Scorning the Shame in Kiev
Robin Weidner, February 2009

“Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.”
Psalm 34:5

A prayer from Kiev...

“Father, certainly there were days when I wondered if this day would ever come. I remember one morning when I was alone, weeping on a park bench, asking you when there would be relief. Asking you when Dave would turn the corner in his addiction. Yearning for just a drop of fresh hope. Praying I could persevere. I left there that morning with a sense of peace that you still had a plan for us. “Hold on,” you whispered to my heart. “Soon enough.”

Watching Dave teach a four-hour seminar for fledgling recovery ministry leaders yesterday was inspiring. It was good for me to sit back and trust. And each part seemed exactly where it was supposed to be. I’ve never been prouder of my husband.”

We arrived in Kiev late on a Saturday afternoon, as the sky was just starting to darken.  We knew we were in store for a roller-coaster ride of a trip.  Wanting to give the message about purity exposure to as many parts of the church as possible, Shawn Wooten had set up for us to speak 12 different times.  We were scheduled for everything from a mini-seminar for recovery group leaders, to talking to the church staff, parents, singles, women, men, teen workers, married couples, and dating couples.

What I didn’t realize was that I was in store for a spiritual journey of personally scorning the shame.  It was telling that on Sunday afternoon, our first talk in Kiev was a communion talk on shame that we gave along with our daughter Bekah.

As we shared with the west sector, Dave talked about scorning the shame of sexual addiction. I shared my temptation to carry my own shame (like being sexually abused as a little girl) and the shame of others.  Bekah shared about rising above the shame of living in a foreign country, speaking the language imperfectly and the challenge of opening her heart wide.

Despising the Shame
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

What does it mean to scorn the shame?  Commentator William Barclay (author of The New Daily Study Bible) offers some insight, pointing that Hebrews 12:1-2 is a “near perfect summary of the Christian life.”  He goes on to say that the Christian life involves a...

  1. Goal — Fixing our eyes on Jesus.
  2. Inspiration — Unseen cloud of witnesses watching on.
  3. Handicap — Our own sin and weaknesses.
  4. Means — Our steadfast perseverance in running the race.
  5. Example — Jesus despising the shame.
  6. Presence — Jesus walking with us.

For me, scorning the shame is a decision that’s a part of my daily walk with God. It means refusing the shame of my own handicaps.  And that shame can come in a variety of arenas…

  • My weaknesses and sins
  • My circumstances
  • Losses from the past
  • Mistakes I’ve made
  • People who misunderstand me
  • Sinful legacies handed down through my family
  • Shortcomings of those I love
  • Physical, emotional circumstances (like body characteristics, health, finances and propensities toward anxiety, codependency and insecurity)

But Jesus himself gives me the key to saying no to shame.  He died what was considered the most shameful death. He was misunderstood, persecuted, forsaken, and slandered. His family didn’t always understand him. One of his inner circle betrayed him and then hung himself. His closest friends fled when he needed them most. While on the cross, he was mocked, taunted and shamed.

Yet, even in the midst of intense suffering, Jesus threw off the shame and threw his heart open wide.  He modeled for us how to move past shame through being...

  • Vulnerable — “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) 
  • Forgiving — “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
  • Loving — “Dear woman, here is your son," and to the other disciple, "Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
  • Merciful — “I tell you today that you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  • Real — “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
  • Surrendered — “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) 

Staring Down Shame

In Kiev, my first deep dive into opening my heart and life came at the staff meeting on Tuesday morning.  Dave and I explained our journey through sexual addiction and codependency. Later, I realized we had shared more details publicly than ever before. But as the days went on, and we spoke with new groups, the vulnerability only increased. When we taught recovery leaders, I was fighting tears as we poured out the intimate details of our battle.

Although we also shared loads of practical information during our talks, I think one of the main reasons we were called to Ukraine was to provide an example of God’s ability to redeem lives, marriages, children and ministries.  We were called there to scorn the shame.

In Ukraine, the shame attached to sexual sin is huge. Although suggestive images abound on billboards and video screens on the metro and in every restaurant, talking about sexuality openly is rare.

Honestly, many churches have been caught in a similar reality.  We want people to stop sinning sexually, yet we really don’t want to talk about it.  We try to shame people out of sexual sin. And, although being ashamed can be an appropriate response to our sin, the truth is that shame is not a good place to live. For many of us, shame is complex. We don’t just carry the shame of ongoing sin.  Our shame reaches all the way back into our childhood.  In fact, shame is the driver of the addiction cycle.

Perhaps that’s why when Jesus dealt with people enmeshed in sexual sin, he lessened their shame before calling them to leave their sin (like with the adulterous woman in John 8). Instead of shaming them, he took away their shame. He treated them with respect and compassion and had faith in them that they would change, come out of the darkness, once they had him - the light of life.

Saying “no” to shame and then courageously facing our sin and losses, allows us to make powerful changes as we...

  • Acknowledge our sin with full confidence that we are forgiven (1 John 1:9)
  • Mourn our mistakes, while trusting his comfort and guidance (Psalm 51)
  • Move past our shortcomings, knowing that his power is sufficient (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
  • Count our circumstances as wrapped in God’s goodness, trusting him for healing and hope (Psalm 109:21-26)

Crises of Faith

Wherever shame comes from, scorning it doesn’t always come easy. In fact, about halfway into our trip, I hit a personal crisis. I was sick with a bad cold, tired, and most of all intimidated about what was still ahead. When Dave teased me about a remark I made in a class, I responded by telling him he could teach the rest of the classes... alone!

The truth was that I felt very unworthy to speak to parents about childrearing, because some of our hardest years fighting sexual addiction stole attention from our children. Thinking of speaking to all of the parents in Kiev was pressing on shame still in my heart.

The next morning my daughter came over and I made an important decision. Rather than pretend everything was fine, I poured my heart out to her with tears.  And then praying with her, I scorned the shame.  I surrendered my fears to God, my guide and comforter, and to Jesus, my companion on this journey.  By the time we were finished my heart was completely at rest.  When we spoke to the parents on Friday night, I felt only love, confidence and compassion.

For many of us, I believe scorning the shame takes many small crises of faith.  There would be no need to scorn the shame if shame wasn’t standing by ready to taunt us, telling us we aren’t good enough, spiritual enough or that whatever losses we have are because we are bad. But it helps me to remember that by scorning the shame, I walk in the footsteps of my Lord.

Personally, letting go of shame in the Ukraine, gave me a deeper confidence.  This confidence didn’t come from me, but rather from God. And truly it was amazing what God did through our visit.

We heard of married couples that opened their battles to each other, wept together, and then felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off of their shoulders.  Women who had been sexually abused were able to talk to significant others. Men and women suffocating under a load of secret sin came out of hiding and found hope. Leaders committed to new paradigms of working with those who are sexually addicted.  To God be the glory!

“In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.”  — Psalm 31:1

Isaiah 61:1-7, Psalm 109:28-32, Psalm 34:4-6

Ask yourself:
Is there any situation in my life right now or from my past that I feel ashamed about? Am I avoiding bringing these situations into the light before God or before others?

Listen to God’s voice:

God acknowledges that we will feel shame. It's often a natural response to our sin, weaknesses or circumstances in life. But he also promises to remove our shame. Go through Isaiah 61:1-7 and write down all of the beautiful blessings that come with God's restoration. For instance, he binds up the broken-hearted.

Imagine the heavy cloak of shame covering your body. It keeps you from moving freely. It's dark and you can't remove it on your own. Now, imagine someone removing the heavy cloak from you. How do you feel? What do you see? How does God see you?

Set aside time to pray and ask God to help you see areas of your life where you feel shame. Then meditate on Jesus' death on the cross. Consider how Jesus scorned the shame he endured and ask God for help in scorning the shame you feel. If it helps, ask someone else to join you in this exercise for insight, accountability and encouragement.

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