As far as the east is from the west … Shame

Shame is one of the greatest obstacles we face in our quest to draw upon the Life of God and to enjoy authentic relationship with Christ.  We all carry shame and it is devastating because in carrying it, we are nurturing it.  We aren’t letting it go, aren’t giving it over to God and we are listening to voices that convince us we cannot be accepted by God because of this thing we have in our past that we carry around and maintain.  Remember the lyrics from that song, “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the ways He loves us…”

Many of us formed our view of God as small children.  Those that came to know God as adults have a radically different view of God.  Neuroscientists confirm that If we can just alter our view of God – even by as little as 10% – it can transform our life.

“God just wants to punish me. He keeps track of all my mistakes.  He is spiteful” – these are usually shaped by authority figures in our life – my Dad, Catholic school teachers, Baptist preachers, teaching of “I’m just a sinner saved by grace”.

The people who taught you “God is judgmental” were judgmental themselves.  We all judge.  God wasn’t keeping track of your mistakes, they were.  God wasn’t judging you for everything you did wrong, they were.  God wasn’t watching everything you did just looking for how you screwed up, they were.  They were communicating to you who God was and we need to change that.

Psalm 103:8-12 “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and full of faithful love.  He will not always accuse us or be angry forever.  He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

It doesn’t matter how far you’ve drifted from God, He still considers you His baby.  You can’t run away from God’s love.

“God is disappointed in me” might have come from an authority figure – but – it might have come from you.  We carry shame.  We maintain and nurture it.  What you feed grows, what you starve dies.  If you keep resurfacing the shame in your life – in effect nurturing it – it will continue to grow.  I’m harder on myself than anyone else.  We beat ourselves up.  Self-loathing and self-hatred are one of the most common reasons people reject the grace of God.

I’ve done stupid things in my life, things I’d give anything to erase from my past but … I’ve never done anything that was as damaging to my soul as the shame I’ve carried for it.

I have this crazy voice in my life that just keeps fighting for attention and space saying, “You are not enough.  Not enough for them, not enough for her, your life is not enough.”  This is the voice of shame. “You’re not enough because of your mistakes, because of who you were, because of what you did and where you’ve gone, you’re not enough because of what you don’t have or because of what they do have.”

Shame is a heavy burden I project on God because I am disappointed in me and God must be too.  We all carry something we wish we could erase.  How could God want me if I have this thing in my life?  I wish I could go back and get a do-over.  “God just give me a chance to go back in time and do that thing over again so I can avoid that huge mistake.”

And God would say, What mistake?  What are you talking about?  I took those mistakes and cast them as far as the east is from the west remembering them no more.  You can go back in time if you want but they aren’t there.  They’re gone.  You are free.  These aren’t part of your past and they aren’t a part of your future.” 

Jesus must be so confused because I keep bringing up things He forgot.  “Why did I die on that cross if you were going to keep dragging it around with you?”

It is time to live in the grace of God and who He says you are and not in the disappointment of who you think you could have been or what you could have done.  Jim Finley – “Every time we stumble and fall and every time we rise again, God can barely stand the bliss of it.”   Because our mistakes are the material of God’s grace.  It’s His favorite thing to do.  It’s His favorite thing when I say, “God, I’ve really screwed up” and He says, “Give it to me, this is my favorite thing”.  My darkness is the material for His grace and light to shine through.  If you are carrying shame and are hard on yourself, you’re going to be hard on others.  Shame and judgment will carry over to others vs. embracing grace.

It’s a radical shift to extend grace to others and suspend judgment.  Question – “Do I breathe judgment or grace on those closest in my life?”  Try suspending judgment for just one week that those around me will not know disappointment, shame or judgment and instead, they will know I love them and look at them the way God does.  I don’t need to withhold my love and hope they change.  I don’t need to ransom my approval and hope they act differently.  All I need to do is breathe grace on them.

I’m done with shame.  Done with my mistakes and my past and I will not be defined by it.  I will allow God to do what God came to do when Jesus said, “Give me all of it”.

Grace was this dangerous thing Jesus introduced to the world.  He doesn’t want you perfect.  Perfect was left on the cross.  He just wants you close and is calling out, pleading … “Stop using your mess-ups and mistakes as an excuse to stay alone and far away from me.  I just want you close”

So this is it men, it is time.  It is time to let it go.  If you have confessed it, repented of it and would give anything to erase it from your past, then it is time.  It is gone.  It is as far away from you as the east is from the west and God has no record of it — so — why do you still carry it?  Freedom, sweet freedom is on the other side of letting it go.

Shannon Etheridge’s story – she’d lived with the shame of her past sexual promiscuity and was beaten down into believing God could do nothing with her.  She felt the nudging to tell her story but feared, “God what will they think of me?” and God told her, “It doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is what they think of Me.  How will they know what my long arm of mercy and love can do in a person’s life if you won’t tell them about the depth of the pit from which I rescued you?”  And so, she told her story.  Repeatedly.  And it spread all over the country and became a ministry to women dealing with the sexual junk in their past and the condemnation and shame they feel and as she says, He took my misery and made it a ministry.”  Amen to that.

The same is offered to you.  Bring it out of the darkness where it is eating you alive.  Expose it to the Light.  Share it with a brother in our tribe you can trust or your small group of men.  Get it out of the dark and start taking the steps to let it go so you can step into freedom where God takes a mess and makes it a miracle!

And to celebrate the freedom of this release, the freedom of feeling like we have to be perfect to earn God’s favor, we ended today with a rocking celebration of the Cross…


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