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Mike and Jamie Daling have been attending CF for about six years—they had the joy of watching their ten-year-old son Micah get baptized just a few months ago.
Mike recently received his PHD in New Testament Studies, he volunteers with Community Kids—flipping kiddos upside down and making them giggle with delight—and he teaches regularly for the ABF Sunday school class. Those of you who know Mike well, know that he is a fabulous chef and a grumpy-old-man at heart.
I am so pleased to present Mike’s piece on shame and the grace of God. I know you will be touched by it.




On Shame
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
(Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1740)
I often wonder if I have overstepped my bounds—if I have finally gone far enough that our Lord will no longer forgive me. I know that I am guilty before my God and Christ has paid my debt, but it is my shame at what I have done that occasions my doubts.  
I often feel shame when I am simply embarrassed at my inability to live up to others’ expectations. I suppose, in this sense, shame itself is bad. It is derived from my inappropriate reaction to what someone else thinks about me. It doesn’t have anything to do with my actual character or actions. I think that this type of shame is rooted in our pride—the idolatry we commit by setting ourselves in the supreme place. I think that this is a sense of shame from which we need to repent. If only we could all learn to think like Paul (addressing people who didn’t think he measured up to others): “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain” (1 Cor 15:10a).
But in a very real sense, it is right and appropriate that I should feel shame at what I have done and what I have left undone. The real issue is what happens next. I am not trying to be overly simplistic, but it seems to me that sin derives much of its power to rule my life from the shameful darkness in which I guard it from others. Sin is so powerful in my everyday experience in large part due to my desire to hide it. Hidden sin quickly takes a seat in my heart and skews my thoughts, actions, and words. How many of my sins are committed in order to keep another sin hidden?
That right and proper sense of shame I feel should drive me back toward my Lord and Savior. Honestly, when my shame is great, my tendency is not to go to God with it at all. I feel as though I need to let some time go by before I can ask for forgiveness, as though the passage of time would make me somehow more worthy of forgiveness. I don’t know why I feel this way. I just feel like such a hypocrite, like someone who takes God’s loving mercy lightly. In reality, I suppose that this is more of a result of my lack of faith that He actually will forgive me this time. I am afraid that I have gone one step too far. But this is a lie meant to keep me from repentance and erode my faith.
I don’t have any great stories to tell of these sorts of things—they all seem either too trite or too painful to put out for public consumption. Still, I was recently looking through past journal entries and came across a prayer (slightly revised) I wrote at a particularly painful moment that might give better insight into what I am trying to say:
What do I have to offer you, and with what can I atone for my sin? My wretchedness overwhelms me and despair closes in all around. Where is faith in the waking hours of night? Where is my hope in you when temptation calls? You say “do not sin in your anger” and as that passes through my mind I commit myself to wickedness. The things I do are shameful and I am supremely guilty. The weight of my sin is overwhelming, so I beg for your mercy. I have nothing to offer, nothing to make up for what I have done. All I have is a whole new set of memories that will come flooding back every time temptation comes my way. I have dishonored you by my behavior and sinned against you. It was Jesus’ death that nailed my sin and wickedness to the cross. I do not belong to this wicked world any longer, but only to Christ. Forgive me, for I have sinned. Cleanse me and I will be clean. Protect me from sin and temptation—even when I am weak or disobedient. Make me righteous and pleasing before you as I cling to your Son. I am only counted among the living in Jesus. Let me be found in Him. Teach me to pray and keep me from all the idols that this world has to offer.
In the name of my king, Jesus
Amen
The shame and sorrow that I feel at what I have done must drive me back to the foot of the cross. In Exodus 34:6–7 God declares his own nature, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and truth; who keeps steadfast love for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin…” God himself attests that he is sure to forgive. Sometimes the only thing that draws me into God’s presence out of my shame is the knowledge that my repentance itself is a direct result of God’s Holy Spirit acting in my heart. I am convinced that the very fact that I can ask for forgiveness is, by itself, a sign that God has not rejected me. But when I then hear Christ’s words, “This is my body which is given for you” my fear and shame are stripped away. Some words are just words, but some words have power. Christ’s words have power, and they revive my faith, renew my spirit in the knowledge of his forgiveness, and nail my shame to the cross.
There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.
(Charles Wesley)

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