FREE OF SHAME

FIRST FRIDAY OF ADVENT

SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 29:17-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
For the tyrant will be no more
and the arrogant will have gone;
All who are alert to do evil will be cut off,
those whose mere word condemns a man,
Who ensnare his defender at the gate,
and leave the just man with an empty claim.
Therefore thus says the LORD,
the God of the house of Jacob,
who redeemed Abraham:
Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of,
nor shall his face grow pale.
When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding,
and those who find fault shall receive instruction.


REFLECTION

What is the shame you carry? 

Some people believe that shame is good.  An internal check and balance to keep themselves in line.  This week I am at the National Catholic Youth Ministry Conference.  Our new, little, organization 12plus1 is an exhibitor, promoting a gap year for young adults to the adults who work with youth and young adults.  As I was setting up my booth, I took a glance around the ballroom.  One organization had stage lighting, another had a large screen TV, some had these enormous banners proclaiming their program to be the best one ever.  Suddenly I found myself ashamed of 12plus1.  Feelings of inferiority and shame welled up inside me.  Questions raced through my head: What are we doing here?  Why would we belong?  Who is interested in learning about a gap year?  How could I be so stupid to think this is a good idea? I was ashamed that I thought this could work and started to buy into the idea that the people who doubt this endeavor (or my ability to make it happen) are right.  These negative thoughts went through my head because I was ashamed. Shame made me think I was not good enough.  Not a productive or completely healthy process I will admit. 

Shame has been a powerful and at times paralyzing part of my faith development.  On some level -probably unconsciously – the message was passed on that I was not good enough for God’s love or forgiveness.  Getting sucked into a spirituality of shame is dangerous and destructive. First it is based on the idea that salvation has to be earned. God will only love you if you are perfect. Secondly, whatever actions brought shame need to be hidden, buried and denied.  Not too long ago I was with colleagues who began speaking about a person of whom they had judged their behavior was less than acceptable.  As they went on speaking about how they could never respect a person who has done x, I listened silently knowing I am like that person.  It is one of the issues I wrestle with most often.  My shame will not allow me to let it go.  Shame has made me feel that God could not possibly forgive me.  How could God forgive me when I am unable to forgive myself?  Shame prevents a person from opening themselves up to God’s forgiveness.  Both of these examples deny our need for God.  Shame is so powerful it drives us to keep God and others at a distance. 

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of

God that is within us.
— Marianne Williamson

It is also a serious misunderstanding of God’s relationship with us.  The underlying message of shame is that we are not worthy enough to access God.   This theology views God as an aloof judge who lacks mercy.  Our guilt, brokenness then becomes irreconcilable.   This stands in opposition to the core foundation of Christianity.  As Christians we believe that God loves us so desperately, so passionately that God became one of us. Sharing in every aspect of what it means to be human just to be present to us.  The starting point of our relationship with God is not that we are sinners and separated from God.  Our focus needs to be on the fact that God wants a relationship with us and pursues us even when we sin.  God is our creator who brought us to life by putting his own Spirit within us. 

We are called to share that Spirit of Christ with the world.  Through our unique talents, compassion, forgiveness, love, service and justice we bring glory and praise to God.  Even Jacob, who was a scheming and manipulative person brought glory to God.  Isaiah writes:

Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of,
nor shall his face grow pale.
When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.

set free2.gif

Isaiah presents a hopeful situation.  He speaks of a day when the deaf will hear, the blind will see, the lowly will find joy and the tyrant will be no more.  Understanding that God makes us co-creators and trusts us in being vehicles of his forgiveness, love and mercy is incarnational!  Being Christ-like  makes the name of God holy.  It will help others to see the awesomeness of God.  We have a powerful witness to make.  One that will not happen if we are handcuffed by shame.  This advent you are invited to place your shame before God .  Open yourself up, allow God to see what you are hiding, allow God’s forgiveness to permeate your entire being, let it go, be free- and share that freedom with others.    


CONTEMPLATION

  • What causes you shame? How does it impact your relationship with God?

  • How does it prevent you from being your true self?

  • What will free you from this shame?


joe bio.JPG

Joe Nettesheim is the Founder/Director of 12plus1. He has been involved in parish ministry since 1991 serving as Executive Director of Inspirio Youth Ministries for six years. Joe and his wif Maribeth have a blended family of five kids, three son-in-laws, six grandchildren and a GoldenDoodle known as TS Eliot the wonder dog.