There’s a place on Interstate 80 in the middle of Iowa, in the middle of the USA, that takes my breath away. Driving this cross-country stretch easily lulls me into a road trip trance. But, shortly before the Newton, Iowa exit, Mother Nature snaps her fingers, demanding I gaze in her direction. And, for a moment, at the top of a hill, I look around and see pure beauty. Fields of Iowa farmland rolling in every direction as far as the eye can see. My heart says, “Home”.
Living and traveling in other states, I often encounter people who openly share their distaste for Iowa. After learning where I’m from, they respond with, “Oh, I’m sorry” or “Gee, that’s too bad.” Upon deciding to move back to Iowa from the East Coast, our family often received the question, “Why would you want to go back there?”
I get it. I do. Iowa is not a top travel destination. The cities here are not major metropolises. There are no Rodeo Drives, no Ivy League schools, no giant amusement parks, and very few national monuments. There are miles and miles of – – – well, land. It gets brutally cold in the winter and horribly humid in the summer.
When people from other states say things like “I’m sorry you’re from there”, it is basically a light-hearted attempt to embarrass or shame me. But, you know what I find interesting? Their comments never make me question the way I think about Iowa. The shaming never causes me to avoid telling people where I’m from or what I like about my state. Yes, their comments bother me. I don’t like shame, but my beliefs and behavior remain unchanged.
Others shame me, but I live unashamed.
Is there something in your life you feel the same way about? A place, person, activity, or thing you call home? Even if someone shamed you about it, would you live unashamed? Are you at ease telling others about your “home” in spite of judgement and criticism that might come your way?
I wonder, what can we learn by applying this logic to faith?
Do we stand just as sure and steady of our belief in God despite the shame that comes our way? Or, do unfavorable comments and behavior make us question and hide our faith? Does expressing our beliefs make us worry about what people will think of us? Are you ever tempted to sweep faith under the rug, just a little bit?
Right now, I’m sheepishly raising my hand. I hope my hand is not the only one up in the air. I have a feeling I’m not alone – that there are others who tiptoe around expressing faith because they do not want to attract questions, attention, or criticism.
This is a tough truth. And, one many of us would like to change. After all, in the Bible, Jesus teaches us to believe it is crucial we live unashamed of our faith.
Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 New Living Translation (NLT)
How do we reach the point where we are as confident about faith as we are about the other things we call home? How do we disregard the shame that comes our way and live unashamed?
Let’s start by going back to the thing we call home. What causes us to feel unashamed about it? Relating back to Iowa, I came up with three reasons.
I have knowledge about Iowa. I have learned about its people, values, scenery, opportunities, education, government, support systems, you name it. This learning helps me feel more confident representing my state when I talk to others.
In a similar way, continually seeking knowledge about what the Bible teaches brings self-assurance in faith.
I have experience applying what I know about Iowa because I do life here daily. I’ve called three different Iowa cities home. It is where I grew up, attended college, raised a family, and made lifelong friends. Knowing Iowa, along with my own talents, helps me make decisions about how to best serve my community and my state. As I contribute over time, I become more vested in Iowa’s future.
Applying experience to faith works the same way. Through life’s ups and downs, we see how faith provides meaning and sustains us. As we identify and use our spiritual gifts, we receive a sense of purpose. The experience of contributing to something greater than ourselves strengthens our faith in something greater than us all.
The negative comments I receive about Iowa teach me empathy for others who do not understand where I am coming from. Their knowledge and experience differs from my own. They may have their own place they call home. Acknowledging their opinions and pointing out positive attributes of each “home” works toward bringing us to common ground.
Likewise, offering understanding instead of challenging others about faith softens hearts. Maybe by encouraging more faith discussions, people would feel less judged and more loved. A goal of Christianity is to love others, so it makes sense that extending empathy only enhances faith.
It is easy to feel ashamed about faith in today’s culture. We get embarrassed because views of faith do not represent popular opinion in many settings. Unfortunately, declaring belief in a Savior is not mainstream stuff. But, it never has been.
The Bible overflows with examples of people who scorned and mocked Jesus, who refused to acknowledge the proof he continually presented. They shamed him repeatedly – through the crucifixion, resurrection, and beyond.
Others shamed Jesus, but he lived unashamed.
We understand why. Because, he had more knowledge, experience, and empathy regarding faith than we can ever hope for here on earth. He disregarded shame by remaining focused on what he knew to be true about his future…about his father…about his “home”.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (NLT)
He paid such a high price for us, sacrificing his life so we could live eternally with him in the next. How do we repay a debt like that? We cannot. But, we can work hard at doing what he asked of us. His main instructions are to love him and others, no matter the cost. No matter the cost. Part of that cost for us is also shame.
We too can live unashamed of faith by getting to know him, applying what we learn to our life, and showing empathy to those we meet. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and a future with him, we learn to ignore shame and perfect our faith.
Others may shame us, but we live boldly unashamed.
One day, may we be so blessed to see him and have our hearts exclaim, “Home!”
Prayer for the Week Ahead
Thank you for offering me eternal life through your beloved Son. Thank you for his teachings, and for the example he set on how to cope with shame. Help me learn to live unashamed by seeking knowledge and experience in my faith. Point out situations where I can practice the skills of empathy. Guide me as I gain confidence in sharing what faith looks like with others. Lead me home to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
For ideas on how to strengthen and share your faith read the previous posts: