Every day I learn something new. It may have been about events, life, a friend or human behavior. This morning was about me! Sitting quietly I became aware of something that triggers me and causes me to feel shamed. It’s not from past trauma or anything like that. People, family, coworkers etc, sometimes without realizing it say things that sting. That stuff will happen. But here’s what I learned about myself…. I try very hard to set up my world to avoid pain at every turn. I want to inoculate myself from pain. How unrealistic to think I can avoid it. I can’t avoid it! Yet I want to at all costs. The real question is why? I wonder if it’s as simple as pain avoidance or if an old coping mechanism. No matter why I think the better thing to do is learn to become aware of the trigger and work through it constructively. The first step for me is awareness, then prayer then reaching out to a friend. I’m a verbal processor. So once I talk through I’m usually ok again. And after all isn’t that how we all want to feel?
When I was really young I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. It didn’t matter if it was true or not. It’s just a feeling I wrestled with daily. It didn’t matter where I was. I still had this nagging sense of being different or not good enough. I felt this way at home, among cousins, in my neighborhood and at school.
Then one day I attended a charismatic church and went forward for prayer. Oddly enough I didn’t realize the guy that was praying for me was a pastor (even though I just listened to him preach). And I didn’t know He heard from God and shared those words with others. So there I am thinking I’m getting prayer for bad sinuses and this guy says “I can tell everywhere you’ve ever gone and everywhere you’ve ever been you’ve always felt a little different and little out-of-place. From this day forward you will never walk alone.” This guy nailed it!
That began my journey for truth in the inner parts. I have no problem leaning into the discomfort of getting to the root of my stuff. I’m not afraid to sit with those uncomfortable feelings , take them before the Father and allow Him to bring light into my darkness. Though I was an adult , what I found was a little girl still very much alive on the inside of me raging from the shame and rejection.
But the dilemma for me, the words shame,fear and unworthiness, were considered carnal in nature in the circles I ran in. Consequently some of my “stuff” remained hidden in dark places for years. I just couldn’t risk making myself that vulnerable to another Christian by telling them what I was secretly feeling. I couldn’t take the chance of being told “you’re just too carnal for me” I.e. “you’re too immature and unspiritual for me to hang out with”. That would’ve devastated me. It was that fear of disconnection that kept me trapped and unable to let God into a really deep dark scary part of my heart.
As time went on, God separated me to himself for a second round of sifting and separating. The first time I went through one of those “seasons” it lasted 1 1/2 years and was awful. In the second round it lasted closer to 5 years. And it just plain old sucked. (Sorry God but it did) God wanted access to my heart. All of it! He knew I could handle more than I ever thought I could, with His loving arms to hold me up. It didn’t feel like love at the time. It felt more like I was a plant that had been pulled up by the roots but not yet potted in a bigger pot. This “season” produced much fruit. But for this post I’ll focus on more freedom to be me. Warts and all!
Jesus loves me and you just as we are. That’s part of belonging to the family. But people and yes even Christians because of fear settle fitting in over belonging. I can say this with certainty because I know I’m not the only one guilty of sacrificing the real me at the altar of peer acceptance. Is anyone saying ouch yet??
In the words of my new favorite author Brene Brown “Fitting in and have a sense of belonging are two totaling different things”.
Fitting in is something we do to be accepted. But the problem is that when we settle for ‘fitting in’ we’re always looking over our shoulder to make sure no one else comes along to expose us for something and kick us out of the group. Leaving us all alone. again!
So here’s what I’ve discovered…
First, no one wants to talks about fear or shame,and the less you talk about it the more you are stuck with it like a thorn in the paw of a lion. It’ll roar at you until you hear it and pay attention.
Second, the more I say out loud the things I’m secretly thinking the more I find other that say “I know! and me too!” And That’s when I find a sense of connection and belonging that I crave. That’s when I’m truly being strong and courageous. That’s when ministering to each other happens! That’s when we start to open eyes that are blind, and free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. Is 42:7
So today I say to you…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
I’ve been on a journey with God! Over the last several years I’ve been listening more intentionally to my heart. I mean all of it. It’s been a journey of becoming aware and honest. It’s come with pain as I took off each mask and got really honest with myself about what I was thinking and feeling. The more I’ve listened the more I realize there are layers upon layers of thoughts and feelings behind feelings. Some people like to say it’s like peeling back the layers of an onion.The thing about onions is they make you cry.
We all wear masks. There’s the “I’m a Christian” mask. I wore it because it’s a way to fit in. If you’re a Christian I bet you can identify to some extent. I’ve worn the “I’m brave” mask that’s rooted in fear and shame. I think most of us are familiar with this mask.Then I have some other ones that have been deeply entrenched from childhood. I used them to cope. I used them for self protection.The problem for me was I was so good at wearing them I wasn’t able to be the real me. The me God created and designed me to be in this world.
Real masks come off. It’s the invisible ones that are hard to pry off. So for the past several years God has taken me on a journey of self discovery because wanted me to be as free as possible. But He wants that for you too. truthfully I don’t think we can ever attain complete freedom until we are in Heaven. But while I’m here on earth I want to live in as much freedom as possible.
Honesty really is a big theme in my life. I truly believe in being honest before God. Christ died so that I/we could access the cross, find grace and receive His power in our daily lives. I thought I was pretty honest with my feelings before God. But I guess He wanted to amp things up a bit. Everyone one of us demonstrate something for the world to see and model. I’d like to think mine is to be as honest to the core as I can be and help others become honest and free too. There’s just something about bringing all those hidden feelings out in the open that have a way of feeling like we’re not the only person with a particular struggle. It annihilates isolation and brings us closer to each other.
When Paul set sail for Italy in Acts 27, a storm rose up and they men on the ship had to throw off some of the cargo in order to make it to land. That’s kinda what’s been happening to me. I faced some storms and had to get rid of some masks I thought were valuable. Little by little I shed one mask after another until I felt raw, naked and exposed.Let me tell you that is not a good feeling. But then the winds of refreshing began to blow over me again. I found that I kinda like being naked. I didn’t feel exposed, embarrassed, different or ashamed. I just feel good. I like this new level of honesty. I like being able to speak about what I’m feeling openly. And guess what people like it! It makes them feel better about themselves and then they start to open up.
Recently, I stumbled on some videos of Brene Brown. She’s a vulnerability and shame researcher. And she’s amazing! In her research, she has discovered that “everyone” absolutely everyone deals shame. This has been quite the revelation to me. If she’s correct then there’s nothing more wrong with me than anyone else!!!! That also means there’s nothing more wrong with you than anyone else either!! Now that’s good news!