Since coming to college and finding the community of RUF, shame has been something that is talked about a lot in my Christian circle. It is pretty common for Christians and non-Christians alike to confuse humility & self-contempt, as if the more we hate ourselves the more humble and holy we become. Well, that doesn't work because self-hatred drives us away from God which naturally moves us away from humility. Another thing we do, is avoid the topic of shame all-together, as if it will just magically go away or at least not worsen (out of sight, out of mind). Well, that doesn't work (at least it hasn't for me), because shame is like mold. You can ignore it, paint over it, or even distance yourself from it, but it will just keep growing in size and danger as it pollutes the deep crevices of our souls.
I've definitely had my fair share of shameful experiences and I've come to know the deep danger in sitting in my shame as I've seen it take me to some dark, lonely, scary places. Only the light of the gospel has brought hope and restoration to those dark places. The truth about what Jesus thinks of me and the identity He has secured for me as His child is the only ointment that has brought true healing to my wounds of my shame. No amount of self-help, or repression of memories, or pride has given me this healing; only the truth of gospel has.
Genesis 3:7 "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."
One of the first times I experienced shame was on “red day” in kindergarten when I forgot about the theme for the day and showed up to class as the ONLY one not wearing red!!! I was so upset that I made my mom come and get me from school and then spent what felt like eternity digging through the dresser for somethings red. (I still don't wear a lot of red--it's just not my color). Anyway, I remember being content with my outfit before my horrific revelation that it was RED DAY. I don't even remember if anyone asked me: “Why aren’t you wearing red today?!” but I can imagine that if they did it felt like sharp daggers stabbed into my fragile 6-year-old ego. The truth is, it didn’t matter how "illogical" my shame was. It didn't matter much I liked my non-red outfit when I got ready for school that day. It didn't even matter if anyone else noticed. What mattered was that I felt deep shame, and it hurt to the same degree that more current experiences hurt (experiences which would make my red-day story seem comically trivial). All of the sudden I went from feeling normal, secure, and confident to feeling naked and exposed "in the garden of Kindergarten”.
More examples of 6-year-old Molly's shame make me laugh while simultaneously making me feel nauseous because of how vivid & painful, yet comical they are: accidentally tracking in sand from the playground and messing up the clean rug (i felt like i had just committed the worst, most unforgivable sin and the whole class saw it), getting a “yellow-light” (a discipline warning) for agreeing to braid my friend’s hair during nap-time, having a classmate give me the “Loser-forehead-L" when I tried to stand with her in line, losing a toy that friend bought me for my birthday and feeling deeply terrified that she would find out and i would be exposed as a terrible friend, having an accident on my way to the bathroom and telling my Kindergarten teacher the pathetic lie that “I spilled yellow soap!” (it was not yellow soap if you know what i mean).
Genesis 3:21-21 "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them."
I wish that my kindergarten-self understood then what I know now; shame is a lie told by the father of lies. That there is a God who fully sees her in the midst of her shame and fully accepts/ loves her! That she wasn't created for the world's approval but is the apple of her heavenly father's eye! That perfect love casts out fear so she doesn't need to be afraid of having an accident or being called a loser or forgetting to wear red. That she was born into this world as a spiritual orphan, one who was abandoned and unloved by this father of lies named Satan, but a couple years later would come to know and believe in a God who sees her, loves her, and adopts her as His own.
I wish I could go back to that "garden of kindergarten" and tell 6-year old Molly that she doesn't need to cover herself in "red" fig leaves to hide her shame because there is a God who loves her so much that He absorbed her sin and shame on the cross and covers her nakedness with garments of His love. As she becomes more aware of the depth of her sin and depth of God's holiness, 23-year old Molly needs to be reminded of this truth more and more. Because in Christ, sin does not put her to shame but allows her to boldly come before the throne of God guilty, sinful,and messy to experience forgiveness, healing, and fullness of life.