Step out of shame and into your identity in Jesus.
Guilt keeps you in the past.
Fear keeps you in the future.
But shame is about your present circumstances.
Of these three challenges, shame hits me the hardest. Especially on Wednesdays.
“You may want to wear these armguards,” Ashley said as we prepared to go in the padded room where James would do his therapy. He hits himself and others (mostly me since I’m with him the most) to express what he can’t say.
On Wednesdays, we go to a local college with an outstanding autism center with masters-level students who focus on behaviors and communication. He gets rewarded for not hitting, gets lots of breaks, and actually loves therapy day, but it is exhausting to me. Not just because I’m getting hit, but because I feel judged.
According to shame researcher, Brené Brown, shame is related to guilt, but different. Guilt says, “I have done something bad.” Shame says, “I am bad.”
When we go to therapy each Wednesday, I don’t just feel like I’ve made a mistake in how I’ve handled James’s aggression up to this point, I feel like I am the mistake. I am a bad mom. I am bad.
As with guilt and fear, the gospel also has an answer for shame. Peter found it when he experienced the deepest shame of his life. Jesus knew Peter would deny him, and it doesn’t take long for us to see Jesus’s prediction come true. Peter acts exactly as Jesus said he would. And Peter felt that shame. Not just “I made a mistake,” but “I am a mistake.”
But Jesus is the solution.
When Jesus and Peter walked together near the Sea of Tiberias, Peter’s shame was healed as Jesus gently reminded him of the truth and gave him a mission. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked, to which Peter replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you” (John 21:17 ESV).
Shame didn’t have the final say in Peter’s life, and it doesn’t in our lives either. You are more than the mistakes you’ve made or the weaknesses you feel. His love meets you where you are and gently reminds you of your identity in Him.
This excerpt is adapted from Sandra Peoples’ Unexpected Blessings: the Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family, Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©2018. Used by permission.
Sandra Peoples, MDiv, is a leading voice in the disability community and a member of a special-needs family since birth. Her sister has Down syndrome, and in 2010 her son James was diagnosed with autism. Sandra is the executive editor for Key Ministry and Not Alone (Patheos), and her writing has been featured by FamilyLife Today, DaySpring, and Parenting Teens (LifeWay). Sandra, her husband, and their two boys live outside of Houston. Connect with her at www.sandrapeoples.com.
Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/Katarzyna Bialasiewicz