The 3 S's
The 3 S’s- shame, secrets and saving. The third chapter of John’s gospel may have the most recognized scripture verse. 3:16. This Sunday as we get to hear again the verses that surround that much beloved verse and we will be adding a few extra verses reading from John 3:1-20 I will invite your reflections on the 3 S’s of shame, secrets and saving.
Shame. Over a decade ago I was gifted with the time and the resources to explore how shame affects a person. In the subsequent years the study and reflection on how corrosive shame can be to one’s spirit has provided me with numerous opportunities to walk alongside others who are seeking freedom from living in shame. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. In the dark perhaps he can hide his shame that somehow as wise as Nicodemus should be he cannot grasp the teachings of Jesus, much less the ways that Jesus is showing up in the world doing wondrous things.
Shame shuts people up and shuts them down. Shame tells a person that who they are isn’t enough. Shame will speak the lie that a person is unworthy, disposable, and beyond repair. Shame can be expressed in words as well as actions. When a person is in a shame spiral the world can start closing in on them. Shame shuts up the truth that every human being is wonderfully and beautifully created by God in God’s image. Shame shuts down connections and compassion.
Shame often leads to keeping secrets. “If people really knew what I was like…” is a lie that shame will tell a person to keep them in the shadows and isolated. Secrets are distinct from privacy or discretion. The expression “we are as sick as our secrets” speaks to the shame sickness of devaluing ourselves or another person. To shame someone is to tell them or show them that who they are is not okay. In the study of shame I learned to value the power of healthy accountability. To be able to say, “I made a mistake”, “I don’t understand”, “ I am sorry for what I did “ help set us free from seeing what we do as being who we are. Guilt is distinct from shame. It is the uncomfortable feeling following something we have said or done- that has hurt another, crossed a line, caused a rift. Guilt is not about who we are- it’s connected to an action or lack thereof, it’s part of being human that we err.
The way in which the interaction of Jesus and Nicodemus is portrayed in the television series, The Chosen adds some depth to how difficult it must have been for an esteemed leader to come and speak with Jesus. Here is a ten minute clip which shares Nicodemus’ confusion and curiosity- there were several scenes in season 1 that set up this scene. Jesus’ compassion for Nicodemus is also portrayed.
It is this compassion that saves us- not only for the hereafter also for the here now. The third chapter of John is so much more than just John 3:16. It is the message that Jesus came to save- with a love that saves us from shame and saves us from secrets. This love of Jesus the one who will speak with us in the dark of night, in our shame, with our secrets is a love that saves us for right now. To be born of the Spirit and water, to be given this gift of God’s amazing grace in Jesus is to save us from our shame and from our secrets. It’s a saving us so that we are set free
to live trusting God, free to love ourselves and one another not because of anything we have done or deserved but because we were created for this; love.
Shame and secrets will continue to be seductions and temptations to steer us away from the saving love of God in Jesus. There may be shame so deep and secrets so hidden that it will take a long, long time for them to be released, healed, for us to be saved from them. When Jesus is in conversation with scribes and a Pharisee, and the Jews who believed in him he shared with them that the truth sets them free (John 8 read the chapter) he is inviting them into the great mystery of what God is doing in great love for the world, the whole world to save it in the here and now.
As we continue in this season of Lent exploring the living waters that cleanse and refresh, the same waters that can overwhelm and flood may your daily encounters with water be a way for shame and secrets to be replaced by a deep trust in the saving love of God, present in Jesus who reveals to us again and again and again in ways both big and small- God is with us in the teardrop, the raindrop, the glass of water, bead of sweat, the ocean deep, the river wide…. speaking to us over and over again you are my beloved, created in my image.