A friend shared a quote that both intrigued and inspired me: The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

It’s far easier to share our riches of understanding, experience and resources than it is to help another discover who they really are and what God has already given them.  We can only help someone in this deeper way by focusing on their story, desires and journey as we listen carefully to the voice of their heart and the voice of God.

It seems that our culture (church and world) is predisposed is to advise rather than advocate, to declare rather then dig.  It works, at a surface level, because people want quick answers and love to give advise.

We look for what is true in a situation and formulate an answer.  But, as we know, what is true in a moment is rarely the truth about the moment or situation or person.  Scripture says,

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:16, 17 NIV)

I recite the first part of this verse every morning and evening – “so from now on”.  It’s the second part of this verse that I keep forgetting – “regarding no one from a worldly point of view”.  I sincerely want to view others (and myself) as a new creation and not simply understand them by the reactions of their “being-renewed” heart (Eph.4:23) to pain, fear, shame and sin.

Jesus, the one who created and recreates us, is the only one who can rightly define us, so it is to Him we must listen. An acquaintance of mine was asked how he gets such powerful words for people, to which he responded:

When I meet with a person I ask Jesus

  • What have you deposited in this person that you want me to call out?
  • What have you spoken to this person that you want me to confirm?
  • What has this person experienced that you want me to comfort?

These prayerful questions cause us to see a person as both a new creation and one who is being transformed into a new creation.

At a recent Base Camp Gathering, an event for those who have gone through a Calling retreat or the Online Calling Course, we encourage and facilitate each person to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23, 24) by listening to each other and God.  It’s a very powerful and life giving time which feels exceptional, though it shouldn’t be.

One man at this event said, “I have a long line of people who want to tell what’s wrong with me and a short line of people who want to help me understand who I am and what I bring to the world.  That short line started here.”

I want to stand at the beginning of people’s “short line”, seeing them, not from a worldly point of view, but as a new creation, encouraging them on toward love and powerfully good exploits.

Albert Schweitzer said,

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”

Let’s call out the “new creation” in each other and rekindle our wind weary flame.

Gary

A lethal virus is infecting many believers today. It’s the pop-therapy that claims shame is bad. Shallow shame is bad, but only deep shame brings healing. Without it we are doomed.

J. I. Packer tells us, “Seek the grace to be ashamed” (Knowing God).

The gospels describe two different miraculous catches of fish. The first occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 5:4-8) and the second happens at the end (John 21:2-7). They are very similar:

  • In both stories, professional fishermen fish all night.
  • In both stories, the night of fishing is fruitless; not one fish is caught.
  • In both stories, an amateur gives them specific directions how to fish.
  • In both stories, the fishermen catch so many fish that their boats are sinking.

But there is one, huge difference. After the first miracle, Peter exclaims, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” After the second, Peter throws himself into the sea and swims an Olympic-record-breaking freestyle to get to Jesus.

In the first miracle, Peter experiences shallow shame and he runs from Jesus. In the second, Peter experiences a shame that is deep and he races to Jesus.

What’s the big deal about shame?

Shame is a feeling that attacks the core of our spirit. Guilt is the thought “I DID something bad.” Shame is the belief “I AM something bad.” Guilt attacks a part of us (an action); shame assaults us for our very existence:

  • Shame is the intensely painful feeling … of believing we are [deeply] flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance. (Brene Brown)
  • Shame … is that sense of unease with yourself at the heart of your being (David Atkinson)

Shame batters us at the very core of who we are deep down inside. We feel useless, worthless, and empty. Satan uses it to condemn us. And we hate it.

What is the result of shallow-shame?

Shallow-shame creates an intense concentration on ourselves. We feel our flawed nature and we frantically try to fix it. Tim Keller asks, “What is the opposite of Righteousness?  Evil?  No, the opposite of righteousness is shame, and we desperately try to cover it” (Faces of Sin #6).

Our frantic efforts to cover shame produce desperate attempts at perfection. We “hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving” (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection).

Shallow-shame breeds self-focus; but self-focus is the root-cause of every problem in the world. Oppression, betrayal, and greed are all given birth by self-centeredness.

So what are we to do with shame?

Modern therapists suggest we dump our shame and simply embrace our worthiness. Brene Brown writes, “The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. As is.

But isn’t this just self-hypnosis? It’s The Little Engine That Could, huffing and puffing, “I think I’m worthy, I think I’m worthy.” It’s smoke and mirror therapy.

Scripture and Mark Twain both (amazingly) disagree with this advice. Twain says, “Man is the only animal that blushes. And the only animal that needs to.” Scripture says,

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were neither ashamed nor even knew how to blush. Therefore they shall fall (Jeremiah 6:15).

If shame leads to hustling for worthiness, the worldly solution is simply to claim our worthiness. But scripture rebukes us for our lack of shame or our inability to blush.

God’s answer to shallow-shame is deep-shame

The first time Jesus creates the miracle of the great catch of fish, Peter rightly senses his own unworthiness. He says, “Depart from me because I am a sinful man.” He is saying, “Leave me alone until I hustle for my own self-worth.”

What’s different in Peter between the first and second catch? Peter finally experiences deep-shame. He had just denied Jesus three times. He is not the brave man he self-proclaimed. He’s a coward. And that deep shame finally drove him to God’s grace.

Deep shame is different than shallow shame; it drives us to God because we finally find no other basis but his love. We finally see that we can’t fix ourselves and we can’t claim ourselves worthy, even when we huff and puff, “I think I’m worthy.”

Satan uses shame to condemn us. God uses it to invite us. God is greater than our shame. Peter lets his deep-shame push him to God solely based on God’s grace.

Godly grief and deep-shame

The apostle Paul explains the difference between shallow shame and deep shame:

Godly-grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly-grief produces death (2 Cor. 7:10).

Worldly-grief at shallow-shame leads to self-claimed worth. Peter claimed, “Those other disciples may deny you but I never will.” Then his self-proclaimed worthiness failed.

Godly-grief (at deep shame) leads to deep repentance and a life without regret.

Without regret?

Shame isn’t the problem, it’s what we do with shame. We can be angry and still sin not; we can also be deeply ashamed and still despair not. In fact, we can finally find life.

Every human longs for love and worth. For deep, enduring love and worth we need something stronger than self-hypnosis. The solution is grace. Grace says God loves us just because he loves us. It doesn’t depend on what we do or what we claim.

That’s why Paul can write, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus.” Nothing, not even shame. In fact, deep-shame drives us to grace.

Let’s seek the grace to be ashamed and simply yield to grace; no striving, no hypnosis. He loves us because he loves us. That can never be removed.

We have a worth that can never be taken, and we have a life with no regret ever again.

Sam

John Wooden said, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

This is such a profound and helpful piece of advise.  So often we won’t explore, try or offer because of something we “can’t do”.  We say things like:

I can’t get my church to endorse me.

I can’t get certified in this field.

I can’t afford to build my own retreat center.

I can’t get a publisher to take my book.

I can’t draw a large audience.

I can’t make a living doing this.

I can’t get into “that circle.”

By this, I don’t mean giving up your desires because they are difficult and will take time to fully develop and doing something that’s immediate and useful.  We’ve all heard statements like, “that’s a nice idea, but that’s probably not going to happen so why don’t you focus on your work and family and helping out at church.”

By this, I do mean there is something very powerful, glorious, weighty that you have to offer to others that’s not dependent on the economy, education or endorsements.

So often we define the effect that we desire to have by the way we’ve seen or experienced it.

We’ve been deeply moved by a teacher, author, counselor, pastor, speaker or a particular place and are compelled to bring the same effect to others.  We mistakenly assume that we are to do the same thing in the same way.  After all, large audiences and book sales, and beautiful proprieties can be quite enticing possibilities.

But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide.”  Trying to be someone else, no matter how admirable they are, will only lead to disillusionment – for ourself and others.  Living a life of imitation will ultimately teach others to be someone other than who they are.

The real issue is that we offer “the good stored up in [our] heart” (Luke 6:45) where and when it’s needed through whatever means are presently available.

Instead of waiting to gather hundreds, talk with that one person you’ve noticed is struggling.  Instead of reserving your thoughts for a publishing deal, offer it to others now through weekly blogs.  Instead of holding back your desire to encourage and strengthen couples until you can buy a lodge property, invite them to stay at your house for a weekend.  Instead of insisting that your church endorse you as one of their leaders / ministers, offer your understanding of God to others as a fellow journeyer.

So, don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.  Offer what God has given and developed in you with humility, gentleness and patience (Eph. 4:1,2) as He reveals a need for it.  As we read in James 4:17 “If anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Emerson

Together, let us offer to the world what God has put within us.

Gary