My daughter and I share some really special things. We share a penchant for singing Disney songs as loud as we can around the house. We share giddiness over baby animal videos on Youtube and excitement over holidays and cuddles and humor and a never-dying love for Taylor Swift.
One of the true joys of having a child is seeing certain traits being passed on to the next generation and taking part in life’s special and ordinary moments together.
But there are other things we don’t want passed on, that I would rather not share. For most of my life I have been shy and insecure and had a difficult time making friends, so I have watched with bated breath as my little girl has begun navigating the social scene of preschool. Will she make friends? Do other little girls like her? Is she lonely? The girl is going to be tall, will she be awkward like I was or embrace her height?
Most recently I have seen the most inevitable of human emotions emerging in her, one that I struggle with that I wouldn’t wish on anyone let alone my own child.
I once heard shame described as a raincoat, in that as much as God’s love and forgiveness is poured on us, so long as we are wearing a raincoat it will not penetrate, it will roll right off our shoulders and form puddles on the ground around our feet.
My girl’s shame is that she is not perfect; she seeks perfection yet, since she is a mere human, will always fall short.
My shame is unworthiness; I seek love and approval, but believe the worst about myself and what others feel towards me.
What form does your shame take?
At the very moment when God wants to completely saturate us, I mean totally drench us through and through with his love and mercy and newness, we put our raincoats on and we deny him, and deny ourselves.
The other day Evangeline was feeling particularly down and so I reminded her of a conversation that we had had several times in the last 6 months. In those conversations, when she is feeling like “the worst person in the world” we ask who is telling her that.
Are mommy and daddy telling you that? No.
Is this what God thinks of you, is he saying you are a bad person? No.
Is this something The Enemy is telling you? Yes.
This five year old knows the answers. She actually soaks up theology like a sponge.
In the past these have been fruitful, encouraging conversations for her and for me. But this latest time was different. She knew the answers. She distinguished the lie. I had done my job and taught her well. But I could not for the life of me force her to believe it. I could not make her take that raincoat off. It is not mine to remove for her.
We can know the truth. We can have the answers. But God help us, sometimes it is just easier to believe the lie.
That is what our shame does to us. That is what the intense shame of being imperfect does to my daughter. That is what the crippling shame of being without value does to me.
I acknowledge the grace of God but keep it at arms’ length.
In the moment of that conversation with my daughter I could see her thought process on her face. I could see her weigh the truth with what she was willing to actually accept in that moment.
And I grieved for her, knowing that even as she grows and matures and hopefully the times she wears this raincoat will grow few and far between, it will always be there. Always easier to pull it out of the closet then receive the transformational love of God.
I wrestled within, knowing that I could walk her to the ledge – right up to the very tip even – but can’t make her take the leap. I can teach her the right ways, but can’t make her believe.
So I grieved for her, and for me. But, I also hoped.
I hoped because of the times others have come around me to help me take the raincoat off, one button at a time. Because each time I am tempted to keep the good things of God away, the lie gets harder and harder to believe.
Because each time I allow myself to stand in the rain, unclothed, unprotected and unashamed, it is more beautiful and miraculous and healing than the last.
I can hope those things for the ones I love, too. For my husband and friends and students and for my son and for my daughter.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4
I have hope because we don’t have to be perfect, because He is.
I don’t have to seek for others to find me worthy, because God has determined that I already am. I know this. And I believe this.
So we have come to know and to BELIEVE the love that God has for us.