There is a creature endemic to darkness, one that can make itself appear innocuous, ingratiating itself to us with false piety but whose entire purpose it is to keep us there. In shadowy places, Shame makes itself our close and manipulative companion. Shame tells us not that we feel or that we did dark things, but that we ARE dark things.
Today it’s raining again. It is one rainy day in a series of many rainy days. Just day after day of the grey, windy, cold-to-the bones kind of downpour. It’s the type of weather that douses my hope. The clouds begin to gather and I feel my brows draw together as well. Shoulders hunch self-protectively. Muscles tense reflexively, almost desperate to pull any bit of warmth to themselves. The exterior environment lays hold of my interior landscape and my demeanor, my disposition, my posture even, all feel captive to the darkness of the day.
We haven’t seen the sun for awhile and after a long winter the last place I want to be is stuck inside with my (similarly irritated and discouraged) kids all week. The physical, mental and spiritual aspects of darkness get all tangled up and something in me breaks and I yell at one of my girls. I immediately and legitimately feel guilty. And, taking advantage of the darkness it loves so much, shame creeps its way into my presence on the underbelly of a more legitimate thought. Shame parasites itself right onto the moment, clinging tentacles wrapping tighter, “You ARE a bad mother and you’re never going to change.” And I find myself thinking, “That’s right. I AM that way. Look, I just proved it.”
And you know the last place I want to go? To God to tell Him all about how I’m feeling. Because somehow I see Him being at least as exasperated as I am about me and waiting with a long list of other reasons why I’m never going to measure up. Looking at me like I have no right to be in His presence when I’m like this. Confirming my suspicions that I AM dark and belong in the dark. And after I’ve wallowed there for awhile, I don’t even want to look at myself let alone present myself in the glaring light of His truth. When self-loathing sets in, I assume that in all of His holiness He must despise me even more.
And the place I least want to go is, of course, where I need to be the most. To go to stand in the light and hear the truth that He does not despise me, He loves me! That He went to great lengths, while I was an enemy to Him still, to call me to Him and establish me as His beloved. When I’m standing in front of God, He isn’t waiting there with a condemning look in His face, scrutinizing and withholding and waiting to pronounce judgment. On the contrary, because of what Jesus did on the cross, He sees me as spotless child of the light. When I strayed He went out searching for me to bring me back to where I belong with Him. And when I make any movement towards Him, He runs out to meet me to take me in His arms. He removes my shame and croons over me with joyful songs. On His face is nothing but love for me and in His arms is nothing but acceptance of me and in His words there is delight such as I’ll find from no other source.
Shame, that favorite pet of the enemy of our soul, loses its battle as soon as we begin to turn towards the Light. With our faces looking to Him we can see in His face the truth of who we are to Him. At the same moment we are basking in His acceptance and love for us we are being transformed because (and this really gets me) we’re told in 1 John 3:2 that seeing Jesus, actually seeing Him as He is, is the thing that changes us to be like Him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2
Presenting ourselves before Him not only confirms but establishes our identity, not only puts to death any ideas that we belong in the dark but actually lays hold of our identity as children of the Light.
Is there something keeping you from going to Him? You can name it. Point at it. Shine every light you’ve got on it. It doesn’t belong with you. Chances are He’s laid down His life to remove whatever is the barrier between you. It has no right to be there anymore. Push it to the side like the dead weight that it is and run freely to Him.