From Wanting to Be Her by Michelle Graham…
If shame tells me that I'm defective, grace tells me that I'm valuable. Shame's greatest weapon is the fear of judgment, grace's even greater weapon is the relief of unconditional love. Shame says that because I am flawed I am unacceptable, grace says that though I am flawed I am cherished. Shame believes that the opinion of others is what matters, grace believes that the opinion of God is what matters. Shame claims I must be perfect to earn the approval of others, grace claims that I am accepted regardless of seeing imperfections. Shame makes me hide, grace makes us frolic. Shame is the language of the serpent, grace is the language of Jesus.
The enemy uses shame as one of the many tools in his toolbox to hold us back from true freedom. To believe that God wants us to feel ashamed of the things we have done is a lie.
Let's look at the story of the Prodigal son for further insight to this topic of shame and grace.
STORY OF THE THE PRODIGAL SON, Luke 15:11-20
1. The Prodigal made a CHOICE…
The younger son said to his father, "Father, give me my share of the estate. So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
2. The Prodigal felt SHAME…
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to Him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.
3. The Prodigal received FORGIVENESS…
So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
THE PRODIGALS CHOICE
The prodigal chose to leave home. His father did not send him away and his job was not being relocated. He made the choice to leave home.
Have you ever left home? Have you ever left the comfort of your Heavenly Father's arms? You have a choice, just like the Prodigal.
The Prodigal's choice was dictated by his emotions and feelings at the time. Your feelings and emotions often dictate your choices as well.
Feelings are neither good or bad, they are simply part of being human. God gives us feelings to let us know what is going on inside of our bodies. They are a warning system to us. Feelings are like a smoke detector. They can give us an indication that something is wrong. Although at times, our feelings are like an overactive smoke detector… blaring loud noise and shining bright lights over a piece of toast.
It is important to not let your emotions control you or the choices you make. If you make the choice to walk in the truth of who you are in Christ, no matter how you feel or what your emotions say, then your feelings and emotions will line up to the truth and reflect God's plan.
There are times when you feel one way about a circumstance, but God's view is different.
What is your response when your emotions and God's truth are different? Can you think of an example?
BELIEVE – BEHAVE – FEEL
What you believe determines how you behave. How you behave determines how you feel.
If it is difficult to wrap your mind that concept, consider working in the backwards direction. How do you feel right now about a situation in your life? For instance, let's say that you relapsed into an eating disorder behavior. You feel disappointed and angry at yourself; that you have failed. The following behavior may be to throw your hands in the air. You continue in the eating disorder pattern because you feel that you will only fail again if you pursue recovery. At the end of all of this, you can see that your core belief is that God could not forgive your actions and allow you to start new with him.
Yet, what does God's truth say about this situation? In Ephesians 1:7 it says that our sins are forgiven through the shedding of Jesus' blood. Because of the cross, we are forgiven and able to experience new life. 1 Corinthians 5:17 says that we are a new creation in Him.
Don't miss God's truth in this situation. When you try to fix the situation on your own with a list of "to-do's" you will miss God's best for you. Before you do anything, look at the truth. Discover the character of God. Who are you in Christ? Once you have soaked in the truth, then you can reset your belief system in order to experience healing.
If what you believe doesn't reflect truth then what you feel isn't reflecting reality!
How do you most often deal with your emotions?
Below are 3 options…
1. STUFFING EMOTIONS
Stuffing your emotions, buries your feelings. When you bury feelings, you keep yourself at a distance from others and God. The end result is that your feelings are numb and lifeless.
2. LETTING IT ALL HANG OUT
It is easy to lose control of our emotions when we are hurt and we don't care what we say or do. Letting your emotions run wild and speaking your mind will only deepen the problem.
3. ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR EMOTIONS
God wants us to admit how we feel to ourselves and to Him. When we do this we are able to get in touch with our emotions through being truthful with God and ourselves. It is important to find someone with whom we can share our emotions freely and honestly without hurting them.
THE PRODIGALS SHAME
The Prodigal insulted his father. He abandoned his brother. He lived recklessly. He wasted all that he had. Reflecting on all that he had done, he felt great shame. He even said that he would be grateful to eat what the pigs were eating, yet he did not even have that. He viewed himself as an outcast from his family, no longer worthy to be called a son.
Shame has a voice. Its voice speaks lies. The profile of shame looks like this…
Shame has a negative self image. It is highly performance conscious. It makes you unaware of personal boundaries. It festers in people who are wounded. It is accompanied by a pervading tiredness. It has a built in radar system, tuned to keeping everyone happy and at peace. It makes you ignore your own needs like a martyr. It tends toward addictive behavior, which can manifest itself in overinvolvment in work or ministry. It has no concept of normal. It makes it difficult to trust others. It makes you possessive in relationships. It has a high need for control.
(from His Passion Free by Dave Park)
What do you most identify with? Why?
We all do things that we are ashamed of. When we do things that we are ashamed of, so often we want to run and hide from God. Hoping he will never find out. Or that we'll never have to deal with it. We doubt that his love for us could be the same.
Yet, if we look at the story of the Prodigal we see a Father who is not ashamed of his sons choices. We simply see a Father who loves his son, regardless of where he has been or what he has done.
Watch this video by Rob Bell about a sons shame and a father's love….
JOURNAL IN RESPONSE TO VIDEO
Are you ready to let God pull to covers back and embrace you? Why or why not?
Do you believe that God will always love you and forgive you, no matter what you've done or what you will do?
THE PRODIGALS FORGIVENESS
The Prodigal did nothing to earn forgiveness. He didn't even get the chance to ask for forgiveness before he received it… "The father ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."
Do you need to extend forgiveness to someone in your life? Name the unforgiveness in your life. Who or what is it directed towards? Why haven't you been able to forgive?
After you write it down, offer it to God. Forgiveness is a process, but to start the process you must make a choice. You have a choice to offer your hurts to God and to allow Him to change your heart.
Take your paper and burn it, symbolizing your readiness to hand over your unforgiveness to Him.
When you hold on to hurts, you are are a target for Satan's strongholds. When you give your hurts over to God, the Holy Spirit will come along side of you to heal your damaged emotions. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not taking revenge. The issue of forgiveness is between you and God, not the person who hurt you. Holding on to unforgiveness only hurts you.
Forgiveness is a choice. We forgive by choosing to forgive, just as Christ chose to forgive us. Forgiveness comes from the heart. As you give God your pain, He can heal it and allow you to experience freedom.
COME AS YOU ARE
Whatever you hold in your heart, bring it all to Jesus. He can handle it.