Shame is something you learn.
I heard this recently and it stuck with me. It’s true. I remember going to my first middle school dance in 7th grade. The infectious beat of 80s pop music pulled me to the dance floor like a magnet. My arms were flailing about while my feet tried to keep up. Devo and Depeche Mode do that to a guy. It was totally awesome! I think I even shouted those words at the top of my lungs, so to be heard over the pounding pulse of Axl F and the Miami Vice theme. It was totally awesome! Then an older kid came over and said, “Stop geeking out on the dance floor!” I stopped long enough to look around. Others were dancing, but most were standing around. Arms were folded instead of flailing. Apparently at a middle-school dance, dancing (or geeking out in my case) was shameful. Apparently only nerds and breakdancers danced at dances.I’ve never been comfortable dancing since.
Shame is something you learn and it is a powerful weapon. Shame stifles joy. Shame robs us of freedom. It freezes us from action. It condemns and cuts.
I love Jesus. I love introducing other people to Jesus. I can’t think of anything I love more than seeing people come alive in the gospel! But it hasn’t always been that way. Maybe it was the countless bumbling and/or judgmental portrayals of christians I saw in TV and movies. Maybe it was the not-so-playful jabs at my faith from friends. Maybe it was my own wrestling between doubt and faith. It was likely a bit of all these things combined that taught me loving Jesus was as shameful as geeking out on the dance floor. I was frozen not free.
It isn’t supposed to be that way. I’ve had to unlearn a lot of shame. Now I’m learning to be more like Paul who said,
“It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him…” Romans 1:16 (MSG)
I want my kids to grow up loving Jesus. I want them to find freedom in the gospel. I want them to grow up free from shame. To help, we have established simple, repeatable family faith practices — predictable patterns.
Predictable patterns help us disarm shame and cultivate freedom.
Here are a few examples of what we do: Every morning around the breakfast table, our family reads a short scripture. Then we talk briefly about what we hear God saying and pray the Lord’s prayer together. At supper we go around the table and share the best and worst parts of our day and pray. Before bed we pray a family prayer and bless each other saying, “Jesus loves you and so do I.” Every Sunday morning we worship together with our larger church community. Sunday evenings we gather as a family on mission with a community of friends to eat and worship and pray and serve together. This are all predictable patterns in our family. They are simple but powerful.
Lately we have been helping a neighbor who is going through a transition. She has to work early so her son comes by our house before school each day. It is fun to watch our kids invite their friend to participate in our morning pattern. He was cautious at first, but now he joins right in. We are watching his faith grow right along with our kids. We are watching him become free. My kids are not ashamed or afraid. They are growing up in an environment where things like reading the Bible, praying and listening for God’s voice is the norm. This is their normal! They aren’t froze in shame. They are free. The gospel they proclaim is setting others free as well. It’s true what Paul said,
“And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us!” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (MSG)
How are you cultivating faith and freedom? What are the predictable patterns in your family?