In the beginning, God made everything unashamedly good, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Gen 2:25). Fast forward one chapter…the fruit, a serpent, temptation…being like God?, a bite…another bite, fear & shame. It went like this,
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” – Gen 3:6-10
Their reaction to their actions was a classic shame response – they tried to cover it/themselves up (with fig leaves and actual hiding) because they were afraid. Shame has a way of making us afraid to face reality. Sometimes shame comes from something we have done. Other times we feel shame because of something someone has done to us.
Recently, I have had several conversations with people who are facing tremendous levels of shame and fear. They are going through this same process we see in Genesis 3 – poor decisions were made and ever since they have experienced shame, fear and have tried to cover it up. But you can only cover it up for so long before you realize that freedom only comes in answering God’s question, “Where are you?” When God asks that, he really needs to hear our honest answer. Maybe our answer is that we are in a really dark place because of our decisions. Or maybe our answer is that we are in a mess because of what others have done to us and we just cannot let it go. If we are going to get past the shame we have to start with telling God where we are, right here and now. If we aren’t honest about that and express it to Him, it can never be fully dealt with and healing will come slow, if ever.
One of the places I have turned in helping people deal with shame is Psalm 25. I am going to let this psalm speak for itself…just notice how the end of shame comes from God and our trusting in His guidance.
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
2 in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.
4 Show me your ways, O Lord,
teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O Lord.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, O Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
12 Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.
18 Look upon my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how my enemies have increased
and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope is in you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!
If you are dealing with shame, hand it over to God…follow His lead and let him redeem whatever it is that has happened to you or that you have done in order to get beyond what you are going through. When God deals with it, that is a profound act of grace.