Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Shame like Velcro

July 6, 2023

Christina Brown

I know I’m not the only one who attaches myself like weather-stripping Velcro to the idea that I am inherently worthless. For whatever reason, it takes more energy to believe that I am special—unique—beloved—than it does to equate myself with a crumpled piece of tinfoil tossed into the garbage bin. (Poor piece of tinfoil…now I feel sorry for it.) But why do I feel a bizarre compassion for this lifeless piece of trash, when I can’t find compassion for myself? It’s so easy for me to personify a cluster of inanimate molecules and deem them “worthy” of something other than a landfill, but I can’t offer myself that same compassion. 

Why is self-compassion so difficult to accept? And why is it that when it comes knocking, offering itself as a gift, I slam the door in its face? I’m not in the business of loving myself. But is that the crux of the issue? Or is it that I am not in the business of looking at myself? 

It’s easy to reject the person I imagine myself to be. I look in a mirror, (or horror of horrors, read an old, angsty journal entry!) and find comfort in rejecting what I see. Self-hatred somehow feels like a form of justice. But when I encounter myself in someone else’s eyes – the eyes of a friend, lover, or mentor who unblinkingly ascribes me value, I recoil. 

Most of my life I’ve struggled to disentangle myself from the person I think I am from the person I’m told that I am. There is a stark difference between the two, and I’ve exhausted myself trying to follow the golden thread hidden in the yarn of tangled narratives.

So I have to decide—whose version of myself do I really believe?

I’ve asked myself this question, over and over, but my answer is always the easy one—the Velcro version of my own narrative. 

But the other day when, for the thousandth time, I struggled to unravel the lies, a particular question Jesus put to his disciples entered gently into my thoughts. 

“Who do you say that I am?” [Matt. 16:15 NKJV]

I remembered the passage. It was the disciple Peter who had the answer, and Jesus called him “blessed.” But not long thereafter, Peter denied and betrayed the very man he had prophesied about. 

I can only imagine Peter’s torturous thoughts during those three brutal days after the crucifixion; his friends were grieving Jesus’ loss and grappling with the confusion that followed the death of their Messiah, but Peter? I imagine that Peter, like Judas, felt a mantle of shame shroud his grief like the shrouds of linen wrapping the corpse of his Christ.

As I read the gospel narrative again, I found myself wondering–when Jesus revealed His post-resurrection body to his followers, what was Peter’s reaction? After the shock had subsided, what horrid thoughts of self-hate lurked in the shadows of Peter’s joy? I visualize him struggling to meet the eyes of Christ, his own burning with hot tears, and I can almost hear him cry out in choked sobs, “But my God, who do You say that I am?” 

If it were me, I’d be awaiting damnation by the one I loved most. But in an unrecorded, private moment of Peter’s soul, the eyes of the betrayer and the betrayed met, and Peter’s own narrative was unraveled: somehow, in some way, Peter’s desperate question was answered. And Peter staked his very life upon that answer. His golden thread was found.

One of my favorite Scripture verses of all time was written by Peter. I didn’t realize until recently why I resonated so strongly with it. But reading it again the other day, with the passage in Matthew percolating somewhere in the frontal cortex of my brain, I saw layers of context buried in Peter’s words that I hadn’t noticed before. 

Peter was submerged in the mires of shame for three days—the same days His God was actively working out Peter’s salvation with a love so powerful, Peter never would have believed it.

So, when years later, he writes to the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor, I see a man who had personally encountered his Christ amidst the legions of doubts and self-hatred gathering in his own heart—and had been offered something extraordinary in return. 

“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” [1 Peter 5: 1-4 NKVJ]

In that passage I see humility. I see forgiveness. I see a version of a man who’s learned a new kind of denial—he denied hospitality to the legions of lies he told himself.

He continues, encouraging the struggling believers to

 “…humble [yourselves] under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” [1 Peter 5:5-7 NKJV]

Peter’s personal encounter with the eyes of Grace many years earlier gave him a special kind of authority to reassure his fellow believers that their Messiah cared for them. 

Peter’s death was by crucifixion. He is said to have been crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of crucifixion in the same manner as his Messiah was killed. Was that an old shadow of shame lurking? Was it the great Deceiver, prowling around Peter’s soul “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour?” [1 Peter 5:8 NKJV] Or was Peter’s request to his executioners born out of an overflow of love for his God, knowing better than most, the grace he had been given? Either way, I understand better now how this request fits into the gospel of Christ.

Peter ends this section of his letter with this:

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Peter 5:10-11 NKJV]

Peter told himself the story of shame—of unworthiness—perhaps he, too, identified with a poor piece of trash or the scatterings of refuse on the streets left by the Roman horses.

But I imagine that, for Peter, dismissing the words of Jesus was as out of the question as it would be for me. So I need to ask myself, is it Compassion knocking, or the Person of Christ? When a friend looks into my eyes and tells me I’m loved, or my spouse pulls me into an embrace of affirmation, is that Christ, knocking upon the door of my heart, asking me to open unto Him?

I suspect that it is. 

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” [Revelation 3:20 NKJV]

Perhaps being inhospitable to the opinions of my friends is doable, but to slam the door in the face of Christ? Unthinkable. 

So when I hear the words of love from my mentor, or encounter the encouragement of friends, perhaps I need to let them cross the threshold—to accept the gaze of Grace that sees what I refuse to see, and acknowledges what I refuse to acknowledge. My God has loved me into glory, and when I look at myself, I look at Him. Compassion has come, and it is high time I offer Him the hospitality He deserves.

The featured image, “Abundance,” is courtesy of Jordan Durbin and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating.


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  1. Terri Moon says:

    Oh, Christina! What a beautiful essay, straight from your heart. This is a wonderful stake of truth to live by. I hadn’t seen the connection between Peter’s experience of denial and his transformation into a person expecting to receive a crown of glory one day at Jesus’ appearing! What joy! Thank you, friend.

  2. Christina,

    Thank you. This is a stunning piece, and these words are so deeply needed. What strong beauty you have wrought in the places of pain, making something good and true grow from the ground of struggle. I marvel and rejoice!

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