Life in our house has been out of sorts for a few weeks now. Our amazing God, is doing a healing work in my wife, and healing gaping wound can at times seem more painful than the resolution to just live with it. I will not go into much detail, since you can read through her telling the story over at christibowman.com
In this process of walking with her in love through this healing, the issue of shame has become a major source of conversation. People exiting the painful prison of abuse must always pass through the barbed gates of shame. Abusive control requires the abuser to hold their victim into the dark cell of worthlessness through the threat of more serious deeper piercing wounds. Shame is a weapon used to further damage an already weakened emotional prey.
Shame has been a part of the human experience since moments after the first bites from the forbidden tree. Adam and Eve, hid from God when his footsteps were heard in the garden. After a poor sacrifice Cain's shame caused him to kill his brother. Jacob's shame caused him to send a wealth of gifts ahead of himself and his family to appease Esau. David sent a trusted warrior to be killed in the front line of battle after his adulterous affair with the man's wife. Shame has caused many a reactions in the people facing it's brutal stare.
Shame unfortunately does not come from merely internal struggles with our enemy. It is often joined by a voice or a crowd of voices promoting their own agenda for another's life. Far to often people deputize themselves into Satan's work joining his voice in accusing others of their perceived wrong. In the middle ages "Priest of the Church" would sentence unruly women into wearing hideous masks inviting public scorn. In the early days of formalized public education under performing students were given a cone headed dunce cap to humiliate them. Humiliation and scorn remain two of the painful implements used to remind the person perceived as out of line of their disgrace.
Although my in-laws weapons of shame have been turned on me, they were as harmless as the burst of air from an Airzooka canon
. The stinging spikes of their scorn and humiliation are not so painless for my wife, who was conditioned by their venomous remarks from the time she was a little girl. It is the fragile child in need of her parents acceptance that cowers helpless despite the rational logic of the amazing adult she has grown to become. In a classic formula of abuse she has been systematically indoctrinated with the idea that she is a burden, unworthy of love who should be gracious and compliant to them for their willingness to love in spite of her being undeserving and base. The truth that she is admirable, compassionate, intelligent and good is cloaked from her own vision since the catalogue of instances that illustrate her unworthiness are recounted in performance style each time she attempts to remove the shame mask or set aside their dunce cap.
In one of my favorite gospel stories a woman who is found for some reason in sexual relations with a man who is her not husband is dragged out by a group of religious elitist to be exposed in her shame as a trap for Jesus. Exhibited before the crowd she cowers awaiting the bludgeoning pain of the stones she is about to have hurled at her. Jesus squats down to ground, placing himself level with her he looks into her to see her life, her pain, her circumstances that have brought her to be discovered as she was using and being used by the man ignored by her accusers. Jesus, the incarnate God, looks deep inside, past the shame and guilt and sees the little girl. Jesus, the incarnate God, looks up to peer back inside the accusers who have no shame in the midst of their self righteous piety. "Let You," Jesus replies to them, "Who has never sinned be the first to cast a stone."
"SHAME!!! SHAME!!! SHAME!!!" Jesus says to the professional religionist. It is not the brokenness present in all mankind that the God of the universe shames, it is the lie of self righteousness that assumes one worthy of the authority to sit on the judgement seat of God. Jesus' biting "Shame on You!" is first for the oldest and then continuing down to his peers who view themselves as executioners of proper morality. When they have all dropped their stones and sulked away sullied by having their own nakedness displayed, Jesus positions himself beside her, lifts her into his arms, and steps through the razors of the barbed fence freeing her from their prison of shame. Jesus takes the wounding of the jagged blades as he tenderly tells her, "Neither do I condemn you."
In 1 Corinthians 1:27
Paul teaches that, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty." It is a reminder of the great reversal of God's upside down kingdom. The boundless love of God speaks NO SHAME into our brokenness, and those who do sit in the judgment seat with their personal verdict and scorn, humiliation, and shame do not speak on his behalf.