When He Turns Shame to Radiance

He didn’t mean to unearth it, didn’t know it was hiding so deep beneath the surface, out of sight and decades in the shadows. But that’s what love does, it presses in so close and so invasively, that fears and shame are forced to come out from their closets and give up their game of a slow and subtle shutting down of the heart. With questions backed by love, he prodded at some areas he didn’t understand. (One of the greatest beauties of married love, exemplifying the espousal relationship the Lord has with us, is the take-no-prisoner way it lovingly invades every space.)

And I felt my defenses rise involuntarily — as though protecting something — till something broke open in me, unexpectedly. A walled off area of shame, decades old and stuffed away in shadows, slowly surfaced, and what I had no idea was still  harbored away, came out of hiding and was forced into the light of day — its power broken. And I wept and wept, as for a moment I was the  20-plus-years-ago version of me.

And Jesus stepped in to do what He loves to do — lift my face out of the cover of shame and into radiance (Ps. 34:5). He is a redeemer and He leaves no stone unturned. He is a healer and He leaves no wound uncured. He is a husband and He leaves no part unloved. In a moment’s time of light shed into old shadows, my heart became free in a place I didn’t even know it was locked. Love entered a space I didn’t even know was barred. And fear and shame obediently responded, as He drove them out (1 Jn. 4:18).

We all have fears. We all carry shame. Maybe we’ve identified it, maybe we haven’t. Maybe we feel we’ve dealt with it and do not need to let anyone into that place. Or maybe we feel that time has taken care of the history. Whatever the case, there’s something in the heart of Jesus that is after the full, radiant redemption of every single part of us. He’s not just after a legal justification but a complete transformation of every portion of us. And He can see in ways we can’t. Where we’ve closed the door and walked away, He sees any shadows that remain. And where we would just bury and move on, He lingers and unearths. He presses in with tender love until our resistance breaks.

The end of the story is that He presents us to Himself a radiant church, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27). His love does not stop until it’s love perfected, without fear and without shame. While we are still sectioned off interiorly, harboring small places of shame that produce subtle fears and separation, we have not yet been made perfect in love (1 Jn. 4:18). And He refuses to leave us like this. With a knowledge more personal than our knowing of ourselves, He draws near, and with a love more tender than our self-preserving shielding, He pursues us.

Did we think He would redeem us and then walk away? Did we think He would die for us and then distance Himself? No, that was only the beginning of His love. That was only the first day of our redemption. He’s in it for the long haul and after fullness, not fractions. He promises to not only justify us but to sanctify us completely (1 Thess. 5:23). The good work he began, he will bring to completion (Phil. 1:6). He’ll use spouses and friendships, heartaches and circumstances, to render us weak in our resistance to His invasive, tender affections.

Wherever there are shadows, where shame still lurks and fear still hovers, He comes with shining light, saying, “I know where this is going. I know who you are. I know the radiance that will shine from your face and perfect love, without fear, that will consume your heart as I bring this work to completion.”

When we allow Jesus into these shadowed places we find that on the other side of our shame is radiance. On the other side of our fear is liberty. Wherever we let Him near, He frees us. He renews us. He washes and purifies and restores. In short, He makes us radiant, with faces never covered with shame (Ps. 34:5).