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Mission Devotional - October 5, 2016

Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, it's nearly impossible for me to imagine there was a day when the emotion of shame did not exist. In their innocence, our first parents were absolutely free of any need to turn away from your gaze, or from the gaze of one another. There was no need to fear, cover up, hide, pose, pretend, get defensive, feel guilty, make excuses, blame the other, want to disappear, do penance, numb out, medicate, or try any other broken attempt to deal with the disintegrating effects of shame. It is only in you, Lord Jesus, that we now find hope to deal with both our guilt and our shame. - Scotty Smith

Scripture: Romans 5:1-5

Journal: Where in your life are you still a prisoner to shame? What does freedom from shame look like? How does that happen? Will you move toward freedom form shame today?

Reflection: When shame has the chance to burrow its way into a soul's most sensitive yet unprotected places, that person finds it hard to be seen up close by anyone, including God, without a fretful impulse to turn away, to avert the eyes, to flee from the vulnerable familiarity love invites. Shame's victims believe everybody sees them the way they see themselves: as unredeemable, undeserving of being taken seriously, certainly unworthy of being loved, fiercely wary and painfully incapable of even taking a chance on love themselves. Shame is the contaminated ground in which the seeds of emotional self-destruction take deep root.

People who travel with shame as their companion fear exposure more than anything else. The mere possibility of having one's defectiveness abruptly seen by another evokes a panic so pervasive and terrifying that it can't even be acknowledged, much less faced, disarmed, and finally embraced in sustained moments of God's extravagant, compassionate grace.

Such individuals are driven to live in hiding, out of sight - from God, from others, from self. Alienation like this converts shame from feeling into a way of life in which people become their shame. In the process, a person falls into line behind Adam and Eve, waiting nervously for the inevitable expulsion from Eden's garden, a cold-blooded excommunication from life.

Shame is the spirit that works overtime to stop God's love in its tracks, turning the possibility of love into an unattainable dream that's finally and sadly abandoned. It also keeps people from honoring and enjoying the instinctive desire to be desired, to be seen as worthwhile, to experience oneself as God's beloved. And shame fills individuals with resentment and rage against those who seem to find love, significance, and personal safety with so little apparent effort.

Shame and I were longtime companions, and hard experience has taught me that silent contemplation alone emboldens one's soul to reach out in hope to the Cross, our one sure path to safe, nurturing, holy ground. Contemplation shows us that God is nothing like us: although we may turn away from God, others, and self in shame, God never turns away from us. In fact, contemplation's silent glance turns out to be the fertile ground in which God's redeeming love takes root. In this safe place we start to see by being seen as worthwhile, by knowing that we matter.

Slowly learning to trust enough to be seen by God as lovable - to be held in God's healing gaze - is what can finally lure us out of hiding, out of the shadows and into the warming light of God's creative love. It's almost like being led back to Eden and discovering that God never wanted us to leave in the first place. We were expelled because we learned, or perhaps better, were taught to believe the lies that instilled shame. In contemplation's soul-sculpting silence we learn to trust the healing truth of our worth and lovableness. (The Grace of Mattering: Safety from Shame by Joe McHugh, Weavings, Volume XXXI, Number 4, Aug/Sept/Oct 2016)

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

Eric and Beth Yodis are facilitating church planting in eastern Ukraine. Eric and Beth returned to the Ukraine last year to help with church planting in Kiev. Pray today for a new church planting training program that has begun in a suburb of Kyiv and for good health and safety for Eric and Beth.

The Bible Society of Egypt is the largest Arabic Bible publishing operation in the world. They are publishing the Scriptures in a variety of formats and media (print, audio, visual), with each product designed for a particular social, economic, age, and cultural interest group. Pray today for the staff as they perform the day-to-day tasks required to publish the Bibles.

Closing Prayer: Jesus, we cry out for freedom today - freedom in our ongoing struggles with shame, both the shame we feel and the shame we give. Though our guilt has been completely taken care of by your work on the cross, Jesus, we still feel varying degrees of shame, and we act out in a variety of destructive ways. We need grace upon grace - a deeper healing, a greater liberation.

We vacillate between self-contempt and other-centered contempt, and both of these contradict and sabotage the love by which, and for which, we were saved. Free us from thinking our sin is beyond the reach of your grace. Free us from acting as though other people's sins are beyond the deserving of your grace.

Free us from importing past failures and future fears into our present moment. Free us from holding ourselves and other's hostage to the destructive power of shame. Free us from not believing the gospel, Lord Jesus, for ourselves and others. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and triumphant name. - Scotty Smith