Exposing Shame and Condemnation

She looked at me intently. “What do these self-condemning voices tell you?”

I shook my head and tried to laugh it off. “I mean, it sounds ridiculous…I don’t know.”

But she was serious. “What are some of the things they say?”

My uncomfortable laugh gave way to a single tear and my loud, overconfident voice faded to a whisper. “That I’m not good enough. That I don’t deserve anything good. That I’m…a faker. All I do is hurt other people and…” I swallowed hard. “…ruin everything, no matter how hard I try. That I’m not…I’m not worth it.”

She continued to look at me, pen poised over paper. I was mortified that these things were being written down. “What else?” she prodded gently.

I took a deep breath and continued.

And the healing began.

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This picture is of me. I realize how awkward that is, especially since I’m not depressed. In fact, I had to set my camera very precariously on a chair, click the self-timer, and throw myself against the wall in a depressed heap in 6 seconds. This is what happens when your roommate is gone, leaving you model-less.

But the scene I described above was the first time I had ever actually voiced aloud the self-condemning thoughts that have haunted me my whole life. And I share this with you because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I’m pretty sure that, on some level, all of us have dealt with shame and condemnation.

Most people who know me would describe me as an ambitious, confident person — and most of the time, I am.

But sometimes, I’m not.

And so tonight, at the risk of destroying that image, I’m going to publicly uncover the lies I’ve believed about myself — because I want to empower you to do the same.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about shame: It’s not from God.

Conviction of sin comes from the Holy Spirit and it is constructive. If you have hurt someone and you feel a prick of guilt that prompts you to make things right, that is conviction. But if you have overwhelming, dehumanizing, relentless shame that attacks who you are rather than what you’ve done, that’s a sign that there is no truth in it. 

“I’m disgusting.” “I’m worthless.” “I’m damaged.” These are all statements that focus on identity, but even if they stem from things you have done in the past, your actions do not determine your identity. If you are in Christ, you have a new identity that is not based on anything you have done. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). You are a child of the King, He loves you, He wants you to have abundant life, and He never intends for you to be paralyzed by guilt. Conviction is enabling; shame is incapacitating. If you recognize it as something that holds you back, it’s a lie that needs to be exposed.

And that is the only way you can begin to defeat shame: to expose it for the ridiculous lie it is, to speak it out loud and watch its power disintegrate.

You see, shame only exists inside your mind. It thrives on secrecy and solitary confinement. You feel as though it’s too shameful to be revealed, and so you keep it inside where it builds on itself, where it hides in the dark corners of your mind and consumes you.

But you are not alone.

You are not alone.

The longer you keep it inside, the more doubt it creates. The truer it seems. The more it paralyzes you.

When lies remain unspoken in your mind as vague and abstract thoughts, as intangible concepts that you can’t capture or put your finger on, they control you.

But when you identify them, when you force them into words, when you speak the lies out loud…

…they sound ridiculous. They are baseless accusations that only appear daunting because they hide in shadow, looming over you, larger than life. But when brought into the light, they wither away. They cannot intimidate you, because they are only ominous when cloaked in darkness. They can no longer control you.

Speak them. Write them down, in all their humiliating, hideous glory. It doesn’t matter who you are or what image you think you have to uphold.

“There’s something wrong with you.”

“You’re a waste of time and money.”

“How can you even call yourself a pastor? Who do you think you are?”

“You’ll never get better. This is who you are and all you’ll ever be.”

“You’re the only one.”

“You can’t tell anyone…what would they think of you?”

Whatever that thought is that you’re thinking right now — force it to speak, force it to show itself. It’s the only way to be free.

I’m begging you not to suffer in silence. Don’t wait, hoping it will disappear; it won’t go away unless you expose it. The moment you hear a voice of self-condemnation, before you even allow it to take root, write it down, tell someone, and laugh at its absurdity. If you feel like you have no one to talk to about it, please shoot me a message. It doesn’t matter who you are. You just need to get it out there.

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'” –Ephesians 5:13-14.

Make the choice to be free today.

 

Published in: on September 13, 2013 at 12:12 am  Comments (1)  
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A Beautiful Guy In the Image of a Beautiful God

In my life, I have met three men whom I could only describe as beautiful.  I couldn’t really think of any other way to describe them — handsome wasn’t exactly what I was talking about.  They were just stunningly, unbelievably, breathtakingly beautiful.  Here is how I described one of them: “In him, God has created a masterpiece.  It’s not just his looks — it’s everything about him.  It’s the depth in his eyes when he’s thinking.  It’s the way his heart shows in his actions.  It’s the way he responds to God in worship.”

Beauty has become a descriptor which we attribute only to women, or to delicate and feminine things like flowers and sunsets and snow.  We don’t typically think of men being beautiful…

…or two perpendicular beams of blood-stained wood…

…or the God that died there.

But one day I was reading Psalm 27 and noting all the characteristics of God that were mentioned.  I paused for a moment when I came to verse 4 — “that I may gaze on the beauty of the Lord.”  God? Beautiful? I had to think about this.  In a world where “beauty” is constituted by a sexy body and eyeliner and perfect hair, I wasn’t sure how to process what it really meant as a description of God.

But as I thought about it, I remembered God’s declaration of His creation: “It is good.”  It was…beautiful.  Because God created beauty, I realized, maybe He’s the only One who knows what it really means.  Maybe beauty is some kind of mysterious, intangible concept, inseparable from the reality of being fashioned by the hand of a beautiful God.  Maybe beauty is simply the quality of being made in His image.  Maybe beauty is everything God is, and everything He desires us to be.

This began to make sense to me as I thought about the three guys.  The first time I ever thought a guy was beautiful was when I saw a picture of him holding a baby goat.  Kinda random, but there was something about the gentleness and simplicity of it that was attractive.  The second time I thought a guy was beautiful, it was a pretty ordinary setting, but a powerful moment.  He was sitting on a couch across the room from me during a time of worship, and his faraway gaze happened to catch my eye.  It was like that line from the Benjamin Francis Leftwich song, “I know if I find what you hide in your mind, I’ll get lost in it.”  There was something beautiful going on behind that contemplative gaze.  The third time I thought a guy was beautiful, he was literally on his knees on the ground crying out to God.  It was so raw and…well, beautiful.  However, the word “beautiful” has never crossed my mind for a shallow, lazy, or arrogant guy.  Ironically, I never find guys attractive when they try to prove their worth or impress girls.  Beauty comes from who they are in the little moments, when the rest of the world is forgotten.

Last Wednesday when I was leading small group, my junior high girls and I were talking about the description of Jesus in Revelation 1 and the unlikely aspects of beauty.  I briefly shared with them about the concept of beauty being the image of God, and one of the girls commented, “I think it’s so beautiful to see a guy worshiping with his eyes closed and hands raised, not caring what anybody else thinks of him.”  Several other girls agreed: “Seriously, the most unattractive thing ever is when a guy thinks he’s too cool to be in love with God.”

Thinking about all of this, I came to realize what “beautiful” really means:  Guy or girl, we are beautiful when we become what we were created to be and do what we were created to do.  When we can return to the ideal for which God designed us, when we realize our full potential as His creation made in His image…that is when we truly attain beauty.  Beauty is in the intricate workings of the mind, in creative expression, in a surrendered heart, in unconditional love.  Beauty is in everything that reflects the very heart of God.

Girls, two lessons for you here:  first, beauty isn’t what the world tells you it is.  They distorted the definition.  They got it wrong.  Chasing after things that will make you attractive by the world’s standards only draws you away from true beauty.  Chase after God and His beauty, and when you become the woman He designed you to be, that is when you are truly radiant.

Second, never marry…or date…or give a second thought to a guy who doesn’t have beauty that takes your breath away.  They’re few and far between; in 20 years, I’ve only met 3.  But trust me, you want a man who is seeking God’s highest potential for him, and a man who will amaze you for the rest of your life.

Wait for a beautiful man, in the image of a beautiful God.

Ribbet collage

Undone

“Lord, You are taking me apart a piece at a time, until I am completely undone before You. My sinful nature will fight You every step of the way, but I want to know You, Lord. To know Your heart. To be only Yours.” — journal entry from january 24th, 2012

I’ve spent my whole life shaping myself. My personality. My image. My style.

In middle school, I went through that awkward phase where I just tried really hard not to be ugly (it was a losing battle).

In high school, I just wanted to fit in.

And in college, it’s been all about “finding myself” and shaping my identity.

It’s been a long and arduous process. A journey. A road with many ups and downs.

And every time I reach a point where I think, “Okay, this is who I want to be,” God just looks and me and says, “Well, this is who I want you to be.”

And that’s when it all comes undone. Everything that I thought was important is stripped away and I’m left back where I started, empty-handed.

At the core of who I am is the girl that He created. His image. But not everything I have become conforms to that image. So bit by bit, He chips away everything that doesn’t look like Jesus.

Over time, my heart has been hardened by failed friendships and relationships and people who have let me down. It’s difficult to trust. It’s difficult to love.

My eyes have been blinded by the lies of the world and its distorted interpretations of the truth. I can’t see clearly and don’t know how to process what I can see.

And my hands — my hands have been covered in dirt, caked in mud, as I dabble in the things of the world and define myself by its standards.

But little by little as He breaks through my resistance, the layers fall away. I’m being transformed into something beautiful.

And now I’m standing in the presence of the Almighty God. I can see — and now I long to see more. My heart has been opened — but it can’t let in enough of His love. My hands are now clean, raised to the sky, reaching for more, more of Him.

Here I stand, 19 years of effort stripped away.

Here I stand, exposed but covered by grace, broken but beautiful.

Here I stand, undone.

Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 12:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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This Love

What then shall I bring you, Father, when you only ever wanted me? I can’t understand this love that asks nothing. Surely there’s something you expect of me. Isn’t love conditional? To protect myself I must earn it, for the facade I’ve built depends on this wall of pride.

Always feigning strength, now openly weak; always showing indifference, now visibly moved; always guarded, now completely disarmed; transparent and vulnerable, I am brought to my knees in brokenness before this all-encompassing love. As a loving parent’s thumb gently wipes tear stains from the face of a child, so this love washes over me, healing the scars of my past and making me new.

I have always tried so hard. I have made myself someone I’m not and have let my worth be determined by the opinions of others. I have lived my life chasing the unattainable, trying to reach everyone’s expectations. I have pushed myself to the point of breakdown to find their approval. I have given everything… everything but myself.

But this love does not ask of me perfection. It does not ask beauty or intelligence or talent. It does not ask me to do anything, but simply to be; it asks me to be nothing more than who I am.  It accepts me completely with all of my flaws and my faults and my mistakes. It wants me despite my insecurity and my hesitation and my confusion. It is beautiful in its simplicity…yet also challenging in its passion.

For while asking less, it demands more than I have ever given in any relationship. It demands all of me. It demands my heart.

This love asks nothing, and this love asks everything. Let go, He says, and I will hold you. Abandon your image; I will never leave you. Cease striving, for the work is done. Only give me your heart.

Published in: on October 26, 2011 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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For the Girls

When God created woman, He did not pattern her after the sluts on the cover of Cosmopolitan. No, He patterned her after Himself. Girls, why compare yourself to a mold you were never made to fit? Compare yourself only to the image of God, for you will never find completion until you become who you were intended to be. Starving yourself into the shape of a mold not made for you will never make you feel accepted. You will only belong once you can rest in knowing you have lived up to the true image God created you to fill. So fill it! Become everything He made you capable of becoming.

When God created woman, He made her exactly the way He wanted her. He doesn’t do anything halfway. He didn’t make a mediocre girl and then say, “Hmm, with some hair dye and a boob job, she’ll be good to go!” Heck no. God made her perfect. God made YOU perfect, and trying to change yourself to match the expectations of society only draws you away from the perfection you had to begin with!

When God created woman, He made her to be a helper for man. A strengthener. Something he needed, not something for him to use. He did NOT create her to be a sex object! You should never allow yourself to be degraded that way; you were made for so much more than that. You do not deserve that, it will not bring you security, and you are more than a one-night stand. Don’t ever buy those lies. Any man who treats you as less than you were made to be, is sadly less than he was made to be.

Girls, if you don’t know who you are, it’s because you’ve lost sight of the original pattern. If you don’t know who you are, let me tell you: you were created in the image of God and you were made to look like Him. That means you are smart. It means you are strong. It means you are self-sufficient. You are a beautiful, valuable creation of the Most High God, the desire of His heart and the love of His life. That’s who you are. So tell that to the world… and be who you are.

Published in: on July 26, 2011 at 12:12 am  Comments (2)  
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Currently Untitled

Disclaimer: this is NOT one of those “Confessions of a Creature of Habit.” This is not about me. The general frame is the mindset of a young woman deceived by the lies of the world.

I looked in all the wrong places searching for something to make life worthwhile.

I tried to find security in money. But once it was spent, all I had was a house filled with useless things, and still I felt no security.

I tried to find love in sex. But sex without commitment is nothing more than an instinctive human desire, and all it did was leave me empty and devoid of love.

I tried to find beauty in makeup and jewelry and push-up bras. But vanity took over my personality, destroying my beauty from the inside out and leaving me nothing but a made-up shell with a fake smile.

I tried to find acceptance by conforming to everyone’s expectations. But I soon came to find that everyone expected me to be someone different. I became a role-player, accepted for the faces I put on and not for who I really was. I was nothing more than an actor.

I tried to find value in others’ opinions of me.  But by now, everyone saw me as a greedy, vain, two-faced slut. My life had become everything I didn’t want it to be. Everything I had run from had caught up with me, and everything I had been reaching for was just a mirage, untouchable, still shimmering miles away on the distant horizon. I had lost sight of what was important. I had lost myself.

Oh God…this isn’t who I wanted to be. Let me feel security in faith and love in Your salvation. Give me inner beauty and true acceptance based on the personality You gave me and my identity in You. Please don’t judge me the way everyone else has because of what I’ve become, but let my value come from grace. Make me the me You meant me to be.

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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