From the time I was very young, I remember the acute feeling of shame. One particular memory stands out when I think back on shameful times in my past. I was sitting at the lunch table, whispering something in my friend’s ear, and then we giggled, like some little girls do. Across the table, a fellow classmate smirked and half-shouted to her friend something nasty, followed by a derogatory name for homosexual women. I was eleven.
Hot shame flooded my face, reddening my cheeks and bowing my head low. The shame was an oppressive weight, and even though I had done no wrong, it immediately felt as if I had. And though she could not have known, my classmate accused me of something that I was already battling in private, so her outward comment felt like a breach of secrecy, and made my closeted shame grow tenfold.
The Shame We All Carry
All can relate in some way to this feeling of shame.
The child who is dyslexic, suffering in silence because he or she feels they should be able to understand like everyone else.
The teenager who is called derogatory names every day when he walks between classes.
The father whose pile of secrets keeps him from being able to be honest with his family.
The new Christian, walking in a new life, but is haunted by the past and feels like a fraud.
The old Christian, tortured by a lifetime struggle over a particular sin.
No one taught us how to feel ashamed. Even children experience it. The feeling is so ubiquitous because we are all born with the shame of original sin, from our father Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Not even keeping the law perfectly (if such a thing were even possible) can wash away the stain of sin and stench of shame that we have inherited from the first man (Romans 8:3-4). We all will experience shame on this earth, in this life.
How The Enemy Uses Shame
But shame can be soul-crushing. Recognizing our inherited sin and shame from Adam is good— it keeps us humble before our holy God. But the devil seeks to use this good thing and twist it for our own undoing. He seeks to destroy us with self-loathing. He comes to us uninvited, with accusations not only of our deserved inherited shame, but of complete shame:
Of a failure so monumental we have rendered ourselves forever insignificant.
Of total worthlessness as a human because of the amount or depth of personal sin.
Of public humiliation because of the unjust and un-earned dishonor of others.
Of corruption so deep that no one will dare touch you again.
Long have I felt like this. Like there is some ugly black tar inside of me that if anyone but set their eyes upon it, they would be utterly repulsed and run away screaming. Or worse, they’d go and tell others of what lay deep within my soul, so all would steer clear of the Tar-Girl. In these times, I grow despondent and resigned, believing the lie that Satan feeds me: “You are so dirty, so broken. No one can touch you. Surely no one has the power to restore your dignity.”
Christ As Our Garment
Friends, this is simply not true of those who call Christ their Savior. Our shame has been taken away, and we are covered by the blood of Jesus. These verses have recently comforted me, when I seem consumed by my broken dignity:
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
When we begin to break this down, we can see the way it provides comfort for the humiliated, the ashamed, the oppressed:
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me”
The Lord is my shield. He is our protection against not only the calamities of the world around us, but he is our protection from the wrath of God. The shame that we inherited from Adam is no longer who we are, it is not our identity. His glory becomes ours, as a bright shining shield around our soul. Think on that. The glory of YHWH is your outer garment. Your fortress (Psalm 18:2). He covers us with his wings, under which we can take comfort and refuge. (Psalm 57:1).
Christ’s covering, his envelopment of you, is the reason that you have glory at all. Though we may lament the loss of our dignity, and long for its restoration, the reality is that your dignity was never there to begin with! In you, there is no glory (Romans 3:23, 7:18, 3:9-12). Without Christ, how could we come before a righteous God and be able to stand? We could not. Our sins, our inherited shame, would be as a great weight pressing down on our shoulders and crushing us (Psalm 130:3).
“and the lifter of my head”
Here we are, my friends. The crux of things. Because the LORD is your shield, your sin does not touch God, nor does your shame. Christ was crushed by the weight of our sins, not you (Isaiah 53:5). Thousands of years ago, the REAL God incarnate (Colossians 2:15-19) took form as a man, made himself absolutely low, and chose to die— for us (Philippians 2:6-8). He was crushed. Your whole life’s sin was pressed upon him, and the blood flowed from his broken body. That very blood is what comprises the shield you have around yourself right now (Hebrews 9:12).
The Hope of Dignity
I. Have. Dignity. You have dignity. Is it our own? Certainly not. It is better! It is the Messiah’s!
If Christ is the shield in which you have put your trust, your dignity has been restored, not with some second-rate patchwork “be your best you” knock-off, but with the very regality that adorns the king of the universe!
Christ restores our dignity by becoming that which dignifies us.
Our heads can actually lift in the presence of the Almighty, and we can look upon the face of an all-glorious God— an act that, before Christ’s protection, would have smote us where we stood (Exodus 33:20). Not only that, but we can be embraced as his own offspring: a child of the King, fellow heirs with Christ, who will receive a crown of glory at the end of this age (Romans 8:16-17).
Are you frustrated with your insignificance?
The Lord is the only thing of true significance, and you are His. The Lord is Alpha and Omega, first and last, beginning and end (Revelation 1:8, 22:31).
Do you feel worthless?
The Lord has placed His seal on you. You are worth the most precious material, the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:5).
Have you been dishonored by others?
The Lord is worthy of all honor. He can never be put to shame (Revelation 4:11).
Are you humiliated by your own capability to sin?
The Lord has cleansed your sins. You are righteous before Him (1 John 1:9).
Fear not. The LORD is your dignity. YHWH is your garment.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”