The other day, my son Jake called to chat.
Even during his wandering years, he called regularly to sort through his questions and concerns.
This particular day he struggled to understand why it’s so difficult for him to receive generous gifts from others.
We revisited an experience from his teenage years.
Though typically reliable and obedient, he made a costly choice one winter night.
Long story short, he pulled into a parking lot, spun around in the snow, hit a concrete structure, and caused about three thousand dollars’ worth of damage to my truck. He was devastated. I was stunned.
We sat down as a family and processed what happened.
Jake’s little brothers asked him questions and he humbly answered them.
Kevin leaned in with fatherly strength and said, “Son, you’ve just taken a huge withdrawal from the ‘trust’ account. We have to deal with the consequences of this costly choice.
However, I want you to know something: Your account is not empty. We love you. We still trust you and respect you. You are a trustworthy son.”
Now I sat on the edge of my treadmill and held the phone close to my ear. “Jake, do you remember what you were doing when Dad said those words to you?”
He whispered, “Um, no. I don’t.”
I continued, “You gripped the arms of the chair and looked down at your feet. You couldn’t even look up at him.”
Jake went silent on the other end.
“Honey? Are you there?”
His voice cracked. He whispered, “Mom, I always knew you and Dad handled that incident brilliantly, but I couldn’t exactly remember how it all played out that day. Something got in me when I made a choice that so defied the things I care about most. I could never imagine that I’d do what I did. I’ve never really been able to get past it. Oddly, I had no idea that my posture was so shut down when Dad spoke to me. I faintly remember his words now, but they sure didn’t go in back then.”
“That’s shame, son. That’s what got in you that day. It’s shame. Could it be that underneath your strong work ethic is a heart that doesn’t believe that God might want to lavish a goodness on you that goes beyond your efforts or even beyond what you think you deserve?” My voice cracked as I asked such probing questions.
Again, more silence from Jake.
Then, my big, husky, first-born son started to cry. I sucked in a sob.
“Oh, honey. Can I just tell you? I love you so much. And that shame? It’s not from God and it’s not from us.”
We both struggled to find words.
He then asked me, “Is this what has held me back all these years? Is this why it’s difficult for me to receive out-of-the-ordinary kinds of gifts? And why I don’t ask for your help or for God’s? Because of shame?”
“I think so, honey. But imagine how delightful your relationship with God could be if you learned to approach and even pursue Him with assurance and confidence, convinced that He’s good and that He has set His affections upon you.
I’d say, right now, you’re missing the best parts of this relationship. But what joy for you to discover an unhindered, joy-filled relationship with your Father who loves you and loves to lavish His goodness upon you!
Doing so will affect every aspect of your life: your work, your play, your bike riding, and your morning coffee with your wife.”
How often does shame keep us from audaciously running into the arms of our Father not only to receive grace just after we’ve blown it, but to dare to ask for things we could never earn, deserve, or acquire on our own?
After my conversation with Jake, I wondered:
Is shame just a negative emotion and a skewed mind-set, or an actual parasitic force that drains life, takes life, and keeps us from the life God has always intended for us?
Consider what’s true about some of the mind-sets we often embrace:
- It’s not humility that compels us to shy away from God and ask little from Him—it’s shame.
- It’s not integrity that keeps us from asking for God’s help when we need it—it’s pride, independence, and shame.
- It’s not noble to go without something that God has promised to provide—it’s an orphan-mentality rooted in shame.
- It is not justice that keeps us far from God after we’ve blown it—it’s shame.
- It’s not kindness that keeps us from ”bothering” God with our persistent requests—it’s either spiritual laziness or shame.
We don’t have to try and convince God to be good to us. In fact, He’s the one trying to convince us to receive and walk in His goodness.
Here’s what’s true for the person who is in Christ, and is therefore, His joint-heir:
- We are recognized in the heavenly court and have every right to appear before the King, assured of His glad welcome. (See Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16)
- We have an Advocate—Jesus Himself. He intercedes for us day and night. We’re not bending the ear of an unrighteous judge in effort to get his attention. (See 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 7:25.)
- We have the affection and attention of our star-breathing God who loves us and intends to finish what He started in us (See Psalm 18:6; Philippians 1:6.)
I used think of being shameless in only negative terms: someone with no social awareness or sense of common decorum, someone with no fear of God and no concern for others.
And while that alarming aspect of our culture is growing by leaps and bounds, let’s not throw out its counterpart: Shameless—audacious, unconcealed, undisguised, transparent, unashamed.
Jesus invites us into His presence without shame, without our past baggage, without the need to cover ourselves or to be someone we’re not, without the enemy’s constant taunts in our ear telling us we’re not enough, and without the self-deprecating slurs we constantly hurl at ourselves.
Jesus wants us, invites us, into His presence, expectant and full of faith — full and free, healed and whole.
Adapted from Your Powerful Prayers; Reaching the Heart of God with a Bold and Humble Faithby Susie Larson (Bethany House)