Breaking the bondage of shame

In the last blog post I talked about how shame lingers. Even the most lightweight of mistakes can leave my cheeks burning red and my insides curling up and trying to hide. Even though I know I am forgiven.

One of the people who blew it spectacularly and then had to come face to face with the one he had wronged was Peter. Jesus rose from the dead, and no doubt Peter was utterly delighted to see his great friend and teacher again. And yet… when I imagine him face to face with Jesus eating breakfast on the beach, I can feel my own pangs of shame that resonate with his.

You know how smells evoke memories incredibly strongly? For me, the scent of a particular kind of wood fire immediately transports me to Kampala in the early morning. For Peter, I wonder if the aroma of the charcoal fire on the beach reminded him of the smell of the charcoal fire in that courtyard outside the High Priest’s house – the stench of his betrayal, fresh in his mind as he looks at his risen Lord.

How must Peter feel at seeing Jesus again? Ashamed. We all know logically that we are forgiven by Jesus, but the shame lingers and keeps us bound. It stops us lifting up our heads. It makes us feel unworthy in so many ways.

None of the disciples will have felt completely able to look Jesus in the eye – they all slept in the garden and they all abandoned him. I like to imagine Jesus looking each one in the eye as he gives them breakfast. That loving look that obliterates the darkness and pain.

But Peter was a little more tender, so Jesus handles him differently. When I was reading the passage, initially it sounded like he was talking to Peter over breakfast in front of the other disciples. But later on it talks about Peter looking back and seeing John walking behind them. That means they had gone for a walk – this chat was discrete and completely private. Jesus was honouring and loving Peter by keeping the difficult conversation entirely between themselves.

When our wounded hearts need tending to, Jesus is honouring and discrete. If we are willing to let him, he will call things out in us gently and tenderly – in our own private times with him or with a close friend.

The thing that makes shame so hard to shift is that it usually has demonic roots and initially takes the form of a bondage. Bondages come about when we believe the lies of the enemy – you’ll never be good enough – you’re too dirty – you’ll always be abandoned and useless. When we agree with things like this they hold us captive and we struggle to push through them to be fully alive and walking in all God has for us.

The way to get rid of bondages is to break them. We speak truth in place of the lies and choose not to agree with them any more. Jesus, with patient questioning, enabled Peter to declare the truth. “Do you love me?”

“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Peter spoke out the opposite of his denial.

And then Jesus went even further: “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus’ words could so easily have been condemnation, but instead they were total acceptance. Not only am I not ashamed of you, I want to use you in my Kingdom.

The bondage of shame has been broken – to such an extent that Peter allowed it to become public knowledge that he had denied Jesus. And how many of us have drawn comfort from his foibles? God takes our weaknesses and shame, and he redeems them, heals us, and even uses them to advance his Kingdom.

It is simply impossible to stray too far from his love. He seeks us, kicks down our walls and lifts our heads again.

Published by Helen

I'm a work-in-progress writer living in Birmingham in the heart of the UK. I’m also a musician and love to share the healing and life that Jesus can bring through songs.

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