Smiling in My Shame
I know, I know…you’re probably wondering how smiling and shame could possibly go hand-in-hand. After all we associate smiles with happy times and joyous events, right? We smile about the good things. Conversely, we associate shame with guilt, remorse, and the embarrassment that comes with the territory. Shame is rarely, if ever at all, linked to something good, much less something to smile about.
Or is it?
Earlier this week I was preparing to co-lead a LIFE (living in freedom everyday) class for a group of young men who are attending 24/7, a ministry program here at Church of The Highlands in Birmingham. The students range in age from eighteen to twenty-five, and my co-leaders Eric and Jason, are thirty-seven and thirty-three, respectively. At fifty-eight, I’m far and away the oldest one in the group!
At first, I thought that my age may be a liability. I mean, in theory, I’m old enough to be a grandfather to a few of ‘em, and I wondered if they would tune me out because of the generation gap. Concerned, but undaunted, I decided to bring my transparency (and all the mistakes I’ve made that comes with it) to the guys with the same fervor that I approach life every day; all, or nothing at all, with no in-betweens. I figured that if nothing else, I could my share my experiences and the pain that accompanied many of those experiences with them, so that they might learn from my mistakes.
As with writing The Seed of Hope, or talking with someone in the prayer room, or with anything that I do that is for God, I took my role as a teacher of these young men very seriously. Each week, in preparation for our meeting, I pray for the Lord to give Eric, Jason, and myself some new “nugget of truth” that we can pass along to the guys.
This past Tuesday, as I was driving to the meeting, the Lord did indeed give me one of those nuggets. To be honest with you, the nugget was a personal epiphany for me, and was the source of my shame…
The previous week’s lesson had been on God’s unconditional love for us. We discussed Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, and the fact that God went looking for them after they had eaten the forbidden fruit; not to condemn them, but rather to love them.
That unconditional love was the inspiration for last week’s post, My Un-God and it was still in the back of my mind as I was preparing for this week’s meeting, which focused on fellowship with God, our relationship with Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
I was in the car on the way to the meeting, listening to worship music and praying, when I recalled something that I’d read earlier that day in a book written by Rick Joyner titled There Were Two Trees in the Garden.
Before the Fall, the first-creation man could walk and have fellowship with God, but this is far short of what we have been given as the new creation. Now we do not just walk with God and have fellowship with Him—He has come to live in us!
Okay, what I’m gonna share with you may seem elemental to you. You may have known this for years, maybe since you were a child, and that’s okay too. I’m a bit astounded because it took me fifty-eight years to realize this. Fifty-eight years, one hundred and forty one days, to be exact! I’m talking all my life! It took me all of my life, all of my days on this earth, to realize this one simple truth.
First, a few questions:
Do you believe that God is omnipresent? That is to say, to believe that God is everywhere? If you say “yes’ to that, I’ll move on. (If your answer is “no”, then I’m dead in the water. I’ll see you next week.)
Do you believe in the Trinity, as in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? Again, I’m assuming that your answer is “yes”, so I’ll move on.
If you believe that God is omnipresent, and that He is one in three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is it safe to assume that you believe that Jesus is living in you? Please say yes, or if you don’t really believe it, at least entertain the notion that it could be possible.
I’m getting to the nugget, I promise. Before I do, I have to ask you a couple of more questions, and I’ll apologize in advance for them being a little “in-your-face.”
Would you ask Jesus to get drunk with you?
Would you ask Him to snort cocaine, or smoke pot with you?
Would you ask Him to look at pornography with you, or curse with you, or steal something with you, or belittle someone with you?
Would you ask Jesus to do anything with you that was offensive to His Father?
You see, until three days ago as I was driving to that meeting to be with my Christian brothers, I never realized that not only is Jesus my companion, but He is in me. He is part of me, you see? I am a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus. I am a believer of the living Christ, and I believe that He lives in me.
In the blink of an eye, in one beat of my heart, I realized that Jesus was with me all those times that I had sinned against my Father…that I had sinned against others…that I had sinned against myself. I had asked the one who came to save me to, in a sense, to lie in the gutter with me. And He did.
In yet another blink of the eye and one more beat of my heart, I was overcome with a profound and overwhelming sense of…
Look, I tell people all the time that they need to quit looking back at the past; at what they’ve done, when they’ve done it, and who they’ve done it to. God doesn’t care what you did or who you were yesterday. He’s more concerned with who you are today, and what’s in your heart. He loves us with unconditional love and blesses us with unending forgiveness.
Until that very moment, I thought that I’d already fully dealt with the shame and regret of what I’d done in the past, but as I pulled to the side of the road to recover from what felt like a punch in the gut, I realized that I hadn’t. I sat there for, I don’t know, several minutes, just telling God that I was sorry, not for what I’d done, but for what I’d done to Him.
In that third blink of an eye and yet one more beat of my heart, my shame gave way to a…
Yep, I was sitting behind the wheel of my FourRunner, wiping tears off of my face while wearing this huge cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin.
You see, in one those “life flashing before your eyes” moments, I recalled all the bad, dumb, and immoral things that I had done before my spiritual awakening in 2006, and all that God has seen fit to do with me and in me since. He not only wiped the slate clean and gave me a fresh start, but He gave me a ministry to go with it.
That day I truly came to realize the depth of His unconditional love and unending forgiveness.
And I sat there, smiling in my shame...