Brokenness, Shame and MPD

Many of us have had the experience of feeling ashamed. We feel shame because we’ve messed up. We feel shame because we wore the wrong outfit to school. We feel shame because things beyond our control got out of hand. We feel shame because things didn’t go as well as we had hoped.

Sometimes we confuse brokenness with shame. By “brokenness” we ought to mean “acknowledging of our limitations and failures.” Often this takes place in the context of admitting our sinfulness. Brokenness ought also to include sorrow for sin. "I feel sad that I have failed my God, my family and my friends. I share a desire to honor God’s holiness but in this instance have failed to do so."

But the shame that accompanies brokenness is often due to self-righteousness. That self-righteousness is exposed when our sin comes to light. Self-righteousness surfaces shame when we experience simple human finiteness. We think we ought to be better than we are. We think we ought not to have sinned in that way or to have been caught in that sin. We have depended upon self-righteousness to live the Christian life and now, because we are sinful, as fallen or limited creatures we feel loss, embarrassed and . . , well . . , ashamed.

Many, many situations in life serve to expose our limitations. Raising support to join staff with Cru is certainly one of them. You have a college degree. You could do anything else. But you know God has called you to this work. Your parents don’t understand. Their friends ask them what you are doing with your education. When you call their friends for support that becomes an embarrassment to your parents. Or you are sitting in a businessman’s office. You present your ministry and he expresses shock that you want him to give you money without working for it. You try to explain but somehow he just has it in his head that you want money for no work.

Another way you may feel shame is when you begin to compare yourself to others around you. You have a college friend. You were both leaders in your campus ministry. You are coming on staff. She is going to graduate school to get an MBA or PhD or medical degree. You on the other hand are not entering a career that only exploits your talents, education, experience and hides your weaknesses. You are embarking on a road that often displays your poverty, your character flaws and your physical limitations.

In other words, whether you knew it or not, joining staff is the fast track to either self-consuming shame or godly brokenness. In one of my favorite movies, Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan says, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” In the same way, unless we know and accept our limitations, our brokenness will likely produce shame. Learning to accept help where we are weak is an important step toward maturity. Acknowledging our need opens the door for the acceptance of God’s mercy, grace and provision.

The gospel removes our shame. Jesus took the shame of our sin upon himself. And we have the righteousness of Christ. The gospel takes us beyond shame by restoring our dignity - the dignity that comes from our new identity in Christ. Martin Luther said, “We are at the same time justified and yet sinners.” The gospel has removed from us the penalty of sin. It has transferred us from the domain of darkness to the domain of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13). We no longer have to worry about our performance. Making mistakes or running up against our limitations is going to be a daily experience. But one that does not need to promote feelings of shame.

How does all this apply to MPD? Rather than feel shame we acknowledge that God has called us. We walk in our new identity as servants of the Living God. We have the privilege to invite people to join us in that call. Our need for support is not because of sin or laziness. Instead, it might become a friend’s entry point into one of life’s greatest adventures. When I feel shame that my support level is not meeting my needs, I need to pause and consider that God is still on His throne. I am His child and He has promised to supply all of my needs in Christ Jesus. As a daughter or son of the King, what shame am I to bear? How glorious to find our identity in Christ! Dialing the phone, explaining our ministry, or issuing an invitation to invest are all a privilege but also a risk. These risks have the potential to expose our limitations. But walking in the sufficiency of Christ in the gospel frees us from shame. Jesus Christ is our sufficiency. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. And His power is perfected and displayed in our weakness. May it ever be so.


Questions for reflection:

  • As you have been engaged in MPD, in what ways has shame surfaced in your life?
  • How can you turn that shame into godly brokenness and a fresh encounter with the gospel?