Shame is a sticky, viscous substance.
I’ve written about this before, but I’ve also written so many posts that I would have to go back and read each one to find out if I’ve communicated these thoughts before. If you have a better memory than I do and remember distinctly me already saying what follows, my sincerest apologies.
I re-read the Chronicles of Narnia a couple weeks ago. I love those books and have read them countless times since I first enjoyed them as a teen. I know I’ve included excerpts or tidbits from them in other posts, but that just goes to show how much of an impact they have made in my heart. The first book published, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” deals with four children who are transported into a magical land called Narnia. Two of the children, Lucy and Edmund, each visit individually before the group of them wanders into Narnia and the adventure truly begins. Lucy’s visit is sweet and wholesome. Edmund’s is not. He is seduced and swayed by the evil White Witch, and when they all return together Edmund betrays his siblings.
Edmund was deceived, and through his own natural bent towards ugliness, he lapped up the lies whispered in his ear like a cat laps cream. He became a traitor. He cost his siblings their safety, and very nearly lost his own life while in the clutches of the Witch and her evil henchmen.
Aslan the Lion, the Creator of the World, the King of beasts, the one who held all the power and magic of the ages, the one who had called the four siblings into the land of Narnia, stepped in. He orchestrated the rescue of Edmund. When Edmund came into their camp, he was a humbled boy. Nothing had turned out like he thought it would. All the grand things that he had been promised never materialized, and in fact the exact opposite had been delivered to him. He thought he would be a king, yet found himself a slave. The child who met with Aslan knew who he was and what he’d done. And he was overwhelmed to be offered forgiveness and restoration and hope.
The White Witch refused to let go of her quarry so easily, however. She knew she would not win in a head-to-head battle with Aslan, but she could hurt him and she wasn’t going to give up. If Aslan wanted the sniveling coward traitor, then that’s where she would aim. There is a paragraph in this book that sparked this whole line of thought. It reads:
“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew she was talking about Edmund. But Edmund had gotten past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.
Oh that paragraph hit me. One particular line in it specifically. “He just went on looking at Aslan.” With all the times I have read this book, I cannot recall that phrase hitting me just that way before. It resonated with me, the sound in my ear echoing and returning again and again.
Out of all Edmund had done, all the nastiness in his heart, the hateful thoughts and deeds, all the trouble he’d caused, all the people, his family included, who could have written him off when he thumbed his nose at them, Aslan did not. Aslan saw the underneath of him, the rotten and spoiled of him, and he saw the purpose he had for him. Instead of delivering the traitor to the White Witch to pay for his own sins, Aslan took the punishment for him and gave his own life rather than allowing the Witch to destroy the boy. What a portrayal of our Messiah.
I’ve got enough yuck in my past that anyone could look at me now and call me a traitor. Certainly a traitor to the cause of Christ, and one who thumbed her nose at any and everything that seemed right. Anyone could look at my life and have barrels full of ammunition to knock me down. That I am allowed to serve where and how I do is beyond miraculous. There are those who could throw stones at me. There are those who could call me names. And it would hurt. But all I have to do is keep looking at Jesus.
It’s paid for, you see. My mistakes, my rebellion, my rejection of Him, the damage I did to the cause of Christ, the damage I did to myself, to my reputation, all of it is paid for. It can still hurt, twinges of pain that pop up without warning sometimes. But I just need to look at Jesus.
That came home to me again today as I had to deliver a document that contained a great deal of intimately personal information, some details of my past history that I am ashamed for people to know. I had to ask the person that, if they needed to actually read it, they would look at it with eyes of grace and remember that I am living proof of the transformative power of God.
It still shamed me though, knowing that quite a few of my most heinous sins were right there in black and white. Reviewing them was painful. A stark slap in the face of who I used to be. Internally I hung my head and there was guardedness and reserve in my heart. The shame felt like a coating over me, one that is sheer but weighs heavy. Even now I can feel the phantom stickiness. But I thought about that line in the book and how it had spoken to my heart. And I looked at Jesus.
I was shameful. I was a miserable wretch and I have nothing to recommend me. I behaved so badly and so publicly that the whispers of my depravity are still echoing in some circles. But in the circles of heaven, in the hallowed halls and grand rooms of the home awaiting me, not a breath of that sound is heard. The whispers here are all true, but when the sound hits the barrier of heaven it dissipates. Because I have an Advocate. He knows all my shame, He knows my past, every decision, every pain, every sting, every rebellion, every rejection. And He has made me shame-less.
He has made me shame-less because He doesn’t see me that way. He doesn’t see my past, my sins, the depravity and immorality when He looks at me. Others might. Others will, I’m sure, because those “others” are human. But He does not. He does not see the shame of my sins when He looks at me because He is the One who paid for them with His own life. When He looks at me He sees someone worth dying for. I cannot fathom that, but I cannot be ashamed of it. I cannot be ashamed of being loved so much.
So when the enemy of my heart throws his flaming arrows at me and tries to demoralize me with my own memory, all I have to do is look at Jesus. And I’m shame-less.