And I’ve felt a great sense of shame over my inadequacies as a housekeeper. You see, I know how to clean. I am a very skilled organizer. I just don’t always feel like doing it. And I’ve carried this truth deep in my heart and allowed it to hold me prisoner. I let it stop me from inviting friends over because it meant I’d have to clean. And most likely, life would somehow become crazy right before a playdate was scheduled and I wouldn’t be able to get things presentable fast enough. Or there would be so much to do that actually starting was too daunting. So I stayed home by myself, sitting in the craziness and denying the inner hostess in me the opportunity to come out.
And then, this past spring, a new friend (as in we’d talked a few time at our mom’s group and she’d ridden in my equally messy car once) needed a place to hang out between our group and her son’s doctor’s appointment. Thanks to a weekend of painting, my house was even worse than normal. Furniture was pushed in random places, you couldn’t see my kitchen counters, table, or even the couch because that’s where we threw everything that had been on the floor. We had basically decided to ignore the idea of cleaning up after ourselves in order to get as much painting done as possible. But I knew I needed to invite her over. So I offered my house and said I’d do dishes and we could visit.
And you know what? She didn’t judge me. She saw the reality of my house, but she accepted me as her friend anyways. And I think that experience of me being truly vulnerable about a very ugly side of myself jump started our friendship. It took us to a place of honesty and realness very quickly. And even more than that, setting aside my shame and refusing to allow it to hold me prisoner freed me. It freed me in other relationships (several friends have visited with me while I washed dishes and cleaned my kitchen since). It freed me to be honest about myself with others and, in turn, help them take power over their own shame. And it freed me to be a better housekeeper. My house is still a disaster a lot of the time, but I am not so intimidated by it that I can’t start cleaning.
Shame shows up in our lives for so many different reasons. And I’m sure it would be easy to put a scale on actions/sins/facts about ourselves and try to place some as worse than others. But the truth is: shame, regardless of what causes it, affects us powerfully. It holds us captive and keeps us from allowing God to change us and use us. It stops us from being able to fully embrace the truth that God loves us no matter what—that it was while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
I love Lamentations 3:21-23. The author shares about how he can’t forget the bad that has happened in his life and, because of it, his soul is downcast. But then, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” No matter how many times I do something that fills me with shame. No matter how much ugliness is in my soul. No matter how many times I try to convince myself God’s love can’t cover everything that’s in me. His compassions—His mercies—are new every morning. He is faithful to cover us anew, to free us from our shame and then, when we mess up again or allow it to hold us captive once more, we can have hope. Because His compassions will never fail. They are new every morning.