Unashamed: Healing our Brokeness and Finding Freedom from Shame – Heather Davies Nelson
By Michelle Russell
Heather is a writer and a counsellor. The book, Healing our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame sets out so clearly what shame is and offers the solution to shame; the gospel. The book is short at just 192 pages and is broken up into 9 chapters. At the end of each chapter, there are some questions for reflection and discussion. The questions give you time to pause and examine your own heart. This book would be ideal for a small group or to read with a bible reading partner.
You may be a person who doesn’t feel that they suffer from shame, but this book will give you the tools that you need to help those in your church family who do experience shame. Jesus himself teaches us about shame in Luke 8 when the woman who has bled for 12 years touched the rob of Jesus. She was unclean and ashamed but had faith that if she touched Jesus she would be healed. Like the woman, Heather teaches us through the book that the solution for our shame is Jesus.
Heather describes shame as being like a chameleon, easily blending into your surrounding environment. Shame can’t be seen directly. Shame masquerades as embarrassment or that nagging feeling of not being good enough. It shows up everywhere and when you least expect it. The book describes that you may not even know that you suffer from shame because shame too often is categorised as guilt. Heather tells us that guilt is a close cousin to shame and isn’t just found in stories of abuse, but it’s found in every story of suffering. Shame is complicated and the book gives us lots of examples where shame begins to show itself where you may not have even realised it.
The book itself describes a scenario very simply, but so common, of a mum who is very tired and has two young children and they’ve cried all day. She finds herself shouting and screaming at them and she hopes that her neighbours haven’t heard her because she feels so ashamed of how she has behaved. She’s a Christian, she shouldn’t act like this.
Heather provides us with many other examples of shame and how shame manifests itself in their lives, sexual shame, abuse from parents, abuse from others. Shame of having been sinned against or having sinned against somebody else. Each example is different, but every solution is the same. Jesus.
I have suffered from the crippling pain of shame for at least a decade of my life, a pain that is hard to articulate. A constant feeling of brokenness, I believed that I was flawed and incapable of being loved, shame had a grip on my life before meeting Jesus. Since becoming a Christian shame has lingered around, raising its unwelcome head when I least expect it but, while reading the book I have been encouraged that the cycle of shame can be broken.
Heather walks us through the first mention of shame in the bible, found in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, ashamed of their nakedness hid from God, but we see that God didn’t leave them naked, God didn’t overlook their shame but that in God’s love for Adam and Eve, His mercy and grace, the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins. The fig leaves they clothe themselves in is not sufficient to cover the shame of their nakedness and so God does what they cannot do for themselves.
To do this, God required the sacrifice of an animal, and while this sacrifice did not atone for their sin, God does provide us with a Redeemer who does free us from our shame. Heather shows us through her book that wonderful Redeemer who removes our garments of shame and instead, as written in Isaiah 61, provides us with garments of salvation, covering us with the robe of His righteousness.
Throughout each chapter of the book, we see the hope that we have in Jesus, who removes our shame from us. Jesus provides us with what is described as the ‘great shame exchange’.
Jesus offers us a present and a future where shame no longer has a grip on us. When Jesus cried out it is finished – Jesus took with Him the shame that is holding you down.
My favourite chapter was, God’s New Narrative is Freedom, Learned Best by Practice. A chapter that gives us helpful ways that we can practice freedom from shame. While we will never obtain perfection while we live, we fix our eyes on Jesus and learn how to despise our shame and run freely after Christ that his joy might also become ours. (pg114)
This book is saturated in scripture, like balm to your soul. It’s a book that takes courage to read – but you will see on each page our beautiful Saviour. I pray that as you read this book, you will find healing and become excited about the great shame exchange that Jesus is longing to give you.