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The shame comes in waves.
It hasn't been this bad in years.
I'm endlessly re-living, constantly cringing at the memory of yesterday's Stupid Moment.
I literally feel my stomach knot up, every few seconds, as the memory assaults me again. Often a little grunt or whispered word of distress escapes me.
And, underneath it all, there's the rage.
I can NOT be that stupid!
Well, yes...yes I can. And, in fact, I was.
But I'm not willing to be. I can't bear to be. And on days like today, that means I can't bear to be me.
I used to get haunted by shame all the time, but by the grace of God, it's not nearly so frequent now. But yesterday's Dumb Moment (which also turned out to be an Expensive Moment) was made worse because it was a semi-public event. (As in, I believe I was probably the laughingstock of the police department's locker room at the end of the day.)
Don't ask. Just don't.
Coming home last night to face the usual nighttime routine (and the usual nighttime chaos!) of family was hard. As you know if you've been reading this blog for a while, I'm an escapist by nature. And all I wanted to do last evening was curl up in a ball in bed.
But God has been working, and I could feel something new inside of me. A new strength that did not originate with me, but came as a gift of faith. And again today, when the shame waves started crashing over me, I felt the Holy Spirit coming alongside me, bringing the truths of Scripture to mind from a whole new angle (for me, anyway).
I'm actually kind-of excited about this.
It's funny...yesterday morning, when I wrote the blog entry that I posted this morning, my Big Embarrassing Event hadn't happened yet. And, when I wrote that post, I really didn't think it had any bearing on my life at the moment. It was just a thought that had popped out at me from my scheduled reading in Joshua. But after my Stupid Moment, when I became terrified by the memory of How Dumb I Can Be, I began to hear my own words coming back to remind me that I don't need to be afraid to relive what happened. And I may even come out of this painful time with some brand new memorial stones to set up.
Isn't God good?
So, what does my "good fight of faith" look like today, when I'm fighting shame?
First of all, let me tell you what it's not. It's not a fight to improve my self-esteem.
Instead, it's a fight to align myself with the greatest truths of the Christian faith, so I can live in the freedom of the truth (see John 8:32). That's why it's called "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim 6:11-12). We're to fight to increase our faith in God, not in ourselves. It's the fight to walk in the light when the enemy (and our own egos) tell us to run or to arm for war against some human foe.
So, what truths am I loading into my arsenal?
How about this one? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." That means that I mustn't arrogantly insist that I BE something awesome (instead of being someone capable of really bone-headed moves). I am to be at peace with my own humanity, NOT because sin and failure are no big deal, but because those things have been bought and paid for by my Savior in whom I have placed my faith. And so I pray, "Thank You, Lord, that You are teaching me to live humbly with the reality of my shortcomings. Thank you that the Kingdom is promised to those who are poor in spirit. Help me to value poverty of spirit, to value humble acceptance of my shortcomings, to value Your kingdom more than my own imagined greatness."
And how about this? "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Col 3:3-4). This speaks to the fact that, as a believer, I was crucified with Christ and raised with Him to a new life. My life is hidden in God...and that means I can't see it yet. But I must fight the temptation to find my life in other people's esteem. My life is not hidden in their approval. It's hidden with Christ in God. "Thank You, Lord, that my life is hidden in You, and that I need no longer torture myself with what man thinks of me. Help me to find my life in You more and more."
Or how about "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!" (Php 4:4). I am not cruelly called to rejoice in my stupidity, but I am reminded that the Lord is in Heaven, reigning gloriously for the good of all His people (including me). He knew in advance what I was going to do, and planned to make it work for my good (Rom 8:28). So I pray, "Lord, help me to rejoice in all that You are for me, rather than raging over what I am not."
The "good fight" also looks like simply staying present when I want to run and hide, not just so I can "be strong" (there's that desire to be awesome again), but because God has promised to make me stand, and because He has work for me to do.
It means remembering (and praying) to be increasingly patient with other flawed people, when their flaws impact me. For we who have been forgiven much are to love much (Luke 7:47), and are to forgive others in return (Matt 18:21-34).
Do you know what began happening last night as I lay in bed and fought the shame with truth? I began to feel a wonderful feeling of freedom from the fear of man, a fear which Scripture warns us against. It came back with a vengeance this morning, but that just means it's time to fight again.
"For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." I want that. I do. It will be worth the fight!