The blessings of singleness #6: The pain of misplaced shame
Okay. Apologies for going dark for a couple of weeks on this blog.
The problem with me is that I’m a lot like Peter. Some days words just come out of me and I hear ‘blessed are you, fabs. you have no idea what you’re talking about but God is speaking through you.’ But some days the only words that come out of my mouth are met with ‘get behind me Satan’.
And on those days, by God’s grace, I try to blog less.
So, now I’m back. Hopefully ready to affirm that Jesus is the Christ through my thoughts on singleness.
There is a pain I have been noticing in singleness; the pain of misplaced shame.
There are two types of shame. One is good. It’s shame for something that dishonors God. This shame is the grace of God in our lives that leads us to repentance. But there’s another shame that is misplaced. This is shame for something that we feel dishonors us. Shame for things that bring no dishonor to God. Shame for things like noses that are too big or teeth that aren’t perfectly straight or singleness.
Every single in the world knows what I’m taking about. It’s the shame you feel when someone exclaims out loud ‘why are you still single???’ and inside your head comes the shame: people are only single if they have some flaw. what’s mine?
It’s the shame you feel when you overhear another conversation that speculates on how that beautiful girl could be single and inside your head comes the shame: it’s no mystery to anyone why YOU are single.
It’s the shame you feel when your confession of sin is met with the counsel ‘you don’t want to be married till you’ve conquered this sin anyway’ and inside your head comes the shame: I’m too sinful to be a good wife. Is marriage just for the godly?
Of course this shame is painful. It makes every offhand comment about singleness a stab. This shame makes every marriage sermon leave you feeling like an insecure failure.
Every woman in the world wrestles with insecurity. Married women don’t feel less misplaced shame than singles. Ask any woman who has had issues with infertility. Ask any mother who isn’t sure where to send her kids to school. Misplaced shame is at the root of every defensive response, it’s in every whisper of gossip, every cry for approval or indifferent hardened heart.
While painful, misplaced shame is a blessing because it forces us to trust the gospel, not just for a future salvation but for our identity here and now. If we don’t acknowledge the blessing of this pain, we will give misplaced shame a terrifying power in our lives. We will make the tragic mistake of allowing it to lead us to believe that we are victims instead of sinners. If we aren’t careful it will lead us to seek affirmation from others instead of leading us to repentance.
Every ounce of misplaced shame is an offense against God. It’s a declaration that He is wrong about us. Every shred of shame about our appearance is a pronouncement that God is a deficient creator. Every sliver of fear that we’re not good enough is a shout of unbelief in the sufficiency of the atonement.
We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by justifying ourselves or seeking justification from others. If we seek justification in ourselves we will constantly be trying to prove ourselves to the world. We will be tragically afraid of failure. We will find ourselves defensively proclaiming the ‘betterness’ of singleness to anyone who will listen because we think if we just speak a little louder we will silence the shame inside of us.
If we seek justification in others we will find ourselves seeking friendships and relationships where people will comfort us by telling us how wonderful we are. We’ll try to conquer our shame by speaking badly of others or pointing out their failings. We’ll seek pity from those around us, and we’ll do anything to secure their approval.
There is only One who justifies. The glorious grace of the misplaced shame we experience in singleness is that it will not leave us till it drives us to Him.
We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by denying our weaknesses instead of the deep truths of God.
Here’s the deal. I’ve got enough crazy in me to give most people a run for their money. I’m more emotionally schizophrenic than David. I’m more stubborn than Peter. I can say, with full assurance, that I would have a good chance of winning in the ‘worst of sinners’ category when up against Paul. And I have no place in Scripture that assures me that none of these things is playing into my singleness. God, for whatever reason, doesn’t find it necessary to tell me that my singleness has nothing to do with any of my personal flaws.
So here’s what I don’t need. I don’t need those around me to affirm that I would be the best wife ever and that my singleness has nothing to do with my own shortcomings. Because if those were the words I needed to silence my shame, they would be recorded for me in His complete and sufficient Word.
What I do need is someone to point out that every single thing (even my issues and certainly my singleness) is ordained by my kind and gracious Father for my good. What I do need is to hear that when I confess my sin He is just and faithful to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness and any lingering shame is my declaration that His sacrifice just wasn’t enough to cover that sin. What I do need to hear is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and anyone who disagrees with that (myself included) doesn’t dishonor me, they dishonor the creator who holds galaxies in His hands.
The gospel in which we stand is great news. It offers us a truth that will speak worth and peace and value into our deepest insecurities. It offers us better hope than a good body or a sweet disposition or a great hair day.
Let your misplaced shame prompt to quiet your heart and listen. Don’t be stilled by the words of your husband, peers, employers, friends but the Words of God alone.
Hear the gospel:
We are not worthy because we are beautiful or because we are married or because we are single. We are not loved because we are intelligent or sweet or kind or gentle. We are not valuable because of anything we bring to the table.
We are His.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Shall any of our insecurity? Shall our singleness?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.