If you have followed the 3 entries on “Shame” I posted during the last week, you may wonder why I posted these. Partly because I was moved by a story I had heard. Partly because people who are struggling with shame will read a post named by it. Those searching the internet will hit a site named “Shame” because it is where they are in their lives at that point. They might not find it named something else. So there is something in a name that draws us.
If I were to name all the experiences in my life by the failures, trials, struggles, and difficulties it would look like a sordid list of a life wasted in some way. I could have named those posts Freedom or Letting Go or Deliverance or any number of other things that might have drawn a different audience and perhaps included some people struggling with hidden shame in their lives, not knowing how to get free from it. I chose to name it by what it was in order to target these particular people (which comprise much of the crowd around us in any given day.)
I may have a list of hardships or failures but I can choose how I name them. It’s all about perspective. When I choose to name these things by my own actions, it will be all about me and how I struggled. How I hurt. How I tried to work it out. However, when I choose to name these things by what God did, my perspective shifts. Then I have stories of Deliverance, Provision, Rescue, Shelter, Comfort, Love, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faithfulness…truly awe-inspiring stories of who God is. It becomes all about Him and not about me. All of a sudden my life looks like a record of magnificent things God has done in me and in my circumstances. It looks like the mighty God I worship. It is a practice I have to continue to hone and remind myself of daily. Some days I do a really good job to stay focused on where God is working and who He is and other days I get very me-focused and those days are one-sided and unfulfilling in comparison. I love this quote by Alexander MacLaren as he talks about Abraham, called by God to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. Read it and ask yourself: How do I name the challenges in my life? By what I have done or by what God has done in and through and around me?
Abraham christened the anonymous mountaintop, not by a name that reminded him or others of his trial, but by a name that proclaimed God’s deliverance. He did not say anything about his agony or about his obedience. God spoke about that, not Abraham. He did not want these to be remembered, but what he desired to hand on to later generations was what God had done for him. Oh! dear friends, is that the way in which we look back upon life? Many a bare, bald mountaintop in your career and mine we have names for. Are they names that commemorate our sufferings or God’s blessings? When we look back on the past, what do we see? Times of trial or times of deliverance? Which side of the wave do we choose to look at, the one that is smitten by the sunshine or the one that is all black and purple in the shadow? The sea looked at from the one side will be all a sunny path, and from the other, dark as chaos. Let us name the heights that be behind us, visible to memory, by names that commemorate, not the troubles that we had on them, but the deliverances that on them we received from God.