By Dan Crain, REMERGE Pastor and Connector
A blog in the series of Loving Freely
It was a glorious weekend. Two days with your best friend from college hanging out with his family, eating good food, playing lots of video games, hiking, driving really fast in a Porsche, sitting in a hot tub with old college friends and having deep conversation about faith and what we’re giving our lives to.
It had been ten years since we had hung out like this. We caught up on each other’s lives. I shared a lot about the journey Christ had led us on over the last ten years, where and why we live in the city, the experience of burning out and how God has redeemed me. I talked about the counseling I’ve done, the deep inner healing that Christ has done in me and and how this has led me to develop Loving Freely.
On our way to the airport to be dropped off, we were speaking our final words to each other. I said words of encouragement into his life and then it was his turn to speak into me.
He looked at me and said, “Dan, I just want to let you know that you’re not an idiot.” I said, “What do you mean”? He replied, “There were so many times this past weekend that you talked about your past and your struggles now and would always end with, I am such an idiot.”
I had no response. As I have processed and prayed about this reflection, I realize how deeply entrenched my false self is. I feel like I am a Christian that’s done quite a bit of deep interior work. I’ve memorized huge chunks of scripture about the peace of Christ. I’ve done ten years of counseling. I’ve filled pages and pages in my journals as I’ve wrestled extensively with my false self. I feel like I’ve grown tremendously and past the shame of the false self.
Yet, there it is. That shame and deep self-hatred that’s lurking below.
Robert Mulholland writes in The Deeper Journey about his false self, “I began to realize that underneath the thin veneer of my religiosity lived a pervasive and deeply entrenched self-referenced being which was driven by its own agendas, its own desires, its own purposes, and that no amount of superficial tinkering with the religious face made any appreciable difference.”
When I made the mistake of letting a young man drive my car, the amount of shame I felt for what I had done was heavy. For weeks I could not forgive myself. I am the person that doesn’t need to be corrected, because I am typically in the corner shaming myself. I’ve always been my worst critic.
Shame is so powerful in our lives. A friend said to me recently; “Shame is a lie that the enemy uses to keep you thinking you are not good enough or worthy to be wholly loved by God and others.” But the good news is that God begins our story in creation and through Christ’s redemption and His righteousness, He alone redeems us out of our shame and condemnation to love others freely.
Living into the ministry of reconciliation is hard and we are going to mess up and make mistakes. It’s what happens when we do make mistakes that is the important thing. Do we heap blame upon ourselves for how badly we messed up? Do we shame ourselves for how bad we are?
When I make mistakes and do not love others freely, I quickly jump to shaming myself and become consumed with my false self for doing such things. I forget my original glory in Christ and instead focus on how terribly corrupt I am and remain in my shame.
The shame that we carry has a history from the core lie we grew up believing about ourselves. For me, it was that I was a failure and not good enough and thus because of the fall my false self has a deep self-hatred.
I believe that this is why Christ worked through my friends that live on the streets in Orlando, Fl to help me discover my own dignity again. It was a low place in my life and I felt worthless. The ministry, Compassion Corner facilitated reconciliation with our neighbors and through living out a dignified interdependent relationships with my new found friends, they prayed over me counseled me and helped me discover my gifts again.
It is when I am the midst of shame that the Spirit of God will remind me of Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Through Christ, I am reminded of my original glory and that God delights in me, loves me, and is well pleased, and this allows me to love others freely. Regardless of the shame we carry, God the father delights in us as his beloved child. I rest in verses like this from Psalm 149; “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”
The reality is that shame is a part of the false self and the false self is not who God has designed us to be. In Christ, we are the beloved children of God. This is our fundamental identity.
It is when I am the midst of shame that the Spirit of God will remind me of Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Through Christ, I am reminded of my original glory and that God delights in me, loves me, and is well pleased, and this allows me to love others freely.
So, reconcilers, be free today, because Christ loves us freely. We are going to make a whole lot of mistakes in the ministry of reconciliation and justice, but God is a good Father and delights in you! Don’t take yourself so seriously because you’re not the savior.