Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

When did you last feel guilty? What did you do, and what did you do with your guilt: confess it and make it right? Hide it and walk away?

What are you ashamed of? It could be related to the same situation if your guilt went unresolved. But shame is sneaky. You likely feel ashamed for things that aren’t your fault at all: body image, not fitting in with whatever group you were made to feel you had to fit in, insults you internalized as a child that reflected more about the person who uttered them than any truth about your character.

Guilt: I did something bad.
Shame: I am bad.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that guilt can lead to feelings of shame. I did something bad because I am bad. And shame can lead to further guilt: since I’m bad, I might as well act badly. Like Adam and Eve eating the fruit in the garden (guilt) and realizing they were naked (shame over their beautifully created bodies), and hiding from God.

But those things are more easily dealt with than the shame most humans carry through no fault of their own. That requires much deeper, harder work, and I’d wager that most of us don’t want to go there…until for whatever reason we realize we have to.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times (John 18), just as Jesus had told him he would (John 13). Peter felt guilty, but the way Jesus restored him indicates that Peter may also have been feeling ashamed (John 21).

The real shame expert, Brene Brown, says that if we wanted to grow shame in a petri dish we would add secrecy, silence, and judgment, all ingredients in ample supply.

Even though Peter denied Jesus publicly, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Peter had buried his actions. The other disciples weren’t there, so how would they know? And how would they react if they did? Again, judgment isn’t a huge leap… Oh Peter, how could you? Although, given the circumstances, maybe they would have done exactly the same; or maybe they could have imagined themselves in Peter’s sandals. But Peter wouldn’t know that, since he likely kept his guilt and shame to himself.

Secrecy, silence, and judgment multiply shame. Jesus not only addressed Peter’s guilt, He also obliterated Peter’s shame. This conversation wasn’t just redemption, or restitution; this conversation became a catapult to mission. Without it, we might not have the Church.

I find it fascinating that John chose this scene to conclude his gospel. Peter, who had lived and served with Jesus for three years, denied even knowing Jesus on the night He was arrested. But that doesn’t stop Jesus’ love, Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus’ mission. John wants us to know that no matter what we’ve done or how unqualified we feel, Jesus will meet us there, gently and lovingly lift us up, and give us meaningful service.

Leave behind guilt. Do whatever hard work you need to do to move beyond shame. Let Jesus love you right where it hurts (especially if you’re not ready to admit that it hurts…that’s where you need it). And then get up and follow Him on the adventure He has waiting for you.

Connect
Share some of the ways you demonstrated love for someone this week.

Study
Read aloud John 21:15-25.
Also read John 18:15-18, 25-27. How did Jesus questioning Peter’s love three times connect with Peter’s three denials?
Even though Peter felt hurt by Jesus’ questions, how was Jesus demonstrating love for Peter?
How did Jesus ask Peter to demonstrate his love (vv15-17)? Why is that significant?
Since Jesus knows all things, why did He have this conversation with Peter? What difference does it make to say the words out loud?
Why did Jesus refer to Peter’s death (vv18-19)?
Why did Peter ask about John, and how did Jesus respond (vv20-24)?
Why do you think John chose this to be the last scene in his gospel (v25)? What does this scene tell us about Jesus and His followers that might act as a conclusion to the story?

Live
How do you define shame? How is it like/different from guilt?
When is shame an appropriate response? When is it unhealthy?
How can safe and loving conversations and an appropriate course of action be helpful in overcoming shame?
If you can, share about a time when Jesus redeemed your shame.
Why is it important to demonstrate love with words and actions?
Are you better at loving with words or actions? How can you grow in balancing expressions of love?
How can you demonstrate your love for Jesus as you love others with words and actions this week?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Thank God for loving us no matter what and offering redemption from shame.

Family Share Questions
Reflect on John 21:15-19 individually and with your family:
How do you show someone you love them?
How does loving people help you love Jesus more?
Thank Jesus for all the people you love.

For more on shame, watch this Ted talk by Brene Brown.

 

Images by John Hain from Pixabay

Thankful Thursday – Embrace Truth

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glass-89051_640No matter how forcefully you jab at your phone’s red “disconnect” button, it won’t satisfy like the plastic crunch of slamming down a landline phone. The news I’d just heard warranted a strong response.

Something terrible has happened. People I love are hurting. I am hurting.

Through deep sighs, voice shaking then breaking, tears turning to sobs, I breathed out the bad news to Guy. He embraced me, but all the feelings made me restless, too much to be contained. I prayed: Lord, have mercy! I sent a text to my gals, inviting their love and prayers. I poured a shot of tequila. I distracted myself with the best (worst?) online idiocy. I wrote a little, until somewhere in the early-dark morning when my computer conked out and my eyes drooped in bleary desperation.

Sleep came heavy, but not rest. I yanked my sluggish body from the comforter just as fatigued, head pounding, face puffy. I had to go to work. And I decided to embrace truth.

Energy zapped, I had no filter; I shared the story with coworkers. I risked their pity, judgment even. Thankfully, they responded with grace, encouragement, prayer.

Unable to change the situation, I tended to my wounds. I prayed. I tried to nap. I read. I poured myself into work tasks and binge-watched TV. During a break in the rain, I found joy in a laughter-filled walk with friends and dogs.

I keep telling the truth. I am not “okay,” not “How are you? Fine.” I am angry, sad, confused, brokenhearted, aching. On some levels I am fine, and with hope I am getting better each day. Still… I know those are ugly-messy emotions, hard to hear. You might prefer to plug your ears. But this chaos is my song right now, and if you can’t handle my dischords, likely we’re not friends.

At our moms’ group this morning, I stood in front of 150 or so women to ask for prayer. I felt the weight of the pain spread as people felt newly sad with me, for me, for the situation, and my shoulders felt lighter. Some present may have been shocked, probably were. Maybe some even felt embarrassed for me: how dare I have the guts to talk openly about something so awful? That’s behind-closed-doors news, private.

Maybe it has been. But no, not any more. I’m embracing the truth because this messy truth, for now, is our truth. It’s what we have to deal with. I refuse to let you belittle me with your label of shameful when I call it illness, tragic. What we keep hidden in the dark will fester, spreading insidious infection. When we tell the truth, we set ourselves and others free. We share the pain. We create connection. We give and receive encouragement, hope.

Several women approached me after, some to offer a hug, but many to thank me for speaking up. They told their stories. I am sorry, desperately sorry, they have these stories to tell but, through the courage to tell the truth, we find out we aren’t alone.

“…the truth will set you free.” –Jesus

What’s Your Dance Party?

I’ve been thinking about “YES!”yes

This word, “create,” requires saying Yes to life, to invitations, to play, and, sometimes worse, to those things that intimidate or downright scare me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for saying “NO!” as necessary. I believe in it. Oh baby, YES, we have to say NO! from time to time. My everyday hero, Jen Hatmaker, says: “People will take as much as you will give them, not because they are terrible humans, but because they only want this one slice of you. Plus, you’re probably good at their pet thing. But they don’t observe the scope of your life and all the other tricks on your beam. You can say no, and no one will die. God wants this freedom for us.” Sometimes we have to say No in order to say Yes to something more important. I’ve been thinking on that a lot lately, too.

But, YesGetting out of our comfort zone to live a full, exuberant, energetic, creative life, that requires Yes answers where No might be our instinct.

i-dare-me-clubI’ve been reading a book, I Dare Me!, about a middle-aged wowza-successful gal who felt stuck. To un-stick herself she created a list, with lots of help, of Firsts she could do every day of the year. She began with one of her biggest fears, swimming in the ocean, and so she took a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. I’m not afraid of the ocean, and still, Yikes! Some were way more do-able, like taking a new class at the gym, trying a new recipe and/or restaurant, even going without make-up for a day (and yet, she’s an on-air news anchor, so…). It’s inspirational. I don’t want to do many of the things she did, but I’m asking the big question: What could I do? It’s a Yes to life!

Yes is about letting go of what others think, of what you think, of who you should be or what you should do. It’s embracing the whole range, from silly to ridiculous to meaningful.

Today I said Yes, if only just for a few seconds.

At our moms’ group, a sweet gal shared her story of birthing three babies in rapid succession, and in that time two household moves, of post-partum depression that lasted too long, and from all of that, to Zumba. You read that right, Zumba!zumba-in-the-circuit-logo-2

Previously, I had only ever Zumba’d in the privacy of my own home, not-jiving to a library DVD. I tried a few days in a row, working on steps and rhythm, before I decided I have neither steps nor rhythm (my gals will attest: after a few late-night glasses of wine, I might be convinced otherwise, but we keep that to ourselves).

Zumba was the thing God used to heal this sweet mama. She loves to dance, and so when her youngest began sleeping through the night she first took one class, which led to three, which became a dare from her husband to become an instructor. And so she did! Through Zumba she left depression behind. She grew lighter and brighter and, along with her, so did her family. And today, so did 150 or so women at our church as she led us in a simple, just-for-us routine.

The friend behind me had dressed the part: yoga pants and tennis skirt. Me, not so much. I confessed (uh, she was standing behind me, it wasn’t gonna take long…): “I don’t dance.” Thank God, she replied (surprisingly!) in kind.Andy-Grammer-Keep-Your-Head-Up

The song was Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up.”

You gotta keep your head up, oh
And you can let your hair down…

Step side-to-side, I got it (sort of). Add hands and body, I began to lose it. I thought, No Way am I gonna shake my tush in this room, with windows to my side, friends and co-workers nearby, What Are We Doing???

Then I looked around. One hundred-plus women shimmied around the room, each with her own size, shape, and style. Our group founder, about five gals in front of me and about as close to 90 as I am to 50, wiggled and giggled with glee. The smile stretching across her face, the obvious joy-filled un-self-consciousness she was experiencing, it moved me.

I remembered to Dare Myself. To Say Yes (also one of the rules of improv – always say “Yes, and…” – which also means you are fully present in the moment, Not Overthinking).

I let go. I shook my hands, my hair, and my rear. It could not have been pretty, but it was free. I reveled in the beauty of the story we’d heard, of how one gal found her way back to herself through dance and movement.

I believe we were made to move, and we all move to a different beat. And I believe we all have a passion, each different from the others, something that brings us to life and energizes those nearby. The dance-mama found her jive in Zumba. Mine is writing – I get bright-eyed and energetic thinking about what I will write next. It’s not all joy; some of it is excruciating hard work, but it’s still worth it. It’s my passion.

What’s yours?