The preacher can tell you that God loves you.
Your Bible tells you that God loves you.
The songs we sing in church tell us that God loves us.
Your understanding of theology tells you that God loves you.
At a basic level, you kind of believe that God loves you.
But somehow – that does not take the sense of shame away.
The main narrative in your head, as you wring your hands and approach the Father, is still: “I am not worthy to be called your son/daughter”.
The main feeling in your heart is one of shame.
We struggle to believe that God accepts us, and we have trouble accepting ourselves, because we are filled with too much shame.
“Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you.” (Edward Welch)
Shame makes you want to hide. Shame makes you want to cover your tracks. Shame makes you want to wear a mask. Shame leaves you running scared.
Shame is part of being human and it is what makes us want to hide and cover up.
In reality, you and I are a mess. Behind each of our masks is not a beautiful person. Behind the mask is a patchwork self that is more prone to lie that to tell the truth, to take than to give, to tear down than build up.
The reason we have such trouble accepting ourselves as God accepts us is that we do not want to see ourselves as God sees us. God sees us as we truly are – God sees beneath the mask.
Whatever you’re hiding.
And he does not walk away. He has a remedy.
“I take your guilt and shame, and you receive my righteousness and holiness.” This is the technical way of saying, “You receive my acceptance.”
What is needed on our part is not self-improvement, but self-surrender.
The cross brought reconciliation. That means it restored our relationship with the Father (Romans 5: 9–11). Jesus died to “bring us to God” (1 Peter 3: 18). We now have access to our God and Father, and we may approach him, having “access with confidence” (Ephesians 3: 12).
This is a far cry from the running and hiding that began the story of shame.
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:19-21)