Written by: Meggie Nance
A kind yet scary question that invites us to step out of our shame into freedom.
“Where are you?”
It was a quiet whisper that started haunting me the year my husband and I moved down
to Florida for him to start seminary for his Master’s of Counseling. I was busy surviving
being a stay at home mom and hiding behind a tantruming toddler and a projectile
vomiting, cholicky four month old. They made fabulous covers. Who could argue with
me that I didn’t have my hands full? And yet this question, “Where are you?”, continued
to seep in through my interactions with others, my thoughts when I managed to get a
few minutes of silence and most of all, in scripture.
Truth be told, I didn’t know where I was but I did know I was hiding. I was hiding from
relationships. From being known. From being found out. From being seen for the mess
that I was and the mess that I caused. I was hiding because of a deep sense of being
wrong. I didn’t know it then in 2014, but I had been hiding in shame for almost a
What exactly is shame?
In his book The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson goes into great detail about what shame
is, it’s effects on our brain and its effect on our relationships with each other and most
importantly with God. He states, “One way to approach its essence is to understand it as
an undercurrent of sensed emotion, of which we may have a slight or robust impression
that, should we put words to it, would declare some version of I am not enough; There
is something wrong with me; I am bad; or I don’t matter.” Do these words sound
familiar to you? Do you resonate with these or some version of them? Whether vivid
memories are coming to mind or not, shame is a fundamental experience of all human
When shame comes into play we begin a long sequence of hiding who we are from the
presence of others. We isolate. We disintegrate both ourselves from others and God and
our mind. Interpersonal neurobiology actually shows how when shame is experienced
parts of our brain stop communicating to one another! Disintegration is happening at a
cellular level as much as it’s happening relationally. It’s truly phenomenal!
How are you hiding?
You see, after I realized that running from and numbing my shame through college was
only adding to my shame, I smartened up and realized I needed to actually cover myself
to hide my shame. What a brilliant idea (said my subconscious to my heart)! I would
choose a better looking, diplomatic, nicer being to cover my self-contempt and disgust.
And that’s when my heart “fell” for a handsome, smooth-talking, East Tennessee man. A
man who loved Jesus, loved others incredibly well and looked great while doing it.
Everyone would be allured by him and I would be able to use his goodness to cover my
filth. This was a great plan!
Until it wasn’t. Until I became bitter and angry that his goodness wasn’t enough for me
to hide behind. It wasn’t enough to calm the rage, to soothe my anxiety or to lift the
depression. Neither were the two kids that God so graciously entrusted to a wreck like
me. They not only couldn’t clothe my shame but somehow only exposed my shame all
the more! Creation could not adequately cover what only the Creator could
Throughout our time at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, one of our
professors would often allude to the many ways we try to cover our shame as
sophisticated fig leaves. He got this from Genesis 3:7. “Then the eyes of both were
opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and
made themselves loincloths.”
When Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness, there was an innate action to
hide the most intimate parts of their physical bodies. They used the nearest, most
convenient methods to cover themselves. They hid their intimate parts of their bodies
and then they hid their whole bodies. Just like you and I do.
I may not use actual leaves but I will use whatever I think will cover my sense of being
bad. My husband. Being busy. House improvement projects. Seeing clients. Even good
theology. I can use even the really good things in life to hide behind… like my beloved
children. And yet, God does not let us use anything but himself to cover ourselves.
Curiosity not Condemnation
Have you ever wondered how ironic it was that an all-knowing God was asking the only
two people on the planet, “Where are you”? Surely he knew. Just like he knows that I
can hide behind being busy. Just like he knows that a financially providing Father can
hide behind his work. Just like he knows a woman can hide behind her weight because
after her beauty has been consumed it’s too dangerous to be beautiful anymore.
He doesn’t come to us and rip our sophisticated fig leaves away just to expose our shame
and mock us. No, not at all. However, he isn’t satisfied to let us stay hidden behind
withered leaves. He’s a loving Father. He wants the absolute best for us. So what does he
do? He moves towards us… he is in the business of coming and finding us. Just like he
found Adam and Eve hiding in the garden. He’s curious about us and he begins walking
towards us. He looks for us and finds us hiding in our shame. It’s in this being found
and being known where redemption begins.
So, where are you? What parts of your story do you tend to hide from others? Where do
you need the tangible experience of another walking into your story to find you? What
parts of your story have you cut off from yourself knowing because the shame is
unbearable? Being truly seen and known is the riskiest relational thing we can do on this
side of heaven and yet I believe that being known in our stories and our parts of shame
is where God is longing to let you know that you are more loved than you could ever
More Resources on the Gospel and the effects of Shame:
Thompson, C. (2010). Anatomy of the soul: Surprising connections between
neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships.
Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Thompson, C. (2015). The soul of shame: Retelling the stories we believe about