“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows [my shame] that weighed him down.”
Isaiah 53:4a NLT
I pulled the lid off a box labeled “memories.” Inside, it spilled over with cards, letters, ticket stubs and journals. As I took them out piece by piece, I wasn’t feeling nostalgic. Fear gripped my heart. I knew what I was about to do would be hard, incredibly hard — the reopening of wounds that had left gaping soul holes. Flipping through the pages of my life, I read these words: I don’t want another guy to touch me. I’m sick of being used to the point that it disgusts me. How will I face a good Christian man with my revolting past? . . . How can I bear to be with yet another man? I feel so dirty and second-hand. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach, and I could feel the Enemy close. I said a quick prayer that the Holy Spirit might help me take every thought captive (see 2 Corinthians 10:5), and I kept reading. Going back a few more years, I returned to the place where the breaking began. I waded into the horrifyingly graphic details, and the memory of it haunted me. And I felt it all over again – empty, worthless, broken and disgusting – shame.
The day had finally come. She was caught. She always knew that it would end someday. He never really loved her anyway, but she had dreamed he had. It was over – the dream, the man, maybe even her life. The Bible never gives us her name, but I know her story well. She is the woman caught in adultery. On that fateful day, the religious leaders, those who thought themselves above reproach, marched her to Jesus. It may be the first recorded walk of shame. Humiliated, I imagine she never lifted her head. Maybe she believed that she deserved her punishment. Certainly she hadn’t expected to receive grace.*
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew know sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus stood beside her in the shame. The only one who could truly condemn her, chose to rescue her instead. This isn’t the only time that Jesus was marked by the company He keeps. His treatment of the outcasts among the religious society did more than raise a few eyebrows. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” They asked His disciples accusingly (Matthew 9:11). Aren’t we still like this today? Keeping ourselves far from the “dirty” out of fear that if we get too close some dirt will rub off on our own shoulders and taint our precious reputations. In our homes and in our churches, we encourage others to avoid the broken and lost. We don’t want to be associated with their shame. Yet, Jesus made it a priority to go to the lepers, the adulterers and the thieves. He didn’t just “allow” them to sit in His sermons. He invited them into a relationship with Him. He visited their homes, ate at their tables and drank from their wells. For years, I was among those who stood on the outside. Everywhere I went, I was labeled by my sin. But God! When others ran away, Jesus drew near.
“[H]e poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
I held the papers torn from my childhood diary in my hands. What do I do with these memories? Share them? Hide them? In the end, I decided to burn them . . . because that’s who I was, not who I am. The next morning, with the visions of my sin still playing in my mind’s eye, I went for a walk – just me, my Jesus and my music. As Chris Tomlin’s Jesus played through, familiar lyrics made my heart pause: “Jesus . . . who stands in the fire beside me.” Every time I’ve heard these words before I’ve felt a gratitude that the Lord stands with me in every trial, but this morning, He told me, I stood with you in your shame. Jesus got so close to me that my dirt covered Him. The brutality of the cross was more than painful – it was shameful. Beaten and naked, He was mocked and forsaken. He remained there, in that awful place, for me, for all of my sin. He didn’t do it because He had to, but because He wanted to. That’s how much my Jesus loves me! How long has He whispered these words: Marie, I love you, just waiting for me to hear them? He called me by name because He saw past my shame to who He created me to be – His beloved.
See what great love the Father has lavished on me, that I should be called the daughter of God – and that is exactly what I am!
See 1 John 3:1
*You can read the whole story in John 8:1-11.