Day 4: On the Death of Shame
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
"Come and see the man who told me everything I ever did."--John 4:29
When I hear this song, a rush of the anxiety of having my deepest, darkest secrets revealed comes into my heart. "They see me, they see everything! It makes me want to run away and hide. That kind of intense exposure makes me want to die!"
Do you know people who say exposing things about you? It's most often people closest to you that reveal your secrets in public. It's hard to call folks like that, friends. It's more like, "Don't tell that person anything because they can't keep a secret. Or maybe they don't reveal your secrets in public; it's agonizing enough just to know that they know.
We expose the shame of others as a way to hide from our own shame.
On the whole, I think we humans are good at exposing the shame of others, whether it's a revealed secret or a sharp remark that instantly and murderously cuts deep to the heart making someone feel naked and powerless. It seems so natural to be able to perfectly conjure a murderous word or action and hurl it at just the right time to do the most amount of damage…all to distract from the shame in our own lives.
But Jesus exposes our shame in order to take it from us.
It's a scary thing to have your sins revealed. The woman who met Jesus while she drew water from a well in the heat of the day had a lot of secrets, a lot shame. She had much to hide and Jesus revealed that he knew her deepest darkest secrets (read the whole thing in John 4). So her statement to her neighbors is remarkable because it is as if she invites her friends and neighbors to, "Come and talk to a guy who revealed all my shameful secrets!"
We don't normally say this about a person who has exposed our deepest darkest secrets like a mirror revealing our ugliness, not unless there is some extraordinary amount of grace that accompanies that exposure. What kind of grace was given to this woman who met Jesus while she drew water from a well, that she would invite others to have all of their secrets revealed by this man too? What is it about Jesus that he can be such a perfect mirror that reflects back to us all our ugliness and then immediately gives us his beauty so that it eclipses all the shame?
Jesus takes our shame and gives us his glory.
It's the great reversal. He acknowledges the shame as it comes careening towards us and redirects it onto himself. I love how there are so many stories of how Jesus does this in the lives of women--John 4, John 8:1-11, John 12:1-8, Luke 7:36-50, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 13:10-17--in all of these instances Jesus redirects the shame and either does or says something more audacious to infuriate the accusers so their attention is now on Jesus. Then, in a wonderful slight of hand he exchanges their sin and shame for his glory and honor so that each woman leaves with more dignity than they had ever known.
What I find amazing is the way that Jesus redirects the shame onto himself actually throws reveals the shame of the accusers, like the way a mirror points out every flaw. Jesus would say, "Look at me instead, blame me instead, be indignant toward me," and his accusers couldn't stand it because it revealed the truth. He was killing them softly. So they had to kill him (and we would have too).
Isaiah described how Jesus allowed our shame to be placed on himself and when that happened we were horrified:
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.--Isaiah 53:3
Jesus allowed himself to be put to shame, to be mocked and exposed as a supposed fraud, a would-be messiah, a megalomaniac, a freak, a traitor, a massive disappointment, a glutton, a drunkard, a fake. He became the scapegoat for our ugliness and shame and in so doing he revealed our ugliness and shame for what it was, and when he rose again he made it powerless over us. (insert your favorite "mind blown" gif).
What extraordinary grace there must be with a God who can see all things and still love. It must require some significant patience that comes from a significant strength that comes from a marvelous secret that only God can boast. But that secret has been revealed.
Jesus Christ is victorious over sin and shame.
This fact changes how we relate to shame. Now we can be open with one another. We can come out of hiding. We can give grace away. We can be patient with people who are scared to come out of hiding. We can be a courageous and redirect the (now powerless) shame from others, onto ourselves knowing that Jesus is our glory. Jesus is our honor. We too can say, "Come and see the man who knows everything about me."
I confess that it kills me when you show me the things in my heart that I try to hide, in your tender way, remind me of your deep love and reveal the real me, the me that belongs to you. Help me to start covering over other people's shame so they feel the safety of a savior who turns shame into glory. Amen