Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why Shame Isn't Final



circa 1729 B.C. 

She stares at the ground as she walks, face aflame. The baby bump is becoming unmistakable, and she's heard the whispers.

With a stealthy glance, she looks at him and her face hardens as she takes in his glare of self-righteous disdain.

Her grip tightens around her aces: the three personal items she's kept that belong to him - these will prove she wasn't alone in her sin.

*** 
hundreds of years later, circa 1451 B.C. 

She watches as the two men cautiously check both ways and then, seeing the coast is clear, dash away from her home before they are spotted. Although she is accustomed to men not wanting to be seen leaving her door, this time it's different.

This time, instead of the dull ache of shame that has shrouded her for so long, she feels a sense of hope. Instead of selling her body to those who would enslave her, she has given protection to those who could promise her freedom. As she watches the men disappear into the shadows, she wonders if change is really possible for someone as far gone as she is.


 *** 
circa 1322 B.C. 

She's a newcomer to a land where people view her ancestors as scum. With a lineage that's steeped in incest and filth, she knows perfectly well that she isn't like the other women she meets in this new land of strange laws and moral rigidity.

 Although she has chosen to adopt the righteous faith of her new homeland as her own, she wonders if anyone will ever see past her past.

 *** 
circa 1035 B.C.

She strokes the lifeless form of her child, the physical reminder of her faithlessness. She glances over at her new husband, who married her hastily after failing to hide their adultery and frame the pregnancy on her former husband - who conveniently lies dead on some distant battlefield, and she feels alone despite her new husband's nearness.

 As he wipes his eyes and picks up the stricken child, she wonders if she'll ever feel happy again.


 *** 
circa 4 B.C. 

She thinks back for the thousandth time to the story of dejected Naomi, who told people to call her "bitter," and she wonders why anyone would choose such a name for themselves, or even worse, as a name for an innocent baby, especially when a name can so inextricably chart a person's destiny. She wonders afresh why she was given such an unpleasant name as just a child.

 Having answered to the name "bitter" all her life, she wonders if God sees her favorably, even when people don't. Instead of becoming as bitter as her name implies, she decides to accept her lot and smiles as the hope of a sweet future begins to unfold. 

  What is it these five women have in common? Yes, each of their stories were real. Each of them lived through days of sadness and pain. Still, when everything was said and done, these five women would share an honor far beyond that of all other women in history. 


 ***
 circa 2008 A.D.

She had never been here before, but she needed an answer NOW. She pulled me aside and asked if she could speak to me privately. We went into a classroom where she told me a heartbreaking story of shame and asked me, with empty yet searching eyes, if there was any hope. 

Let me tell you, it was a sad story. My mind drew a blank. I also wondered, Is there any hope? As I silently breathed a desperate prayer for wisdom, a chapter of the Bible flashed across my memory. 

I gasped, grabbed my Bible, and tore through the pages in search of that first chapter of Matthew, the genealogy section that is so easy to skip when searching for the Christmas story. Sure enough, there it was. 

In awe, I read her each of the hard-to-pronounce names. Like glittering threads of scarlet woven among names of chosen men stood out the names of five - and only five - women. Instead of stellar, upright wives and mothers, the women named in the lineage of the Son of God each shared a legacy of shame of some kind. First, there was Thamar, the first woman in our story who clung to the proof that she wasn't the only one in the wrong.
And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar...
Tamar's story of how she tricked her father-in-law into giving her children is written in Genesis 38

Next, there is Rahab.
And Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab...
Rahab the Harlot saved the Hebrew spies who searched Jericho before invading it. Although she probably was never considered as worthy as the upstanding Hebrew mothers, Rahab was the one named in the first chapter of the new Testament. You can read her story in the second chapter of Joshua.

 Next, there was Ruth.
...and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth...
Ruth was a Moabitess who moved to the land of Israel. Her people were the product of the incestuous relationship of Lot and his daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As a result of the nation of Moab's wickedness, the entire nation of Moab was viewed by God's people as a bunch of filthy perverts. Ruth chose to leave her land and move to a land where she knew she would be viewed with disgust. You can read about her in the book of Ruth.

 Next we find Bathsheba.
And David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias...
Gorgeous Bathsheba, named here as Mrs. Uriah rather than Bathsheba, has been the poster child for indiscretion and adultery for millennia. Still, out of all the women that could've made the list, Bathsheba was given the honor of bearing Solomon and getting named in the lineage of the Messiah. You can read that story starting in II Samuel 11.

 Finally, there was sweet Mary, whose name means "bitter."
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Mary, who grew up being called "bitter," rejoiced when the angel told her she had found favor with God, knowing that from then on people would call her "blessed." You can read her story in Luke 1-2.

What That Says About You

If you, like the girl who sat across from me that day - whom I've never seen again to my knowledge - wonder if there's any hope for someone like you, let this "begat" chapter illustrate just how much God wants to bless you.

 If you wonder if God has a plan for someone who's already messed up as much as you, go back and read how messed up some of these women were.

 God loves you.

Jesus came to redeem every ignored, abused, deserted woman who feels her life is over.

His plan for you is already signed and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ, who became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

All that remains between you and victory is the decision to stop condemning yourself and trust the love of the One who said, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

 When we tear our eyes off the mess that is us and cast our eyes on Jesus, the shame dissolves and we become women worth remembering, just like the sinful woman who broke her box of perfume and worshipped Jesus with it, washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with her loose, cascading hair.

 Forget yourself. Look to Jesus Christ and live. Shame is over and done.

 Cheers for grace!