Blessings of Singleness #6: The Pain of Misplaced Shame

Okay.  Apologies for going dark for a couple of weeks on this blog.

The problem with me is that I’m a lot like Peter.  Some days words just come out of me and I hear ‘blessed are you, fabs. you have no idea what you’re talking about but God is speaking through you.’  But some days the only words that come out of my mouth are met with  ‘get behind me Satan’.

And on those days, by God’s grace, I try to blog less.

So, now I’m back.  Hopefully ready to affirm that Jesus is the Christ through my thoughts on singleness.

There is a pain I have been noticing in singleness; the pain of misplaced shame.

There are two types of shame.  One is good.  It’s shame for something that dishonors God.  This shame is the grace of God in our lives that leads us to repentance.  But there’s another shame that is misplaced.  This is shame for something that we feel dishonors us.  Shame for things that bring no dishonor to God.  Shame for things like noses that are too big or teeth that aren’t perfectly straight or singleness.

Every single in the world knows what I’m taking about.  It’s the shame you feel when someone exclaims out loud ‘why are you still single???’ and inside your head comes the shame: people are only single if they have some flaw.  what’s mine?

It’s the shame you feel when you overhear another conversation that speculates on how that beautiful girl could be single and inside your head comes the shame: it’s no mystery to anyone why YOU are single.

It’s the shame you feel when your confession of sin is met with the counsel ‘you don’t want to be married till you’ve conquered this sin anyway’ and inside your head comes the shame: I’m too sinful to be a good wife.  Is marriage just for the godly?

Of course this shame is painful.  It makes every offhand comment about singleness a stab.  This shame makes every marriage sermon leave you feeling like an insecure failure.

Every woman in the world wrestles with insecurity.  Married women don’t feel less misplaced shame than singles.  Ask any woman who has had issues with infertility.  Ask any mother who isn’t sure where to send her kids to school.  Misplaced shame is at the root of every defensive response, it’s in every whisper of gossip, every cry for approval or indifferent hardened heart.

While painful, misplaced shame is a blessing because it forces us to trust the gospel, not just for a future salvation but for our identity here and now.  If we don’t acknowledge the blessing of this pain, we will give misplaced shame a terrifying power in our lives.  We will make the tragic mistake of allowing it to lead us to believe that we are victims instead of sinners. If we aren’t careful it will lead us to seek affirmation from others instead of leading us to repentance.

Every ounce of misplaced shame is an offense against God.  It’s a deceleration that He is wrong about us.  Every shred of shame about our appearance is a pronouncement that God is a deficient creator.  Every sliver of fear that we’re not good enough is a shout of unbelief in the sufficiency of the atonement.

We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by justifying ourselves or seeking justification from others.  If we seek justification in ourselves we will constantly be trying to prove ourselves to the world.  We will be tragically afraid of failure. We will find ourselves defensively proclaiming the ‘betterness’ of singleness to anyone who will listen because we think if we just speak a little louder we will silence the shame inside of us.

If we seek justification in others we will find ourselves seeking friendships and relationships where people will comfort us by telling us how wonderful we are.  We’ll try to conquer our shame by speaking badly of others or pointing out their failings.  We’ll seek pity from those around us, and we’ll do anything to secure their approval.

There is only One who justifies.  The glorious grace of the misplaced shame we experience in singleness is that it will not leave us till it drives us to Him.

We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by denying our weaknesses instead of the deep truths of God.

Here’s the deal.  I’ve got enough crazy in me to give most people a run for their money.  I’m more emotionally schizophrenic than David.  I’m more stubborn than Peter.  I can say, with full assurance, that I would have a good chance of winning in the ‘worst of sinners’ category when up against Paul.  And I have no place in Scripture that assures me that none of these things is playing into my singleness.  God, for whatever reason, doesn’t find it necessary to tell me that my singleness has nothing to do with any of my personal flaws.

So here’s what I don’t  need.  I don’t need those around me to affirm that I would be the best wife ever and that my singleness has nothing to do with my own shortcomings.  Because if those were the words I needed to silence my shame, they would be recorded for me in His complete and sufficient Word.

What I do need is someone to point out that every single thing (even my issues and certainly my singleness) is ordained by my kind and gracious Father for my good.  What I do need is to hear that when I confess my sin He is just and faithful to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness and any lingering shame is my declaration that His sacrifice just wasn’t enough to cover that sin.  What I do need to hear is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and anyone who disagrees with that (myself included) doesn’t dishonor me, they dishonor the creator who holds galaxies in His hands.

The gospel in which we stand is great news.  It offers us a truth that will speak worth and peace and value into our deepest insecurities.  It offers us better hope than a good body or a sweet disposition or a great hair day.

Let your misplaced shame prompt to quiet your heart and listen.  Don’t be stilled by the words of your husband, peers, employers, friends but the Words of God alone.

Hear the gospel:

We are not worthy because we are beautiful or because we are married or because we are single.  We are not loved because we are intelligent or sweet or kind or gentle.  We are not valuable because of anything we bring to the table.

We are His.

If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  Shall any of our insecurity?  Shall our singleness?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

20 thoughts on “Blessings of Singleness #6: The Pain of Misplaced Shame

  1. When are you gonna write that book? Get this stuff copyrighted. I’m gonna ask you these Qs until you tell me you’ve done a prospectus & given it to a publisher. Ask Matt Carter, he can help you. YOU need to write a book. It would minister to so many more people. You speak God’s Truth in such a way that it is easliy read and understood. You could write an easy (?) read girl. Get busy. I know you have a busy job, so I’m gonna pray for time for you to write.

  2. I just read all the parts to your singleness series–this is very possibly the best I’ve ever read on the subject. Thank you for your Gospel-drenched discussion on suffering in singleness. This has been very helpful for me.

  3. I too have been reading your singleness series and praising God for it. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing so openly and honestly. Such a blessing!

  4. Good series. Thanks for the perspective, it ministers to the heart. Also, it’s funny how He likes to bring His point home to us in so many ways. For me it’s Romans 8 and 1 John 1 thx

    1. Today, I fell upon your “blog” I should say the Holy Spirit led me here . . . Thank you! I am single, and Elder in this world; have never married; have been God committed for life, and, at times I do feel, or experience the seeming woes of “singleness”! But, the blessings supersede all else, for to me God and His Love are all embracing, even the “aloneness” . . .
      God has blessed you Fabienne, may He be praised through you and your life in Him!

      Shestelle

  5. Thank you for such a refreshing series. I often find writing on singleness offers bland responses to my struggles and does not deal with the root of my difficulties. Your series is both insightful and challenging, pinpointing some of my deepest struggles and offering a Godly, Bible centred response.
    I have to agree with those who have asked you to write a book. Even if you just put this series straight into a tiny little book I would buy many copies to give to friends, both single and married, to encourage the singles and to help the married friends understand how to point their single friends back to Christ when they struggle with their singleness.
    Thank you for being willing to let God speak through you in this way and I pray that he would continue to use you for his glory.

  6. this is a beautiful blog and i’m very encouraged to read about the blessings of singleness because i myself am single and i know that God will bring me a husband one day; and even if He doesn’t, i know that it’s all in His divine plan and it doesn’t mean that i’m worthless or whatever but i have worth because I AM HIS. and every season is a season to live out his goodness and even if you’re single or married or whatever it’s all in His divine plan and He’ll use you in whatever season of your life to bring out the best in you (and Him). and it’s ALWAYS for His glory. so don’t lose hope, fabs. you are beautiful and a wonderful creation of God (:

  7. I agree, you should write a book! I know so many people who would be deeply blessed! I´m being deeply blessed!

    Mariel
    from Brazil =)

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. I hear the words of Jesus speaking through your blog– thank you for being faithful! “Every shred of shame about our appearance is a pronouncement that God is a deficient creator. Every sliver of fear that we’re not good enough is a shout of unbelief in the sufficiency of the atonement.”
    So true, and so unshakably beautiful.

  9. Just finished this series and seriously wish Austin was around the corner from Los Angeles so there could be further conversation over coffee. But alas, this attempt of a praise comment will have to suffice for now.

    Your words put my thoughts into concise and in humbling order. Thank you for sharing such a fragile though fortunate state of being.

    -Trace

  10. I am married, but am so blessed by your writing and constantly pointing back to the gospel. I agree with you, I could have the gospel spoken to me every day, yet I would still have area to grow! The gospel is just that amazing!

  11. Wow…I’ve been reading a lot of posts on your blog lately, but this one in particular really speaks to me today. Thank you so much for these words. I feel like I almost constantly struggle with misplaced shame in many areas of my life, but particularly in my singleness. Again, it comes back to the basic gospel truth that I still unconsciously struggle to believe: I am valuable because I am His. My value is not based on anything I have done or will do, nor is it based on what I think of myself nor on what any one person thinks of me. Thank you for this reminder!

  12. 1 critique: Shame is never of God.

    Guilt is the acknowledgment that I have done something bad/wrong/evil.
    Shame is understanding that I AM something bad/wrong/evil.

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