Shame cast a deathlike shadow over the young girl. Not only because of the abuse that had happened so long ago, but her shame arrived almost daily as a result of others’ mocking cruelty and learning that whatever she did somehow fell short of expectations. This shadow clung to her even as she grew into a young woman. Perhaps she could at least try to do things better, couldn’t she? Then others would be pleased and like her more. If those around her were pleased with her surely she would feel better, feel that she was more valuable.
But that did not work.
No matter how hard she tried, it seemed as though she was never pleasing to most people, never made those around her happy, and the anger she often drew from them became overwhelming. And her own anger for which she also felt great shame became secretly entombed. At least for a time.
So she became more reclusive.
Surely if she just kept quiet, no one would be displeased with her. Perhaps they would not even notice her. Even if they ignored her at least they would not hate her, would not become so easily angered with her. And maybe that would be okay.
But that did not work either.
If anything people seemed to become even angrier, more displeased. So she found it easier and easier to lie, to be deceitful about things she had done, to keep secrets, and to do all she could to avoid the blame others wanted to pin on her. Her own anger had a way of working its way to the surface at odd times. Rage turned outward, but also turned inward.
Can you identify with this young woman’s shame and guilt? While this is not the story of my life I certainly can identify.
Have you ever felt overwhelming fear of others and their anger, maybe even a fear of your own anger? I have.
Shame, guilt, fear. A deadly combination. Perhaps not to the body, but certainly to the heart. While it is never wise to blame our past for our deep hurts, we need to recognize it for the horrible thing it may have been. But there is something else we can do. Realize there is hope.
Let’s go back in time and watch as Jesus interacts with a particular woman—a woman who, according to the cultural standards of His day should have been left to wallow in shame and guilt and yes, fear of others.
The Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 had been married five times and was now living with a man. She went to the well to draw water at noon, when the sun was at its zenith and “beats with its greatest vehemence” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/john-4-6.html). And when other women would probably not be there. And Jesus spoke to her. We see the woman’s surprise because first of all “the Jews have no dealing with the Samaritans”, and secondly because men did not usually address women in public. When she admitted that she was not married, Jesus acknowledged her honesty, not just once but twice. I believe he was complimenting her. Yes, he acknowledged her sin but he had already given her a way out of the shame by offering living water, and later telling her about true worship which involved worshiping God in Spirit and in truth. Somehow I don’t think she ever had a problem with the truth part.
She became a believer, and took the news to others.
There are many other examples of Jesus interacting with women. The little I have given you here will hopefully whet your appetite to learn more on your own. There are other women in the Bible who just can’t wait to tell us their stories, women who do not always begin well, but who Jesus more loves than we can imagine. Just as he loves you and me.
Guilt and shame can create a huge barrier in learning to accept God’s love. But if you are in a relationship with Him through Christ, He sees you as blessed, adopted, chosen, and blameless in his sight (Colossians 1). He does not see you as others may. He sees your heart. And I’ll bet if you are taking time to read this article in order to learn more about Christ, you already have a good heart. Seeking Him above all else is what we need to do, but any step we take in that direction is, to say the least, pleasing to Him.