Faithful Beyond Shame

The voice of shame distracts. Insecurities, self doubt, and fear hijack my brain, triggering an emotional spin cycle of depression, withdrawing, and infidelity. Yes, in my hijacked state, I become unfaithful to God’s purposes, vision, and call on my life. I fantasize about other ways to live my life, trying to run away from God. Why? Some say it’s because of spiritual oppressiveness. Other responses may be because of our brokenness. I think it’s all of these things AND my sense of desiring to be in control. If I could be in control and call the shots, then I begin to believe that I can control outcomes and other people. I can play being godlike.

When I squander the gifts and calling God has given, I become more shame-filled and withdraw. I become less of who God has designed me to be. I’m aching for deep communion with God and instead of responding with faithfulness and fruitfulness, I hide. I withdraw and nurse my shame and pain.

God longs for us to be faithful and fruitful, to the point where the Lord will get our attention in specific ways to get us to re-think and re-turn to Him. I’m grateful for all the “re” words in the Bible. God won’t give up on us. He’s committed to us and the redemption of this world. Living a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness is a steady, daily call. And it liberates us from bondage to shame and meaninglessness.

Aching for Greatness

I’m not yet fully convinced of this truth, but I’m convinced it’s what my work is:  that my greatest accomplishment will be to claim my belovedness and live it out.  It’s the work of hearing, receiving, and claiming the words spoken over Jesus as the Beloved One, as my own.  

Ministry has its trappings:  Am I good enough to care for others, is my care good enough, is my presence and care making a difference, is so-and-so better at it than me.  These voices of shame, pride, and fear choke out the voice of belovedness, causing disruption and ache.  

Fear, shame, and pride can take their toll, breaking the spirit and heart of a person.  It makes us focus on our own willpower, shortcomings, or lack.  These voices cripple a person to the point of depression, hopelessness, or resentment.  This year, I’ve had to confess these voices to God in hopes of touching the hem so that I may be rescued.  Sometimes all I can do is simply confess and cry out for mercy.  

The ache for significance, greatness, and accomplishments is real.  Because we are made in the image of God, we long for greatness.  But we don’t get to greatness without death/burial/resurrection.  We don’t get to greatness without first hearing and living out the words of belovedness, that God is already pleased with us, loving each part of us.  

Can I claim this truth to the point where it alters my life?  When I’m searching for guidance, discerning next steps in my life, the one work I can count on is claiming this deep truth:  I am beloved by and I belong to God.  I want and need to hear that in the core of being so that it shapes what I say and do, how I am and how others experience caring presence.  

Dear friends, I want you to hear this: what is said of Jesus is said of you. I know this can be hard to affirm. You are the beloved daughter or son of God. Can you believe it? Can you hear it not only in your head through your physical ears but in your gut, hear it so that your whole life can be turned around? Go to the scriptures and read: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have written your name in the palm of my hand from all eternity. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you in your mother’s womb. I love you. I embrace you. You are mine and I am yours and you belong to me.” You have to hear this, because if you can hear this divine voice speak to you from all eternity, then your life will become more and more the life of the beloved, because that is who you are.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment

When I hear this voice of love, it is not only for me to revel in.  This voice of love and belonging compel me to share and bear witness.  It’s a cup that gets poured out in joy.  The movement will lead outward towards the blessed presence of others, proclaiming with them our belovedness.  This work will cause us to reflect the divine life of Jesus, the One who renews, restores, and redeems us all.  

Daring Greatly: 12 Shame Categories

I chose to read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, for a seminary class because shame sucks.  Her work has been so helpful to many, including myself.  Last night, I was recounting how helpful it is to be aware of your shame triggers so that you recognize the patterns.

Brown says that “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”, (p.69).  I describe it as the feelings and thoughts that tell us “something is wrong with me”.  I remember feeling different when I was younger, asking myself “what’s wrong with me”.  It’s an ugly feeling.

Brown lists 12 shame categories to be aware of.  Her books talks about building shame resilience as a way to cope with the shame triggers:

  • appearance and body image
  • money and work
  • motherhood/fatherhood
  • family
  • parenting
  • mental and physical health
  • addiction
  • sex
  • aging
  • religion
  • surviving trauma
  • being stereotyped or labeled