Tag Archives: shame

In God’s Presence There is Grace

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 ESV

It sounded like the perfect job for me. A new Christian school in the area where we were relocating had exploding enrollment for the next year and needed an elementary principal.

Wasn’t the Scripture verse the same as my former school of fifteen years? Didn’t the heart of the administration mimic my own heart for Christian education? It felt so right.

Taking the position without asking for my husband’s opinion, I immersed myself into the maze of trying to hire teachers, admit students, prepare classrooms, and order books that summer in a school where the number of students had more than quadrupled for its second year of existence.

Fast forward a couple of months, and my mornings started at 5:00 a.m. with reading the newspaper to see what I would face later at school. Unrest in the church leadership made the front page headlines on a daily basis.

Though I was determined to make sure God’s work was done despite the chaos, my husband intervened and asked me to resign after only three months on the job. Incredibly, I didn’t even know who to notify that I was leaving. My boss had already been fired and things were in such disarray.

I emailed my letter to the only one I thought was my authority, phoned the elementary teachers, and packed up my office in defeat.

Eventually, I was able to see that what had seemed like God’s plan was merely a cloud of smoke hiding my delusion that I could be the heroin who would save the day. Pride made me susceptible to deception. Instead of producing humility, this revelation humiliated me. Would God ever want to use me again?

Am I the only one who is tends to hide behind a bush of shame instead of fall before the throne of grace in my time of need? If we are saved by grace, why do we forget we are also sustained by grace?

Desperately needing to be restored, I had to push past my feelings of failure and confidently approach the throne of grace…to receive mercy…to find grace.

In God’s presence, I did not feel His disappointment with me as I feared. I felt His grace.

This was written for Faithfully Following Ministries mini study and can be seen here.

https://faithfullyfollowingministries.org/category/in-gods-presence/

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It’s a Matter of Life and Death

Cross_in_sunsetWhat in the world is wrong when you have everything you’ve ever wanted and are still miserable?  That’s where I found myself at the ripe old age of 29. Being happily married to my first date and having the privilege of staying home with our two children in our newly renovated first home just didn’t cut the mustard.

I was going downhill fast, thinking I was going crazy, dealing with a  strong-willed 4-year-old daughter and a bulldozer 3-year-old boy.  My gynecologist who had delivered my two children in two years advised me that the chronic pain I had been enduring was probably the source of my misery, so after a hysterectomy, I’d be fine.  I clung to that hope.

Fast forward a few months, and the absence of pain made no difference in how I was feeling. I was a “donkey on edge” and couldn’t figure out why.  There was no real trouble in my life. I should have been happy. Lots of women stay home with their children and many deal with strong-willed children. What was wrong with me?

A search for the source of my problems began. My childhood was pretty tainted with the divorce of my parents at the age of 6, sexual abuse at the hands of my alcoholic father,  and living with an abusive, unfaithful alcoholic step-father. Maybe growing up in such dysfunction was why I was so despondent. Look no further than the new Oprah Winfrey show to see that all of your problems can be linked to your past.

Reaching back to find what I needed to go forward, I looked inward to fix myself. At that time, the mid-1980’s, self-help books flooded the shelves of bookstores and libraries. I had always been successful when I put my mind to do something, so it never occurred to me this time it might be different.

At this time in my life, I believed in God and knew He could be the solution to my emptiness, but I refused to turn to Him. Like a 2-year-old, I wanted to do it myself. He would come in and change me, and I wasn’t willing to be changed. None of this was my fault, after all.

Spending time in meditation, talking to my “inner child”, wallowing in my sorrows, playing the blame game, talking to my family and friends, trying to “pick myself up by the bootstraps”, nor any other thing I tried to do on my own worked.

Thankfully, I discovered shame to be at the root of how I felt. It didn’t matter how much I had accomplished, I just didn’t measure up to my own expectations. I couldn’t do enough to ditch the shame I carried. That lead to reading John Bradshaw’s book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, which pointed to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for recovery.

Desperate for relief, I began to explore the 12 Steps, which began with admitting I was powerless over my shame and my life was unmanageable. I also saw that only with God’s help would I ever find freedom. My depression was caused by the anxiety in my heart from trying to be my own god. “I did it my way” had to be replaced by “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

Sin was the root of my sorrow. My own sin, not those who had hurt me. As a young girl, I had walked the aisle of my church, said a prayer to give my heart to Jesus, talked to the preacher, was baptized the next Sunday, then set out to live my life to the best of my ability. This was a little girl who was being sexually abused on weekend visits to her father’s house looking to feel clean, not a surrender of control to Jesus and trusting in His righteousness.

A pastor told his testimony of having a two-step salvation experience, much like mine. He repented of his sins as a child and of his righteousness as an adult. It was sin for me to live my life on my own power, on my own terms, without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells me that anything done without faith is sin. My best is considered as filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God.

Believing I could be a “good Christian” without God’s power seems so absurd, but that’s what I was doing. I hadn’t given up any control of anything to God, except for where I would spend eternity. There was no abundant life in me, only death that comes from the sin that separated me from my gracious heavenly Father who longed to set me free from the chains that bound me.

When I wrote the prayer of submission to God, the weight of sin and death fell from me immediately. I was overwhelmed by His grace and love. The shame that had consumed me was carried by Jesus on the cross. Admitting I had been spending my whole life working for the righteousness God had freely given me set me free from despair. I forgave those who had harmed me, and asked God to forgive me for spending so many years pushing down the pain without asking Him to heal me.

It is a matter of life and death. God gives us a choice. “Years I spent in vanity and pride” led me to desperation that would have ended in death. Life begins when I come to Jesus daily “just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.”

#livefreeThursday

Suzanne Eller’s Live Free Thursday

Guilt-Free Me or Pharisee?

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.

#livefreeThursday