I will say to all my beloved friends that it all began with shame. This was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know this because the first thing that happened when they ate of it was that they saw they were naked and hid themselves and covered themselves with fig leaves. It doesn’t say they feared God’s wrath because they were disobedient, or that they were overcome with guilt and remorse; those came later. It began with shame.
Further, shame goes to what we are, not merely what we do. Look at the three verses Gen. 2:25, 3:7 and 3:10. Take note that “were” is a form of the verb “to be.” Therefore, this shame goes to what one IS, not merely to what he or she does; it denotes a state of being. What could be wrong with being naked; all God’s creatures are made this way?
Knowledge is more than an intellectual activity or stored information. Used in the sense intended by the author of Genesis, it implies the loss of innocence. Before this event, the man and woman were innocent. Nothing we do in innocence is sin. A baby cannot sin. Small children sometimes say things that embarrass the grownups, but they are innocent. Dogs may “hump” someone at a dinner party, embarrassing and mortifying the host and guests. But the dog does not sin. Innocence is complete protection against sin. Paul points out that before he learned the law, he didn’t know what it meant to covet. But when the law came in sin sprang to life and he died. Romans 7:8-12.
I am a lawyer and I have watched and seen how Satan destroys people. It begins with shame. Children internalize cruelty and believe it is because they are imperfect and wrong. I thought I was ugly, hated mirrors, hated my appearance. I hated my voice. This shame is carried with us into adulthood. It is a basis of many of our mental problems. People can change behavior and atone for sins, but we cannot—without Divine intervention—change what we ARE. Nor can we rid ourselves of shame.
This is why we lawyers have to be perfect all the time. It is why we have to be perfectly dressed, why we always have to win. If we are any good, we prepare everything meticulously. But walking out of the courtroom we still ruminate on the one question we didn’t ask. It gnaws on our insides like a dog gnaws a bone. In fact, the fear of losing makes it impossible for some people to try a case. This is all rooted in shame, the belief that we are not good enough.
Before I was a lawyer, I never understood how the devil destroys people or why some people commit suicide. But shame grows during these hours spent alone trying to be perfect, burning the midnight oil. Separated here in our cell, getting depressed. It starts small. Drinking at the lawyers’ party, flirting with the secretary. Making a blunder with a case, sweeping it under the rug. So, guilt joins with shame and they are like hot coals in the stomach, unbearable.
We try to douse the fire with alcohol, antidepressants and tranquillizers, but they cannot touch the root causes, and the fire continues. Usually at this point another malady, anxiety is added in. What is going to happen to me? What if people find out what a failure I am? This is before the lawyer has done anything seriously wrong in his or her practice, like stealing money or committing some other felony. But the longer it goes on, the more cases and bills get neglected, the more time he spends just sitting, staring off into space, paralyzed by fear and depression.
Now this does not just apply to attorneys. We speak about what we know. Lots of other people are depressed, anxious, guilty, and ashamed. One night working in the shelter a homeless man was talking to me about getting into AA. He said, “I’m a drunk.” No, he is not! He and all of us are beautiful spirits of light, made perfect in the image of YHWH the Spirit Creator of everything that exists. That which tells us we are losers, failures or bad people is the devil, using our shame to destroy us. He is the destroyer. There is no good in him. And he loves to destroy the good things in God’s creation.
In my case, I suffered all these things. I went through a time when I seriously considered suicide. I would have used a gun to make it quick and certain and would make sure my family would have money when I was gone. But Christ took my guilt and shame and bore them for me on His cross. This was such a massively generous and selfless and act that nothing I could ever do could ever repay this debt. But for His grace and selflessness, I would be dead now, however, I live through the fact that His spirit lives in me.
I, who used to live in fear and fear to live, now do all kinds of things I was afraid to do to the point of paralysis. I whose eyes were blind and unable to understand the gospel, have authored two books. In saying this I realize it is not “I” who does these things, but the Holy Spirit living in me who does them. I have become a friend to the poor and ministered to the homeless and testified to many about the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, all as an instrument wielded by God through the Spirit.
At times, God has forged me with fire and hammer like Damascus steel. He heats me white hot and pounds me with hammer and anvil and quenches me with water. Praise God! God is good! I pray that I will never break; that I will always be sharp; that I will penetrate. I pray He will use me to slice through the works of Satan and free the hearts of those I touch and that my story will free them from the bonds of guilt and shame. Guilt, shame and fear are nothing before the power of the Holy Spirit! And of course, I can do nothing without Him. Any good I do is Him working through me, and if I am wrong, it is when I try to act on my own without Him
I pray that when my knees go weak, He will give them power and when my heart gets faint, he will fill it with spirit. And when my words fail, may God move my lips to sing His praise. And, when He is finished with me here He will bring me with Him to the place Christ has prepared for me. Amen! (Let it be so).