Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Christmas Coal - shame" from L.L. Barkat

In chapter 2 ("Christmas Coal - shame") of L.L. Barkat's new book, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places, we read of shame heaped on a nine year old girl by her stepfather in front of his sons and her mother. Then we see how God helped L.L. to cope with that and overcome it.

As is the whole book it is written with no ordinary prose. One gets taken in, but not too much into any sordid detail. Two chapters following continue this part of L.L.'s life during those years. We get a glimpse into L.L.'s story which can help each one of us with our own shame. How in Jesus we can address this and move on in spite of a shameful past. And how she unfolds the Scriptural analogy of the worm is one to remember. It helps me in addressing shame that is thrown at me sometimes even now.

I tried to avoid giving a summary of this chapter which gives too much away because I'd like to encourage you to read it for yourself.

Shame has been a big part of my own life. One memory that stands out is how there was a group at my very first church who used to make fun of Dad. Dad being the oldest son had worked with his own father on the farm and while intelligent, did not have the social skills one gets from living in society. By extension our whole family was shamed. I remember vaguely now getting thrown in the bushes probably by a couple older boys. I was hurt and angry, but also ashamed myself, and still feel a little angst in telling this.

Shame in my life extends beyond that as well, experienced through the meanness of others, but also through my own ill reactions and actions. As well as my not fulfilling the dream of my life in being ordained and serving as a pastor. Though at this late date in my life I could easily think of myself as a teacher or even an editor, though not so sure on that last one!

L.L.'s chapter helps me, both by her own sharing of her life as well as the powerful analogy fulfilled in and by Jesus for us. Our shame is covered by Jesus through his death for us, Psalm 22 a key passage from which L.L. draws. Two key quotes to leave us with from this chapter: "I'm glad God delights to make things right, to cover our shame so we can stop trying to cover it ourselves." (p 20) "And the shame of my past, though real, cannot keep me earthbound." (p 22)

How has shame been a factor in your own life and what help in Jesus have you found for that? Or any other thought you'd like to add to this either from your reading of the book or of this post.

1. Stepping Stones - conversion

Next week: chapter 3: "Tossed Treasure: messiness"


L.L. Barkat said...

Hi, Ted. Sorry to chime in so early... I'm on my way to D.C. this morning but wanted to say I saw this. And it was good to hear your story. I feel like I'm learning about the real Ted! And it is a wonderful thing.

As for this entry, I remember I had to cut this chapter a lot. There were so many other good things to say. One verse, and set of imagery, I had to let go was from Ezekiel 16. Where the Lord says, "I passed by you...and looked on you; you were at the age for love. I spread the edge of my cloak over you, and covered your nakedness." Isn't that beautiful? And it seemed to me (in line with the chapter as a whole) that Jesus is our garment corner, our "cloak."

That said, sometimes when I sin, I picture it as me pulling off that cloak... you know, putting Jesus aside. And it sobers me, helps me understand what I'm really doing.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Certainly a topic near and "dear" to my hear. You can see such even with the tag line for my blog, "transforming shame into NOT ASHAMED".

One of the things I think the most interesting about the notion of shame is that it precondemns us. It keeps us looking inward to what we are not and never upward to what He is.

I think this is why Romans 8:1 is so important to me.

Well said Ted.

Rachel Mc said...

Shame and guilt go together, at least for me. My shame is pretty much self inflicted and I need to remember that doing this to myself keeps me from looking upward to what Jesus did. (Thanks Susan!)
Of course this is easier said than done so that brings on more shame and guilt.
All day today I will ponder the thought that God is trying to make things right, God wants to cover my shame so I don't have to keep trying.
I'll post more later.

Dave J. said...

Shame for our sins vs. shame for our naked self (and that means all our shortcomings and whatever fate may have dealt us).

We can ask for forgiveness of our sins, but what do we do to come to terms who we truly are?

Rachel Mc said...

dave j. I too am looking for this answer. Do we strive to become "better", whatever that means or how it is measured. Or do we take the position "I,m ok, you're ok" and just learn to accept whatever the naked self is with the soft belief, "Hey this is how God made me so it must be ok"?
I get tangled up in that no matter how hard I try to be better, I will never get it right this side of heaven..

Ted M. Gossard said...

Hi, L.L.,
Thanks for your kind, encouraging words. Sin involving rejection of God's covering for us in Jesus is indeed sobering. I think along with realizing that in Jesus there is no condemnation, we need to realize that in Jesus we're covered so that we don't live in a way where it's all about our sin and guilt. Yes, we still sin and we're still sinners even though righteous in Jesus. Yet in Jesus it's no longer us, we're covered in and by him. So that while it is us, it is Christ in us that is making the difference, so it's not about all my defeat and despair. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, as Paul said. And the life we live we do so by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us as that covering (Galatians 2:20).

Something like that is kind of the way I think I look at it.

Thanks for making me think on that. I rarely have, strangely enough, about the covering, that is.

Hope you have a good time in D.C.

Ted M. Gossard said...



Yes. So true. When ashamed we're down on ourselves and feel condemned.

But God pronounces us not guilty in Jesus, by faith in him. Even declaring us righteous in him. And taking away our filthy garments and giving us new clothes to wear as we see in Zechariah 3, I believe.

So we have to take it by faith that just as we are incredibly guilty, so we are also in Jesus, incredibly forgiven.

Of course I know you and L.L. know all this. I'm just sharing my thoughts here.

And I like the emphasis on your blog, its title.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes. It's so key to accept both. That God pronounces us guilty and in Jesus, by faith, God pronounces us forgiven and righteous in Jesus.

I think as we do both, while we take sin seriously in our lives, and we must, because even though righteous in Jesus, we are yet sinners (not like the past, but we do still indeed sin, as 1 John 1 makes clear), we need to take by faith the gift we have in Jesus. We're accepted and loved by God just as we are. And it's not so much about us anymore, but about Christ. Christ in us.

I don't like theologies and spiritualities that make so much out of our sin. We must go there but not stop. We have to get beyond that to find Jesus and God's provision for us in him, and live there, and live that out. And keep going back there when we do sin.

It's interesting that in this chapter L.L. does touch on personal guilt and shame and I do too on the post, but it is largely taken up with being victims of others who want to bring shame on us. All this is taken care of in Jesus. And we must flee to that refuge and live there, oblivious to the shame heaped on us by others. Psalm 6 talks about the righteous' enemies being turned back in shame and disgrace, those who sought to shame God's servant and son (or daughter).

Just my thoughts on this.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Dave J.,
Being acquainted with you from church, it does not surprise me that you ask such an excellent question. That's a tough one.

I think true humility is accepting ourselves just as we are, warts and all. Bringing that before God, and then accepting what we are declared to be, and are becoming in Jesus. Both.

God does let us in on our true selves at times, and it hurts to see that. But that light of God exposing our darkness, as L.L. says in the chapter, I believe, can bring healing. The Sun of righteousness has risen with healing in his wings, as we read in Malachi.

We need both. But what trumps all is God's grace for us in Jesus, and his work in that grace, surely.

Ted M. Gossard said...

If I may try to address that, I think neither. We accept both God's verdict about our guilt and corresponding shame over our sin. Then we accept the truth that Jesus took that shame for us, so that by faith, no matter what we feel like, we accept that as true of ourselves, that we're pronounced forgiven of our sins and God has cleansed us and we're on a journey which is well called progressive sanctification, in which we're slowly growing to be more and more like Jesus.

I think we need to be aware of our sins, always. We want that sensitivity. But we don't want to wallow in that. Satan, the accuser would have us do that. No. We want to accept the full and free forgiveness and cleansing we have in Jesus, as we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). And seek to be aware of God in Jesus and his will for us. It's no longer us, but Christ living in us, as I mentioned above (Galatians 2:20).

Kim said...

Hi Ted! Good post. Here's a thought... I'm looking at the idea that when you look back and identify "shame" as a feeling, know it for what it is (embrace it if you will)...really feel it...that you can identify more closely with Jesus. Feelings and emotions are wonderful in that way. Jesus felt shame over 2,000 years ago and when you feel it, it's the same feeling. It brings you closer to Him. It's why He came. To experience what we experience. Feel what we feel. You know??

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree. Shame is not altogether to be shunned. Not in what you're describing.

Jesus it says didn't scorn the shame, but embraced the cross for the joy set before him. And we're to want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and fellowship with him in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

So that we evidently somehow would embrace the shame that he embraced, the shame of suffering according to the will of God, suffering disgrace for the Name.

Feelings can be good, and this is a good one. Reminds me too of what Peter says, that when we suffer we can rejoice greatly, because the Spirit of God rests on us (1 Peter).

But this being a suffering with Jesus. He so idenifies with us his people to this day. So that when we're persecuted, he's persecuted along with us as we read in Acts in his words to Saul/Paul at Paul's Damascus road experience.

Good thought, Kim. Thanks.

The Oho Report said...

Like yourself, my dad had his dream of being a full time pastor. He served three years in Montana way before I was born.

I look back on his wonderful teaching ability and the number of people he influenced in his second career as a teacher.

Also the cultural education his children received by all the students, Community College, that he invited to church and then to our home for Sunday lunch. Many of them were foreign born and our small church was their first introduction to Christ.

God is using you in more ways than you realize

Ted M. Gossard said...

truth2JohnloveThe Oho Report,
Thanks for your encouragement. Good to hear about how your father was fulfilled in his gifting, and how you and others were enriched in that.