[Part 3, Chapter 15]
Favour removes shame.
Simple to say, harder to live out.
Elizabeth, about to become the mother of John the Baptist, had been barren. A horrible word to explain childlessness. Even more horrible to be without something you’ve longed for. Triply horrible to be old and without a child in a society where family was everything. Being childless meant no heir, no grandchildren, and no future support.
“What is wrong with her?” the gossips would have whispered.
“Poor Elizabeth!” the neighbours would have sighed.
“I wonder what will become of them?” the townsfolk would have mused.
People who are shamed find it hard to enjoy life; they endure it. That was Elizabeth. Her source of shame and disgrace was not only based on the way others saw her. It was also her perception of how they saw her, based on the way she saw herself. In her own eyes, she wasn’t “Elizabeth, precious and dearly beloved daughter of the Most-High God.” Rather, she saw herself as, “Elizabeth, Barren One!”
Perhaps you see yourself through the murky mirror of shame. Bullied at school, molested, job applications turned down, complements not given. Your stutter, inappropriate things uttered and regretted, the thing you wanted to say but couldn’t express. The partner who makes everything out to be your fault, the guilt and regret that have gone inside.
While guilt suggests, “I did something bad,” shame stigmatises with, “I am bad.”
If that, or any other scenario is you, lean in close and listen:
The Lord has looked favourably on me.
He has taken away my disgrace.”
This is what favour is all about. This is the whole reason Jesus came: Father—perfectly loving, gentle, Abba Father, Daddy-God—looks upon you. He likes what he sees. He loves you even when you struggle to love yourself.
Jesus died a shameful death. Stripped naked and exposed, he endured the public shame just as Elizabeth did, just as some of you do. He was unjustly scandalised, just as some of you are.
Shame is often about injustice. People wrongly assume and accuse. You are harder on yourself than you would be on others. It’s unjust, not right.
The Apostle John says:
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
The word ‘unrighteousness’ can also be translated as injustice or hurt.
The Lord has looked favourably on you. He sees the injustice of things murmured or shouted. He knows the hurt of your own self-contempt. On the cross, stripped of dignity, he allows himself to be shamed with you.
He has taken away your disgrace. He invites you to see yourself as the son, as the daughter, he sees you to be.
Elizabeth is now something she wasn’t. The favour of the Lord has not only changed her; it has changed how she now sees herself.
He looks upon, and he takes your shame away. That means he gives you favour and he sees you as favoured.