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The Shame Game

Another beautiful soul has passed away. My friend Ray, may his memory be a blessing, could not find his way out of addiction and struggle. I am heartbroken. His wife said he would cry and pound his leg and say, “I hate this!” “I hate living like this!” I have also been in this vicious cycle of shame, and sometimes it can feel hopeless. Is it sin or the shame we wear to cover sin that keeps us in endless destructive cycles? 

The Bible gives us a couple of definitions of sin. The Hebrew word for sin is chata, which means to miss the mark, like an arrow that goes astray and misses the target. I think sin is when we fail to be human in some way. The Hebrew word for iniquity is avon, which describes a crookedness or perversion. Another word is pesha, meaning to pierce or rebel, and is similar to pride, which pierces boundaries. The author of 1 John 3:4 tells us that sin is when we disobey the instructions of the Torah. The Bible also describes sin as doing something we know we should not do or not doing something we know we should do. This type of sin describes more of an internal conscience.  

James 4:17: Therefore, whoever knows the right thing to do and does not do it—for him it is sin.

Sin makes us hole-y. It creates breaches in our spirit so that we cannot contain the things we deeply desire, such as love, intimacy, joy, peace, contentment, worth, and more. The English language derived the word whole from holy, which tells me when we are holy, we are whole. Sin creates the opposite of whole by breeding brokenness. Pharaoh’s Great House of bondage is where we acquire shameful garments. When Adam and Chavah disobeyed in the Garden of God, they were ashamed, hid themselves, and then tried to sew garments to cover their shame, just like we do today. 

Genesis 3:7: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Isaiah 30:3: Therefore, the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation.

Psalm 44:15: My dishonor [is] continually before me, and the shame of my face has covered me.

Shame is a heavy garment. It lies to us and says, put me on, and you will not feel the pain of your wrong choices. Put me on, and you will not have to feel the disappointment of failure. Put me on, and you will not have to feel. Unfortunately, the garments of shame do not fulfill any of these promises, so we make more bad choices, which causes more shame, and on and on until we are frozen, helpless, and hopeless.  

2 Corinthians 7:10: For the grief that God wills brings a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret. But the world’s grief brings death.

In other words, the guilt we feel when we disconnect from intimacy with God creates a desire in us to reconnect and repair, but the shame from the world, the garments we work hard to cover ourselves with, bring a lack of hope (because they don’t honking work), which leads to death. My friend Barbara recently told me that she did not understand 2 Corinthians 10:5, the verse that encourages us to take every thought captive until she learned that when you acknowledge a negative, impure, or proud thought, you must replace it. I took her words to heart and now understand that life is full of replacing. If you are full of darkness, you must cling to Yeshua, the Light of life. To replace something means changing what you cling to. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew what he was talking about when he said; 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

If you are full of hatred, fill yourself with love, which the Scripture calls light (1 Jn 2.9-10). If you are full of deceit, you must fill yourself with God’s wisdom, also called light and truth (Ec 2.13). If you are full of addictions, you must replace them with healthy habits. Become addicted to doing good works. Become addicted to every word and thought that brings life. Become addicted to gratitude. Be addicted to laughter. Become addicted to blessing God and others. There is a tradition that an observant Jew will give over 100 blessings a day. I do not know how they manage this, but the way I figure it is if I am trying to bless the mess all day, I will not have time to complain, curse, or speak negatively. If you wear garments of shame, do teshuva, which means return to the Creator and the original being He created you to be. God will always be faithful to forgive you, just as He has done since the beginning. He has freely covered our shame and offers you new garments. These garments are light, not heavy. They will not keep you steeped in guilt and shame but will make you feel free. We should replace our garments.

Isaiah 61:10: I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Matthew 11:29-30: “Take My yoke (my personal interpretation is covering) upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Brianna Lehmann

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