If I had a party and no one came, it would trigger a great deal of shame.
This thought went through my mind as I sat at a local coffee shop where the monthly writers group meeting I lead takes place.
A party? No, but sometimes it felt like one since the members of this group enjoy a deep connection.
I knew one of the members couldn’t attend because she was celebrating her wedding anniversary. Another said she was busy getting ready to go on a trip on the weekend. A newer member said she had another meeting at the same time.
Then I received an email from someone else saying he had hoped to come but got rear-ended the day before and needed to deal with the car repair.
But at least there will be two here today, I thought.
Then I checked my email. One of the members who said she would be there now said she couldn’t come. She didn’t say why.
I was down to one. It was a member who hadn’t joined us in a while, but he did say in an email he planned to attend.
A half hour passed. I knew no one was coming. I thought back to years before when a friend who led a prayer group asked if I would lead until she got there. Not only did no one come to the prayer meeting, the lady who asked me to lead didn’t show up either.
That day back then I dealt with deep feelings of rejection. At the time I didn’t know to say what I felt was shame.
But this day as God continued to reveal areas of shame and triggers of shame, I knew that’s what I battled inside. At least I now could identify it as such.
Another thought came to mind, I can choose not to give in to shame. The enemy tried hard to get me to do the opposite. If I were a better leader… If the group was more exciting…If I were more loving and caring…If I were a better writer…then people would be here today, the enemy taunted me.
The good news was I didn’t receive the taunts. Yes, I felt disappointed because I missed seeing the people in our group. But it wasn’t my defects which kept them away. Their absence did not prove I was fatally flawed and a complete failure as a group leader.
I decided to stay there a while and work on some writing. I did further editing on poems I brought with me. I looked up the Wednesday poetry prompt on the Writer’s Digest website. It said to write a form poem called a sestina. I studied the form and looked up some poems online written in that form. I knew I would write about shame for this poem.
I enjoyed the decaf caramel latte I ordered. It seemed to be the best drink I ever ordered there.
Writing a sestina appeared a big endeavor, so I decided to wait until a later time to write the poem, but I left the coffee shop feeling a sense of release. A cloud of shame did not hang over me. Instead I felt God’s love surround me.
Later at home I read a letter from a ministry I support, which has a radio show called “Revive Our Hearts.” I hadn’t listened lately because of my work schedule but realized I could have been listening online. So I decided to do so. As I looked at recent shows I saw three days in a row centered on the subject of shame.
I listened to show #1. The guest, Heather Davis Nelson, wrote a book on the subject, Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom From Shame. That’s just what I needed. God had brought me so far in dealing with brokenness and release from shame, but I knew He wasn’t finished with me yet.
I listened carefully as the author shared truths about shame: “Shame makes you want to hide. You feel flawed.” “Triggers for shame in woman are appearance and relationships. She spoke of how women feel shame in their roles as mother or wife. .” “Shame comes as a result of sin.” She tied shame in with perfectionism and comparing, issues which I battled for years. “Trauma leads to shame.” “Shame says, ‘I’m fatally flawed and without hope.'” I could relate to all of this.
“The remedy is to talk to God and others,” Heather instructed.
Then the host of the show said, “We find freedom from shame at the cross.”
God revealed that truth to me years ago. As I thought of how gracious God was to lead me to a radio show which dealt with his desire to continue healing in me, I celebrated I no longer had shame based on appearance, but I still had a ways to go in the area of shame based on performance and related to sins I so desired to conquer.
This morning as I listened to the Bible on my Kindle on the way to work, I heard the word “shame.” Once again God spoke to me, this time through David who said, “I will…not be put to shame.” (vs 26) Later as I went over other verses in Psalm 119, these phrases which seemed related to shame caught my attention: “Take away the disgrace I dread…preserve my life…May your unfailing love come to me…your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. (vs 39-42) The last phrase spoke deeply to my heart. If I trusted what God said about me and how He felt about me, I did not have to give in to the taunts of the devil who tried to lay shame and disgrace on me.
I’m going to listen to those other two other radio programs. I plan to order the book Unashamed. I feel determined to allow God to complete the work He began in me in regard to shame. Lately He has also showed me how I battle shame in regard to being ignored by so many people in my life and at times it seems even by Him.
Years ago I thought, I’m addicted to shame. Now I realize the enemy attempts regularly to get me back into an addictive relationship with this oppressive and at times immobilizing feeling.
But I refuse to succumb.
I will continue to celebrate God’s desire to set me free from all that keeps me from being who He called me to be. My heart’s desire remains to cooperate with His plan for my freedom and continued healing.
I plan to write that sestina. I want the theme to be: He sets me free from shame, and no matter what happens, He loves me the same.
Just as I was getting ready to post this, a friend sent me this text with a link to the trailer for the movie, “The Heart of Man.”
“Powerful movie on healing shame coming Sept 14. (we all need this!)”
Yes, we do!
God, thank You for speaking again and again to my heart about this issue which at times takes hold of me and hinders me from a close walk with You. Because of this, I sense Your deep love for me.
“Take Heart” Hillsong United