Living in shame, or living free

I returned home from our wonderful week in Northumberland, feeling spent from a summer and autumn filled with good things: Our family’s five weeks in the States. Leading a meaningful and sun-filled retreat in Spain. A trip to the States to play with my high-school friends at the lake where they filmed Dirty Dancing and to celebrate family birthdays. And most recently our jaunt up to the wilds of the Northeast of England, venturing into the rugged coast and atmospheric castles.

Photo by cod_gabriel as found on flickr

Photo by cod_gabriel as found on flickr

Although I knew I was facing a first-world problem of exhaustion from too much fun and travel, I was wiped out. And so I wasted more time than I like to admit early this week watching episode after episode of Scandal, a drama based in my former home of Washington, DC. The storylines gripped me and I loved seeing the beautiful buildings of my former stomping grounds. But watching so many episodes when I should have been spending my time with more fruitful pursuits – gardening or decluttering would have been more fulfilling – left me with another shame hangover.

Shame hangover – such a descriptive term, which Brené Brown employs in her acclaimed TED talks and book Daring Greatly. I spoke last week of my shame hangover related to my flapping mouth and unholy moments while at Holy Island, which many of you responded to with forgiving love and sometimes a knowing, “I’ve been there.”

Shame can stick to us like a new set of clothes, ones we don that can become sealed into our skin. So familiar they can become that we don’t know how to operate without them. And so like Eustace Scrubb in CS Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we need to remove them with God’s help, in a sometimes painful manner. Eustace, you may recall, had been turned into a dragon through his dragony greed and selfishness. He meets a lion (Aslan), who asks him to undress. Eustace peels off a few layers of dragon – of selfishness and pride – but remains a dragon. The only way to undragon is for Aslan to bring about a deeper cure – one that sinks deep to his heart and hurts greatly, but brings about a new person.

I’ve been thinking lately about the old self and the new, for not only at our conversion do we shed our old self with its sinful practices and take on the new self. This process of putting on the new self is continual, as the apostle Paul writes to the church at Ephesus: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in the true righteousness and holiness.” (4:22-24)

His verbs are active in the Greek – we put off our old self and put on the new. Our new clothes are no longer the rags of shame, but the royal robes of daughters and sons. Indeed, we are clothed with Jesus himself. But we don’t always wear our new robes. We slink back to the rags, perhaps through exhaustion or weariness. When we tire of the shame hangover, we can release it over to God, asking for forgiveness and for him to fill us with his Holy Spirit, that we might be empowered to live the forgiven life.

So as I get back to a structured routine, one not filled with countless episodes of spin-doctors, I come before God and ask him to help me wear his richly colored robes as I shed the ragged shame-inducing garments. Here’s to being forgiven!

The New Name
I will give you a new name
Known only to you
Contented will you be
At peace; in rest; whole.
I will give you a new name
Complete; without needs
Fulfilled; affirmed; fully clothed
Named by my love.
I have given you a new name
Walk into it; accept it
Wear it as a royal robe
Adorned you are by my love.
I have given you a new name
Beloved you are
Most precious to me
Cherished; adored; redeemed.
I have given you a new name
My daughter in whom I delight
With my presence, filled
A vase reflecting my beauty.
With your new name, go forth
Embodying peace, joy and love
For with you I walk, in front and behind
Never to leave you, I promise; always here.
© 2012 Amy Boucher Pye 

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