Pastor Brian Gilroy,
High Prairie Church of the Nazarene
It is the third week in January and for many people, in Big Lakes County, the reality of the effects of shame are just sinking in.
As the credit card bills and the lower bank balances due to overspending at Christmas sink in, the reality that an already tight budget has become an overwhelming weight that makes daily responsibilities such as shopping a nightmare. Add in the tough economic times, the uncertainty of a job and the increase in taxes that came into effect on Jan. 1, and the result is a feeling of discouragement and despair that often leads to depression.
Let’s back up this scenario to a pre-Christmas date. Christmas is an amazing time of parties, family, presents and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. We celebrate Christmas and give gifts as a reminder God gave his only Son to come and die for our sins – to die in our place and pay a penalty for the sins we have done.
However, not everyone gives gifts for this reason. For many people, Christmas is a season of great shame. A season that by its very nature [societal standards] places unrealistic expectations upon people.
Christmas in the eyes of some has become a competition. Children compare notes as to what they received upon return to school. Single parents, some who sacrifice daily to provide the necessities of life for their children, are confronted by unrealistic standards that the world imposes upon them. Parents who sometimes fall behind on maintenance payments or neglect to provide for their children at all, suddenly become very generous and place undue pressure upon the other spouse.
Other times, a family may have had a hard year and unemployment has played a major factor in finances or there may have been a death in the family that has seriously taken a toll on the emotional and financial well being of the family. Yet somehow, society turns a cold shoulder and instead of giving love and peace; society gives the gift of harsh judgment and shame.
Shame is felt at many times during the year, not just at Christmas. Sometimes it is a product of a desire to rise above the circumstances in which the individual grew up; sometimes it is the judgment of others as to the value of the presents given.
Whereas society piles on the shame, continually reminding you of your shortfalls, flaws or failures; God has a different message for you. God wants you to know that you are loved. You are a pearl of great price – a treasure that is worth selling everything for.
One of the greatest obstacles to hearing this truth is the idea that you are not worthy to step into a church. Or those within the church will shun or ignore you because of the mistakes that you have made. Or maybe it is a memory of a hurt inflicted by someone in the church that festers in you so that you cannot forgive.
God never intended you to be chained to a wall of shame or buried under the judgments of society. He intended you to feel His love, forgiveness and hope.
God’s gift was His Son, Jesus Christ, who was born to die that you might live eternally.
Although you may not be able to change the consequences of the overspending of this past Christmas, you can be free from the shame that put you there.
Take the first step in freedom. Ask for God’s help. Then find a Christian church where you will experience the genuine love of God.
Do not let shame continue to hold you captive or destroy the joy in life you were meant to have.
Next week: Dan Cooper, president, HP Mormon Church.