The Perfect Covering for Our Shame | December 19th, 2022
If I hadn’t been looking down, I would have missed him. Camouflaged in the fall leaves sat a sweet little box turtle. I leaned down to get a better view. As I got closer, he tucked his head into his shell. When I backed away, he would pop back out again. We played this little game for a while before it was time to move on down the trail of my hiking path.
How similar this is to the way we act in our relationship with God. When we do something that we know displeases Him as a follower of Christ, we try to hide beneath our shell and pull away from Him in shame. When we are living in a way that honors Him, we have no need to hide.
The Beginning of Shame
The first verse found in the Bible about shame is Genesis 2:25, describing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
We were made to be in a world without any shame, fully known with nothing to hide from God. But because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, eating from the only tree they were told not to eat of, sin came into the world followed by shame.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:6-8
After they sinned against God, they recognized they had done wrong, felt the weight of their shame, and the urgent need to hide and cover themselves. God knew fig leaves would not be adequate, so in His goodness He provided exactly what they needed:
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21
This required an animal to have to die, sacrificing itself so its skin could be used to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sin to cover our shame.
The Necessity of Shame
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of shame is: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Sin is behavior that dishonors God and is always a proper cause for shame. In our culture, there seems to be a push to eliminate feeling shame for our bad behavior. It is argued by psychologists and self-help experts that these feelings of shame can lead to mental ailments, reinforced addiction, and a shredding of self-esteem. Without feeling shame, however, people think they can act in a disgraceful manner and expect others to just accept it as part of who they are.
The Bible affirms the necessity of shame and speaks out with a warning against those who have none:
“Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD. Jeremiah 6:15
Wicked behavior brings on shame and disgrace, as it should…
The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves. Proverbs 13:5
Well-placed shame is connected to God’s holiness, holding us back from doing things that might bring dishonor to Him. When we live for Him, our values are calibrated to His standard rather than to those of the world. The shame we feel when we are disobedient is vital for an intimate relationship with God because it shows we have grieved the Holy Spirit and helps us turn to Him in genuine repentance from our immoral behavior, restoring us back to Himself. Rather than run away from shame, we should allow it to motivate us toward godliness.
Shame is Not Our Identity
You may have heard “shame experts” talk about the toxicity of shame and how it can become internalized, creating a chronic sense of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and even self-loathing. When it becomes a part of our identity, we can end up with impaired mental health and ability to function.
If you have given your life to Christ, shame is not your identity. You may have voices stuck in your head of things you’ve said to yourself or said to you by others that have kept you in your shame. When your identity is in who you are in Christ, purified and without blemish, He will silence those voices and give you the victory over your shame.
Jesus took our shame for us on the cross as the perfect covering when He died for every sin we’ve ever committed in the past, present, and future. Our shameful deeds are no longer held against us, so there is no need for us to try to use our own “fig leaves” to cover our shame.
Actress Anne Heche, who recently died in a tragic, fiery car crash, was interviewed in 2001 on the TV program 20/20. She talked about her traumatic childhood which included sexual abuse by her father. Anne looked for ways throughout her life to escape her pain and said, “I drank. I smoked. I did drugs. I had sex…I did anything I could to get the shame out of my life.”
Fig Leaves Don’t Work
All of those numbing strategies are modern forms of fig leaves that we use to hide and deal with our shame. And there are many more. Pride moves us to use whatever we can without God’s help. No matter how many fig leaves we experiment with to cover our shame, our efforts will never work. We must find our covering in Christ who gives us our worth and value.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
According to psychologists, one of the reasons we use numbing strategies is because of a low self-esteem which is propelled by shame, making us feel unworthy or “not enough.” Their belief is every human being should be accepting about who they are and fight against any sense of unworthiness because it’s unhealthy.
This view of needing a high self-esteem to feel good about ourselves in our sinful, unrepentant state is rooted in pride and stands in complete opposition to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It can lead us to feeling independent with no need for God as we put our trust in our own strength. Our sense of being a “good” person should not depend on what we do but only on who we are in Christ.
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
We were made for God. Everything outside of Him is absurd and foolish! There is no logic, no sense, no reason, no purpose. Nothing works without Him because everything was created by Him, through Him, and for Him.
Our value is based on the highest price God paid for us through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. He died for us because we are so unworthy that only the Son of God could redeem us.
O my soul, you have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.” Psalm 16:2
When we start out in our relationship with Christ, it’s the beginning of a journey. We’ve lived our whole life without Him, completely self-focused. As we start to comprehend and experience the depth of His love for us and grow in our desire to live for Him, we slowly become more Christ-focused. I love the way this journey is so beautifully expressed in a hymn written by Theodore Monod in 1874:
None of Self and All of Thee
O the bitter shame and sorrow
That a time could ever be
When I let the Saviour’s pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered:
All of self and none of thee!
Yet he found me; I beheld him
Bleeding on th’accursed tree,
Heard him pray: Forgive them, Father!
And my wistful heart said faintly:
Some of self and some of thee!
Day by day his tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong and, ah! so patient,
Brought me lower, while I whispered:
Less of self and more of thee!
Higher than the highest Heaven,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, thy love at last has conquered;
Grant me now my spirit’s longing:
None of self and all of thee!
Our Identity is in Christ
God has given us His Word filled with truths about the hope and freedom available to us when we choose to have our identity in Christ rather than in our shame. Studying God’s Word can retrain our brain to help us get unstuck from the cycle of feeling shame, numbing ourselves with shameful methods, and feeling shame all over again.
Renew and transform your mind with these powerful promises:
Put your hope in God, not dwell on your past
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. Psalm 25:3
Look to God for your joy, not the world’s remedies
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. Psalm 34:5
Let God be your hiding place, not your shame
In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Psalm 71:1
Follow God’s laws, not the pathways of sin
Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. Psalm 119:39
Believe in God, not in yourself
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11
The more often we read and study God’s Word, the more truth we’ll store in our mind and heart to overcome the devastating lies of shame that the devil uses to make us feel helpless and hopeless. When we believe these promises of God, we’ll find shame has a much weaker hold on us.
Like the turtle’s shell that is used to hide, our refuge is Jesus Christ. When we hide in Him, He perfectly covers our shame without condemnation for any of our grievous sins or failures. Our value and significance are in Him alone, not because we are in any way good or worthy but because He loves us deeply, created us to know Him intimately, and has provided for us a priceless inheritance to be with Him in eternity as holy and blameless, fully forgiven, and free from all of our shame.
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