Monday, August 10, 2009
I've listened to some Christian counselor friends over the past 4-5 years say in casual conversation or write things on their blogs to the effect that "shame" has no place in the Christian life, that shame is not of God.I am amazed at how often we confuse the Christian ideal with the Christian reality. And more importantly how often we declare the ideal without the hard work of getting there. If we were all sinless there would indeed be no shame. However, while we may be sinless in the eyes of God, as a theological concept, we are far from sinless in how we live our lives daily, and shame is a great reminder of the work that is yet to be accomplished in our lives.
So what's up with the anti-shame motif among some Christian counselors? When our authority-- Scripture-- speaks of it in instances as a God-created experience, is it really appropriate to categorize "shame" as a sub-biblical experience to be counseled out of? I have come up with-- in a matter of seconds-- a lengthy mental list of things I would be ashamed of if I committed these acts.
It's as if we simply hang the label "Christian" on ourselves and suddenly all the promises of scripture are real - NOW. I think this is little more than the prosperity gospel rewritten in psycho-babble.
Being a Christian is not a state, it is a process. What more, it is a process that we are actively involved in, even though we are incapable of carrying it out. Sometimes, I think we think the fact that God does all the work also means that it is instantaneous.
The whole potter/clay metaphor is really good here. The potter does all the work, but it still takes quite a bit of time. Still the clay "pushes back" from time-to-time, and the clay has to be beaten, softened, shaped, reshaped, refined, and finally fired. There are many steps until the clay reaches the point where it can claim to be what it is supposed to be.
Doing away with shame in this world is an attempt to carve a short cut to the next. The problem is, it will not lead us to the place we are supposed to go. It will make this life more livable, at least for the person experiencing shame, but I have no idea what their destination will be.