One of the big, on-going struggles in my life is messiness. We all have mess in our lives, but mine is literal. Whether it was a small student bedroom, or a house filled with children, it's always been a mess most of the time. In fact, some of you reading this might have been involved in cleaning up my mess at some point.
For various reasons I seem to find it a lot harder than most people to be tidy. I've noticed that even a simple task such as putting everything back into the bag after a picnic can feel difficult! Over the years I've developed strategies and made some progress but I also know this is going to be something I always struggle with.
'What do you want to hide? That is a shortcut to identifying shame in your life.'
Well, you all know now what I want to hide. I can feel the same way if someone spots me sharing incorrect information, or catches me being unkind about someone else. There are numerous areas where I feel shame if people see me fail. Welch writes,
'We can fail because of our own sin, but most failure is simply a consequence of being a creature and not the Creator. We are limited and finite. We make mistakes. We can’t do everything perfectly. We can’t even do things as well as our friends and neighbors.'
I realise that shame is a massive and complex topic, especially for people whose experiences have led to shame being strongly ingrained, perhaps from an early age. I won't pretend that there are simple solutions, though I do recommend Welch's 'Shame Interrupted' for some fantastic insights and help on this subject.
The shame I'm dealing with on a day-to-day level is not of the huge, crippling variety; but I still need to deal with it. I've found it really helps to identify this feeling of shame and then speak truth into my situation. I might start by reminding myself:
"Clare - It's ok that people discover your flaws, because they really do exist. Everyone has them. They are a part of being human. You wonder what people will think of you? Maybe they'll think you're human; that you struggle with things too. Perhaps it will help them believe that you will have understanding and grace regarding their own struggles."
I choose to believe the truth about who I am and what my status is, described by Welch below,
"God honored us—it is too much to take in... If you want Jesus, you must be willing to accept the honor that goes with the relationship. Your royal status—ascribed to you, not achieved—has been unveiled."
Honour comes from the one who knows us better than anyone. Someone who sees all our warts but will never change his mind about who we are in him.
I'll continue to work at tidying my house and loving those around me, but wanting to be motivated by love and not shame. I want to love those who enter my home by offering them a pleasant environment (or at least an empty chair to sit in!). I want to love and help those around me by speaking kind and true words.
Sometimes I'll fail. Sometimes I'll notice honest mistakes I made and learn from them. I know that sometimes I will choose to be lazy or uncaring; there's certainly a place to feel convicted, and then to fully accept the forgiveness and grace that is offered. But there is no need for continued shame.
In 'Abba's Child', Brennan Manning writes,
'My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.'
I want my deepest awareness of my identity not to be of a Messie or someone who gets things wrong, but of a child of God, deeply loved by him.