Years ago I was laid out by a slipped vertebrae and disc in my lower back. During that season of pain, I found hope and freedom in places I would never have known if it weren’t for the pain. That’s the thing about the hard places, isn’t it – they teach you how to see in the dark, and how beautiful the light is. My life is full of light right now, and I’m grateful. I don’t want to take that for granted. I don’t want to forget the dark or the light. The following story is one of my most treasured moments with God, when He broke through a darkness called shame and brought me into a broad place I never knew. I share it to remind us all that we are not alone, that God is good, and that the Light Shines in the Darkness, and the the darkness did not comprehend it.
A while past bed rest and a partial healing, the back pain became manageable but occasionally relapsed over the next several years. During that time a lie began subtly taking up residence within me. You see, I had been taught that in late Old Testament/early New Testament times, the crippled were not allowed inside the temple. This mandate was not in the original law, but added on by the Pharisees, along with a few hundred other extra rules. But the message was clear: if you are broken, diseased or mal-formed in any way, you are not good enough to be in God’s presence. You are not holy enough – you didn’t believe enough to be fully healed.
You know who else the Pharisees decided couldn’t enter the inner courts? Women. Bam. Double whammy. I’m a cripple and a woman, outside God’s goodness, beyond the reach of His love.
Honestly those man-made laws were not a conscious memory for me, because it had been ten years since I learned that nugget of Bible trivia. But what was on the surface was the shame and rejection that partnered with the lies.
One evening I drove far out into the country to attend a friend’s house concert. I was in a good deal of pain, wincing as my little Civic tumbled along the gravel driveway, tensing as I walked gingerly up the wooden stairs. “Why did I even come here? I should be in bed. What good could come of this long night out?” I grumbled to myself. Yet the Holy Spirit within me was drawing me in, and in my desperation, I complied.
My friend’s husband began to sing. His voice echoed anointed through the rafters like warm honey, coating my weary body, piercing straight through to the emptiness in my heart with a wave of hope and love I hadn’t dared to embrace for several months. I could feel my fears beginning to melt, while a lump in my throat grew larger. Then he began singing these words:
I am with you, I’m not ashamed of you
I am proud that you are my child!
I take joy in you, in every little thing that you do.
You’ll never ever ever cease to be
to be amazing to Me.
-Todd Warren, Amazing
Upon hearing the truth – I am not ashamed of you – I lost it. I began weeping uncontrollably as God’s love began displacing all the shame the enemy had been heaping on me and showing me how I’d been lied to. “Remember where those constraints really came from for women and cripples? NOT ME. Those men who laid heavy burdens on people made you think I was ashamed of you. But the truth is, I am proud that you are my child! Rachel, I made you and I adore you! Come in, my daughter, come into the Outer Courts. Then the Inner Courts. Then the Holy of Holies. I accept you. I love you. The veil is torn. You are not defined by men. It doesn’t matter what’s wrong with you or what you’ve done. You are defined by your Maker and nothing can separate you from My love. You are Mine, and no condition of yours can keep you outside My presence. Those were never My rules. You are welcome to draw near; you have full access to my Goodness.”
As Todd finished, the whole room could hear me crying but I did not care. The song came to an end but my holy moment continued – I can feel it now, fifteen years later, when I stop to remember. In a matter of moments, all that shame I’d been carrying around broke and Jesus sent it far away from me. I don’t know how he did it; I don’t have any steps to follow to get out from under shame – I was just looking for Hope in Jesus and He met me right where I was and He set me free.
If you know shame, I have good news for you. Jesus is bigger. Knowing His love will set you free. And He doesn’t care. He keeps no record of wrongs. He didn’t make you flawed. He knows you and that is the very best news because He knows the part of you that’s deeper than the shame, deeper than the reason for the shame. If He knows you this well, any step you make toward knowing Him more deeply will put you straight in line with Mercy and Freedom and all He’s promised you.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30
The King’s daughter is all glorious within; Her clothing is interwoven with gold. –Psalm 45:13
Has shame kept you from God? How can I pray for you?
Has love brought you near? What is your story?