The other day I was making way through the grocery store when my toddler saw something she wanted. She pointed and grunted (because she’s almost seventeen months old and only knows three words: quack, hi, and nana—none of which would have been useful in this scenario) toward a bin full of puffs. If you are a mom of toddlers, then you know about the holy grail of puffs. Softer than Cheerios and sweeter than Goldfish, these tasty treats will keep your tiny tot satisfied from the dairy aisle to the produce section. So, of course, I relented. I popped the top, handed her the entire foot-long container that held about one thousand puffs, and let her dive in as I made my way through my grocery list. All was right with the world . . . until we arrived at the checkout counter.
My sweet angel, who exercised complete self-control and good judgment the entire way through the store, proceeded to turn over the entire container of puffs (which was still three fourths full) and dump them on the floor. The cashier shot daggers from her eyes in my direction as if to say, “If you can’t control your child, then you shouldn’t bring her out in public.”
Over the loudspeaker I heard her say, in an exasperated tone, “I need someone with a broom to come to register six. I repeat, register six.” Then another underpaid, overworked cashier slowly walked over to us with a broom and a dustpan. She swept up all 746 puffs, gave me an ominous glare, and walked away.
Now, had this been my first, second, or third child, I would have accepted their visual lashings and hung my head in shame. I would have apologized profusely. I would have walked away feeling like the most incompetent mom wondering why God entrusted me with this little person.
But by the fourth kid, I know better. I know that one pile of puffs on the floor doesn’t depict my entire journey through motherhood. In my earlier days of parenting I would have held onto this experience and felt humiliation, embarrassment, and shame. But thankfully, those days are gone.
Through Jesus’ Lens of Redemption
Brené Brown, author of Rising Strong, says in her Ted Talk, “Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket.”
Women stay locked in our straight-jackets in many areas of our lives, including:
- Food addiction
- Sexual impurity
- Parenting skills
- Missed opportunities
Psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “Shame is a soul eating emotion.” For many women, shame has eaten so much of our soul that we are mere shells of our former selves. We can’t form close relationships, our self-esteem plummets, and we can’t accept God’s forgiveness. Overall, shame prevents us from blossoming into the people God created us to be.
The good news is, we don’t need to stay stuck in our straight-jackets of shame. If we look deep in Scripture, we see many women bound up in shame, and yet God set every single one of them free . . . just as he longs to set us free.
. . . I see the Samaritan woman knocking on doors, telling her neighbors about the Messiah who defeated her shame and redeemed her life. I see Rahab transform from harlot to hero. I see the bleeding woman suffer for twelve years, only to be released from her pain and shame. And the truth is, in Jesus Christ, we all are redeemed. We all are set free. The choice is ours. Will we see ourselves through our lens of shame or through Jesus’ lens of redemption? (If You Could See as Jesus Sees, Pg. 68)
So how can we accept God’s gift of freedom and overcome our shame?
First, we must recognize the area in our life causing our shame, then we must give that area a voice. Confess it to God. Journal about it. Tell a friend. Once we bring it into the light, it will not longer hide in the dark where the Enemy has power over us.
Next, if there is a reason to ask for forgiveness, we must. If we feel shame over past sexual impurities, confess it to God. If we feel shame over the way we treated a friend, tell God. Then ask we must ask our friend for forgiveness.
Sometimes, it is more difficult to accept God’s forgiveness than it is to confess our sin. Yet, we must believe God when he says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Finally, we must find accountability. This means relying on someone we can trust. Ask that person if you can meet with them on a regular basis, then when you do meet you must share with honesty and vulnerability about your life and struggles. This will prevent you from slipping into areas of temptation and shame.
Set Yourself Free
Think of yourself as a bird locked up in a birdcage. God will unlock the door, but only you can push the door open and fly through it. Meaning, God will forgive you, but you must be willing to accept his forgiveness, release yourself from your shame, and then experience the freedom that comes with God’s forgiveness by flying away from your cage.
Are you willing to do this? Are you willing to stop seeing yourself through your lens of shame, and start seeing yourself through your God’s lens of redemption? The Samaritan woman did. Rahab did. The bleeding woman did. And I believe God is calling you to freedom and redemption too. Are you ready to fly?