31 Jan Hello, My Name is Forgiven and Free
Chemistry is the bane of my existence.
For some unknown reason, I had the crazy notion in high school that it could be a good idea to take AP Chemistry. I spent the entire school year dreading that class, crying over the lab reports, and struggling to keep up with my classmates in understanding the material, so it was no surprise when I did not pass the AP exam.
However, when I got back to school after summer vacation, there arose among my old Chemistry classmates a buzz regarding the turnout of the AP exam scores. Apparently our teacher only missed having a 100% passing rate by one person. One person ruined her perfect passing rate. One person failed.
Embarrassed and ashamed, I spent the rest of my high school career avoiding that teacher, dodging her in the hallway, ducking my head when she would pass by in the cafeteria. In my seventeen-year-old mind, I remember feeling like an absolute disappointment, like I had truly let my teacher and classmates down. Everything in me felt like there was a nametag pasted across my forehead reading, “Hello, my name is Failure.”
As time has passed, there have been other distinct moments, seasons, and situations in my life in which I felt like I was walking into a room with a label stamped across my face—labels around my sins and shortcomings.
Hello, my name is Harsh. Hurtful. Unkind. Unwanted. Not enough. Rejected.
Shame has a sneaky way of writing big, bold, hypothetical words across our foreheads, naming us by the ways we’ve messed up, the ways others have hurt us, or circumstances we can’t change. Shame can move from a feeling of embarrassment, regret, or fear of exposure, to a weighty label, an identifier, a lens through which you view yourself and through which you perceive others’ view of you. More dangerously, it can be a lens through which you perceive God’s view of you.
Unwanted. Unlovable. Unclean. Unworthy. Unredeemable.
“Shame has a sneaky way of writing big, bold, hypothetical words across our foreheads, naming us by the ways we’ve messed up, the ways others have hurt us, or circumstances we can’t change.”
The first place in Scripture that we see shame shifting someone’s identity is in the Garden of Eden. After breaking God’s command to not eat of a specific tree, Adam and Eve hid from God, embarrassed and afraid. Rather than viewing themselves as before—creation reflecting the image of the Almighty God—they saw themselves in a new light:
At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. – Genesis 3:7
Suddenly they were exposed; they hid from God out of the shame that seemed to stick to their skin. They had sinned, and they felt shame around their own bodies, their own identities.
In some ways, we’ve all probably related to Adam and Eve in our view of ourselves and our desire to run and hide.
But, God made Himself a human being, unafraid of our sin and shame, and got close enough to peel it off of us and put it on Himself on the cross. Without sinning, Christ received our shame. He identified with us in our darkest moment, so that we could identify with Him before the King.
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” – Hebrews 2:12
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
“Without sinning, Christ received our shame. He identified with us in our darkest moment, so that we could identify with Him before the King.”
So, we must be vigilant, knowing that it is to Satan’s great pleasure that we are enslaved to shame because that means we are not recognizing or living in light of our identity as children of God. We pin ourselves down as victims of sin: unlovable, unworthy, unredeemable. And Satan uses shame to keep us there.
The beauty of the gospel is this: In Christ, we are free to—and called to—step into a new identity:
Child of God.
How has shame influenced your identity? What labels have you put on yourself? What does it look like to walk in the freedom of forgiveness?
Audrey is a Clemson student and big fan of warm weather, fall hikes, and anything sweet. You will most likely find her sipping on coffee, laughing off her awkward moments, and spending time with her family and friends. Audrey attends our Powdersville campus.