Friday, May 23, 2014

Shame on Us, Part II: Uncovering the Spiritual Origins of Shame

As promised in my last post, "Shame on Us: Overcoming Shame's Grip on Our Lives", today I am posting a Part Two on the topic of shame. Part One focused on the research and thoughts of Dr. Brene Brown and her book The Gifts of Imperfection.

Today, I want to share some spiritual insight.

Earlier this month, I attended the annual conference of the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), a nonprofit organization that supports orphan care ministries and advocates throughout the U.S. and abroad. I thoroughly enjoyed the main speakers, workshops and the opportunity to serve on a multicultural panel on the topic of "Raising Children in a Multi-Ethnic Society." 

Perhaps the biggest treat was a workshop I attended near the end of the conference, titled "Shame: Healing the Story of our Lives." Dr. Curt Thompson, a psychiatrist in Falls Church, Virginia, led this workshop examining shame and its effects on the human soul. He also revealed shame's spiritual origins, evidenced in the Bible.

At the end of this workshop I sat alone, struggling to find the tissues hiding at the bottom of my bag. I remained planted, wanting to sit there for the next hour to process his talk, process my thoughts. After a couple minutes I had no choice but to move on to my panel discussion - conveniently scheduled immediately after the shame workshop.

Well, if you'll allow me, I'll continue to process and work through the good doctor's lesson by sharing some major points here.

I'll begin with a description of the workshop:
"Each of us tells a story, whether we know it or not. And in the way we tell our stories, so also we tell the stories of those we parent. From creation, shame has played the role of spoiler. Discover how shame seeks to infect the care we offer to the orphan by first infecting us, and how the healing of shame leads to a story of redemption of the orphan by first redeeming us."
In other words, we've got to apply the wisdom of the airline flight attendant who tells us that we've got to apply our oxygen masks before we can aid a child with his or her mask. Before I can help a child silence shame in his or her life and tell a personal story of redemption, I have to silence shame in my own life and tell my own story of redemption.

However, as Dr. Thompson stated, "Shame is a part of our DNA. Shame is evident in a child's life by the time he or she is 15 to 18 months old." 15 to 18 months old! This stuff is completely ingrained in us.

Where did this shame originate? According to Dr. Thompson, we can find its origins in the Garden of Eden, lurking around, and within, the first man and woman God created - Adam and Eve.

In the Garden of Eden, the snake tempts Eve with the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. His deceptive and cunning words:
"'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.'"
Satan's message to Eve entailed much more than a piece of fruit. His temptation was deeper than the promise that her eyes would be opened. His lies reached far beyond the promise of her becoming like God. His words caressed the depths of Eve's heart, touching her insecurities and deepest fears.

The serpent's message to Eve was "You are not enough." His message wasn't just about what she didn't have -- the beautiful, delicious fruit or greater enlightenment or the knowledge and likeness of God. It was about who she wasn't.

And the enemy has fed every one of us the same lie ever since those days in the Garden.

"Shame tells us 'You are not enough, the world is not enough, God is not enough,'" said Dr. Thompson.

Shame whispers to our souls, from the time we're 15 to18 months old, that we are not enough.

That I am not enough.

That you are not enough.

And yet, God's voice can be heard above the wicked whispers of satan. All throughout the Word, He tells us of His love for us - in all our mess and sin and imperfections.

In Luke 3:22 He speaks these words to His Son, Jesus, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Dr. Thompson took those same words and spoke them over us like a healing balm.

"You are my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Those words were like sunshine after the rainy season.

They washed over me like healing waters.

They reminded me that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

Will you repeat these words after me, silencing the enemy of shame in your soul?

"You are my daughter, my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Amen and amen.

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