After a long, spill my guts out confession, about all the things I believed were holding me back from living up to the calling God has placed on my life, she sits up straight. Looking me dead in the eyes, she asks me, “Taylor, do you truly believe that you have been forgiven? Because it seems like you don’t.”
With little hesitation I replied, “Yes, I believe I’m forgiven, and I even believe that I’ve been redeemed.” I pause for a moment though, and then it clicks, “I think I still suffer from the shame of my past… and I’m still figuring out why that is.”
You see, I wholeheartedly believe that I have been forgiven and redeemed, but I’m not living like I have been set free. Why?
“Because you knew better.” There it is… the words that have plagued me for years.
Finally, I started to recognize that the voice telling me “you knew better, and you should have turned back to God then instead of running further away in your sin” was the enemy.
I want to tell you about how sharing my story recently has changed my life. To spare you from the lengthy back story it can be summed up in this: I have desperately wanted to be authentic; to be my complete self and to walk confidently in the unique mission and calling God has placed on my life, but something was holding me back.
A few Sunday’s ago I went to hear my pastor/ mentor preach about friendship with Jesus. After the service, a couple of girls from bible study invited me to dinner and we began to share stories of how God led us to the church we attend.
Since I’m new to the group they asked me to share my full story, and in that moment I felt the Spirit nudge me. It was as if He was telling me not to skip over the dark, messy parts. So, I didn’t. I told the girls the biggest, darkest, messiest parts of my story – the sin, the secrets, all of it.
I was obedient to God, who – mind you – had told me to share everything; I was honest and unapologetic about where God has called me from, how He has redeemed me, and where He is leading me. I should have felt relief, or comfort, or even peace, but all I felt after sharing was worry… and without even knowing it – shame.
Driving home that night my thoughts were flooded with fear of judgment and regret. “Now they know how inadequate and unworthy you are. What if they don’t want to be friends anymore? What if they tell other people and you’re ridiculed or people start to avoid you? What if they tell the pastor or the whole church finds out what you’ve done? They aren’t going to believe that God has called a person like you, with a past like yours, to lead or teach people.”
It was in that moment that I realized the feelings of insecurity and fear, of not being or not doing enough; the reasons I felt I couldn’t step into the calling/ mission God had called me to was due to shame.
Shame plagues you with the memories of rejection, embarrassment, and feelings of unworthiness.
It bounds you to your past mistakes and forces you to believe that your sin and flaws are who you really are.
Shame makes you forget who Jesus is, what He has done, and mostly, why He did it. It makes you forget that you are forgiven, redeemed, and set free by numbing you out, and causing you to fall deaf to the truth revealed in God’s Word.
Shame clouds your perception of who God has called you to be by bringing to the forefront what you hate most about yourself; burying your God-given talent and highlighting your failures.
Shame is the enemy whispering that you are no longer worthy, that you no longer have purpose, that you are inadequate to fulfill the calling God has placed on your life. It will allow you to believe that you have been forgiven, and sometimes even that you have been redeemed, but shame will not allow you to live set free.
Yet, from the very beginning shame was not God’s plan for us. Before sin entered into the world, Genesis 2:23 tells us that God created Adam and Eve naked and “they felt no shame.” Why doesn’t it say, “they felt fearless” or “they felt no anxiety”? I wonder if it’s because God knew that shame would be one of the enemy’s most destructive weapons against us.
The enemy uses shame to keep us living in fear of being “found out” – of people knowing the darkest, messiest parts of us. But here’s problem with that…
Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors, eloquently puts it, “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
When we tell our story, we are allowing ourselves to be fully seen and fully known exactly as we are. And by doing this, we are also giving others permission to do the same.
Once our own shackles of shame are loosened we start to walk in true freedom, and that is when we are able to help other people loosen their shackles.
Healed people help heal people. Free people set people free.
We all have a story. If you’re willing to share it, God will use it to set you free and further His Kingdom. Galatians 5:1a tells us, “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” We have been called to walk in the freedom that Christ has given us, and we have the mind-blowing opportunity to set other people free just by sharing our story.
By sharing my story – the sin, the secrets, the redemption – I was able break free from the shackles of shame on my own life. Now, I walk in the freedom that I was always meant to walk in, closer to my Jesus, and closer to His people.
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