Spiritual Reflection 2: Shame on Who?

written by LA Jamison


I've been told there is a difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt is said to be a feeling of having done something wrong through action or inaction.  It is over a "doing", action. Shame is said to be a feeling that you are inherently wrong.  It is over your "being", who you are.  It is quite an enlightening difference.

Some of the shaming messages I got:

*you are not enough and not man-enough

*you don't do enough

*you don't work hard enough

*your sexuality is bad

*you make me so angry, you don't deserve my respect

*you are fit really only to be used

And the list could go on...we all know them if you have ever struggled with shame. They are common to most of us.  Of course, the total opposite is true. Yet, the depth to which those messages reach depends really under which circumstances you heard them and your age. For me, these began at an early age and continued well into my 20's despite all my efforts to prove to myself and others these weren't true.  I finally broke down many times over.   

These particular shaming messages were ones I disavowed long ago but have been haunting me as of late...that was, until I read this quote from Andrew Murray (my choice of spiritual guru this winter) from his book "The Holiest of All", pg. 42

"The great work of God in heaven..is..to reach your heart and speak to you. Oh, let it be the great work of your life..to know this Jesus. O my Savior! anything to know you better and in you have my God speak to me!"

This quote struck me because this has been the great work of my life once I hit rock bottom in my early 20's.  There was a time when I was cornered in by life circumstances and you could argue that I didn't have many other options but to seek help from a higher power.  However, even for those times, I am now grateful for that cornering in and I will tell you why. 

I 've lost my mental health, physical health many times. I've had good things and those things taken away.  But one thing I haven't lost is God and why does that matter? You won't know till you hit humanity's time share, Rock Bottom Suites a few times. Until you do, you don't get to see how God shows up and brings a strength, joy and resilience that money can't buy. You don't get to see the miracles that open up the daily miracles you took for granted.  It is an inherent connection no one can ever take away.  I can have little or I can have much--nothing compares to the product of this chief work and accomplishment; a growing knowing of God.  This puts the shaming messages to shame really. Truth be told, let the world and even fellow Christians can see me how they want.  I have accomplished the greatest, most important mission of them all--a relationship with God.  This is the chief work of the human soul that so much of the world tries to detract from--to know God.  What about you? What is your chief work and accomplishment? 

Now, someone could say, "Big deal: So what?"  that I have connection with God, because they feel cocky that they don't "need" God or they feel they know God and have much more worldly success than I do.  But here's a difference the world can't really provide: 

I can sleep well at night for I am not going to meet God and be asked about why I didn't make six figures, or had certain cars or a series of promotions at work or exhausted myself in religious duties or positions. The chief question will be, does God know me because I responded and came to know God.  Even deeper, that I faced my demons of hating self and God and caught onto that even in my unbelief God still loved me.  This is how I truly came to know God.  The answer for me and even my family will be a resounding Notre Dame bell ringing Yes!  So as the New Year Bell Rings, this is where my heart and my mind will be. And I encourage you to do the same and if you haven't sought to experience God (doesn't has to be anyone's version of God, not even mine), try it for awhile and see what you turn up.  I turned up a life saving, soul fueling gold mine.