Living Shamelessly, Part 1

“Why do you love China so much?”

We’re sitting in my living room on my couch, and my friend’s question makes me pause in thought. There are so many reasons why I felt at home as soon as I stepped off the plane into Beijing last year, so many reasons why I have a special love for these people. But this Sunday, one thing in particular is coming to my mind.

On May 2nd this year, a thirteen-year-old boy and a fifteen-year-old boy in Jiangsu Province took their own lives because they were unable to fully complete the homework that had been assigned to them over Labor Day. Teen suicide because of perceived failure at school is common in China.

shame“A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.” That’s how the dictionary defines one of the strongest emotions I have ever experienced—shame.

If I’d been born in China and didn’t know Jesus in high school, that could have been me. My heart aches for those who are held in shame’s captivity, because I understand it so well.

Like me, you may not have ever considered suicide because of a late homework assignment. But when I read the comments on this blog, I know that you too are familiar with the crippling power of shame. You feel that you’re inadequate, worthless, hopeless, stuck, a chronic failure—anything but free.

Once, Shame Didn’t Exist.

The man and his wife were naked. That’s how Genesis 2:25 describes them. They were completely seen, completely known, and completely free. “Naked, and not ashamed.”

You know the rest of the story. Eve believed Satan’s lies over her Maker’s truth. Then she and Adam disobeyed God’s one command. Look carefully at what happened next:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (3:7).

This is huge! The very first action that took place after the Fall was an action of shame. Their instinct to cover themselves could not have been for the sake of modesty; they were man and wife and their nakedness had been blessed by God. They covered themselves because the feeling of disgrace was born for the first time when sin entered the Garden of Eden.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (vv. 8–10)

When God came into the Garden looking for them, even their loincloths weren’t enough covering. So they scrambled, looking for a place to hide—somewhere He might not notice them. Trees! Maybe He wouldn’t see them in the trees. Their previous freedom and confidence with God when He walked with them in the garden had been replaced by fear.

Our own shame cycles look strikingly similar, don’t they?

  • You sin.
  • You feel hopeless and guilty, so you instinctively try to cover your guilt.
  • Your attempts to alleviate the shame are as effective as a crude loincloth made out of leaves.
  • It doesn’t work, and you want to hide from God and others. You are afraid.

Or perhaps your shame isn’t over something wrong that you’ve done. Perhaps it’s over your failure to conform to the desires or expectations of others.

  • You fail.
  • You feel worthless and inadequate, so you instinctively try to cover your inadequacy.
  • Your attempts to alleviate the shame are as effective as a crude loincloth made out of leaves.
  • It doesn’t work, and you want to hide from God and others. You are afraid.

What would it look like—and what would it feel like—if all your shame could be dissolved?

Come back tomorrow for Part 2, where we’ll look at God’s solution for our shame.

About Author

Lindsey Lee

Lindsey Lee's greatest passion is to see the glory of Christ, cherish Him unreservedly, and assist others in doing the same. She makes her home in Toronto.

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