As I’ve mentioned, I grew up with a lot of shame. It was a side effect of the punishment I received when I made mistakes. If I forgot to do something or did something wrong, my mother would often rant to my step-father about how useless, hopeless and stupid I was. It was always loud enough for me to hear in the other room and would last at least half an hour. My transgression would never be forgiven or forgotten.
Combine that with being the fat girl who got picked last for any team, was never asked out on a date in high school, and waited until I was 32 to find a man who was willing to date me, much less marry me (or as I say “keep me”), and you’ve got a great recipe for shame. I lived with this shame for a long time and saw my share of therapists to resolve it.
But one morning, I awoke with these words floating through my head: “Put the shame where it belongs.” I thought surely I’d gotten it wrong. It should be “Put the blame where it belongs.” And why would such a random thought insinuate itself as I was waking? I pondered it all day and realized I may have “heard” correctly after all. When I look back, the shame was really never mine. It was my mother’s. As a parent now, I know that the way she treated me is not the way you treat a child if you want them to grow up feeling loved and lovable. The shame belonged to her, not me. Discipline is one thing, punishment by shame is another.
As I said, though, I lived with this for many years; and occasionally, I still feel it. But the important thing is that I have chosen to not dwell on it any longer. I can acknowledge it without dwelling on it.
Isaiah 43:18 says it well:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”
And why should we forget the former things? Why shouldn’t we dwell on the past? After all, we’ve been insulted and hurt! Don’t we deserve to feel at least a little sorry for ourselves? And how can you feel sorry for yourself if you don’t dwell on it?
There’s no need to because we have a good God who has good plans for us! Verse 19 goes on to tell us
”See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
God’s so done with the old stuff, and you can be, too! This is the God who sent Christ to heal what was diseased, raise the dead and overcome death itself. He’s all about fresh starts and new beginnings! And he has a new beginning in store for his children, too! A wilderness and wasteland are essentially the same – they’re uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable regions. (Sounds a lot like my mind on bad days!) There are no paths in the wilderness. There are no signs, no directions because there’s nowhere to go and no way to get there. They’re unused areas of land that have become barren or overgrown. What do they wildernesses and was wastelands have in common? You can’t live there! Aside from animals and foliage, there’s no life there. Someone has to develop it, make paths, cut down overgrowth and find water sources for it to be habitable.
That’s what God wants to do for you. Forget the shame of the past. Chances are it was never your shame to bear anyway! Open yourself to the grand plan God has for your life and live it as an overcomer who has new and good things planned for you. Let God make a way for you in your wilderness. Let him bring up springs in your wasteland. Let him start a new thing in your life. Your past can be the wilderness or wasteland in which God creates a beautiful city for all to see. Yes, the glory will be his, but the blessing can be yours as well.