‘Shame can only be absorbed by true love-a love which affirms the value of the person and seeks the greatest good for him or her with all its strength.’
Ever since I first read these words by Karol Wojtyla (before he became John Paul ll), I have pondered this truth. And witnessed it in action: holy love evaporates the veil of shame around us until we actually live in the light of that love.
We approach Lent next Wednesday. We have over 40 days to reflect upon the face of holy love in Christ Jesus. As He exposes new layers of sin in order to purify love in us, we do well to allow Him to absorb our shame. That feeling of exposure, the nakedness we experience when He reveals our mixed motives, can tempt us like the original pair to turn away from love. Stay near Him. Stay near persons who love Him and who uphold you in holy love. Love will conquer shame and protect your vulnerable heart.
Let me give you a few examples. We had a marvelous training in the Philippines with a mostly Asian team. We had all been through a lot of hard changes and came expectant yet tempted by some fear. For me, the whole international scene had become a shameful thing due to a series of negative experiences with former colleagues. And we all knew we faced big challenges in welcoming Roman Catholics amid a context that tended to be evangelical and reactive to Catholics.
Jesus prepared the team by giving us great drafts of love for each other. Whenever we met, it seemed like the water levels of our mutual respect and affection rose. It was earthy, holy love, deeply human yet divine. I articulated the shame I felt; the face of Jesus in my colleagues burned off the haze and freed me to mobilize for the mission. Even when certain ones complained about my Catholic views, I did not return to the darkness. Love freed me to bear inevitable conflicts without buckling. Love conquered shame.
I just finished a wonderful conference in Los Angeles. While there, I met with three men who have meant much to me over the last three decades: Vineyard Pastors Don Scortino, Bill Dwyer and Brad Bailey. Having now faced many leaders who will no longer support Living Waters and the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction, I felt a little fear and shame. Am I still welcomed there? Their unqualified advocacy flowed like water on dry ground. Their love absorbed shame and created protected space for me to thrive.
During the conference itself, many gathered from around the Southland. Dried out from harsh winds of heresy, these persons sought Real Presence–the oil of anointing and merciful waters in order to thrive in their commitment to sexual wholeness. Pilar, a lovely woman and Living Waters leader who Jesus gently restored from the impact of a lesbian affair, said it best: ‘Jesus is bringing me into a season of intimacy that I would never have known had I not offered my brokenness to Him.’ Real intimacy absorbs the shame of false lovers.
This Lent, let us allow holy intimacy to absorb the shame we still bear. Each week, I will be writing on one of the 7 deadly sins. As we ask the Light of the world to expose the nuances of these sins in us, I urge you to welcome Love in your brokenness. Exposed, seek cover in the Crucified. Let Him shine on your intrinsic value; let that value grow and rout out the sin that still besets us. Holy love absorbs shame.