I’m a pot-stirrer by nature. Yet, I am also very much non-confrontational. My pot-stirring is geared toward the “sport” of discussion and debate more than for drawing argument. In the end, I’m really more interested in generating ideas and seeing where ideas intersect than creating division. In the end, I detest rancor and discord.
With such competing qualities about me, I shouldn’t be surprised to find myself in conflict from time to time. In fact, I should come to expect it – except when I’m minding my own business. This is exactly where I found myself this past weekend. Minding my own business one minute. Ambushed and fully engulfed in spiritual and emotional hostility the next.
Before I could stir my coffee much less a pot, I was under a full-blown attack. Trust me – there are plenty of times when I’ve invited “debate.” This was not one of them, which is what made the whole thing that much more unsettling. Without warning and without provocation, I was being bombed. This person drudged up actions (sinful, painful ones) from my past (as in events from over thirty years ago). She had no obvious motive other than to shame me. I can only assume that this person was fighting unwittingly under the command of General Satan.
Has anyone ever judged you for past actions? Gone straight for your jugular? Defined your character by who you were yesterday as opposed to who you are today? Wielded a sword of shame as their weapon of choice?
Maybe it was someone you loved. Maybe a mere acquaintance. Maybe you’ve even launched such an attack against yourself.
Whatever the case, most of us have been there. Well, it is time to set that we set the record straight because that was yesterday.
That’s not today.
If we remain forever anchored to yesterday’s mistakes, then how will we ever unchained for God’s today?
Most of us don’t need anyone else to summon the memories of past sins. Most of us are pretty good at concealing our less charming actions like little badges of dishonor secreted in our hearts. We take great pains to avoid airing our dirty laundry. Reveal, give it up, and air it out – we must.
Someone once said, “You can’t give up shame without giving up pride.” So, true. I am guilty of stashing my dingy shame under a velvety cloak of pride. Pride that whispers, “God, your sacrifice isn’t enough to cover ‘this’ sin.”
I hope it pains you to read those words as much as it pains me to type them. Pride and shame are as inseparable as Siamese twins. Only human pride is bold enough to insinuate to the Lord Almighty that some sins can’t be forgiven. That some sins define us. Eternally. Only defiant arrogance suggests that God isn’t big enough to absolve some trespasses.
When we begin to understand the difference between guilt and shame – it becomes easier to release the shame.
Guilt says, “I failed.”
Shame hisses, “I am a failure.”
God’s infinite grace reminds us that our failures have been forgiven.
ALL of them – not just the nice, neat, easy ones, but the big, nasty, ugly, hurtful, sins are covered too. Even bold pride and defiant arrogance are forgiven.
Still, how long and how far are we willing to carry our shame? Apparently, I’m inclined to cling to my cloak of shame for a good twenty to thirty years or more. By doing so, I have given Satan the power instead of giving God the glory for all of that time. Now, that is a real shame. By still holding on to even a hint of shame, this person was able to use my “yesterday” as a weapon in what should be God’s “today.” My shame was the string that connected her like a puppet to Satan’s evil efforts.
Why so tightly for so long? No one carries anything for a minute much less decades unless it brings benefit – or at least the illusion of benefit. Too often, we operate under the mistaken notion that holding onto the shame is the way to atone for the sin. I’m guilty of clinging to it like a child drags around a “blankie.” Yet, unlike a toddler’s security blanket, my misguided efforts never bring comfort. Shame never calms my fears. Quite the opposite, it binds me. Satan’s sinister strings entangle my spirit. Shame weighs me down and pulls me back – to yesterday.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not suggesting that we cannot escape the consequences of our sins, but we can escape the weight. Shame is a weight not a consequence. Shame is Satan’s sword and he wields it through the sometimes harsh and always imperfect judgment of those around us (and more often within us). Like a child must let go of his “blankie” at some point, we have to let go of the shame that drags us around – and down.
Nor am I suggesting that God’s infinite grace is some sort of “get out of hell free” card to be abused. Once you exchange the weight of shame for the power of grace, you’d never want to abuse such a precious gift.
When seek to shimmy off the shame, our petitions can only be sincere if we humble ourselves. It is in the final act of removing -with genuine humility – our cloaks of pride that we can accept fully God’s grace. That means recognizing that no action of our own can atone for trespasses. That means accepting the sacrifice of Christ Jesus as the only means of pardon for our sins. That means acknowledging that grace is a most generous gift of God as we do not in any way deserve it.
Until this past week, I had thought that I had let go of the shame associated with certain sins of my past. But the sting of the recent offensive suggests that I was still dragging at least a piece of that old “blankie” around with me. Satan sniffed out my weakness. What Satan intended for evil – God intends for good. This time – as Satan lifted his sword of shame against me, God used that sword to sever those puppet strings once and for all.
What Satan intended to suffocate us, God is using to resuscitate us.
What Satan intended to destroy us, God is using to restore us.
What Satan intended to bind us, God is using to UNLEASH us.
The Bible is filled with examples of “shameful” people. David – a man after God’s own heart – committed adultery and murdered his lover’s husband in an attempt to cover the sin. Saul – better known as the Apostle Paul – persecuted, tortured, and murdered early Christians. Are their stories preserved for our mockery and judgment? No. Their stories are presented for our encouragement and hope.
We will all fall down. Sometimes we fall hard. We need never stay down.
No matter where you are on your current path – IT’S NOT TOO LATE. Drop the shame where you stand. You can always turn back toward a better path – no matter how many paths you’ve strayed.
Your today need not be defined by what you did last week, last month, last year, or three decades ago – because that was yesterday.
Dear Father, forgive our foolish pride in thinking for a moment that carrying the weight of yesterday serves Your today. Pardon us when we allow our spirits to remain entangled in Satan’s puppet strings. Remind us, through Your Spirit, that You have already snipped Satan’s sinister strings – cleanly and permanently.
Thank You for your perfect justice and mercy. Thank You for not judging us with the imperfect harshness with which we judge one another and ourselves. Open our hearts to forgive ourselves and others the way that You have forgiven us.
Thank You for covering our overwhelming shame with your overpowering love.
Unbind us from our “yesterdays” that Satan intended for evil. UNLEASH us into today to fulfill what You make good and intend for Your glory!
In Jesus’ name, Amen!