Dwell with God (Thursday)

Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.

Thursday Week 1

You shall be called by a new name

You shall be a crown of beauty

and a royal diadem.

from Isaiah 62


I would not normally choose a fourth-century Trinitarian theologian as my therapist, but if Gregory of Nyssa were alive still I might ask for an appointment. Above my desk I hang a quote of his:

Our godlike beauty is hidden behind curtains of shame.

This is really good news for someone like me. Could it be good news for you?

The shame message is a loud one, after all. Parts of us shout, “You’re not enough – thin enough, smart enough, spiritual enough, disciplined enough.” Maybe this shame voice is even telling you that you don’t do Lent well enough. The inner voice of shame can be relentless. It’s a primary tool Evil uses to erode loving intimacy with God.

Sometimes we need long dead fourth-century theologians to come along and tell us that our deepest self is really quite beautiful to God.

Our godlike beauty is hidden behind curtains of shame.

 Don’t believe him? How about believing the greatest spiritual theologian of the 20th century, Thomas Merton? He writes:

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.[i]

Merton makes an even more audacious claim than St. Gregory. Not only will our shame dissipate, but war, hatred, cruelty and greed will cease. We may even begin to see each other as gods and goddesses.

In a season when our spiritual focus can become behavioral and our sense of growth tied to successful fasting from chocolate or Facebook, I’d like to suggest a different practice. What if instead of seeing your ‘sinful behavior’ as the big problem, you shifted your focus to your original goodness? What if instead of imagining God’s disappointment in your lack of discipline you imagined God smiling at his very image in you. Yes, in you…of all people! Perhaps, that alone could stir in you a desire to live faithfully in every aspect of your life.

You see, too often we play the game of mistaken identity. You woke up one day believing that you were a lowly pauper, and many voices within your life conspired to convince you of its truth. Even some spiritual guides along the way participated in this dark conspiracy. They’ve become convinced that what defines us is the trinity of bentness, badness, and brokenness.

But the Trinity who created you for beauty, goodness, and dignity knows better. The Father designed you, down to that oddly placed freckle. The Son came to remind you of who you are, becoming a pauper to rescue you from indignity and despair. The Spirit was sent to be your deepest voice, your inner Counselor, whispering Beauty and Dignity over your soul day and night. Together, they long to be your homing beacon, ushering you back to your original design, reminding you of your God-imaged goodness.

Can you hear their whisper?



Holy Trinity, rescue me from the unholy trinity of bentness, badness, and brokenness. Release its grip on my imagination, and show me my dignity and beauty hidden beneath curtains of shame, bestowed to me by you, ever gracious One. Amen


[i] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (New York, NY: Image, 1968), p. 155.