Rewriting Shame's Story
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
All of us have seasons in life of intense struggle. We go through confusion, temptation, pain. We fight addictions and dependencies. We make idols of stone or flesh. What do we do in those days of war? Will we give in to the shame or will we break through to find Christ waiting for us?
This piece was written a while ago during one of those seasons. It heavily references John 8:1-11 from the Bible. If you’ve never read it or haven’t read it in a while, I encourage you to take a minute to read this powerful story.
This piece is dedicated to Mindy Crowder, my counselor, friend, sister, and co-traveler on the road.
The astounding thing that has happened in my process of healing is that the results are so vastly different than what I imagined they would be. In fact, the complete opposite emotional and mental process is happening from what I expected.
Here’s what I thought would happen: when I was finally alone, and could “face” what I had done, I would finally “repent:” i.e., turn into a puddle of regret, searing pain, loss, grief, and above all else of course—feel the total SHAME of it all. I thought for the first time my mind would stop “protecting” me in my addiction, the curtain would come down, and I would finally stand before the world completely naked and exposed for what a loser, a totally depraved human being I truly was. And then, finally then, would I overcome and repent of what I had done. When I was the puddle of filth on the floor. When I was finally my “real self.”
The Pharisees of my mind had gripped my arm, yanked me away from what I loved, and cast me before Jesus’ feet, caught in the act. I stood in my shame before the audience of judges. And I was so, so ready for the stones.
My world was blown off its axis when the silence ensued. No stones, no words. But he bent down on the ground and began to write with his finger in the dirt.
That dirt was me. But upon it, he began to rewrite my story.
The new story he began to write sounded nothing like I’ve ever heard my entire life. To my great surprise, it was compassionate. Not pitying, not excusing, not condemning, not scolding—just pure, unadulterated understanding and kindness for who I am and what I went through. He sees it so, so differently than me. Just like Jesus surrounded by Pharisees, the one lone voice of compassion in the overwhelming company of condemnation, so it was with me.
And here is the incredible thing that happened: when I peered over his shoulder and began to read that new story, and began to allow that compassion in—when I stopped fighting it and just stood in its shadow, being embraced by everlasting love and understanding—my thoughts completely changed character. Each one of the condemning voices in my head was like each of those Pharisees, with stones in hand, ready to pummel me and eventually totally destroy me. But when my Savior retold my story from his perspective, and I started to believe his words, the miracle happened.
One by one, the torturing thoughts, fueled constantly by deep-seated conviction that I was a shameful, disgusting human being, finally went away. One by one. And as they left, I could hear the soft thud of something falling to the ground.
Shame dropped its stones and slunk away into the dark.
After the stones all dropped away, he finally stood up. I could finally see the entire story written in the dirt, my story, and it was not one-dimensional and ugly but so, so complex and beautiful. It was the most classic story, the best kind of story: the story of good and evil, of heroes and a villain (only one exists, and he’s not of this world), of courage and coming of age. There is drama and comedy and romance all there, with twists and turns and cliffhanger moments, and every so often even jump scares. And the characters—ah, they are so rich, intricate, beautiful in their humanity, their own stories so poignant and deep, the tapestry of theirs weaving together with mine…only eternity can trace out these magnificent threads. And the plot, oh the plot of this story…it will leave you breathless in wonder. Only Jesus could write something like this, and in the dirt of all places.
After I read that story and recognized it as my own, stunned that it was me, I finally had the courage to look at him. He looked back at me. He saw me. And his eyes held the most incredible expression of love, joy, and kindness I have ever seen. Not one trace of anger, disappointment, or condemnation existed in those eyes. Not one trace.
“Has no one condemned you, woman?” Oh, the tone of that voice. Rich, warm, inviting, and…can it be possible? Just the slightest hint of humor? A tiny bit of smugness, even? The kind where you raise an eyebrow and one side of your mouth and say to someone, “See? I told you.” There’s no surprise. Just delight. He knew it all along, that this is exactly what would happen…
“No one, sir.” I hear my own voice give expression to the obvious answer, except that it’s actually notthat obvious when you dig a little bit deeper. For when I say “no one,” I mean no one. Including and especially—me.
“Neither do I condemn you.” If Jesus himself doesn’t condemn me, then how can I? Shall I pick up the dropped stones surrounding me and pummel myself? Never. Never again. I am done with that life of shame. I am so, so done.
“Go and sin no more.” He always gets around to dealing with the sin, because he wouldn’t be Jesus if he didn’t. But he only deals with the sin AFTER HE DEALS WITH THE SHAME. Because it is only then I can find the strength to leave that life. It’s lost its appeal anyway. Sin can’t hold a candle to the adventure of the story he is writing.
So I’m going to do what he has asked, and I'm going to go…I’m going to go tell this new story to the world. I’m sure I’ll run into plenty of Pharisees along the way, and I’m sure I’ll even be tempted to pick up those stones of shame from time to time. But when I do I’ll remember that story written in the dirt, and those words that release me. And I will draw my courage once again from that well of compassion and love he has made in my soul, and I will silence the voices of condemnation with one look into those eyes.
My story is yours, Jesus. Write it any way you want. I think you’re crazy to use this dirt called my life to write your masterpiece, but I’m done trying to stop you.
After all, you never stop putting life into dirt and calling it good.