Article - 4 min

Grace and Shame: and How They Don't Mix As Well As We Would Probably Like

How have you been allowing shame to drive your actions and beliefs lately?

There is nothing like the sound of a lie ricocheting in the corners of your mind, echoing through every chamber. Whether soft, loud, thunderous, vying for all our attention, it just sounds like shame. It sounds like shame, it creeps like shame, and it leaves the ugly skid mark of shame. And as my fingers click along my keyboard, shame comes on the tail of my processing, and it beats in opposition to the rhythm of my dialogue with God. Shame tells me to delete. Delete this sentence. Delete this post. Delete the dreams of my heart in order to stay safe. Shame reminds me of my failures, and my shortcomings, and my stupidity in continuing to try. Shame reminds me incessantly of the insensitive comment I made to a friend, the flippant behavior I did that affected my mom, and of the friend who probably is currently feeling hurt by something I have done. Shame tells me that I am not brave or free or loved or chosen and that any God that would tell me the contrary must not really know me. Shame tells me that I can’t walk with that kind of God. He doesn’t want to be seen with me next to Him.

When shame is my soundtrack, my life beats to a rhythm out of sync with that with which it was designed.

It’s almost five o’ clock on a Tuesday afternoon in the heat of summer, and I am back at the feet of Jesus because I just tried to take a fun trip to the mall with my best friends to temporarily silence my brokenness, but it didn’t fix my heart; it didn’t heal me. I talked to God this morning, and it was great, and I was so ready for my day after my time with him. That should have fixed me, right?

The thing is, I don’t think we get the lightness of His yoke when we shove away heaviness and shame. It must be dealt with head on. It must be exchanged.. Not doing so is like putting a feather on top of a pile of bricks and pretending like it got lighter. Grace doesn’t work as a cherry on top.

We are often prone to operate out of a place of proving our deservingness of grace. But when we do that we live a life sold short. We live a life that’s full of strife and impossibility. There is nothing abundant about that. I want so badly to prove to the people around me that I am deserving of their time, their love. I want so badly to prove to myself that I am deserving of resting, of waking up later than I intended, of being treated to a meal, not to mention being loved lavishly by the Counter of the stars. I’m worn out from trying to prove the impossible. I’m not deserving. As much as I want to be, there is no good deed, no favor, no act of love, no outfit I can wear, no shape I can be in, no perfect gift I can purchase, no thing I can do to prove myself otherwise.

This is no pity party, but actually an acknowledgement of the inherent nature of my worth. Inherent value cannot be proven because it existed before I had the capability of proof. It exists while I still struggle in vain to prove myself. It says that I am a daughter of the King of Kings. That is my permanent status. It doesn’t make sense because it’s not a relationship where the scale is balanced. It’s not your desired “give and take.”

So in our desire to make sense of this “all take with the inability to ever give enough back,” our flesh seeks balance. This kind of lavish giving must be balanced out or we will be out of control, our side of the scale being lifted up by no strength of our own. So in comes shame. Shame is heavy. It tries to balance out the lightness of His grace by weighing us down, but trust me, His grace is always deeper, richer, and fuller, and thank God the scales will never tip. We can beat ourselves into the ground with shame; jump up and down on our unworthiness, our failures, but He’s never going to move.

So here I am, doing my best to open my eyes to the reality that I can’t give back what I have been given, and it’s okay. It’s what He intended. The heaviness of my shame will not move the unmovable God, and I am thankful. I will never prove myself to be anything other than broken, needy, and unbelievably loved, but that is the uplifting, life-giving power of his grace

How have you been allowing shame to drive your actions and beliefs lately? Do you resonate with the ricocheting lies and weight of shame I describe? Do you find yourself self-medicating and trying to shove shame away rather than face it head on? How might Christ be trying to stand with you face to face and sort through the lies and heaviness? I strongly sense Jesus offering us all an exchange today. One where we let go of the weight of shame, and fully open our hearts afresh to his undeserving grace. Will you join me in taking a few minutes even right now to make that exchange? Receive and drink deep friends. And repeat this exchange as often as it takes. I think it’s going to take our whole lives, and that is the point.

Laura Dupper

Laura Dupper