Friday, May 15, 2015

the hard questions i'm asking

Let's talk about the worst thing you ever did.
What?  That doesn't sound fun?
Before you hate me, let's just go there for a moment.

What is the thing you are most ashamed of?  

What is the thing that makes you cringe every time you think about it?
Maybe it was something you said
or something you did
or something you didn't do
or some way that you were.

Maybe you haven't thought about it in so long it's hard to remember if it really happened.
Oh God, you hope it didn't really happen.
Maybe it just happened yesterday, or today.
Maybe it keeps happening over and over again like a hamster wheel you can't escape.
Maybe it makes you feel nauseous.
Maybe just the thought of it threatens to undo you completely.
Maybe you've worked through it in counseling, or maybe you've never told a single other person.
Maybe you can stomp your foot down on it victoriously because you've conquered the shame, or maybe it's the one doing the stomping - right on your very soul - stealing your worth, your hope, your breath, your future.

I have been thinking a lot about shame lately - not voluntarily.  I mean, I'm not sadistic.

For nearly a month now God has been dragging out some old decrepit skeletons from my closet.  This is stuff I thought I had cleaned up and gotten rid of long ago.  If I didn't love him so much I would think he was trying to kill me with regret, but I know better.  I know every hard place God has called me to has been for a greater purpose, and so I am carefully taking steps into what feels like a war zone.  I'm trusting him to keep my feet away from the land mines that threaten to blow me to smithereens.

Shame is part of my story.
Maybe it's part of yours too.

I came face to face with it the day I walked out of a courthouse with a divorce decree in hand.
It was a typical hot, dry day in the Arizona desert but I found myself parched on a whole new level.

It wasn't just the divorce I was ashamed of.  Having come to a stand still after years of running, I suddenly had a lifetime of mistakes catching up with me.  I began to carry a weight around my neck that was crushing.  A shell of protection began to form around my heart and before long it was no longer a soft, rhythmic source of life but the hard, heavy evidence of death.  The death of my soul.

I know now that dying gives way to living, but the in-between is never easy.
Those were not easy days.
Even in the 'good' things I did I was afraid I would be 'found out'.  Afraid someone would see me for who I really was.

I don't know about you, but
I have a real tendency to cap my worth on what I was like on my worst day.  
It's usually subconscious, but it's always there.  That faint memory of who I was and what I did slips into all kinds of situations like a giant brick wall towering over me and stopping me from moving forward.

Lately I have sensed God leading me to focus my writing on shame.  I asked him if I could focus on something else like 'good summertime reads' or 'how to update your 50's ranch on a budget', but I haven't gotten the go ahead on either one of those.

As I write there is an urgency growing inside of me to bring light into the dark places for others too.  More and more I am convinced that maybe, just maybe, this is worth writing about because

Shame may be the single greatest threat to the advancement of God's kingdom in this place and time.

That is unacceptable to me.
That shame would keep people paralyzed from pursuing their purpose is not okay.  
We discount ourselves.  We love God and we worship Him but underneath it all we're still not quite sure we are worthy to be called to great things for him.  We're not sure we are the right representatives of someone so wonderful and powerful.  

The reality is - we are exactly who God wants to represent him.  Sinful, broken people emptied and transformed by a perfect and whole God are always a reflection of glory.  Always.  But shame tries to tell us otherwise and I'm just about fed up with that.

I'm sensing God wants me to reach out and invite you into this conversation.  I'm hoping we can find some redemption and restoration together.
So tell me...
Am I alone in these struggles with shame or do you feel it too?  
What is the thing you are most ashamed of?
And more importantly,
what is that shame blocking you from in your life right now?  What dreams, plans, purposes?
What could life look like on the other side of shame?
How have you, or others in your life, broken free from the grips of shame?

I know this can be a sticky subject.  I know the importance of a safe place to share such deep matters of the heart so if you are uncomfortable responding publicly I invite you to email me directly.  I promise to keep the conversation between me and you.

So...let's start talking,
and exposing these walls of shame in our lives.
Take my word for it - they are not as big and strong as you might think.
I've seen them crumble with just one touch of the truth.