A Shame That Glorifies

"Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" (John 4:29)

Where did shame go? We live in a society where authenticity means to share everything, all our dark secrets, and all things we wish someone knew about us. We applaud such authenticity and call each other brave when we share or blog about something that we've kept in the shadows.

I love authenticity. I love it because it champions the truth about a person. But sometimes I wonder if we've allowed ourselves to play into the zeitgeist, exchanging discernment for license. No shame, no holds barred, no distinction between sacred and profane.

The push for authenticity stems from our innate desire to be known. My friend Jason Locy and I discuss this in our book Veneer. We quote Brennan Manning who says, "God calls me by name, and I do not answer because I do not know my name."

Though we're hard wired to be social, to want to share, to want others to know us, we struggle, as Christians, to find peace in who we are in Christ.

Who Will Satisfy?

When the woman at the well ran into Jesus, he asks for something to drink. She struggles to understand why a Jew would ask a Samaritan woman for water. But Jesus turns the conversation around on her and says, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." (John 4:10, ESV)

She tells Jesus he has nothing with which to draw from the well, because it's deep. But Jesus tells her that if you drink from this well, you'll still thirst. But the water he offers comes from a well of eternal life—all satisfying. The woman presses Jesus for this living water.

Then Jesus tells her all she ever did. She was astonished he knew so much about her: about her past marriages and her current living arrangement (living with a man who wasn't her husband). We don't know too much of her past, other than she might have been living in shame—due to being dependent on someone not her husband, due to abandonment, we don't really know.

What we do know, however, is the woman realized she'd been seeking something or someone to satisfy her and found this very person in Jesus, the one person who shows he knows her inside and out. This story is not about immorality; it's about identity."[1] 

Shame Drives Us To Christ

And that's what we all of us desire. Jesus didn't condemn her for her past mistakes or unfortunate circumstances. Instead, he offered her himself. He offered her a safe place where she could be known. Her shame dissipated as she ran from the well and told everyone she'd met a man who knew everything about her. What acceptance! What peace!

Sometimes our desire to be known gets the best of us and we jettison shame and discernment so we can fling ourselves into the world hoping someone will identify. Ravi Zacharias says Secularism has created a culture where there's no distinction between what should be viewed and used as profane and what is viewed and used as sacred. He says, "Show me a culture without shame and I will show you a monstrosity in its making." (Watch this video to hear Ravi make this point.) 

I believe, as Christians, our collective lack of shame comes from our individual desire to be known. The irony being, Christ calls us each by name and he invites us into intimate relationship with him and yet we ourselves do not know our names.

What would happen if we reveled in our knownness in Christ and told others about the one who knows us through and through?

Today's Prayer: You search me, you know me, Oh Lord. When I sit and when I rise, you know my thoughts deep inside. I want to find rest and peace in my knownness with you.

[1] David Lose, Electronic source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-lose/misogyny-moralism-and-the_b_836753.html




Sign up here and receive The Prayer Series right in your inbox.  

Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.