I know now what it smells like… sin and shame. It smells the way my VW smelled this week when my cat piled out of it after having been trapped in there two days. Or at least I imagine if you could smell foolishness and fear – that’s what you’d get. This idea of the “smell of sin” crossed my path during a devotional I found on YouVersion. Timothy G. Walton writes, “One early American preacher traveled from town to town preaching the gospel message. It was witnessed that as he approached the outskirts of a town he would pause and say, I smell hell!”
The funny thing is, we can’t smell our own sin so well, even while we are keenly aware of the shortcomings of others. My cat certainly didn’t realize the gifts he left behind in my car would make our family hold our noses in disgust. And I’m thankful that I could shower the smell off of me, and shine myself up all pretty again before heading to work. Imagine the questions, “whoa girl, where have YOU been?”
But sometimes I can’t seem to shake the feelings of ugliness and brokenness inside me. Let’s face it, I’ve made far more mistakes than I care to admit. And the worst of it is, I’m certain to make more. But I didn’t always realize it while it was happening. I didn’t recognize my behavior as selfish, lazy, or judgy at the time. And I’m thankful that Jesus is so patient with me. Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us.”
This is such good news for you and me. Because it means Jesus loved me before I could do anything for him, or do anything to hurt him. And it means there is hope for us all to live UNASHAMED.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I like to recommend books that have helped me work through some of my own gremlins. Brene’ Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame, and especially her book “Daring Greatly” has been huge in my understanding of the things that hold me back from living a wholehearted life.
Brown writes in the book’s opening passage, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists – it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.”
So here I am. Admitting my shame, foolishness, and fears. Asking Jesus for forgiveness, and accepting his free gift of grace. As I do this, I feel lighter. I’ve given Jesus the only gift I can give him, and he accepts it with joy. Jesus turns my fear into faith so I can live unashamed. That’s genius.