Are you drawn to “before” and “after” pictures? I am. Maybe it’s because they give me hope that I can be transformed! I like the TV show What Not to Wear for this reason. The two hosts, Clinton and Stacy, find an average woman who needs help with her appearance and surprise her with a complete head to toe makeover. I find it entertaining that these women often think they have it “going on” in the fashion department, despite what’s obvious to everybody else. Stacy and Clinton, with a little humor and a large dose of truth, begin by giving her a reality check about her choice of clothes. They say things like, “that short skirt is sending the wrong message”…or “this big shirt hides your cute figure”. After showing her what NOT to wear, they show her the styles that would enhance her identity and offer her a $5000 shopping spree. But before she can shop for her new wardrobe, she has to throw away all of her old clothes! Surprisingly, she might be reluctant to part with her outdated styles, or might break the new fashion rules when left to shop on her own. By the end of the show, she has discarded the unattractive “before” look and surprises her family and friends with a beautiful “after”.
Each of us have a similar story; there’s a “before” we met Christ, and an “after”. We have experienced a spiritual makeover with a new wardrobe, a robe of righteousness. But we don’t always feel righteous. Sometimes instead we feel humiliated and embarrassed by our pasts. The Bible refers to this as Shame.
- Shame can be a result of things done to us. If you have experienced any form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, it is not uncommon to feel in some way it was your fault. This can lead to shame.
- We can also experience shame when things are done for us. It’s not always easy to receive help. If you've ever stood in a line for food, clothing, or housing assistance, you may be familiar with what it feels like to despise your neediness and feel shame.
shame can be a result of things done by us; things we live to regret. For
example, our past sins may lead us to feel shame. Many women who
have had an abortion or struggle with overeating know what this feels like. And although there are consequences for sin, when we put on shame it is the wrong thing to wear.
Are you struggling with feelings of shame from things in your past? If so, God wants to help remove that and instill in you a confidence that you are loved despite your past.
Israel struggled with shame and insecurity, even though loved and chosen by God to be His bride. Her shame was a result of things done to her in Egypt; in her youth she had been a victim of slavery. But, later Israel experienced shame by something done by her; she committed adultery by following after other gods. In both cases, God reassured her of his faithfulness to her as her husband. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth (Egypt) and the sorrows of widowhood (Idolatry). For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!" (Isaiah 54: 4-6) God didn’t want Israel to live in shame.
Like many of you, I didn’t know that I had a problem with shame. It was actually quite a surprise that shame and pain from rejection early in my childhood were at the root of some emotional problems I was experiencing as an adult. I experienced freedom when I confessed the feelings of pain and shame to God, just like I would confess my sin.
Isaiah 53 4-5 says, Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Have you ever thought of bringing Jesus your pain and suffering and asking him to carry it for you? So many things are just too big for us to handle. But he can and wants to…be our Savior in every sense of the word.
The Cinderella fairy tale provides such a vivid picture of what this experience can be like. Like so many women, Cinderella was dressed in shame from abuse, transformed and seen for her true beauty, but then returned to her gown of slavery. She was unconvinced the Prince would love her if he knew her past. But Prince Charming searched for Cinderella, and when he saw her in her true condition, he still loved her.
That’s like Jesus…He’s seen our true beauty and is not content to watch us cover it up with shame. He will pursue us until we allow Him to place the lost slipper back on our foot and live like the royalty we are. It doesn't matter what people say about us, or how we feel, what matters is the truth God speaks. He says in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Far too many of us Sistahs are feeling dirty, worthless and ashamed of ourselves. It’s no way to live! Not when Jesus has already taken the punishment, pain and shame on your behalf, and keeps pursuing you.
What are you choosing to wear that doesn't belong in your wardrobe anymore? Are you feeling shame about something done to you (you were a victim of domestic violence, you experienced sexual abuse as a child, your husband left for someone else, you were fired from your job, you weren't liked by your peers), by you (you cheated on your taxes, had an abortion, lied about a friend, gossiped), or for you (needed help to pay rent, went on public assistance)? Take some time today, get alone in prayer, and imagine Jesus on the cross. Can you picture His face? Set that shawl of shame you've wrapped around your life at the foot of the cross, and ask Him to take it. His suffering accomplished more than forgiving your sin – He also came to give you a happily-ever-after with Him. If the slipper fits, wear it!
~ Marsha Craig and Laurel Bahr