Questioning Spirituality for the Sake of Progress

God does not come to us in our shame and guilt, but rather through grace and redemption.

by Grace Havis
The concept of grace throughout this journey I call life has always been difficult for me to understand and – worse – for me to accept. As a child, my mom would frequently find my Sony boombox sitting outside of my bedroom because I had grounded myself for something I was convinced was unforgivable. The reality is that I was (surprise!) a child making normal mistakes and completely missing out on the unconditional forgiveness God grants us each day. 

I fully subscribed to a faith relationship lacking in love; I was full of sin, and my God was a punishing being. When my friend at daycare slapped me, I physically turned the other cheek and asked if she wanted to do it again, because…well, Matthew 5: 39 “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” The teachings of the Bible were void of the love I know so well as an adult.

Refocus, redeem, rejoice

I’ve now come to understand grace in a wholly different way, experiencing enormous amounts of love even for the parts of me I’ve been ashamed of (lookin’ at you, anxious, deeply over-thinking mind of mine!). The truth of the matter is I’ve caused harm in my life. And yet, the last thing God wants is for me to hang on to those mistakes. Why? Because when we sit in the shame of our pasts, we miss the good things in our present; the beauty of forgiveness, the opportunity for growth, and the support of our communities.

Still not convinced? Let’s look at some facts. Scientific American concludes through a multitude of studies that people who fall victim to shame are at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. What’s worse is we don’t even need to receive tangible judgment from others to feel shame – just imagining a negative response triggers the gut-wrenching feeling of shame. Psychology Today describes shame as a concealed, contagious, and dangerous emotion, leading people to withdrawal or addictions. This is not the life God has intended for us.

I think often of the first time I heard the words to Shauna Niequest’s Pink and Blue where God is described as both a father and a mother: 

"God our Mother, reaching out to us with those hands—mother hands, strong and coursing with love, binding up wounds and soothing scrapes, holding us together, holding us safe.

God our Mother, feeding us, nourishing us, giving us what we need to grow and thrive, taking care of us in big and small ways, seeing us, knitting us back together with love and grace when we've been broken. 

God our Mother, believing in us. That's what a mother does: she looks into your eyes and she says, I believe in you.I know you.I know you were made for great things. A mother says, you're not too small or too scared. You're not too frail or too flawed. You're mine. And that's all you need to know. God our Mother whispers to each one of us, `You're mine.’”

There’s something so intimate about the love described here. It is deeply nurturing and abundantly hopeful.

The challenge in the change

Make no mistake; moving past this – the all too familiar place of shame, guilt, and regret – is not easy. Sitting in that feeling is the last place God is and the last place God calls us to be. I often find myself using Psalm 139: 13-14 as a mantra: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This is a gentle reminder to myself of who my Creator is and the gifts God has created in me. Shame, guilt, and regret trap these God-given gifts inside of me and hold them hostage from the people God has placed in my life to receive them.

Here’s a challenge for those of you who find yourself in similar mind spaces as I do: make an attempt to radically love all of who you are. Because that is exactly how God loves you.

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