If I were Eve, I might have been tempted to divorce Adam. Not that I advocate divorce, but I hate disloyalty, and Adam threw Eve under the bus. And not just any bus, the Almighty God bus. “It was the woman. The one you made for me,” Adam whined, “ She made me do it.”
I know the scriptures about how hard it is to live with a nagging wife, but a critical husband should definitely been included.
If I had a say in the writing of the Bible, there would be a number of proverbs that would read something like this,” Better to have a thumb pounded by a hammer than a critical husband,” or “ More desirable is a lingering toothache than a husband who badmouths his wife.”
But I also get the enormity of their trespass. I am surprised Eve ever spoke again. And she did. Twice. It wasn’t just that she messed up, or he did, or they both did. The sin was so bad that it was named the Original Sin with capital letters. Talk about a major screw up. Which brings me to my real topic; shame. Adam said, “The woman you made for me did it.” Ouch. So my buddy, Adam, made two major statements with that one sentence.
God made woman, and He messed up when He did it. God screwed up and made a screw up. I knew there was something wrong with me.
The snake played his part, too. He insinuated that Eve wasn’t enough on her own; she could be like God. Never mind that she was already like God, at least made in His image. She had to be more than just who she was. Given the number of women’s magazines, TV shows, and books dedicated to showing women how to be better mothers, wives, and people, or how to be more beautiful, cleaner, less cluttered, sexier… and the list goes on, my guess is that women are still worried about being more. I know I am. I have lived in my new house for a week. I haven’t unpacked all my boxes, the floor needs vacuuming, the kitchen is a mess, and I feel guilty for staying at home writing while my husband goes blissfully to his dream job.
I get to stay home and write, and I feel inadequate because I am not perfect.
My Facebook feed is filled with women decrying shame in various forms. Fat-shaming, body-shaming, slut-shaming. The list goes on. But I don’t see a lot of sites formed by men that deal with shame. No beard-shaming or beer gut-shaming. So did all this shame directed at women (often by women) originate at that tense moment in the Garden of Eden? Maybe. I am not one to paint in shades of black and white when it comes to definitive biblical causalities. I am more interested in practical theology. How do I combat shame? How do I find my way out of that hellish maze? I have read a lot of books that have really neat formulaic maps to help navigate the wasteland. Two prayers here and some mental exercises here. And I don’t mean to belittle those books. They gave me some great ideas, but the answer was not in the books, and yet it was. I threw all of the ideas at the core problem, and sometimes they worked, at least for awhile. I discovered that I need all the answers at different times and in different ways. Healing from something as fatal as shame requires regular courses of treatment. So here are a couple of meds. I hope they work for today. You may need something else tomorrow.
Guilt is internal. I did a bad thing. A particular bad thing. I think that generalized guilt is really just shame. Healthy guilt is specific and leads to some repentance. Shame is externally derived, I think.
It is accepting the idea that there is something terribly wrong with the very make up of your being. An anxious or critical parent, an abuser, mean kids at school…. Somewhere along the shores of life, we picked up this lie and decided to carry it. It probably looks a bit like our worst idea of our selves. I wish I could tell myself to put it down, as if it were that easy to simply make a decision. But in truth, it is a series of decisions. For me, the first one when shame comes to visit is to decipher where this idea came from. Was it my idea or what it that of my abusive first husband? Or the nasty girl that ditched me on a major street when I was five? So many moments where I took a slight or a criticism from outside my heart and let it in. Rejected? Slighted? Accused? All these feel like shame. The second move for me is to practice being loved. I will just say that holding Jesus’ hand, feeling the warmth of his touch works for me. In Revelation 12:10, a loud voice says, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” Hear that voice. Your accuser cannot stand in the light of Heaven, nor can he withstand the cross.
I have found the cross of Christ is good for what ails you, whether you need forgiveness of sins and/or release from shame. Christianity is a strange proposition, but as a friend of mine once said, “It is the best gig in town.”