In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake lead me and guide me;
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my refuge….
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love. (New Revised Standard Version)
Holy Saturday is a quiet place sandwiched between the ignominy of the Cross and the celebration of Resurrection – a day of solitude, silence, and stillness.
This isn’t a particularly popular day. People don’t rave about Holy Saturday. Many Christians haven’t even a thought that this day could have any significance. Yet, this very day has its place in the scheme of the Christian life.
Whenever Christians quickly jump to triumphal language about victory, and speak little-to-nothing about suffering, then we are left with a cheap grace which has been purchased with the counterfeit currency of velocity.
Today is meant for us to get of our heads and wrap our hearts around the important reality that Jesus Christ was truly and bodily dead in the grave.
It was real suffering on Good Friday, and it’s a real death on Holy Saturday. There’s no movement. All is silent and still. Jesus is in the solitude of a dark graveyard tomb.
There’s no getting around this: If we want Resurrection Day with all its celebration and glory, then we cannot circumvent Holy Saturday with its quiet silence and somber sadness.
Holy Saturday must be observed if we are to experience real and practical freedom from the bondage of shame. And shame is powerful. It keeps a person locked within themselves, alone with their secrets hidden far from others.
Far too often we may try and cope with our shameful words or actions through promising to work harder, pledging to have greater willpower, or complaining that life is unfair. None of this gets to the root of our shame.
Unlike guilt, which our conscience identifies as specific behaviors to repent of, shame is the message of our inner critic who obnoxiously decries that we are somehow flawed, not enough, and inherently lacking intelligence, courage, or volition.
Shame is the insidious mechanism which interprets bad events we experience as the result of our own badness. In other words, we didn’t just do something bad – we ourselves are bad. We reason (wrongly) that if we were good, bad things wouldn’t happen to us.
If that were true, we would need a serious re-interpretation of Jesus, who suffered terribly and was killed. In actuality, he’s lying in a cold grave because of the power of evil in the world, and not because he was personally culpable.
Shame is the vampire who lives in the shadows and feeds on secrets – which is why the posture of shame is to hide our face in our hands. If shame persists, we withdraw from others and experience grinding loneliness.
Therefore, the path out of shame is to openly name our shame and tell our stories, that is, nailing the stake of vulnerability into the heart of shame, and exposing it to the light, causes it to disintegrate and vaporize.
In contrast to the unhealthy hiding of ourselves within prison walls of shame is seeking refuge and hiding ourselves in God. Even a cursory look at today’s psalm evidences an open and vulnerable person who wants nothing to do with shame. The psalmist unabashedly and without shame is quite forward in presenting his wants to God.
The psalms are meant for repeated use, to be voiced aloud again and again. In doing this simple activity, we shame-proof our lives. God’s face shines upon us and takes away the shadows of shame. It is no coincidence that Jesus forsook the shame of the cross through publicly uttering the words of this psalm: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Unchecked verbal violence will eventually lead to physical violence.
If wordy persecution comes from others, the primary tactic will most likely be shaming the people such persons want to control. Such enemies will frame a justification for violence because the people for whom they are leveling shame are “bad,” even “monsters.” If verbal persecution comes from within, the shame can reach a critical mass of suicidal ideation and perhaps outright attempts at ending one’s life.
We cannot long co-exist with the living death of shame. But the good news is that we don’t have to. Instead, we can live in the strong fortress and the rock of refuge which is God.
The Lord traffics in redeeming mercy and steadfast love, not in the demeaning judgment of shame. We can flee to God and find grace to help us in our time of need. There is no shame in reaching out for help. We all need deliverance from something. It’s a matter of whether we are open to ask for it, or not.
Holy Saturday is here for you to know that Jesus Christ absorbed all of the world’s massive shame, yesterday, on Good Friday. Christ died. And the shame he took on, died with him. It’s no more and will rise no more.
But someone will rise….
Father God, into your hands I commit my spirit – everything I am and all that I hope to be – so that Jesus Christ might be exalted in me through the power of your Holy Spirit. I choose to leave shame where it belongs – nailed to the cross. With your divine enablement, I shall walk in the newness of life through expressing my needs and wants with courage, confidence, and candor. May it be so according to your steadfast love. Amen.