I have always struggled with receiving God’s love. Always. Now that doesn’t mean I didn’t have times of real intimacy, I often did especially in times of worship, and quite often while I played the drums (they seem to be a sort of spirit connection I have with God, I don’t know why but it just is). However that was not my default mode, it was more like when I had stayed away from my usuals sins, when I was happy with my spiritual disciplines etc.
My default was that I was striving to receive God’s love and to be honest almost everything I did was to get that embrace. My default was that I was unloved and at my worst times I was unloveable, or so I felt. When I would sin, my usual stuff that I always struggled with, I was filled at times with even self-hate and self loathing, though I didn’t know it what I was suffering with was not Holy Spirit conviction or a great desire for holiness or taking my sanctification seriously, what I was dealing with was shame. It’s at this point you might want to watch the video below.
You see I believe we all have shame, and I think it’s probably even worse for over-conscientious christians like I used to be. As time went on I felt trapped by where I should be in my journey with Jesus and my own interpretation of where I actually was. I also felt trapped because I believed that as a leader in the various churches I participated in, other peoples spirituality counted on mine (how self-absorbed and sick is that?), and somehow their faith would be shaken if I “fell” or at least confessed that all was not quite as good as I made it out to be.
As Brene’ says, it is shame that separates people and unravel’s connection. That’s how it was between me and God. I had a theology that could deal with my sin, and sadly even people living under the law, me included, have this. However the law and a pseudo-gospel that is based on the law (sadly most evangelicals live here) can only deal with sin in the legalistic sense, but never with our shame. What God showed me while I watched that talk of Brene’s turned my messed up world the right-way up.
What follows is a brief, highlights package of what I saw. (I won’t give you all the details because you’ll probably be more blessed if you read these passages in the bible yourself and dialogue with God about this stuff)
When Adam and Eve sinned, they weren’t immediately kicked out of the garden. Instead they hid from God, and why did they hide? Shame. Shame was the thing that unravelled the connection. I have learned that while sin is serious and has serious consequences for me, God is not scared of my sin like I thought he was. God came looking for Adam and Eve and the first thing he did wasn’t shout at them, he covered their shame. He shed blood, the first time this happens in scripture, and it’s not to deal with their sin, but rather to cover their shame. (Don’t misunderstand me, sin and shame aren’t two separate things, rather I see them as two sides of the same coin, my emphasis in this blog is to just share how God corrected an imbalanced in my life).
The consequences of their sin meant they needed to leave the garden before they made their sin condition eternal. However we see God covering their shame first and trying to mend the relationship so that they would know that he was still for them and would make a way to rescue them completely. Obviously this happens when Jesus comes.
There are many stories in the bible that show how God lifts shame off of us, but one of my favourites is the parable of the prodigal son. Notice that the father when receiving the son doesn’t shout at him, or hold him at a distance to see whether or not he has learned his lesson, or is properly repentant. Rather seeing the son’s sense of shame, he thinks he is only worthy to be a servant/slave to his father. His father almost doesn’t even listen to him, instead he puts a robe around him and rings on his fingers, some would say he almost behaves in a shameful way himself as he runs to greet his boy, to remind his son that he has always been a son, and could never be anything else. He didn’t get a new inheritance, the consequences of our sin, but the relationship was restored and the son not only could enjoy the love of the father, but saw himself as a son again.
That has been my experience at least, now even on my worst days I know that I am loved by my Father God, I know that we still need to deal with my sin, because I recognise that it hurts me and those around me, but my relationship with God is always constant, always safe, even in the midst of my sin. I can come to him, we can deal with sin instead of sweeping it under the carpet and consequently my intimacy grows. For me this is the good news that is only possible through grace, as it deals with my sense of shame.
Here is the video, definitely worth a watch