Where is God when we feel ashamed?
Shame is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. It is that deep and severe fear of disconnection. The most painful part of shame are those topics nobody knows about: when you were molested as a child. That DUI. That abortion. That one night stand. That mistake you made that you’d give anything to take those few moments back.
Shame is the terrible fear of being unloveable. Shame normally comes on when we’ve failed. It is the swampland of the soul. Shame says, “I’m not good enough”and “How do you think you are? Interestingly, the Thai word for shame literally means: “to tear one’s face off so they appear ugly before friends and family.” Sometimes shame feels that intense, doesn’t it?
If shame goes unaddressed it leaves us susceptible to a staph infection of the soul.
For some of us, the shame has been so deep it has caused psychological damage or trauma in your soul. And when we feel shame we normally respond in three ways:
Brene Brown reminds us there is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says, “I did something bad,” but shame says, “I am bad.” One is an action and the other is an identity. What’s important to understand is that the more you talk about shame the less you feel it. But the less you talk about it the more you feel it.
I am grateful that God takes our shame upon himself – but I also hate it. As an American male I tell myself I have to handle it all by myself, to be self-sufficient. But the thing is I can’t. I have to let Him do it. And this is excruciatingly painful.
I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis writes in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A young, stubborn and selfish boy named Eustace finds himself on an island. As it begins to rain, Eustace seeks shelter in a cave and falls asleep. When he wakes up he feels strange and realizes he has turned into a dragon. He is scared and wants to turn back into a boy.
One evening Eustace hears the lion Aslan’s voice calling out to him saying, “Follow me.”Though as a dragon he could have eaten any lion, he is still afraid. Following Aslan, he finds himself by a pool where he wishes to wash his wounded leg, but Aslan tells him he must first undress. Using his dragon claws, he desperately scratches and claws himself to shed his dragon skin much like a snake sheds its skin. Three times he claws and scrapes in desperation, but each time he notices another layer of hard, rough scales. He realizes he is incapable of fully ridding himself of his scaly skin.
“You will have to let me undress you,”Aslan tells him.
I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. . . . Well, he peels the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobby looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft. . . . Then he caught hold of me . . . and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.
The good news is this. “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”–Psalm 34:5
God takes our shame from us and invites us to be honored children of the King.
The process hurts like hell – but it’s worth it.
It’s the only way we turn from dragons into children again.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve written new content on the site and there’s one big reason for it: the past year I’ve been working on two book projects with InterVarsity Press. I’m just now coming up for air.
I’m proud to announce that the first project has been released: Fail: Finding Hope in the Midst of Ministry Failure. Thank you to so many of you for your encouragement, support and help along the way the past several months. I am grateful to work with a great publisher in IVP, whose team has been tremendous to work with.
Here are a few links about Fail that you may find helpful:
And, if you’d like to stay in touch, here’s my Twitter account.
Doug Moister, the pastor I have the privilege of serving alongside of in the context of The Renew Community, recently wrote these thoughts for our church’s weekly email. It was such a great summary of our charmingly eccentric Jesus community I thought I’d pass it along:
“How would you describe Renew?” I am asked this question many times throughout a month as I interact with people inside and outside of the Church and I always begin with this statement: “Renew is unique.”
We don’t own a building, we gather alternating weeks in the gym of the Lansdale Boys and Girls Club or in homes across the region and we have an intermission in the middle of our gatherings.
We value stories, communion, giving, prayer, worship, dialogue during the teaching, skeptics, dreamers and children.
Our one rule is simple: no perfect people allowed.
We push and remind each other that we are followers of Jesus who have been called to be “missionaries cleverly disguised as neighbors, coworkers, students, employees, business owners, managers, designers, steel workers, chemists, retirees, stay at home parents, IT people, contractors, sales people, healthcare professionals, teachers and family members.”
We pursue authentic Jesus community which doesn’t mean there are not messes; on the contrary, it is messy but Jesus is in the midst of our messiness. We are concerned with how people growing and being shaped to be more like Jesus.
Our Uniqueness says a lot about who we believe God is and how he interacts with us.
Our gatherings are not a time to come and be entertained, but a time for us to enter into sacred dialogue and conversation with the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.
Our house churches enter into authentic community where we are vulnerable with one another and the Lord. Our house churches force us to see church not just as a building or a meeting place with stained glass and a choir but Church as People who are beloved children of God.
I am blessed to be a part of this unique community! It continues to challenge and shape the way I think about our relationship as individuals and a community partnered to Jesus and I want to challenge you to think about how what we do shapes the way we think about God…”
I, too, am blessed to be a part of this unique community and to serve alongside of a great pastor like Doug.
Every few months I carve out some time to step back and view the entire landscape of what is going on around me.
Recently I stepped away from the daily flow of traffic and spend time in reflection with a specific focus on the efforts we’ve made with Kairos Partnerships, the initiative we created about 18 months ago. I was incredibly encouraged by the significant ways we’ve been able to walk alongside of pastors, church planters and leaders in various fields, sectors and ministries.
We aren’t the experts or the ones with all the answers, but we have experience and an outside perspective that many leaders need to help navigate their contexts with greater effectiveness and faithfulness through a relational approach that includes training, offering resources and tools and asking probing and incisive questions.
It’s a privilege to walk alongside of pastors hungry and eager to grow personally and in their leadership roles. More specifically, I realized we’ve had the privilege of working alongside of great leaders in organizations, schools, non-profits and churches including:
The Kairos team has had the privilege of working with leaders representing over 30 different denominations through speaking, consulting, training and coaching.
In addition, we’ve been coaching pastors and leaders in various parts of the country including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Minnesota, Florida, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Delaware, Texas and New Jersey.
If our team can walk alongside of you – either personally or as an organization, church, school or non-profit – in any way, we would love to talk to you. If we’re Home Depot of the Kingdom, then we’re here to help you with that leaky faucet of ministry conflict, decide which new light fixture to install in your vision or plan for that remodeling job in your organizational structure you’ve been thinking about for a while.
We also depend upon the generous donations of others who believe in the vision of Kairos Partnerships. If you are interested in knowing more about how you can partner with us financially you can find out more here.
As a speaker, teacher, presenter or preacher, it’s important we know two things: our material and our audience.
Nancy Duarte in her fabulous book Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations asks seven poignant questions to know your audience:
It was a rich time but, as to be expected, when you host a space for wounded and discouraged pastors to talk openly about failure you get a lot of weighty stories emerging to the surface. This event was probably our most diverse group – from staff members of large megachurches to journalists/reporters curious about the event to intrigued pastors who wanted to know more about this unique space to even some repeat attendees from other Epic Fail events.
And, of course, some pastors who have gone through some failures of epic proportions, including a young pastor with an international preaching ministry who was so broken by his failure about a month ago that he could hardly look anyone in the eyes during the two days. I’m proud of the pastors and leaders who share their stories with courage and authenticity. These spaces truly are sacred because of it. Pastors: thank you. You know who you are.
It was excited as we added two new team members to the Epic Fail events team who helped lead throughout the time: Mandy Smith, an Australia-American who pastors in Cincinnati, OH and Adam Gustine, who serves as a catalyst for missional expressions in Mishawaka, IN.
This topic and these events are incredibly heavy. My wife will tell you I am not myself for about 48 hours after each event, as I carry the stories home with me. It takes two days for the fog to lift again. I’m convinced more than ever that this stuff is needed, its necessary and its assisting in the healing of pastors who need grace and space to hear from Jesus, but it comes at a personal cost. It’s worth it, but man, it’s heavy.
What sustains is knowing God is in control and there are stories of healing that emerge on the other side of these events.
If you’re interested in hosting an Epic Fail event in your context (either one day, two days or three days in length) let us know. We’d love to share a bit more of what a partnership might look like.
“Being human, not one of us will ever have a relationship with another person that doesn’t have a wrinkle or a wart on it somewhere. The unblemished idea exists only in ‘happily ever after’ fairy tales. I think that there is some merit to a description I once read of a married couple as ‘happily incompatible.’ Ruth likes to say, ‘If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.’ The sooner we accept that as a fact of life, the better we will be able to adjust to each other and enjoy togetherness. ‘Happily incompatible’ is a good adjustment.”
This past weekend, with the help of tremendous friends, my family moved into a home three blocks up the street. The past five years we’ve been in a rental. It was what we needed for the time, but we were fortunate enough to buy a home we love. We are excited to share it with friends, family and neighbors.
As I type this, there are boxes everywhere in our new home. Making our way through the jungle of boxes is difficult for our personality. We are people of order and organization. We like to get things done, make progress and get organized. We want to unload every box immediately, but we know we can’t (though we try very hard in our attempt).
There are limitations for sure; when its almost 1 am some things should wait until the morning. We’ve had to grow into being comfortable with the desk lamp sitting in the corner, the box of nicknacks on the floor, the picture frames leaning against the wall by the coat rack and the fact you can’t find your belt. Occasionally you find something you’ve been looking for (i.e. “Honey, I found the shower caddy!”) bringing a moment of simple elation and surprise. It’s just the nature of moving into a new place.
This past weekend I attended the inaugural Missio Alliance conference in Washington D.C. There were so many stirring conversations, presentations and discussions, but the phrase kingdom chaos kept coming to me throughout the time. I don’t think anyone said it during a presentation or plenary session; it was a phrase that came to me and stuck. In many ways I wonder if kingdom chaos is a lot like our new home right now. The kingdom is where we have a new home, but it is not perfectly organized. It is chaos – healthy chaos – chaos nonetheless.
It reminded me of the stirring presentation by Dr. Amos Young who spoke on the interrupting nature of the Spirit. He asked a simple question a few different times during his session: Am I willing to be interrupted by the Spirit?
In Acts 2 when the Spirit shows up the question the people asked was, “What does this mean?” That remains the question! The Spirit interrupts our circumstances, but he often does it through the other. The Spirit is no respecter of interrupting. The Spirit also interrupts the status quo (friends, life, finances, etc) in Acts 2. New communities and new cultures emerge because of the Spirit. The interruption of the other is inconveniencing and yet its where new life truly happens.
Then Dr. Young said something I had never considered before. He said, to be missional means to be entirely content to be interrupted by the Spirit. You cannot be missional if you do not have a deep trust and dependence upon the Spirit.
When you move into a new house you are interrupted by others who are wanting to help: “Where does this box go?” “Do you have a pair of scissors?” “Can you unlock the back door?” “Where’s your bathroom?” “I’m assuming the weed eater goes to the garage, is that right?” “Do you have a bandaid?” “Where is the ladder?” “Does this lamp go up to your office?” It’s hard to stay focused on move-in day. It is chaos, but it is good chaos. Change is happening. Good change. We are living into a new reality. It is much like kingdom chaos.
In addition to the phrase kingdom chaos I also have a new question: Am I willing to be interrupted by the Spirit?
And, truth be told, I would really just like to find which box my socks are in.
Click on the image to enlarge.
And pray for your pastor.
A clipping from a newspaper in Australia:
This brings up a whole series of questions, doesn’t it?