by Elissa Macpherson
TRIGGER WARNING: This blog mentions rape and abuse, please use discretion.
Genesis 2:25 says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”.
This verse got my attention. We were never meant to feel shame. It’s not part of our divine design.
No wonder I hate shame. There are two stand out incidents in my life that make me feel extreme, debilitating shame. One, was my fault. The other was not. Both incidences haunt me with a horrible, swallow-me-whole-like-a-snake, feeling of worthlessness.
Shame is different from guilt. Brene Brown explains that guilt says, “You did something bad” but shame says, “I am bad”.
Psychologists also explain the difference between guilt and shame is power. Guilt says you have the power to make a change. You did bad, you can learn from this. Shame says you are powerless to make change. You are bad, you are disqualified by this. Tamar experienced the powerlessness of shame. Her story is in 2 Samuel 13.
Tamar was raped. By her half-brother, Amnon. The crime violates her body, then shame violates her spirit. Shame is a thug, a bully, a thief.
Shame isolates us. After the rape, Amnon demands Tamar be thrown out and the door locked behind her. Shame slams the door on parts of our heart. We believe if anyone, including God, sees our contaminated soul we will be abandoned.
Shame steals beauty. We are told Tamar was wearing a beautiful robe, the robe of a virgin princess. After the rape she tore her robe apart and put ashes on her head. She no longer felt pure or beautiful. She no longer felt like the daughter of the King. She felt torn and dirty. Shame makes us feel dirty and damaged.
Shame steals our voice. Tamar’s brother, Absalom discovers she has been raped and tells her to keep quiet. If she reveals the rape, she will be rejected by her community as damaged goods. Shame keeps us silent.
I recently heard Grace Tame, the current Australian of Year, speak of the horrors she endured as a schoolgirl. She had been silenced by shame and fear. After years of abuse and degradation, she spoke truth. Since then, her voice has changed laws. To speak up requires not only courage but the absolute conviction you will be accepted and believed.
Shame steals our life. It derails us, desolates us. In verse 20 we are told that after the rape Tamar lived as a desolate woman. Desolate means lifeless, to lay waste. Shame can cause us to lay to waste, never fulfilling our potential.
Where do you go when your vitality is sucked dry, when your beauty is stolen, when you feel so alone, when your voice is silenced? Where do you take your shame? In 2 Samuel 13;13 Tamar makes the same plea, ‘Where do I go with my shame?”
This is where I go, it might work for you. I go somewhere beautiful, somewhere calm, like the beach or the bush. I sit until my breath is resting. I let my mind race for a while until it starts to slow. I listen to worship music to herd my thoughts into a holy space. Then I absorb God’s love like soaking sun into skin. I meditate on these indestructible truths:
Psalm 23:2,4 “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside still waters… Even when I walk through the darkest valley… you are close beside me”. Shame may have slammed the door and kicked me out but that gave God the chance to take me for a walk with him, to a place of peace. I imagine Jesus sitting right beside me with his arm around me holding me close. He breaks the isolation.
Isaiah 61:3 “He will give me a crown of beauty for ashes”. He takes the dirt of shame and restores my sparkling beauty. I imagine God removing the ripped robes from my soul, wiping away the dirt and ashes and recrowning me as his daughter.
Jeremiah 33:10-11 “This is a desolate land… there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter”. God restores our voice, where there was silent desolation, he gives me a new song.
Hosea 14:7 “My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines”. Once again, we will flourish and blossom. Where there was desolation, he will bring new life.
This is where I take shame. Each time I do this, its power over me shrinks and grace grows. It is placed in the middle of Truth, surrounded with light, overpowered by love, dissolved by grace.
Elissa Macpherson is President of the Baptist Women of the Pacific- BWP. She is also an author and speaker. www.lavishpursuits.com
If you need help, please ring Life Line 13 11 14 or sexual assault helpline 1800 010 120 or DV Connect Women’s Line 1800 811 811
If you’d like to receive the monthly QBW Prayer Network email, click here.
Click here to join the Qld Baptist Women in Leadership Facebook Page. Don’t forget to answer the questions to get in the door.
Click here to follow our QBW/Anew Conference Facebook Page.
Click here to follow us on Instagram.
Don’t forget to follow our Blog!