If you have read all my posts on expelling shame, you have hopefully come to understand that God is not ashamed of you. He loves you and wants to use you and all your brokenness to help others. You understand that no matter how far you’ve gone God’s grace reaches farther. Paul put it this way in Romans 5:20, “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” (ESV). Or you find the comfort Jeremiah expressed in Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I hope you have found great encouragement thus far.
However, I am not naive enough to forget a major obstacle in the expelling of shame. It is perhaps the biggest and most frightening of all obstacles. It looms over us as a fierce giant, and we live in its shadows without any hope of escape. We know how God feels about us, but we shudder at the thought of facing this obstacle, because the results are unpredictable, and there is perhaps nothing more fearful than walking into the unknown. So, what is this obstacle? People.
I can’t even begin to describe the trepidation that engulfs me when I run through the scenarios of how people might react to my testimony. I imagine the woeful looks of the pious church members who could never fathom “doing such a thing.” I envision being looked down on at the end of their noses and being the main course (roast Bryan) of their Sunday lunch conversation as they righteously gossip about what I’ve done and said. The looks, the whispers, the thoughts that will be planted in the back of their minds, are all scenarios I play over and over in my mind. People, especially “church people”, can be brutal and are always unpredictable.
Bryan, I thought you were supposed to be encouraging us to share our testimonies, but what you’re saying seems counterproductive (I am chuckling at how many might have this thought right now). Nevertheless, before we can face and overcome any fear we must acknowledge its presence.
Let me give you some examples of how we try to disguise our fear of people in regards to sharing our testimonies:
- My testimony isn’t that impressive (fear of inferiority)
- God just really hasn’t opened any doors for me to share (fear of rejection)
- That just opens up too many old wounds (fear of the healing process)
- That’s just too personal (fear of close relationships -which stems from fear of rejection)
- I’m just not ready to share that yet (fear of stepping out)
- People wouldn’t care about my testimony (fear of the unknow)
- I’m just very shy (fear of rejection)
You could probably think of a lot more. If so, I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments section. That could be a great starting point for some of you to begin your journey to expelling shame.
Is the fear of people a valid fear? Absolutely! We would be foolish to think that everyone will embrace our brokenness with open arms and acceptance. Some people will reject us and look down on us, and gossip about us, and never look at us the same again. But remember this -those aren’t the people you are trying to reach. Jesus wasn’t even able to reach everyone, but he made it very clear who his target audience was, “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,’” (Mark 2:16-17).
Those who mocked, rejected, and misunderstood Jesus were not the ones he was trying to reach. He was not trying to impress the religious elite or cater to the whims and traditions of the self-righteous. He constantly placed himself in the midst of ridicule and misunderstanding for the sake of reaching those who needed help, and that is exactly what we are called to do.
I have found that sharing in one-on-one conversations with people I knew would be accepting and loving has given me the confidence to share more. Each time you share, you find its gets easier. I want to challenge you to look at what has made you afraid to share your testimony and ask God to show you how to overcome that fear, so that you can reach those who can be helped by your witness.
I want to leave you with these questions -which I plan to discuss in the next post: What has made this fear of people such a valid fear? If we serve such a merciful, gracious, loving, forgiving Father, and we are to be reflections of his attributes, why are we some of the most critical and unaccepting people on the planet? When did righteousness become a level religious hierarchy instead of a process of growth in which we become more like our Father?
I look forward to hearing your comments, and I really hope you’ll share this with someone who needs to hear it. God bless you in your journey of growth.