By Susie Larson

The other day, my son Jake called to chat.

Even during his wandering years, he called regularly to sort through his questions and concerns.

This particular day he struggled to understand why it’s so difficult for him to receive generous gifts from others.

We revisited an experience from his teenage years.

Though typically reliable and obedient, he made a costly choice one winter night.

Long story short, he pulled into a parking lot, spun around in the snow, hit a concrete structure, and caused about three thousand dollars’ worth of damage to my truck. He was devastated. I was stunned.

We sat down as a family and processed what happened.

Jake’s little brothers asked him questions and he humbly answered them.

Kevin leaned in with fatherly strength and said, “Son, you’ve just taken a huge withdrawal from the ‘trust’ account. We have to deal with the consequences of this costly choice.

However, I want you to know something: Your account is not empty. We love you. We still trust you and respect you. You are a trustworthy son.”

Now I sat on the edge of my treadmill and held the phone close to my ear. “Jake, do you remember what you were doing when Dad said those words to you?”

He whispered, “Um, no. I don’t.”

I continued, “You gripped the arms of the chair and looked down at your feet. You couldn’t even look up at him.”

Jake went silent on the other end.

“Honey? Are you there?”

His voice cracked. He whispered, “Mom, I always knew you and Dad handled that incident brilliantly, but I couldn’t exactly remember how it all played out that day. Something got in me when I made a choice that so defied the things I care about most. I could never imagine that I’d do what I did. I’ve never really been able to get past it. Oddly, I had no idea that my posture was so shut down when Dad spoke to me. I faintly remember his words now, but they sure didn’t go in back then.”

“That’s shame, son. That’s what got in you that day. It’s shame. Could it be that underneath your strong work ethic is a heart that doesn’t believe that God might want to lavish a goodness on you that goes beyond your efforts or even beyond what you think you deserve?” My voice cracked as I asked such probing questions.

Again, more silence from Jake.

Then, my big, husky, first-born son started to cry. I sucked in a sob.

“Oh, honey. Can I just tell you? I love you so much. And that shame? It’s not from God and it’s not from us.”

We both struggled to find words.

He then asked me, “Is this what has held me back all these years? Is this why it’s difficult for me to receive out-of-the-ordinary kinds of gifts? And why I don’t ask for your help or for God’s? Because of shame?”

“I think so, honey. But imagine how delightful your relationship with God could be if you learned to approach and even pursue Him with assurance and confidence, convinced that He’s good and that He has set His affections upon you.

I’d say, right now, you’re missing the best parts of this relationship. But what joy for you to discover an unhindered, joy-filled relationship with your Father who loves you and loves to lavish His goodness upon you!

Doing so will affect every aspect of your life: your work, your play, your bike riding, and your morning coffee with your wife.”

How often does shame keep us from audaciously running into the arms of our Father not only to receive grace just after we’ve blown it, but to dare to ask for things we could never earn, deserve, or acquire on our own?


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1 Comment

  1. Susan

    When we make big mistakes (or even not so big) and hurt others, it is very, very hard to earn back trust and earn forgiveness. The mistake may eventually fade into the past, but it never goes away. It is almost impossible to accept that God would forgive and forget, rather than keep a tally of our failures….just as we do with each other. After all we will all be judged before God when we die, right? Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father to judge both the quick and the dead. So with that in mind, it’s no wonder we can’t “set aside” shame and believe we are worthy of blessings. God punishes our bad behavior; he does not reward it. He may forgive it, but it is not forgotten. He may occasionally bless us as well, but it is out of His mercy, not for our good behavior. Feeling shame has no bearing on receiving God’s blessings. But it sure works to keep us in check with our behavior.


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