Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Coat of Shame

It's no secret that I dream - a lot.... Of course, there's no way of knowing how much I remember of my dreams, but each morning I could go on for at least five minutes in description of something - and, at least once a month, I really wonder if I couldn't write a pretty decent action/adventure or science fiction bestseller off of the creativity that comes from these dreams. Pretty wild.

It's not these creative dreams, however, that have inspired this post. It's the recurring dreams of shame. Most often it has something to do with not graduating from high school, not attending classes, not being prepared for a final (because I haven't attended the class all year), or more recently, not being able to pack up my belongings and make it to the ticket gate at some airport - much less have the ticket to go anywhere. Sometimes, the shame runs deeper - I discover I've left to go to work (subbing) and did nothing to take care of my children in my absence, sometimes it's the lie that I went "all the way" with my first fiance - and having to deal with the ramifications, or that I became pregnant before getting married, or, on rare occassion that I had to own up to my smoking habit. Now, please let me re-iterate, I'm not offering this as a list of condemnation, it is simply a list of the realities that I feel like I am actually living during my nighttime hours. In this "alternate reality" I have to accept the fact that I have indeed let myself down - and those that believed in me, and have to deal with the consequences and ramifications of this. The feelings I have in these latter part of these dreams are full of sadness, guilt, despair, and regret - and sometimes, hopelessness........

Then, I get to wake up. Sometimes, because I've had the dreams so often, I have to consciously work through the fact that I am indeed a high school graduate.... yes, really! That, no, I don't smoke (perhaps I'll have to devote an entire post as to why I can almost guarantee that will NEVER be a habit of mine) and all of the above other fears have not come true. It is the greatest relief - the burden of shame has been lifted.

Now, here's my point. A couple of years ago we were part of a Beth Moore Bible Study that had women from the audience volunteer to come forward to adorn themselves with certain "jackets" that had letters on the back of them. Each letter stood for some common shame that women of our day feel. I tried to find the exact study just now, but it's currently lost...., I'll list from memory - DIVORCE, ADDICTIONS, MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES (DEPRESSION, ETC.), PAST ABUSE, PHYSICAL IMAGE ISSUES, and the list goes on.... It was the most profound visual image - I wish I had it personally on DVD to share its imapct with others. Anyway, the discussion went on about how hurtful and damaging these "coats of shame" were - and what a burden they were to wear - everyone seeing, knowing, judging. But, then, Beth Moore described how Jesus wants to take on these coats of shame, and as part of her demonstration - she asked each woman to remove the coat/shame to symbollicly be free of it - handing the burden to Jesus. It was beautiful. It reminds me of the beauty of waking up from a bad dream, yes, the consequences remain, but if the burden is given to Jesus, freedom truly is ours to take.

Isn't that easier said than done, though? And, I can just hear the thoughts coming from those random readers out there - "Little does she know..." "Has she gone through this?" "What's her basis of experience that she can even address such an issue?". Well, you're right. I haven't gone through an awful lot - but, there are a few things that only a handful of people know about, and there are a whole lot of things that may not earn a "letter on a jacket" but God knows about and it is NOT pretty. Beth described what she called the "cylce of defeat" repeatedly found in His people of the Old Testament - Slavery, Deliverance, Testing (including successes and failures) and then Prevailing Unbelief - which led right back to slavery.......and so the cylce repeats until at some point that Prevailing Unbelief turns to Prevailing Belief - that God is there, the God of Second Chances, the God that wants His people to finally reach their Promised Land.

She had this 5 Statement Pledge of Faith that we were all required to recite each week.


It's that statement I AM WHO GOD SAYS I AM that I think is hard for a lot of us to accept. If we have asked Jesus into our lives, we are indeed perfect to Him - we wear those coats no longer. I pray that no matter what shame you have felt in your life, that you are able to release it to Jesus - and to live, free.


HollieHobbie said...

Wow! I should've been warned to not read that post at 6am! haha
That was very well written, Steph. Thanks for sharing and for taking the time to write what we do need to hear and be reminded of.

JustMe said...

Awesome post, Steph...save that one for the book you'll write one day. :) The closer I get to God the more I love theology, just thinking about His character and ruminating on the verses that pop into my head as He helps me see Him a little better. I may have to write those daily affirmations on a card and put it at my desk. Boy, I have worn (still wear) many coats of shame, but I am so thankful that those mess-ups saved me from my supersized pride! It's funny, my dreams are sometimes like yours, but the biggest repeater by far is the "exposed" dream - naked in the middle of a crowd at high school, etc. And in my dreams I'm still married to Shanne, which is logical but sometimes annoying.

stephietoo said...

I would be interested in seeing what someone thought our dreams meant. Back before I started even dating Travis, I would have this recurring dream that I was at the bottom of the ocean and was being chased by the devil. I felt trapped, scared, and was running out of air. The devil would catch me and right before he would kill me, I would wake up. Someone once told me that my dream meant that I was in a really bad relationship, or spot in my life, and felt trapped and wanted a way out. It made my laugh at the time, but now I wonder.... Shortly after I started dating Travis (and left my ex-boyfriend) the dreams stopped and I haven't had them since. For those of you who know about my relationship before Travis would understand why this dream, and what the person told me it meant, make sense.

I still have strange dreams, as though I am in danger, someone is chasing me, etc. but nothing that terrified me as much as the ocean one and nothing that really is recurring.

When I was in high school, and for several years after that I would have a dream that I had no idea where my class was, and had to search the two story building to find it. I would also dream that I had no idea what my schedule was or what class I was supposed to be in at the time. Silly now that I think about it, but frightening back then. Typical dreams for most of us.

A little off course for what this post is really about, sorry about that. Stephie, I often hear about your dreams and I think that you should keep a dream log by your bed and as soon as you wake up, write down what you remember about your dream. You really could put a lot of them into a book or movie; as long as I could be in it! :o) Have a great thursday and I will see you this weekend! Love you.

StephieAnne said...

Steph - that's horrible!!!! That's one of the worst recurring dreams I've heard of - Satan kind of tops the list of scary....