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Wipe the Shame Off Your Face

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Words by Shelby Bland // Images by Sadie Culberson

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (Psalm 34:5 NIV)

If you’re anything like me, this verse seems a bit unattainable. Sure, I can appear happy for a season, and I can even make others smile, but can I ever be truly radiant? When I see radiance in others, my heart yearns to reflect the same thing. I long to walk in the blissful freedom that Christ gives, but I am so easily overtaken by shame.

I, like all of human creation, am a gaze-shifter. My intentions are always admirable; I intend to follow the Lord, and I set out to run after him, eyes fixed on his face. On my way to him, though, there are undoubtedly alluring distractions along my path. I tell myself I’m still running toward God, looking toward him, but in reality, my eyes drop a bit. I shift from focusing on the Highest of Highs, to looking eye-level. 

I am first confronted with a mirror. My gaze lowers—I see flaws. These imperfections capture my attention and consume me. I am overcome by shame and don’t want anyone to see me.

My heavy eyes then drift to other people. Do I see approval on their faces? If not, I must do what it takes to win them. Observing what they like, I make efforts to have those things present in my life. When I have invested my heart and still not won them, my head drops, along with my gaze, lower and lower.

Weighed down by a heavy load, my eyes look down to the things around me, and are consumed. These things promise satisfaction, so perhaps if I keep trying, I’ll get some semblance of permanent fulfillment from them. Instead, I am filled with a cheap thrill for the moment, but it is unfailingly followed by emptiness.

All this time my focus is bouncing from earthly thing to earthly thing, I hear my Savior whisper, “Just look to me,” and for a moment, I do. My eyes brighten as I see beauty—beauty that makes everything else I’ve ever seen look bleak and barren. I see the fulfillment that his extended hands hold. Just as I begin to reach out, an idol catches my attention, and my gaze is broken from my sweet source of joy.

My frustration with my shifting gaze drives me to ask questions. As I explore my distracted state, I find God’s answers in Scripture.

Why is it so hard to keep my gaze on God?
I am scared that I won’t be a recipient of the promises he’s made.
“I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NIV)

Why can’t I focus on him? 
The things that I surround myself with are shallow and distracting.
“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17 NIV)

What if he doesn’t satisfy my deepest longings?
I will never find true delight and satisfaction apart from him.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NIV)

The truth is, our desires, perspectives, and focuses change when we lift our eyes to him, and to things eternal. The pettier things of life cease to matter and we end the chase of the idols at eye-level; they cease to satisfy and become laughable compared to the riches of God’s gifts. With all that weight off our eyes, our shame melts away as our pursuit becomes higher.

When our focus is on the Creator and Sustainer of all things, we are filled with purpose, delight, and joy. Consumed by these new things, we can’t help but be radiant.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8 NIV)