Shame - The Reality of Shame by Anna Thoreson
The Reality of Shame When did you first pick up the lens of shame and begin to perceive the world through it’s thick and deceitful curve? As we discussed last week, shame can affix itself to our lives through our own actions or the actions of others against us. My first encounter with shame was a cooperative effort. I couldn’t have been more than about three. I have an older brother who was a bully with a wide destructive streak - think Sid from Toy Story. That day my brother had done something calamitous and Mom and Dad were rightfully mad. I don’t know if they meant to turn the
bathroom into an interrogation chamber, but that’s where we wound up. The four of us under inquisition in that tiny porcelain-clad water closet. They asked unanswerable questions as I stared at the octagonal tiles on the floor, desperate for the ordeal to be over. Unfortunately, Mom and Dad had overestimated my brother’s conscience and underestimated my compulsion for peacemaking. I cracked under the pressure and confessed to whatever crime I didn’t commit. Ironically I wasn’t even physically capable of the accusation (which apparently my folks knew). But I had lied, and so the bare bottom spanking was all mine. It was the first time I had ever been laid over the knee and it was the most humiliating moment of my life thus far. I gained several terrible takeaways that day. First of all, I bought the lie that it is normal and expected to suffer the full weight of consequence for the transgressions of others. Secondly, I came to the conclusion that confession always comes with pain and shame. And lastly, I learned it is better to bear false witness and corporal punishment than to endure the discomfort of prolonged interrogation. Unfortunately, my brother observed my arrival at all of these conclusions, too, and took full advantage of them from that day forward. I carried my ill-gained belief system a long way into my adulthood. Shame has been big contributor to my story for almost four full decades. That is, until I learned a bit more about Roman crucifixion. Several years ago I came across the fact that Roman crucifixion historically included the stripping of the victims. I was reading a fiction book that mentioned the commonplace and cruel methods of crucifixion, it was quite eye opening. A few google searches confirmed my worst fears. The excruciating pain of of being nailed to two wooden beams and left to suffocate was perhaps only eclipsed by the shame of being publicly displayed on a pole without one stitch. What about our dear Jesus? Surely the Son of God was not laid out on the cross bare as the day He was born? Even the occupied crucifix in my childhood Catholic church allowed the Savior a little loincloth. Of course, we search scripture to confirm or deny the consideration. It’s noted in each of the gospels how Jesus’s clothes were removed and divvied up by the soldiers participating in His execution. “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided My clothes amongst them and cast lots for My garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.” (John 19:23-24 NIV) “When they had crucified Him, they divided up His clothes by casting lots.” (Matthew 27:35 NIV) “And they crucified Him. Dividing up His clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”
(Mark 15:24 NIV) “And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.” (Luke 23:34b NIV) Isn’t it terribly uncomfortable to think about? The idea of a naked Jesus stretched out on the cross is far too embarrassing and not at all in keeping with we see in sanctuaries across the globe. Perhaps it is self-preservation that keeps the loincloth on the crucifix in church. But evidence insists; Jesus had little or nothing to hide behind as He suffered and died a criminal’s death. In fact, Luke lets us know that the people who loved Him the most stood far off, very likely out of love and respect. “But all those who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (Luke 23:49 NIV) The longer I have pondered this, the more I believe that Jesus went to the cross without a stitch with intention. See, we all know and agree that He bore our sin on the cross. Over and over, scripture confirms this. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, “By His wounds you have been healed.”” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV) But stitchless, He also bore our shame. “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV) Jesus was falsely accused, beaten to a pulp, publicly humiliated and strung out starkly on a cross to address our sin AND our shame. The Author and Perfecter of our faith left no work unfinished: He addressed the full after effects of sin: both our own transgressions and the transgressions of those against us. When we look to Him and His sacrifice, we realize He fulfills the psalmist words: “Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” (Psalm 34:5 NIV) For far too long, shame has been a powerful voice in my story. Shame has demotivated me from many things and none of shame’s grim influence on my life has brought God glory. After the naked crucifixion revelation, I began remembering the Lord’s complete work on the cross and reinforcing the truth that He had already paid the ultimate price for my sin and the sins of others. Shame had also already been borne, the bill was met in full and I was set free. So, my friend, what about you? How have you partnered with shame’s ugly accusation in your story? Do you see how Jesus’ bore this, too? Once we are set free from sin, the shame is ready to fall off, as well. I encourage you to participate in this process. Look to the Lord, let Him make
your face radiant again. Dear Lord, help us recognize shame’s prolific influence and drag it to back the cross where You have already borne it on our behalf. Thank You for wearing sin and shame so we don’t have to. Please give us the courage to agree with Your truth and begin a lasting work within us. Amen.