One step. Two steps. Brick walls towered over her. Decrepit staircases crowded about her. Shouldn’t the place be crimson with blood and black with shame?
Ruth turned in circles, needing to take it all in. This was her past. Nothing could ever change that, but she would not let it consume her.
The shame of her youth screamed at her from every brick, but Jesus silenced it. “Christ died for me. That’s all I need to know. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.”
In my novel A Memory Between Us, the heroine, Lt. Ruth Doherty, struggles with shame over her past. This is the final installment of a six-part blog series dealing with shame that lingers after sin has been forgiven or there was no sin to begin with, as in abusive situations. (First post link)
Shoving shame out of our lives is hard spiritual work (See tools for shoving off shame here). So why do we do it? So we feel better? Sure, that’s part of it. But there’s a bigger reason. This spiritual work is like breaking up unplowed ground – a lot of pain and energy, but afterward the ground is productive.
When God forgives and heals us, we’re comforted. But He doesn’t mean for us to stay there. He wants us to rise up, leave our shame behind, and live full lives in Him.
The nation of Israel knew shame. Their disobedience and idolatry resulted in seventy years of humiliating exile in Babylon. But God promised to bring them back and restore them – for a purpose! God speaks in Ezekiel 39: 25-27: “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me. When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations.'”
God has a purpose that’s higher than our personal peace of mind. He restores us so that He can show Himself through us to others! Isn’t that exciting?
Hebrews 9: 13, 14 tells us, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Once again, a purpose! He forgives us so we can serve Him.
King David also knew shame after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband, Uriah, killed. Psalm 51 is David’s lament after realizing the extent of his sin. Read it and feel the pain of shame. But finish it to see how David decided to use the lessons he learned. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” Who better to help a sinner than a reformed sinner? David refused to wallow in shame, but rose up and used his experiences to teach others. Even today, three thousand years later, we learn from him.
What have you learned from the experiences that brought you shame? How can you use those lessons to show God’s holiness to others? To serve the living God? To teach sinners His ways?
Rise up and live a full life in Him!