I’ll let the secret out up front. Here are the words that saved my life: “Shame has kept you from love, and only love will cure you of shame.” Count ’em. Fourteen. If you want to know how they saved me, keep reading.
Some years ago, I was in that strange zone of semi-consciousness right before full sleep takes you under. I wasn’t thinking about anything sad or unusual or traumatic. As best as I can remember, I wasn’t thinking about anything at all. But I had been in a season of struggling through some of the tight corners of my heart constricted by shame. Like a lightning bolt striking suddenly out of the sky came those fourteen words. And it wasn’t me thinking these up. I fell asleep knowing that I had heard God’s voice.
I used to think people who said they heard the voice of God were either of few steps short of a mental institution or deluded, overly-spiritual Christians. Now I know better. To have intimacy with anyone means that you know their voice and listen to it. God is no different. And he has been speaking to me all of my life. I just have not had the ears to listen.
So how did those fourteen words save me? I have been a man submerged in shame for years caused by a complete disconnection from others. I felt ashamed of my body, ashamed of my gifts, ashamed of the gifts I didn’t have, ashamed of my personality, ashamed of even my name. But in the last few years, I have seen love heal my shame. Over and over again. The healing still stuns me at times.
So these fourteen words have proved to be both a laser beam insight into the center of my tangled inner life and a prophetic lamp for the journey out. The more I think about them, the more true they become. No human could have known me this well. I didn’t even know myself that well. Only God could have given me this gift.
Just today at school, I became aware that I am no longer ashamed of my name. It just kind of hit me. For Bill is short for William. And William comes from the German word for helmet, implying strength. I like that. Strength instead of shame. That’s what fourteen words have done.
Beautiful, isn’t it?