For many years I have carried shame in my heart. Some of the shame was self-inflicted from poor choices and some of it was offered to me by people's comments or neglect. I have listened to podcasts about breaking the cycle of shame in my life. I've read books about starting over and facing shame. I have felt shame for a slew of things like body image, personality traits, talking too much, eating too much...and despite all my listening and reading, I still carried it because I think I confused regret with shame.
Recently I began reading my Bible again and to be honest, reading my Bible was a source of shame for me for awhile. I actually have a Bachelor of Science in Bible and Education. I was excited to use my degree to share with others the power someone can have from reading the Bible and gleaning wisdom and compassion. I found that in many churches, being a woman and knowing my Bible wasn't very welcoming. I was asked in some churches to keep my thoughts to myself even though my observations and insight was sound and helpful. I became ashamed of my passion for the Bible and became resentful, so I hid that part of me for awhile.
I shared some of my observations from my personal study of the Bible with a friend and she suggested I share it here in my blog and podcast. I was honestly skeptical and concerned about it. I try really hard to keep my blogs religion free, but part of my faith is built on my connection to God through Bible study and prayer. I am taking a risk and facing those voices that made me feel ashamed and I'm beginning a new transition into some tips and tools for reading your bible as well as topics that are close to my heart in my journey of hope and healing. My desire is to encourage you and not judge you, which leads to my most recent encouraging time in God's word from the book of Revelation.
In college I read the Bible like a text book, a tool for living, and more recently I have seen its more powerful connection to me personally. I often start my time in prayer asking God to put on my heart something that's important in my heart. For a long time I believed God's favor was a result of my effort or faith, but the more I get back into reading, the more I see that God doesn't show favoritism (Romans 2:11). There is nothing I can do to keep me from the blessings of being a child of God. Yet, shame and fear are often things that keep me from seeking God. I was very excited when I began reading this small passage from Revelation 3:17-18.
"You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see."
I relate a lot to the people in the Church of Laodicea. I definitely walked around for many years thinking I was okay dealing with my shame on my own. I was convinced no one could see my struggles, but the truth is, I was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, and I really believed that God wanted me to feel the full effects of this state of being so I would stop my selfish choices. Shame locks me up and keeps me isolated. Shame is a result of being wretched. Shame isn't a state of being, it is something that can be redeemed.
I cannot express the comfort and joy I felt as I read verse 18 and saw God's desire to counsel me, to clothe me, to heal me, and restore me. I was in awe of the fact I don't need to live in shame. I can be made new. In a book I was recently reading, the author, John Bevere, discussed the importance of pure gold that's been refined. When anything gets mixed in with gold, it becomes hard. When anything got mixed into my heart that wasn't from God, it also made me hard, but what a wonderful gift, that like gold, my heart can be softened and moldable. It can be pure. I can walk without shame. I can see again where I was once blind.
This new understanding of being clothed and no longer being ashamed opened my eyes to parts of me that weren't authentic to who I really am. Walking without shame is giving me the courage to open up more about my faith and hope I find from the Bible. I'd encourage you to consider if there are any areas of shame that you're being locked up by. Ask God to show you where maybe your heart has become hard because some things from life got mixed up into it. Consider reading the Bible for yourself and discovering what it is like to read it without shame. Find compassion here in this blog and podcasts and give yourself the courage to find the hope to rise again.