Have you ever felt it? I mean REALLY felt it.
The sick pit in my gut, waking up next to someone, knowing we had just used each other. Without even actually knowing I had given something away of value for absolutely nothing, even if I didn't really understand what it was at the time, shame settled in anyway.
That's a kind of shame you try to push off. You validate your actions, you say things like "It's my life, I'll live it however I want to. I'm not hurting anyone."
You say them like they are words of freedom, but really, only the outside changes, not what you feel on the inside. You may say to the shame "I don't accept you," but in that circumstance, you have just moved it, not unarmed it. And things will happen, or people will say things, or you will even repeat your actions, and shame will whisper back at you through the door you thought you closed. Muffled? Maybe, but not silenced.
Shame is sitting in the doctor's office and seeing the heartbeat of your unborn child on the ultrasound and then walking into the next room for the "procedure" anyway.
Shame is waking up on a table to the sound of other women screaming and crying, and knowing that where there was once life is now emptiness, and it's your fault.
Shame is keeping secrets from people you love. Shame is being so sure that your choices make you unlovable. Shame is believing your secrets could cost you everything.
Shame is like death, and when another death comes, shame increases. Shame is listening to the doctor say "It's just a miscarriage, it's not your fault," and believing to the depth of your being that it really is.
Shame is feeling so broken, so hopeless, so devastated, so low, and so wounded, that you cannot see anything past that shame.
It is the heaviest of burdens. I know, I dragged mine and it liked to have destroyed me.
One day, I couldn't drag it any further. I stopped and sat on my "backpack" and all the heavy shame it held. And I gave up. Shame had won, and I didn't want to fight it anymore. I was resolved to the fact it was eventually going to consume me. It had become who I was.
Thankfully, someone saw me sitting there alongside the road. Actually, she had been sent to find me, though I don't think she totally knew it. She came up to me carefully. She just sat down beside me. We didn't even look at each other.
At first her presence made me sit stiffly. But when I realized she just came to sit by my side, I relaxed a little. When she put her arm around my shoulders I could feel something breaking inside.
"Heavy bag," she said, "I bet you're tired."
I sat in silence. I was so tired. I was exhausted.
She just sat there with me a while, her arm around my shoulder, the long we sat, the more I began to lean into her. She was so patient.
Finally she asked, "What are you carrying?"
I couldn't even say it.
We sat and we sat, and we sat some more until I found the strength and caught in my throat I barely whispered it, "Shame."
The shame of promiscuity.
The shame of unplanned pregnancy.
The shame of cowardice.
The shame of abortion.
The shame of lies.
The shame of fear.
The shame of deceit.
As it eked it's way out my new companion stood. Was she leaving me?
She reached down, and grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me up. As I held to my bag, she grabbed the handle on the other side. "Come on," she said, "I don't know what to do with all this, but I know who does." And she walked with me, and she helped me carry my shame.
I didn't know exactly where she was leading me. I still had a hard time looking up from the shame before me. I looked at my feet, I looked at the bag, only on occasion would I try to sneak a peek and look up at her face. We walked, and she talked.
She talked about love, and forgiveness. She spoke of redemption and of hope. I didn't really know if I believed in these things, but I wanted to. But I was afraid. So I just followed her and I listened. And suddenly, we stopped.
I didn't want to stop. I stood there looking at my feet. She pulled at the bag and said, "We need to leave this here." And as she said it, my mind raced. LEAVE IT? I had to guard this with my life, no one else could see what was inside. Everything in me tensed. "This is where it belongs," she said.
I took a deep breath and then I let it out. And then I looked up, and I found myself standing at the foot of a cross.
And I broke. I collapsed there at the cross, and the tears came pouring out from inside me. All the years of shame and the hurt and confusion and ache is had caused came pouring out of me. I cried and I cried till there wasn't a drop left inside of me to release. And I was on my knees and broken at the foot of the cross. And then I felt a hand on my shoulder.
When I looked up, it wasn't the friend who had brought me there. It was the One who had sent her after me. He knelt down and put his arms around me, and pulled me into Himself. And He just loved me. And there were no words.
Truthfully, before that day, I believed He was the One who had sent the shame. I believed He was angry and disapproving and He didn't love me and never could. But I was wrong.
He didn't open my bag and pull everything out and try to rationalize through every part of it with me. There were no lectures, no disappointment, no judgment. HE just told me that He never intended me to carry it around. Not ever. And He told me He wanted me to let go of it, and let Him have it.
Honestly, it was hard. And I didn't do it right away. He brought others, and He had them tell me about the shame they had carried. They testified of the freedom I was supposed to have. The whole time, He held me. Each of us holding onto my bag.
It took a while. And finally, I took my first ever "leap of faith." And no sooner did I loosen my grip and pull back my hand, and instantly, it was gone.
I could still feel the ache in my back, and even my grip was sore, but the weight was no longer there. And Jesus, kept on holding on to me.
I was lucky. Jesus took my shame during the first days I met Him. It's not an automatic process though. I know lots of people, a sad too many to count, who come to the cross, and even take Jesus' hand, but they don't let go of their bag.
Jesus is patient though. He will not strip us of our burden. He will just continue to wait patiently until we are ready to let go. He wants you to let go of the bag. He wants you to do it so He can take you by both your hands, sit before you and look into your eyes and truly convince you, that He NEVER intended for you to carry the shame that you did.
I know, because the moment He took both my hands in His, my life was changed, forever.
It's not as though I've never come in contact with shame again. The enemy and people will still try to place those weights in your bag. Even once you've been given a new bag with the baggage tag filled out with the words: "Destination- Heaven." Sometime, even people on the same path as you, headed the same direction, will at times try to put a weight in your bag.
Don't let them.
Look to the Lord and let Him remind you,
"I never intended for you to carry that."
Shame, it isn't meant for children of God.
It's meant to be laid at the foot of the cross where it disappears, to be remembered no more.
And if you are like me, and you left it there upon your first meeting at the cross, or whether the enemy has somehow continued to bind you with it even when your eternity has been settled, walk back to the foot of the cross and leave it there,
It is never to late to leave that shame where it belongs.