While sitting at my desk in my home office, typing away on my computer, my eldest son, Cal, darted into my office and asked, “Hey Mom! Whatcha doing?”
“Hey sweetheart!” I replied with a big smile on my face. Sometimes just the very sight of them makes my heart skip a beat. “I’m speaking at a women’s conference next week and I’m working on my talk.”
“Are you going to talk about what you always talk about?” he asked, as he leaned over my computer to read the sentences on the screen.
I giggled. “Well, I don’t know. What do you think I always talk about?”
He responded without hesitation. “How much you need Jesus.”
With a thankful heart I reached out and pulled him close. “Yes, buddy. That is exactly what I’m going to talk about—how much I need Jesus and how grateful I am for his grace.”
He kissed my forehead. “Cool. Love ya mom. I’m gonna go play soccer in the backyard.” And just like that, he was off.
When my son left my office, I sat quietly with Jesus, praising Him for the revelation of how free He has made me to be honest about my ongoing need for Him.
It hasn’t always been this way for me.
In my early years of parenting, when we had three boys under five, I remember feeling like such a failure, and being so afraid of being exposed as such. I was sure God’s love for me and acceptance of me was running dry because of the weaknesses and sin that parenting brought to the surface. I needed Jesus—and the power of the Holy Spirit—like never before but I was too afraid to admit my need. I was too busy trying to be “perfect”—and not just in my parenting but in every area of my life—to keep God pleased with me. Parenting just happened to be, at that time in my life, what highlighted my imperfection.
I knew it was Christ’s work that saved me, but I thought it was my work that would keep God smiling on me. And my “work” was messy.
I wouldn’t dare share my need for Jesus and my “humanity” with my kids, nonetheless, anyone else. My husband was the only one privy to my desperation. On countless nights, he would come home from work to find me curled up on the couch, crying a river, and cracking under the pressure. Yes, I had extraordinary friends who faithfully walked alongside me in those days. But because I was not willing to be honest with myself, nonetheless my friends, about how much I was struggling. I suffered in silence.
The painful belief that I was a disappointment to God was confirmed on those late nights alone on the couch, and shame seeped deeper into the crevices of my heart.
Shame. You know, that thing that robs us of living in the freedom and fullness of life Christ purchased for us.
It’s the lie that because I do unlovable things, I am an unlovable person. It associates what we do with the very essence of who we are.
Shame is the merciless critic in our heads that speaks condemnation to our hearts. That’s the bad news. But here’s the Good News. We have a merciful Savior who hung on a cross, bearing the weight of our shame, so that we could walk in freedom from it.
In Galatians 5 Paul opens with, “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
What exactly is this yoke of slavery Paul is referring to? NIV Biblical commentary describes it as “the burden of the rigorous demands of the law as the means for gaining God’s favor—an intolerable burden for sinful humanity.”
The rigorous demands of the law is perfection. And not just perfection in our words and actions, but perfection in our hearts too—in our motives, thoughts, and desires. No wonder Biblical commentary refers to it as an “intolerable burden for sinful humanity.”
Who can pull that off? Only One, my friend. Only One.
Though faced with the same temptations, and pursued by Satan to the same sinfulness, Jesus was without blemish or blame. The sinless, spotless, Lamb of God. He was only One who can (and did!) fulfill the rigorous demands of the law, securing God’s eternal favor for us.
This can only mean one thing. We can stop striving for a seal of approval that is already ours. Christ has set us free from climbing ladders to God’s love.
The solution to our shame is never found in our own efforts or striving, but in Christ’s perfect and substitutionary work. It comes only from being hidden in Him, resting in Him, and receiving His mercy and grace.
To put shame in its rightful place we have to receive the mercy and grace of God, and enjoy the identity given to us by God in Jesus Christ.
You are fully known. You are fully accepted. You are fully loved. Not because of anything you do or don’t do, but because of everything Jesus Christ has done for you.
This means we are free to love and serve God (and one another!) not in an effort to gain God’s favor, but in gratitude for all that Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.
We are free to live from God’s love, not for it. All because of Jesus.
Jeannie Cunnion is a Jesus lover and a grace clinger. She is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child, she has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and she serves on the board of Raising Boys Ministries. Jeannie’s passion is encouraging women to live from the freedom found in being fully known and fully loved by God (a message her own heart needs to hear daily). You’re most likely to find Jeannie alongside her husband, Mike, holding onto her newborn son while cheering on their three older boys at any one of their sporting events. Jeannie would love to connect with you on her website at www.jeanniecunnion.com. We’re excited to have Jeannie lead a breakout session at (dot)MOM!