Beginning Prayer: Show me your way, teach me your path, guide me in your truth.
Passage for today: Romans 6:14-23
We’ll end our look at this chapter the same way we started the week, with another one of Paul’s great questions: “What did you gain from the things you are now ashamed of?” Paul answers this question quick for us, he basically says, “What’s the answer? I’ll give you a hint… death.”
Which is true, right? All those things we’ve done that we’re most ashamed of have brought death into our lives. Our failures and mistakes and regrets have killed a dream or a friendship or our time. They have ended our confidence, stolen our innocence, demolished our devotion. They have brought death--eventually.
But I think the question Paul is asking us to ask is a good one in the present tense too: “What am I gaining from the things I am ashamed of?” It’s an important question because the reason we keep doing the things we are ashamed of is because they are giving us some sort of reward.
We are anxious because anxiety produces energy. If we don’t get anxious and start worrying and spinning around, we just might curl up in the fetal position next to the piano and never get up again. Anxiety gives us the control back and the energy we need to feel like we’re doing something, even when we’re not.
Yelling at our kids or our spouse or our coworkers produces isolation and feels like a better option than fear (fear is almost always the root of rage and anger). We are afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, so we get defensive and try and beat people to the punch--I’ll isolate from you before you can isolate me; I’ll reject you before you reject me.
We don’t ask for help because we want control. After all, we’re really the only ones who know how to do it right (hero) or would even being willing to do it (martyr). We wear the badge of “hero martyr” because we have found along the way that people are so impressed with all we can accomplish, and so we find our identity and worth in the checks on our to-do list, but it actually has just left us exhausted and bitter.
We fantasize about intimacy because it gives us something to attach to, and even though it’s not real, we get to escape our lives that feel hard and overwhelming. Hiding in something that’s not real, we can make our life look like we want them to be instead of what they are.
Being late makes us feel powerful because no one else’s time is as important as ours; if I’m early, I have to waste my time waiting for you; if I’m late everyone else can waste their time waiting on me because I’m more important than they are.(Whew...that one hits a little close to home.)
Whatever these things are that bring us shame for whatever reason, it’s important to ask ourselves, “What am I getting from this behavior and what do I really need?”
Maybe I need to find something else to produce energy besides anxiety--maybe joy would be an option!
Maybe instead of yelling or losing my temper, I need to just stop for a second and ask, “what am I afraid of?” and see if that can help me address the actual issue that’s getting me all stirred up inside.
Maybe I could stop assuming no one wants to help before I even ask and let go of the perfect outcome and actually lean on some people in my life who love me and want me to get rest.
Maybe I could try and engage with what’s REALLY happening in front of me--when I feel like escaping and practice gratitude for all the things I have, even if all I can think of is that I have eyes that can see or ears that can hear or a heart that is pumping blood.
Maybe I could clear my schedule and consider being early an act of love to the people around me and release my need to be the most powerful person in the room.
So, what do we really need? I will tell you what my real needs always boil down to: I need help from God, and I need help from other people. I need help from God to remind me that I’m not a slave to any of these things that try to re-bind me, that I am free, new and have hope because of Jesus. I need Him to keep telling me who He is and whose I am.
And I need other people because that’s often how God reminds me of those very things; He uses people. That’s his idea, not mine. I’d prefer to go up a mountain and get it all figured out and come back and tell everybody how messed up I was but how great I am now. But, that’s not how it works. God wants us to be messy together, to fight our battles arm in arm, hand in hand. He wants us to learn about who He is by the grace we extend to each other. He wants us to help each other identify the needs that are under the behavior that is making us feel so much shame before it leads to death.
One of my favorite Brene Brown quotes talks about how shame can’t exist in healthy community. She says, “If you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and douse it with empathy it cannot survive. The two most powerful words when we are in struggle are: "me too."
Who have you got in your corner? You know you have God! Now, let’s get some people in there too.
Today, pray your own prayer of surrender to God. If you feel alone in your life, this might be a good day to ask for some courage and wisdom of who you might be able to invite into your journey.
So, who are your people? You don’t need many, but who (besides Paul) is asking you those tough questions that lead you to the truth behind why you do what you do? There are lots of ways to find this. Sometimes it’s just learning to make time with some of your closest friends, and carving out space for that in your week like it’s as important as a class or a meeting for work.
Sometimes it’s finding mentorship or accountability, and getting a little creative about it. I have quite a few women in my life who help me in all kinds of different areas. I guess I need so much help it takes a bunch of women to add up to one mentor. ;) I have specific women I call when I need parenting advice (my own mama is one of those!). I have specific women I call when I need to talk about wrestling with image and food issues. I have specific women I can when I just need a, “me too, now get back up and try again.”
If we’re as sick as our secrets, the goal is to regularly and intentionally be bringing our secrets into the light. And it’s messy, and it’s hard, and it’s terrifying, and people will disappoint you and not always get it right, but loving and being loved deeply is worth the risk. Take it! Find someone this week to go for a walk, grab a coffee, chat with on the phone and take one step closer to shutting down shame.
(See if you can commit to memory, or commit to remember, this verse this week.)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NLT)