I have been wanting to write about this one for a while. This is deep and digs into a bunch of feelings that we’d rather not deal with. But, I think as women that are searching for freedom in our bodies, it must be dealt with. Hang with me...
How shame started.
This word is big and carries a big load. Shame is “a painful emotion caused by the consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety; it’s the feeling of humiliating disgrace.” (Merriam-Webster) Yep, I know that feeling all too well, and I bet you do, too.
It's hiding in your clothes.
It's feeling like your body is gross when you're in the dressing room.
It's when you catch someone glancing at your belly.
It's feeling like a sloppy giant at the gym.
It's despising your stretch marks.
It's feeling like you're the largest woman in the room.
It's trying to be as invisible in your skin as possible.
Do you know when feelings of shame first came on the scene? We actually have a very clear before and after scenario…let’s take a look:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and everything in it, including man and woman. He created the beautiful and perfect garden of Eden and placed Adam and Eve there. “Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25)
No shame yet. Awesome.
But then…the serpent tempted Eve, she gave in to the temptation and so did Adam. They both sinned. “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.” (Genesis 3:7)
There it is. The split second sin entered the world, BOOM...shame appeared on the scene. As soon as Adam and Eve’s hearts were conscious of their guilt and the feelings of separation from God, shame flooded in.
Shame attaches itself to sin. But did you catch how and where it latched itself on? This very first incidence of shame was attached to the physical body...specifically a naked body. This is so interesting. The enemy's favorite vehicle for shame is clearly our bodies.
You sneaky devil.
The enemy's favorite vehicle for shame is our physical bodies.
Why our bodies of all things? Something big is represented here. Our physical nakedness surely represents our souls...our raw, unpretentious, fully known souls. And along with sin, this body shame has continued on from generation to generation. Wherever sin exists, body shame is creeping alongside.
"I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens." Ezra 9:6
What is the posture of shame? Crouching, covering, hiding.
Kids. Always a good example.
My boys are hilarious. It could be a little boy thing, or it could just be a child thing, but they prefer to run around naked. I can't keep clothes on them. Clothes are a burden from feeling full-on freedom.
They are young enough to not have tasted from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of course, they sin, but a deep, guilt-inducing knowledge of it is not there. And coincidentally, neither is physical shame.
Unfortunately, you can begin to see the shift as they develop more awareness, more insight into who they truly are. Embarrassment. The need for privacy.
Take a look at young teenage girls. They are becoming keenly aware of their bodies and shame starts to creep in.
I knew a girl in junior high that developed large breasts before anyone else. She walked around with her arms folded in front of her all the time. She was ashamed of her boobs. Later, I trained a junior high volley ball player that was particularly tall. She developed a hunch to minimize her height.
I remember my own shame at that age. I always had a boyish figure with no chest, and I hated it. I was ashamed of my body.
Grown Woman Shame.
Even as women, our shame is still so deeply attached to our bodies. We don't want to be seen naked (even by our own husbands, sometimes). We'd rather hide behind clothes that make us look better, slimmer, and more fit. (Black yoga pants with a control top waist anyone?) Nothing sounds as horrific as standing on a stage fully naked for all to see.
Perhaps we feel like our bodies are the spotlight into our souls. We feel exposed. Our bodies reveal our choices and our imperfections.
"I feel horrible...I'm ashamed that I ate the piece of cake when I didn't intend to, and now I know my naked body will suffer for it. And you might see my shameful choices because of the shape of my body."
On go the baggy sweats and sweatshirt.
The salvation process is beautiful. The moment we let Christ pour into our souls He begins the work of perfection. He goes to work right away, digging out the chunks of sin and the things that separate us from God. We can't do this on our own...it's His job, we need to only let Him.
The perfecting process (sanctification) hurts sometimes, but the end goal is to bring us to that garden again, where we are once again in perfect communion with Him, free of sin, and free of shame. Clothed in His perfection (His white clothes), that cover our shame, every bit of it.
As believers, physical shame is something we must contend with as we allow Christ to do His perfecting process. As the sin gets rooted out of us, shame will begin to evaporate too.
Romans 6:20-22 says, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.”
And Romans 5:5: "And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Freed from sin and freed from shame. Awesome!
Are you ashamed of your body?
Like most women, you might be thinking that this nasty body shame will recede when you lose some weight. Then you will have a body that you're proud of, not ashamed of.
But check yourself. It's not a matter of being proud of your body. The world certainly sees it this way. “Just be proud of your body!” Instead of shame, we see flaunting and often inappropriate body worship. I guarantee there is still shame lurking under the surface.
Check out 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."
Even those that think they have everything but haven't bought into the wealth that Jesus offers, are still wretched, pitiful and naked. They're empty yet probably full of disgrace.
Look at the child again or even Adam & Eve in the garden. In the absence of physical shame, they don't have pride. Their eyes are simply not on their bodies at all.
As we allow Christ to sanctify us, in the absence of shame, we will have eyes that are pointed away from our bodies. He gives us white clothes to wear that cover our shame and special salve for our eyes so that we can clearly see Him.
Jesus. Always a good example.
What about Jesus? Did He feel shame like we do? You bet He did. Shame is not a sin, it just likes to hang out with sin, and Jesus certainly got right into the nitty-gritty with sin. He definitely understands what shame feels like, even body shame.
Hebrews 12:2 says that He “endured the cross, despising its shame.” He was hanging there naked, for all to see. He felt how we would feel if we were standing naked on a stage. He knows what humiliating, naked disgrace feels like.
But what did He do? He hated that shame and spoke to it like this:
“Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less than nothing. You are not worth comparing to that! I despise you. You think you have power. Compared to the joy before me, you have none. Joy. Joy. Joy. That is my power! Not you, Shame. You are worthless. You are powerless.
You think you can distract me. I won’t even look at you. I have a joy set before me. Why would I look at you? You are ugly and despicable. And you are almost finished. You cover me now as with a shroud. Before you can say, ‘So there!’ I will throw you off like a filthy rag. I will put on my royal robe.
You think you are great, because even last night you made my disciples run away. You are a fool, Shame. You are a despicable fool. That abandonment, that loneliness, this cross — these tools of yours — they are all my sacred suffering, and will save my disciples, not destroy them. You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.
Farewell, Shame. It is finished.” (-John Piper)
Farewell, shame. You are finished.
Understand that you won't be free from body shame when your body looks terrific. The only way shame and humiliating disgrace will leave is when you let Christ begin the sloughing process inside of you. He will slowly replace sin and shame in your life with His power and joy...beautiful joy.
And then you will finally be able to boldly say, "Farewell body shame. You are finished."