Christian author and podcaster Jasmine L. Holmes grew up Black in a predominantly white evangelical community. A pastor’s kid and the oldest of 9, she went through puberty in front of the watchful eyes of her church. She said she often felt like wore a mask. She tried to live up to the image of the perfect Christian daughter because she wanted to protect her family’s ministry. She felt the mask start to slip in adulthood when she went through a miscarriage with her first pregnancy. Fearing the same during her second pregnancy, Jasmine sought counseling. She thought her counselor would focus on the loss and her fears, but the process she went through was so much more. Areas of shame in her life were drawn out of the darkness into the light.
In her book “Never Cast Out: How the Gospel Puts an End to the Story of Shame,” Jasmine talked about the weight of shame many Christians carry within their hearts and minds as a result of living in a fallen and broken world. She focuses primarily on female shame in our culture, but her message applies to everyone.
Jasmine’s book is steeped in scripture and rings out the truth of the Gospel’s message to believers and unbelievers alike. She invited her reader to pull up a chair and sit with God and her as she explored the Bible to learn how to recognize and remove shame’s harmful effects. Everything we do in this world is in the presence of the enemy, the source of the shame-game, so it’s fitting that she used the imagery from Psalm 23:5 where it says God “prepare[s] a table before [us] in the presence of my enemies.”
Jasmine began in Genesis where the birth of guilt and shame happened in paradise, a place where Adam and Eve had perfect communion with God. They were made in God’s image and given dominion over God’s creation. But then Eve chose to become less than the person God created her to be, Jasmine said, when the serpent tempted her with the image of another, better version of herself. She’d be like God, he said, and she wouldn’t die if she ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When she responded to the serpent, Eve had partial knowledge of what God spoke to her and Adam. She added something God didn’t say to her and yet believed, which led to further doubt about God. She told the serpent in Genesis 3,
3“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
Eve touched the fruit, and when she didn’t die, she ate it and offered some to Adam who ate the fruit as well. They realized they were naked and sewed fig leaves as covering. Then they hid because they heard God walking in the garden. They knew they’d done something wrong.
Jasmine used the fig-leaf theme to show the promise God made to Adam and, His plan to permanently cover humanity’s sin and shame. The wage for their sin needed to be paid and the first sacrifice was made as a covering. God had to sacrifice the animals, Jasmine explained, to cover Adam and Eve before banishing them from the Garden of Eden. But God also made a promise to Eve that through her seed would come another who would cover over the sins of the world: Jesus Christ. He would stand in humanity’s place and ransom us. Jasmine talked about God’s rescue plan, as foreshadowed in Genesis. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to become the perfect Lamb of God who would sacrifice Himself to cover our sins so that we might be made righteous and have eternal life.
Shame from sin is natural then, Jasmine said. Adam and Eve hid because they were convicted by sin. When we don’t meet God’s standards, we’ve sinned, and if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will convict you. You repent and are restored to fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit has the job of molding you into the image of Christ.
Shame from something that’s not sin is often the calling card of the world that wants to mold you into your culture’s image. Jasmine talked about the differences between guilt, “a state of being,” and shame, “a painful feeling of distress and embarrassment after doing something wrong or foolish.” She further gave examples to show the differences between godly and worldly shame.
To remove the latter shame, Jasmine said the world has three “false gospels”: “shake it off,” “work it off,” and “pass it off.” All three are not good news at all. You can see all three at work in our present culture. They don’t remove shame’s influence but instead either blind us to sin against God or bind us to a worldly image that continues to burden our spirits. Each of these false gospels have followers as well to make up their own warped communities that will keep us blinded and never provide true healing.
But we have a better covering, image, and message in Jesus Christ, Jasmine said. As members of God’s family, we can run to the Father with both kinds of shame. Both are covered in Christ’s work on the Cross on our behalf. The Holy Spirit will guide us in the scriptures to provide truth so we can shout over the shame messages we hear from our enemy. (And sometimes the enemy uses other people, Jasmine said, whether well-or-ill-intentioned.) The Spirit will also lead us to a place where we can find a fellowship of believers who will walk beside us as we fight shame and seek healing.
I loved this book so much I can’t stop talking about it. I am excited for this book to publish on Valentine’s Day 2023. My favorite part of this text is Jasmine’s interpretation of the Samaritan woman at the well who had one of the longest conversations with Jesus. I cried trying to talk to a group of ladies because that woman went from feeling shunned to feeling joy as she “put on Christ” and ran to tell others about Jesus, the Messiah. I found this where Jasmine talked about this story.
Jasmine took me through an emotional, intellectual, and scriptural journey as she uncovered areas of shame within me. I liked that she put scripture right within the pages; it was like an all-you-can-eat-buffet for the soul. I could relate to her description of this “Cool Girl” image, a standard she tried to meet growing up. She talked about perfectionistic tendencies women adopt in their efforts to become more like this ideal woman within the Christian community. We have all these “shoulds” thrust on us that she said are “extrabiblical” in that the guilt and shame isn’t because we’ve not met God’s standards. It’s guilt and shame from not meeting our culture’s standards.
Jasmine said God can rescue us from both the godly shame of sin through our repentance and from the culture’s grief and shame that comes from us not measuring up in the eyes of other people in our lives. Believers aren’t supposed to conform to this world. We have a better image in Jesus Christ. We are made right with God because of the work of Jesus on the cross that covered our sin and shame, gave us access to the Father, who has work only we can do as part of His family.
This book is available for preorder here and here. In the meantime, you can listen to Jasmine on the “Let’s Talk” podcast of the Gospel Coalition. I also looked up other titles for your consideration that she’s written or contributed to and they are as follows:
Carved in Ebony: Lessons from the Black Women Who Shape Us
Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope
Surviving the Fishbowl: Letters to Pastors’ Kids
World on Fire: Walking in the Wisdom of Christ When Everyone’s Fighting About Everything
Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of our Identity in Christ
Thank you to Netgalley and BH Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review this advance copy of this excellent book.