Imagine this little girl returning to her home, where she lived with her mother and two younger siblings, after a weekend visitation bearing the guilt and shame of being molested by her father each night she was away. How does a second-grader live in a world where she was expected to be the “good little church girl” while dissociating herself from the “bad Daddy’s little girl” who was being abused? What could she do to wash away the feeling of not being good enough to be loved by either parent? She felt like she disappointed everyone, because she just wasn’t enough. Never enough. Love seemed so illusive, and the pursuit of it so exhausting. And if she couldn’t do enough to please those she looked to for affirmation and acceptance, dare she believe a holy God would love her?
So, turning to the church, she did what any little girl who went to Sunday School, when she wasn’t at her father’s house for the weekend, would do in her situation. She made a profession of faith in Jesus, because she knew she was sinner and needed a Savior. Baptized shortly afterwards, she thought she would experience her new life now. Beginning again at eight years old is a somewhat baffling concept, even to an adult. She may have thought Prince Charming had come to whisk her away to the land of happily ever after. But that’s not what happened. No one told her what to expect in her daily experience. Sadly, the sexual abuse continued. The dissociation protected her from memories but not from guilt and shame. Though she was glad to know she wouldn’t go to hell if she died, she was on her own in this world.
Striving to be perfect to please God and everyone else led her to a life of being a great pretender. Keep up the façade or risk being rejected. There is no safe place. Never let them see you sweat. Don’t make any waves. Smile, the show must go on. God helps those who help themselves, so get your act together. Fake it until you make it. A Christian believing these lies of the enemy will end up becoming a Pharisee. Judging everyone else by your own standards, measuring yourself by others instead of God’s Word, and refusing to show any signs of weakness are symptoms of being a hypocrite. Guilt doesn’t make room for grace. Shame keeps you in shackles. Exposure requires excuses. It’s like trying to balance too many spinning plates at the same time, which can lead to disaster or deliverance.
Thankfully, that little girl, who grew up to be a woman and had her own little girl (and boy), dropped her spinning plates, came to the end of herself, and cried out to God. She faced the giant of guilt and shame, covered up by the “Pharisee,” and found that God had already won the victory. His strength is made complete in our weakness, so she didn’t have to muster up her own power. He loved the best and worst parts of her and delivered her from the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous light. Her guilt and shame from what was done to her and by her was covered by the blood of Jesus and could never be repaid by her attempts at perfection. When God exposes a flaw, it is done with love for the purpose of healing and restoration, not to heap guilt and shame on His child. Freedom from the enemy nipping at our heels to paralyze us with our past gives us peace. I can be the “Guilt-Free Me” because of His mercy and forgiveness, and for that, I am eternally grateful.