Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Shame, Identity, and Rest

Well, I am back for a brief moment, having lost my blogging energy and time due to our urban project (GUPY). I have loved being with our 10 students this summer and am looking forward to heading to Mexico City on Friday for 10 days with them. Below I am pasting a reflection that I wrote for my students. When I return from Mexico, I hope to resume my series on giving.
One of my “go to” passages of Scripture is Isaiah 30:15-26, and I want to encourage you to spend some time in it yourselves, because it talks about resting in the Lord in order to receive strength. As you all can tell, I am a “do-er” in my flesh, and I will go and go until I cannot go anymore. I want to apologize for leading last night’s Bible study in my own strength and my flesh. I felt like we needed to just get it done, to complete the agenda, and in doing so, I think that the Spirit was not as free to operate, and in your tiredness you may not have been as free and able to receive what the Lord had for you.

As I was spending time in Isaiah 30 today, I read verses 1-14, and in those verses, the Lord rebukes Israel for carrying out plans that are not God’s and for depending on Egypt for strength. And then I noticed something interesting – in verses 3 and 5, God says that their dependence on Egypt leads them to shame. Over and over I tell people that God’s heart for them is not to feel ashamed. (Quick definition: guilt = I feel bad because I did something wrong; shame = I feel bad because I am wrong). So why would God let Israel feel shame? I think that it is because the core issue here (as in all sin) is independence (or lack of dependence on God). When you or I depend on anything or anyone other than God, in a sense we become our own God, our own provider. This then leads us to put our identity and our hope in ourselves and when we fail, shame enters. “I failed and because it was all up to me, I am wrong.”

Even in doing good things for God, we can operate in independence. I sensed that in myself last night, but I plowed ahead anyway. When the study did not go as smoothly as I hoped (I felt like I just could not communicate in a way that was grace-filled), I began to feel shame – I am wrong; I did not do a good job. Shame is a consequence of self-dependence.

And so, back to Isaiah, God tells them (and us) in verse 12-14 that when we depend on things other than Him, in His grace and mercy He allows our sin to become a high wall that cracks and breaks, crashing around us. That is God’s goodness to us to not let us persist in independence. He offers another way, the way of the Spirit, the way of trust. And that leads into Isaiah 30:15-26, calling us to repentance and rest for salvation, to quietness and trust for strength. I get so caught up in finding identity (salvation/strength) in what I do, that it is easy for me to drive myself and others to do more and more. But God is calling us to rest. So whatever that looks like for you, do it. I would suggest taking time to be quiet with the Lord and ask Him what rest might look like for you. It might be Harry Potter. It might be playing guitar. It might be Nerts. It might be sitting under a tree. One thing that I am fairly certain of, rest for us all involved going to sleep by 10:30 (or heading that way). I need to be present to my kids and my wife, to watch an episode of Lost, and to go to bed at a decent hour instead of staying up to give Dan and Erin a lesson in how to play Nerts.

I love you all, and again hope that you see I am on a journey with you in learning who I am in Christ and how to not depend on my flesh but on the Spirit.