Yep, it totally fits… I would land in the devotional writing rotation on the week we are discussing shame. After all, anyone who knows me well knows that shame is perhaps my biggest struggle. I dread the way that shame washes over me when I realize I have made another mistake. I hate that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, so I work really hard to avoid messing up. I put in tons of effort, hoping that it will keep me safe from feeling ashamed. And, much of the time, it works. Until it doesn’t. As a fallible human, I make mistakes. I can be rocking along fine, and then, out of the blue, wham! I’ve done it again. I’ve messed up. Shame.
Lately I’ve been working hard on seeing myself as God sees me. A part of me knows that God sees me as his beloved child, imperfect yet accepted, coheir with Christ. And yet the accuser of my soul lashes out when I realize that I have failed again. Satan whispers, “You suck.” And sometimes, the voice of the enemy sounds really true, too. I hate shame.
That’s one of the reasons why I love the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11 lists person after imperfect person who accomplished mighty things because of their faith. Some of them messed up big time, but God still used them in amazing ways. Hebrews 12 then goes on to say that we are surrounded by a whole cloud of witnesses, so we need to throw off what hinders us and run the race that has been marked out for us. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, who did two things: First, he endured the cross. Unimaginable pain and suffering, none of it deserved. Second, he despised the shame. He despised the shame. His friends abandoned him, denying they ever knew Him. Shame. He was stripped down, mocked and scorned. Shame. He was hung between two thieves. Shame.
But Jesus despised the shame. John Piper wrote that Jesus spoke directly to shame:
Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less than nothing. You are not worth comparing to that! I despise you. You think you have power. Compared to the joy before me, you have none. Joy. Joy. Joy. That is my power! Not you, Shame. You are worthless. You are powerless.
You think you can distract me. I won’t even look at you. I have a joy set before me. Why would I look at you? You are ugly and despicable. And you are almost finished. You cover me now as with a shroud. Before you can say, ‘So there!’ I will throw you off like a filthy rag. I will put on my royal robe.
You think you are great, because even last night you made my disciples run away. You are a fool, Shame. You are a despicable fool. That abandonment, that loneliness, this cross — these tools of yours — they are all my sacred suffering, and will save my disciples, not destroy them. You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.
Farewell, Shame. It is finished.
Brothers and sisters, let’s follow the example Jesus set for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Christ, despising the shame, throwing off every burden that weighs us down. It’s impossible to obsess over our own imperfections while simultaneously focusing all our attention on Christ’s victory. Let’s speak directly to shame: I despise you. Because of Christ, it is finished.