breaks off my humiliation and I take on his reputation. In his kingdom, there is NO way that shame has a permanent place. At the end of his talk, Ed asked a question, “Do you feel dirty? Like you don’t belong?” If the answer is yes then all of scripture is about you. He will chase you and love you until you give up, lay it all down and say, “Ok, I trust you.” We take on the name and reputation of the most honorable person who ever lived, Jesus himself. To be blessed is to be shown favor. God doesn’t turn away from us in disgust, He turns His face toward us. He has a choice and he chooses to place his name on us and call us HIS people. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

second chances

How do you know if someone has changed? You see fruit and growth in their life that seems to be a result of improved circumstances, which makes you wonder if the change is permanent and character deep or only temporary and superficial. Does a person who broke your heart countless times have the ability to love the shattered pieces back together again? Does someone who once doubted your commitment to the Word have the ability to speak that very Word into your life on a daily basis? Does someone who incessantly pushed you away have the ability to draw you in?

I am a huge proponent of second chances. If I didn't believe in second chances, I couldn't possibly grasp the reality of the gospel. The gospel is God's sweet story of one giant second chance for those who trust in Christ. It's the second chance to end all second chances. The ultimate do-over. A real clean slate. True forgiveness. Life from death, light from darkness, order from chaos.

I can feel God softening my heart. I know he's moving me toward forgiveness because how could he move me toward anything else? His very nature is one of pardon. He is a God of second chances.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


The other day someone asked me what I would do if I had a million dollars. Immediately my response was "quit my job and write a book!" That surprised me. I didn't really know I wanted to do that. haha! 

What would my book be about? no idea. I've written lots over the years but most of the things I have to say are all things that people who've come before me have said more eloquently. My life isn't that interesting. I've learned and grown exponentially these past 2.5 years, though. I could write a book about my journey through therapy but I guess maybe I should finish therapy before I write that. :) I could write a book about having Diabetes, from Day 1...but I guess I should have Diabetes for longer than 4 months before I write that. I could write about compassion or brokenness or joy or struggle and how the love of an ever-faithful Savior covers a multitude of sins like a thick blanket of snow covers the mud in dead winter. I could write about life. 

hm, we'll see.

Friday, October 5, 2012


"Adoration wars against a life lived as a response to our wounds.

There’s a war against our hearts finding adventure in the right now. 

Simmering below the surface of what appears to be circumstantial disruptions is a staged battle keeping me from communion, the minute-by-minute communion which makes me alive and makes Him known to me."

Oh how I long for that communion...

Thursday, October 4, 2012


It's amazing what a little perspective and a sense of humor can do for a person. Today Anne said "Perspective feels good, doesn't it?" Yeah, it does. It's kind of like the difference between drowning and being able to float. Perspective feels like coming up for air. Praise God that he loves to give his children perspective, whether it's the truth that this is not our home or the promise that Jesus is coming soon or the reality that because we look to him, our faces are NEVER covered with shame. I've lost a lot of hair in the past 6 months..and by "a lot" I mean over half. All the labs have been drawn, most of the possibilities explored and no one knows why. Pretty frustrating if I'm honest. BUT this morning I walked into my living room to see a painting my roommate had done of the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism. This might be my favorite Catechism question of all time:

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watched over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

How's that for some perspective?

I have the best therapist in the entire world. seriously. Mostly I feel like God has gifted her particularly to walk alongside me. I mean, she walks with so many other people but she has been the most precious gift that God has given me over the past few years. She helps me figure out what's going on in my heart, she makes me laugh when I need to, laughs with me when life is ridiculous, listens to me cry when I need to, reminds me often that she cares about me, prays for me, hugs me, speaks powerful truth into my life, is willing to say hard things when I need to hear them, but gently encourages me and challenges me in a brilliant way. She's helping me believe God, letting me borrow her faith when I don't have any of my own, and pushing me to rest in my need, knowing that Jesus is the meeter of all my needs. Not only is she awesome at her job, but she's also an incredible friend. The only issue I see with this situation is that I only get to spend 45 minutes with her a week. She's really popular for obvious reasons and I know God is using her to bring his Kingdom here in so many people's hearts. I miss her, though. 7 days is a long time and 45 minutes seems to be getting shorter and shorter. Too bad there's no remedy to this problem on the horizon..alas, I am praising God for his glorious provision in the form of Anne :)

In the past 3 weeks, God has given me another wonderful gift in the Fitts family. They have let me eat dinner with them every night and spend the night with them, entertained me without fail, given me purpose and a real place in their family, encouraged me relentlessly, and just generally made me feel so loved and like I belong. They have helped bring some stability and routine in the midst of a crazy unstable and scary season of life. What a precious gift. I have so many families who love me and accept me as one of their own and I could never even begin to express how grateful I am and how powerfully those relationships impact my heart and my understanding of the gospel.

Praise God for his commitment to helping me internalize the truth that He really does know me and love me deeply and his promise that he is restoring us and healing us and making all things new.