A Bittersweet Journey: From Shame to Grace Part One

shutterstock_57747313Rising from His seat in the synagogue in Nazareth, His home, Jesus stood to read this most important passage from Isaiah declaring that He was the long-awaited Messiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. . .”       Luke 4:18-19 KJV                                                                  

Because of its prophetic importance, this particular reference should always be the starting point for any ministry in Christ’s name. Just recently, I met with a young woman who had all of these conditions. She was poor, brokenhearted, captive, bruised and a little blind to the miracle that she was still alive. It had been nearly a year since I had heard from her. Her story to bring me up to speed on her life was absolutely jarring. Prescription drug abuse and meth had put her in life-threatening situations time after time. She had just turned 21 and already life had been so devastating that she had made multiple suicide attempts but someone was always there to intercede. She related that at one point when she was extremely high on drugs and attempting to end it all the person who intervened beat her unconscious so she couldn’t physically carry out the suicide. She was drawing emotional and financial support from one good friend who had reached out to her in her times of desperation. When she described walking, multiple times 30 miles one way in freezing temperatures to get to court and visitations with her children I asked her why she hadn’t called me. Her answer was that she was too ashamed.

Shame is powerfully destructive in the way that it subtly moves us into position to fail time after time without even a fight. On the levels of consciousness, shame is at the bottom just above death with love, joy and peace at the top. One source that I found described shame as paralleling with banishment. If a person is struggling with shame the drugs help them to temporarily escape as it suppresses these lower emotions. This can cause continued addiction with serious consequences as the will is slowly rendered ineffective.

This young woman had gone through a trial of self-banishment as one by one members of her inner circle, friends and close family members betrayed her and took advantage of every success of self-improvement she was gaining through sheer determination and hard work. When her children, her only joy, were finally taken by social services because she hadn’t taken action in time to protect them in this disintegrating state, it was the final act to dismantle her will to succeed. At the time of this meeting with her, the consequences of her choices in regards to the drugs she chose for escape were bringing her to the point of facing hard prison time. She has given permission for her story to be told in part in this chapter.

As we sat together and talked, I could see there had been a mellowing of her attitude and that grace had come into her life. Somewhere in the midst of her crucible of hell snatched from death multiple times, she had been given a kind of sanctification that she was now recognizing as the positive change in her out-of-control life.   We find these words in Romans 5:1-5 NIV 5 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

In the presence of someone who she could trust, she let down her guard and relaxed. She pushed up her sleeves and showed me the writings on both arms that had become her mantra: “Wrap me in a bolt of lightning, Send me on my way still smiling, Maybe that’s the way I should go, Straight into the mouth of the unknown.” (Lyrics from “Call Me” by Shinedown)

In the Scriptures there is an account about a tormented man who Jesus rescued:

Mark 5:1-20 NIV

They went across the lake to the region of the Gaderenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

(To be continued)

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