A Conversation with Francis Chan, Part 2: Shame
Vince and Jo continue their conversation with special guest Francis Chan, this week answering the question, “Why can’t I get rid of shame, even when the shame is brought on by something I can’t control?”
Francis Chan is a father, grandfather, pastor, and author of several bestselling books, the most recent of which is Letters to the Church. You can find out more about his work at www.wearechurch.com and www.crazylove.org.
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Michael Davis: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Ask Away with Vince and Jo Vitale. I am your host, Michael Davis.
Michael Davis: The cross speaks the amazing truth that God loves us so much that He was willing to go to such amazing lengths to reconcile us to Himself. Those in Christ are forgiven. Though this is a fundamental truth in the life of every believer, for many, guilt and shame seem to be ever present. We say that we are forgiven sinners, but oftentimes our shame reflects a heart that doesn't fully grasp what it means to be without blame or blemish. How can Christians live their lives in a way that reflects God's holiness, but also in a way that shows that they have received God's forgiveness?
Michael Davis: But, before we get started, I am thrilled to say that we have Francis Chan with us in the studios once again. Francis, can you tell our listeners how they can be praying for you both personally and in regards to your ministry?
Francis Chan: Gosh. Personally, there's so many wonderful opportunities, and I just want to go and do everything and I find myself sometimes getting so caught up in the actions that I do feel my own soul drifting away from my intimacy with Him. I fight for it every morning to get it back, but just pray for that. I feel like there's this never ending battle where Satan is constantly trying to get me to focus on other things other than just staying in that worship of God throughout day. Like, the spirit filled person of Ephesians 5 where you've got that melody in your heart all day long to the Lord. I just want to be that spirit filled person.
Michael Davis: Okay, excellent.
Vince Vitale: I'll take prayer for that too.
Jo Vitale: Yes. Let's do that.
Michael Davis: Me too.
Vince Vitale: Amen to that. And, people out there are praying, we would love prayer for that.
Michael Davis: Yes, all of us. All of us. Okay. Let's get to our question.
Michael Davis: Why can't I get rid of shame even when the shame is brought on by something I can't even control?
Vince Vitale: I just have to say one thing to start us off. I just think it's such a good question because when we think about the gospel, it's sort of guilt that we have a sense of what to do with. Guilt requires punishment, but Jesus took the punishment for us and therefore we can be free of it.
Vince Vitale: But, shame is a different thing. And, shame might not even be a matter of guilt. It might actually be a matter of what someone's done to you rather than something you've done. And, so what does the gospel have to say about that? I think sometimes there are people out there who are like, "I know I'm forgiven. I've dealt with my guilt, but I'm still completely weighed down by this shame." So, I don't have an easy answer, but I think that's a really important question for a lot of people.
Francis Chan: It is. And, if I could speak personally, I so relate to this. Because, even as a pastor, even after teaching so many years, I really dealt with this a couple of years ago where I did some things 30 years ago, that still come back. 35, 40 years ago that are still in my head and I confess them, I have asked forgiveness for them. And, I was telling my friend, I go, "It feels like those dry erase boards like the old ones where you erase it, but you can still see what you wrote?"
Jo Vitale: Yes.
Francis Chan: There's still a mark. That's the way I feel. It's like I know I'm forgiven, but there’s still, like this, I don't know what it is. And, I went through this time where I'm going, "Lord," I'm looking at David and I'm reading. It was when I was reading through the story of David and going, gosh, it seems he did some pretty major, and it seems like a chapter later he's back to playing his harp and writing more Psalms.
Francis Chan: It's like, "What? How did he do that? You killed your friend, you committed adultery, now you're marrying this girl." If I were David, every time I would see Bathsheba for the rest of my life, I'd be reminded of my guilt, of what I did and the shame. And, somehow he got beyond that and I'm going, "Gosh, my sin compared to." And, obviously you know our theology on that, but still it's like, "Why Lord, why?"
Francis Chan: And, I'm thinking, "You know what, David spoke as a forgiven guy and he moved on and I need to move on, Lord." And, I just began seeking the scriptures because I'm going, "God, this has been many, many years. Why do I still feel like there's this residue like that dry erase? Why does my soul feel that way? And, I'm still sick over that, when I know in my head I'm forgiven?"
Francis Chan: And, I remember reading Psalm 51 going, "Okay, David did it. What did he do?" And, he says, "Have mercy on me, oh God, according to Your steadfast love. According to Your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. Cleanse me from my sin."
Francis Chan: And, he talks to me, "You wash me and I will be whiter than snow," right?
Vince Vitale: Yes, yes.
Francis Chan: Whiter than snow. There's not a stain still there. And, I learned so much about myself during that time. I realized there's these commands of scriptures that I tremble at. But, I realize I don't tremble at His promises. I think there's different types of people where when there's a command, I take it so seriously. But, when there's a promise, it's almost like I don't have that same reverence. God just said that he cleansed me whiter than snow. So, am I going to say "no, you didn't?"
Vince Vitale: Yes.
Michael Davis: Yes.
Francis Chan: I need to tremble like that. He says He made Him who knew no sin become sin on your behalf. So, that you might become the righteousness of God through Him. So, I am the righteousness of God through Jesus. I'm the righteousness of God. God was showing me, look, I said, "if you confess your sins, you'll be, God will be faithful and just to cleanse you from all of your sins, all of your unrighteousness." He's going to forgive it all. And, so I'm like reading these verses and going, "God, this is your word. This is what you've said, this. I need to tremble at that."
Francis Chan: And, so it wasn't like some experience or what it was the word of God, where I realize, "Lord, I'm not taking your promises seriously."
Michael Davis: Right.
Francis Chan: I'm challenging you and go, "no, I'm still guilty." That's where we have to put the word of God, even over our own feelings where God says that Isaiah 55 passage, "my ways aren't your ways." That was in the context of forgiveness. He goes "I know the way you are, but I'm not like you, okay? When I say you're forgiven, you're forgiven." And, I just had to demand that and say, "no, God, I am so sorry. I have doubted your word. How dare I doubt your word and think that." He says I'm the righteousness of God. God doesn't have a little bit of stain in him. When God washes something, like David says, "you wash me and I will be whiter than snow." How dare I say, "God, you washed me like 90 something percent of the way. Right?"
Francis Chan: It was all of these biblical truths that I just had to beg the Holy Spirit to just make it real in my life. And, so I understand the person-
Vince Vitale: That's good.
Francis Chan: -that's to some degree asking this question. I felt it for years and you almost feel like you got to hide it or something. But, just know, some of us gravitate toward this.
Vince Vitale: And, sometimes I think we kind of deceive ourselves into thinking we're in a really humble place. My sin was so bad, I recognize the gravity of my sin. It was so bad such that even though God tried to wipe it clean, it only got partly clean. But, that's not a humble position. It's actually a position of saying that God is not great enough to be a good enough washer to wash things so that they're white as snow.
Francis Chan: Yes.
Jo Vitale: You're basically saying what Jesus did on the cross with all the magnitude of that isn't enough to deal with you. My sin's too big for that. You're so arrogant in a bizarre way, but I got to say, but it makes sense to me why so many people feel this way because this is sort of irony, right? The closer you get to God and the more the mess in your life is dealt with and the more holy you become, the worse it all looks. In hindsight in the rear view mirror, you're like, "I thought it was bad at the time." And, I'm "Oh, that was worse." So, sometimes that hits you again you know?
Jo Vitale: And, so to move closer to God in holiness without getting harsher on yourself in a way where you keep going back to the shame and drowning in it. And, but I was also thinking about what you said about hiding and I always think about the woman at the well in John Four and she's freed from shame and but it's almost in the process of running back and declaring it to everybody. Like, "come and see the man who told me everything I ever did." That was her shame and she's talking about it. And, it's something in the act of bring it into the light, almost of confession of stepping, of exposing things that you get free of shame. I'm thinking of not just of shame of the stuff that we've done, but the shame that's been put on us even sometimes culturally.
Jo Vitale: I mean, for me a huge thing in my life was there's so much pressure to look a certain way and I never felt good enough for it. And, so for me, my identity for so long was in cosmetics. I thought if I could just manage my face then I'll feel better about walking out the door. And, I remember, and so that kind of in a ways a social shame or pressure that's put on you but you feel ashamed. And, I remember wrestling through it and was telling me one Lent that I needed to give up wearing makeup for Lent and oh boy, did that not go down well with me. And, I was having this crisis in the church in the middle of a Sunday service like, "Lord, I'll do anything for you but not that." Which is classic, right? People are laying down their lives. I won't lay down my mascara brush, you know? There's so many problems with that.
Jo Vitale: But, anyways, I was tearful and I just sent you the prompting of the Lord to saying "Jo, why is this so hard for you?" And, it kind of shocked me what came out of me. I was "because I don't want people to see me." And, then I just, the way the Holy spirit pressures back, it just really felt the challenge of him saying, "but if people can't see you, how will they ever see me?"
Jo Vitale: And, I sort of felt this challenge to say, "as long as you're hiding all of this stuff, people don't see the broken you, the you that's ashamed, the you that's struggling. You're going to stay in your shame, but also you won't free anyone else from shame either because they won't know what it looks like to be free." And, kind of casting off the social shame then and bring it into the light. Even though it was in the process of painfully giving up makeup and having to walk the door and feel so exposed and hilariously going to church.
Jo Vitale: The first Sunday I gave up makeup and went to church I walked in the door and someone said, "okay, you look really ill." I was "thanks, it's just my natural face." There's something about wearing your natural face, spiritually as well that you let people see and in the process it's all, it was painful but the shame just like washed off me because I started stepping into, "no, I'm not going to live by how other people see me and the shame they put on me by saying I have to be a certain way wheen I live under how Christ sees me and decide he gets to say what's shameful and what isn't. And, he says this is not shameful."
Francis Chan: Yes. Yes. And, for those listening, I just want to save you from years of trying to erase that shame and other ways.
Vince Vitale: Good.
Francis Chan: Because, I almost felt "okay, I screwed up. I screwed up here, screwed up here. Maybe if I just have a good track record for 10 years, then, 20 years, 30 years" and you just realize this isn't going away. It's not that. So, don't try to make up for it somehow. You've got to trust the word of God. You have to tremble at the word. It doesn't even, the thing the way the Lord taught me and he was just, it didn't even make logical sense to me that God would cleanse anyone 99% of the way. Does he ever do anything partially in scripture? It's silly and you know the goofiness of it, but God had just shown me like, "really? You think this is what I did?" It's "of course not. Wow, I'm an idiot. Thank you Lord."
Francis Chan: And, it's when you accept that, when the spirit just has it, click in your mind how you're listening, "God, please," just however you do that in someone's heart, it's going to be different for every single person listening because you've got your own relationship with him and he needs to reveal that through his word to you in that special way. But, it's only then you know that that David says, "then I'll teach transgressions, His transgressors your ways and sinners will turn for." You know, "Oh Lord, open my lips and my mouth to declare your praise." It's you cleanse this and then this joy and gladness and now I'm really going to be used because I really understand how much I've been cleansed.
Vince Vitale: Yes, that's great.
Michael Davis: So, we know that you know the Christian life is conviction, repentance.
Michael Davis: How do you prevent, and I know this is, this is me asking here, how do you prevent conviction from turning into shame? Because, oftentimes again, I think that a lot, and I talked to a lot of folks, I've noticed that can be this, there's a maybe almost silent conviction, but how do you prevent that conviction from turning into shame?
Francis Chan: Yes, I think the main thing is to stop looking at yourself and to stare at the cross. I mean that's what's going on in heaven, right?
Michael Davis: Right.
Francis Chan: We say your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The reason why we get stuck in our shame is we keep looking at ourselves rather than looking at Christ. The finished work of the cross, him seated in, on the highest place, far above all dominion and power and we're seated with him in that place. We've got to stare at him at his power. Whether he's saying, "where there's lamb who is slaying, Holy, Holy, Holy." When we're just looking at the mirror, "Oh, look at what I did."
Michael Davis: Yes.
Francis Chan: "I remember when I did this. I remember when I did this. I remember one time, I..."
Michael Davis: Yes, it's good.
Francis Chan: We've got to stare at Him.
Michael Davis: That's so good. And, I think one of the things that we realize Jo, through some of those experiences is that shame needs to be transferred. It’s almost like a stain. If you have a stain in your rug and now you put a cloth on that, to get that out of the rug while the stain goes onto the cloth, you can clean it, you can remove it. But, only by that transference to something else. And, I think you see that oftentimes when people do feel shame, they often wind up projecting it on other people. Try to get some of my dirtiness onto you, but I'm going to bully you or I'm going to make fun of you, or I'm going to criticize you or look down on you and maybe you'll look dirtier than I will and I'll feel better about myself. That doesn't work.
Michael Davis: But, looking at the cross, right? The transfer took place and we often think in terms of just guilt and sin and Jesus. He took our sin upon him on the cross, but He also took our shame upon Himself and He was mocked. He was spat on. He hung there naked. Anyone who's been through shame, Jesus was utterly shamed on the cross and He wore that for us. We could transfer it onto Him in a very literal way. And, I think that's why the scriptures can say that "anyone who believes in Jesus will never be put to shame." And, I love what you said from Isaiah. His ways are beyond our ways and that context being in the context of that transfer in that forgiveness. And, I just love that context. "Listen to these words. Do not be afraid. You will not be put to shame, do not fear disgrace. You will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth."
Michael Davis: And, then a little further in Isaiah, "instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion and instead of disgraced, you will rejoice in your inheritance and everlasting joy will be yours." And, what an incredible promise. But, I think it's exactly what you say, Francis. Getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus. And, when we look at Him, we see the stain has actually been transferred onto Him and therefore we can be cleansed and we don't have to live with it.
Jo Vitale: And, what an amazing thing that God exists. Because, if God isn't in your framework, if you don't believe that God exists and there is nothing to do with shame. If there isn't someone who grounds identity and says, "you are who I make you to be, you are who I made you and who I'm continually remaking you and crafting you to be." But, if you don't have that, then what are, your form, if it's do it yourself identity and you're just creating your own self, then all you have are the things done to you and the things that you've done. And, that never goes away. There were no, there's no being born again. There's no writing off, there's no washing it off. You just become kind of like a stack of past poor decisions that just build and build and build, and there's nowhere to go with that.
Jo Vitale: And, so I wonder and I think so many people in our culture today are just feeling so ashamed and they're putting people to shame. Shame is such a huge issue today and I think people are drowning in it but to have a God who says "I'm the ground of identity. I am and I say who you will be and I say that you can be made new and this will not define you. What has been done to you or anything that you've done. I will define who you are."
Michael Davis: Well, guys we are out of time. Francis, thank you again for joining us. Vince and Jo, thank you guys for joining me. Thank you all for listening and we will catch you guys next time.
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