I admit it:  I am an avid fan of The Moth podcast.  If you haven’t discovered it yet, I encourage you to do so if you love a good story.   I listened to a story the other day that sat on my mind for a while.  What I took away was most likely not the intended point of the story but it was what shouted loudly to me as I listened to a woman tell the story of her wrongful conviction and escape from prison.

I won’t spoil it for you in case you happen to “take a listen” but I will give you a few pertinent details to explain my take away’s.  As a young adult, she lived in a small town and ran with a group of kids that were not the best influence on her life.  Unexpectedly she was surrounded by police and arrested, taken to the police station and questioned regarding known drug dealers.  She knew nothing so she had no information to offer.  Her uncle was a prominent attorney in the town and, in her closely-knit family, you did not do anything to embarrass your parents.  She was advised by her uncle to plead guilty (even though she was guilty of nothing) expecting a sentence of a 1-year probation.  Trusting him and following the family tradition of no embarrassment, she did as he suggested.  The judge, however, chose to make an example of her and sentenced her to 10-20 years in prison.  Let me stop there.

At this point before the law, this young woman was guilty of nothing except making poor choices in her friendships.  She was charged with a crime she did not commit and she was stamped with shame she would carry for many, many years to come.  Shame is a stamp.  No, really it is a brand, seared into our minds like cattle with sizzling hot irons.  The smell of shame….burning flesh, a sensory memory.  Shame will creep up on us without notice when we see something, smell something, feel something that brings back the memory of whatever the shame is attached to.  Shame has long, twiney fingers, tangling itself amongst all our memories and creating a lens through which we see ourselves and the world around us.  We remember even when others are not aware.  We see our “branding” and, like cattle belonging to an owner, we feel branded and owned by the shame.  It is controlling and destructive.

Some who experience shame have experienced conviction from some wrong they have committed.  Some who experience shame have been the victims of wrongs committed against them.  Yet shame is non-discriminatory.  It holds its victims in a vise-like grip, sentencing them to a prison cell feeling branded for life.  I, like most people, have experienced shame in my life and its destructive power.  I’ve experienced both types…from wrongs I committed myself as well as wrongs committed against me.  I have felt its claustrophobic cloud.  BUT GOD.  BUT GOD changes everything.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2:4-9, ESV)

For those of us who have put our faith in Christ, we are set free from wrongs committed and from shame associated with them.  It is Jesus’ desire for us to be free, truly free!

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.  Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

I…AM…CONVINCED.  Whatever shame you are carrying, dear reader, you do not have to carry any longer.  There is HOPE in Christ.  Turn to Him, His desire is for you to be free.

NB:  Part Two will post tomorrow.  To hear the podcast that prompted this post, go to  http://themoth.org/posts/stories/a-tale-of-two-lives