If Shame Wasn't an Option


What if shame wasn’t an option?

Hmm, that’s a loaded hypothetical, so let me unpack what I mean. When it comes to our lived (and gut-check honest) experience of our Faith... you know, the internal stuff that’s underneath the right answers we know how to recite...

  • What if shame were nowhere to be found?

  • What if the rigid standards of perfectionism are not, in fact, the measuring stick that God uses to assess our value?

  • What if we’re not constantly teetering on the edge of “not enough” or “too much”?

  • What if we’re not on the receiving end of relentless colossal eye-rolls from a God who sighs at our intolerability?

  • What if the same kindness that we demand of ourselves is actually extended to us by our heavenly Father?

This may not be a struggle for everyone, but for those of us who’ve embraced the pursuit of holiness, I find that these areas often become spiritual pitfalls — not points of sin (we’re trying WAY too hard to avoid sin to let that happen)... but areas that squelch, that tighten, that bind. That make breathing difficult. Sometimes they get re-branded as “humility” or “discipline” or “faithfulness,” but shame is typically at the root, and the fruit looks uncomfortably close to self-hatred.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” -1 John 1:5

To those who know this struggle, I’d like to offer a very gentle reminder that the gospel is good news. Not “good” in a convoluted “if I twist the definition enough I can make it fit” kind of way. But GOOD. The kind that brings relief because it extends grace. The kind that speaks of a God who is bigger and who can’t do anything BUT love. A God whose goodness causes people to tremble in awe (Hosea 3:5).

If our experience of the Gospel requires us to redefine “good” or to invent excuses for God’s seeming heartlessness, perhaps it’s time to revisit some things. Perhaps the emphasis of the Gospel has shifted too far toward our performance and the policing of our behavior, and too far from the nature and heart of the Father as revealed through Jesus.

A few years ago, I re-read the gospels, giving myself one rule to follow: What if, in everything I read, I removed shame from the equation? What would become of the messages in the parables, stories, and words spoken by Jesus — which were already so familiar to me — if I was forced to press in for an understanding that did not require our Lord to partner with shame? What if shame simply was not an option?

It felt like I was reading the Gospel for the first time in my life.

At the risk of “ruining” you as I was ruined by this exercise, I do recommend trying it. ;) It’s stunning to get to know a God who has more to say to us than endless shame grenades and choruses of “you’re a disappointment.”

It’s time to loosen the binds and breathe again. To remind ourselves of the radically, scandalously good news of the Gospel. And to allow freedom to become our heartbeat, our rhythm, our baseline — our “normal.”

Jonna Schusterpage 3