“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5
It never really seemed to bother me if my Mom got angry with me, if she spanked me (my Mother did not spare the rod, and I am the better for it), grounded me (in fact, she once grounded me for the rest of my life), took away privileges, added chores, or even yelled at me. I was sort of immune to her anger. But oh, let her say she was ashamed of me, and my heart would shatter into a thousand pieces. To make my Mother ashamed of me was the worst thing I could ever do. It meant she had a standard she believed I was able to live up to, and my actions had betrayed her trust in me. That cut me to the quick, and I can still feel the piercing pain when I remember those times. And the guilt. Lots of guilt. Guilt that I carried around on my back and in my heart long after she had passed from this life into heaven.
Add to that the guilt and shame of being abused and rejected, of making my own mistakes, hurting others, and rolling around in the mud-pit of my own sin, and it is a very heavy load to bear. No wonder it was so hard for me to step out into the life God has for me.
I “do guilt” well – I used to joke that guilt was my Spiritual gift. I’ve logged many hours in counselor’s offices trying to shake free from all that shame and guilt.
Maybe I’m the only person who has carried that burden, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. I’ve talked with many of you, seen your shoulders stooped under your own load, and prayed and cried with you for release and freedom – we are kindred spirits. The Shepherd/King David cried out to God, “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalm 38:4).
God did not create you and me to bear heavy loads of guilt and shame. But when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, they opened the floodgates and the natural result of sin came rushing in on us. Eyes cast down so as not to see on the face of God the sorrow our sin has caused Him, we slink back into the cave of despair, with our bags of guilt and boxes of shame. “I have to hide myself away, I can’t bear to know that God is ashamed of me.”
Bill Gaither wrote a powerful and beautiful song called “He Touched Me” and the first lines go like this: “Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame.” I can relate to that. What misery is ours when we just stop there – shacked and bound, burdened and ashamed. But listen to the next lines: “Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same!” Oh the blessed release when we allow the hand of Jesus to reach out and take away our burdens and shame and break the shackles from our feet.
Jesus came into this sinful world to set us free – as He read from Isaiah – “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”( Luke 4:18-19, emphasis added). He told Nicodemus, “God did not send His Son into the word to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:17). Jesus came, not to point to you with all your bags and say “I AM ASHAMED OF YOU!” He came to say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Rest from the weight. Rest from the shame. Rest from the guilt.
This morning I came to God, with my head and eyes downcast, ashamed and guilty, expecting chastisement and rejection. And God had me sit right here and write these words, as much, if not more so, for me, as for anyone else. He had reached out His nail-scarred hand and took my bags of misery, and now He bids me rise and face the day, forgiven, freed, and radiant in Christ Jesus. I invite you to do the same.
“He touched me, Oh He touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul! Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.”
Merciful Father, Your grace is beyond understanding, but I drink it in dry water poured out on the dry, parched ground. Thanks and praise to the Lord who sets me FREE! Amen
 He Touched Me, Bill and Gloria Gaither-1963