She hung her head in shame as we sat in the pew. Each week – for years – it was the same. When others would rise to go to the altar to receive communion, she would remain, often having to stand to allow others to file by. As she sat back down alone, feelings of unworthiness settled in until they became a part of who she was – an embarrassed, divorced mother.
We have all made mistakes – in our marriages, child-rearing, relationships, and careers. And at times guilt rests upon us. We regret conversations we’ve had and some we have avoided. Sometimes guilt can serve as a reminder. It can even be healthy. Often guilt can empower us to take action, make amends, or enable a conversation that needed to take place.
Shame, on the other hand, has no place in our lives. “Guilt is feeling bad about what I’ve done,” Traders Point Pastor Aaron Brockett said. “Shame is feeling bad about who I am.” Over time, lines can become blurred between healthy guilt and shame, slowly invading our identity. When this happens, a woman who got a divorce becomes a “divorced woman,” a mom who made a mistake is now a “bad mom.” Jesus knew that we would struggle with guilt and shame, so He showed us a way to help not only ourselves but others.
One day Jesus made a divine appointment at a well with a woman who was drenched in shame. Because of her sinful choices, she lived disconnected from her community and avoided contact with people by traveling to the city well in the heated middle of the day. She didn’t want to deal with the gossip or sneers from others and was surprised one day to encounter Jesus. While her goal was to retrieve a bucket of water, she received something better — freedom from her shame through the living water Jesus provided.
But He did it in an unexpected way. Jesus literally called her out. He didn’t hold back and exposed her sin right there at the well – in broad daylight. What she had been avoiding was suddenly out in the open. She now had to make a choice to continue to avoid her sinful lifestyle or deal with it. In that moment, she decided to come clean. Jesus’ words – and the way in which He delivered them – convicted her to change her life and even to share her story publicly. He spoke the truth with love. As a result of their encounter, she was transformed from a woman hiding in shame to one joyfully spreading her story in the streets.
Do you carry the burden of shame? Does it mess with your identity and your life? It did for my mom. You see, she was the woman sitting in that pew each week. For years, her shame instilled the belief that she was just not good enough or worthy of the abundant life that Christ offered. But today, at the age of 90, she is finally free.
I hope you too choose to trust in the only one who can free you from unhealthy guilt and shame so that you too may walk in freedom.
“Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” (Psalm 32:5, NLT)
When you begin to feel the burden of shame, remember to BREATHE:
Embrace your Brokenness
Evaluate yourself with fearless honesty
Think a whole new way
Encourage others with your story
To view this week’s sermon click here: Killing What’s Killing You: Guilt/Shame
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