Rounding out this long period of guest posts is one that truly touches my heart. My Portland soul-sister Jess is sharing her heart today--a topic that I think most of us can definitely relate to.
In case you forgot, a few amazing bloggers have been taking over the blog this week while I spent quality time with my family on vacation!
I am back home now, but had a couple extra guest posts that were too good to not share! I will be back here soon and let you know allllll about my amazing trip!
I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I do! :)
Make sure to check out all the other guest posts by clicking here!
Hi! I'm Jess, and I'm excited to be guest-posting for Angela today, while she's away enjoying her vacation (lucky duck!). I'm visiting from (More or Less) Jess, where I blog about a little bit of everything--daily life, outfits, music, crafty projects and deeper thoughts on faith and meaning.
While I'm here at Harrells on Hood, I wanted to touch a little bit on some of those deeper thoughts, and I would love to hear your thoughts, too. Feel free to visit over at my little blog, or I'm always open to emails at jessicae8429 (at) gmail (dot) com!
One of my New Year's resolutions has been to journal my way through the Bible; I read a daily passage, and then write about the verses that stick out to me. I'm the worst at letting my mind wander and having to re-read passages over and over (anyone else?) so this has really helped me focus, absorb what I'm reading, and apply it to my life. It only took one day for something to hit me really hard--so hard, in fact, that I'm still thinking about it.
January 1st. My reading was Genesis 1:1 through 3:24, a story you're all undoubtedly familiar with, whether you identify with Christianity or not--the story of the fall of man. Adam and Eve, tempted by Satan, eat the forbidden fruit. But after that, to me, is where it starts getting interesting (whether you believe the story is allegorical or literal). The first effect of the Fall that is felt by Adam and Eve isn't increased childbirth pains, harder gardening or death--it's shame. They are suddenly aware of all their crap: their vulnerability, imperfections, nakedness...and they are ashamed.
Here's where it's important to distinguish between guilt--which is a realization of having done wrong and feeling bad about one's actions--and shame, which is an intense feeling of embarrassment, humiliation, and feeling bad about who you are.
The Bible doesn't say that Adam and Eve felt guilty about their sin, it says that they were "ashamed" of their "nakedness"--ashamed of their own bodies, their selves, even thought they were made in the image of God. Shame is deeper, and harder to let go of. Guilt can lead to repentance and changed behavior; shame usually leads to despair and hiding--which is exactly what Adam and Eve did. They hid their sin and they hid themselves, because they were ashamed of both.
This is the takeaway: Shame is not from God. Guilt, conviction--sure. But shame? No.
In verse 3:21, God has sought out Adam and Eve and in a remarkable show of tenderness, He clothed them. He gives consequences, yes, but he also gives them a source of relief from that shame. Reading back through the preceding verses, I noticed that Adam and Even never sought forgiveness (they were too busy hiding, remember?)--but God relieved their shame anyway.
It seems that if shame was healthy, beneficial, or would lead to restored relationship with God, he would let them endure it. By giving them that deliverance from their shame, He is acknowledging that it is dangerous, and should not be left unchecked or allowed to grow. That's true for Adam and Eve, and it's true for us.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing about shame--it can grow into self-hatred, and when it does, we can't allow ourselves to be fully loved, because we can't believe ourselves worthy of love. Yet that love--God's love--is the only thing that can save us from it and make us feel clean again. God is handing us a covering, and we'd rather run around naked, lamenting our nakedness.
Brennan Manning once said that it is fear and shame that causes us to hide our darkness instead of letting it be illuminated. I don't know about you, but I would rather be illuminated than to carry my darkness around and let it lead to more shame, more hiding, more distance. So whatever darkness you have, whatever you have done in the past--don't carry it around any more. Your sin, your crap, your issues--it doesn't define you.
Sinner. Slut. Drunk. Stupid. Gossip. Weak. Those are labels your shame wants to lay on you. Don't let it. Those labels are not who you are. Who you are is the crowning creation of a God who hung the stars, crafted the mountains, and set the heartbeat of the ocean waves. Let that define you. Fight the shame, and let any lingering guilt you have lead you to reconciliation with a God who loves you, who will cover your shame. Then live in that gift of love and grace, confident in the knowledge of who you really are.