It was a warm, ordinary weekday morning in the middle of May, of my Junior year in high school. As I lay sleeping in my bed I felt someone approach me, then begin to sit. That ‘someone’ was a grown man. In a matter of moments, his unwelcomed contact became physically inappropriate. With eyes still closed, my stunned mind darted into self-preservation mode, igniting the stretching of my arms in a forward motion, all in the hope of discouraging his distasteful act. While purposefully extending my arms out with the sole intent of preventing this man from continuing; he suddenly fled.
His immediate need to take cover and slink out of my room, lent itself to the glaring truth that he knew his actions towards me were far from honorable. While still dazed and in shock, I heard the shower my mother was taking during this offense; turn off.
Never having had a boyfriend, or having been physical with a boy, meant these particular kinds of advances, were foreign to me. So as quickly as I could, I got up, got dressed, and raced to get myself off to school, without saying a word to anyone else in my home about the layer of filth that now took residence in my head, and heart.
Throughout the school day I began to process the inconceivable idea of what had occurred that morning, at the hands of my mother’s boyfriend. I grew disgusted that this man of more than twice my age, would evoke such disdain and distrust in me, let alone succumb to such reprehensible actions.
So later that evening, I approached my mother discreetly, and shared with her what had happened. I described in great detail where she was at the time this transpired, and exactly what her boyfriend had done, along with his need to flee once he believed I was beginning to wake up.
She later elected privately to inquire of the situation with this man directly. That sadly allowed him the opportunity to falsely mislead her into believing that his actions were somehow ‘innocent’, under the disguise of showing me “fatherly affection” as he reported. I had been without a father in my life for roughly three years at this point, but I was confident that emotionally healthy fathers didn’t show “affection” towards their daughters in that manner. So naturally I couldn’t fathom my mother lending any merit to this obvious lie.
Nevertheless, the story he dispensed was accepted by her, permitting him to maintain a key to our house, while remaining a potential threat to me. That house key afforded him the ability to stop by our home whenever he saw fit, which was usually just prior to me arriving home from school, while my mother was still at work. This was particularly concerning because he did not hold a job which would have limited his availability towards me.
So he continued to arrive at our home, just prior to my homecoming nearly every…school…day.
However, I maintained my resolve to protect myself from this unscrupulous man, by not arriving home from school until my mother was back from work. I went directly to a neighbor girl’s home if I saw his car parked out in front of my house, never telling her the real reason for my constant visits.
At the time this situation occurred, my mother sought to resolve this issue by requiring that I wear my thick winter bathrobe whenever he was in our home, and it was nearing evening. Her solution bewildered me, because the incident took place in the morning, so I never saw the logic behind her assessment. This ‘solution’ did not resolve the issue, and only served to inappropriately hold me responsible for his misconduct. I had already felt a sense of shame over what this man had done to me, giving way to reflection on other previous advances of his which now encompassed my mind. So wearing a robe of ‘shame’ was only serving to victimize the victim, and causing me to recoil emotionally.
Growing up in a home without air-conditioning, I began to loath that stifling robe as spring gave way to a scorching summer. Month after month I wore the weight of it’s symbolic shame, with no sign of a foreseeable reprieve.
So there it was; the consequence for speaking truth. I was having to wear the shame of this man’s wrongdoing.
But there would also be someone else whom I would later learn about in my adulthood, who was expected to wear a ‘robe’ of shame that didn’t belong to Him either.
In John 19:1-5 we read of a well-thought-out plan to shame the Lord, complete with a thorny crown and a robe of mockery; for added measure. Jesus did nothing to warrant the carrying of another man’s shame, or even my own for that matter. Yet amazingly; He did it gladly, unlike the shameful robe I was forced to wear. Jesus took on the world’s shame and wore it before the Father, causing Him to have to turn away from Jesus. This turning from His Son led Jesus to say “Father, why have you forsaken me?” (see Matt 27:46)
I certainly felt forsaken by my mother when she saddled me with the shame of another. If I had had the words to express what my heart felt beneath the anger it would have been “Mom, why have you forsaken me?”
Eight months passed by with me robed in another’s shame, before my mother elected to end her relationship with this unhealthy individual, for issues unrelated to my circumstances. For quite some time this issue had remained unresolved in the relationship my mother and I shared.
While I never received acknowledgement or an apology from this man, I did receive one eventually from my mother for the way she handled things. Extending forgiveness in my heart towards this man (years later) did not require an apology from him. Instead it required truly understanding the forgiveness that God offered me through His Son; Jesus Christ, and the outflow of gratitude that sprang forth as a result.
However, nothing has brought more validation and healing than the verse God brings us in Isaiah 61:10 which states:
“I delight greatly in the Lord;
My soul rejoices in my God.
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation
And arrayed me in a ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS……”
The robe I once wore was a robe of shame, but Jesus saw to it to clothe me in salvation, and offer me HIS robe of righteousness. I can’t tell you what a trade off that was for me!
So have you ever found yourself in a robe of shame that didn’t belong to you, or perhaps maybe a robe of shame that did? Often, we inadvertently elect to wear a robe of shame due to our own destructive choices. The Lord, however; desires to disrobe EVERYONE of their shame and exchange it for the kind of radiance that can only be found; in His robe of righteousness.