From the outside it all looked so nice. Handsome husband. Two beautiful toddlers. Financially stable. Active in church ministry. A smile wherever I went. And it wasn’t as if that smile were disingenuous. I treasured my husband and my children. I was thankful for God’s blessings. And I loved nothing more than bringing joy to others so a smile was something I wore easily.
But what most didn’t know was that I lived enveloped within a curtain of shame. A shame that perpetuated the comparison of myself to everyone and everything around me.
Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
When you carry a curtain of shame with you, the load becomes heavy. The days become long. And the tears become many. Depression fights to nestle itself within the crevices of your soul. It hides from the world, but eats away at the person you were meant to be.
My past held so much that grieved my heart. Mistakes and missteps by a confused young girl. And painful rejection at the hands of those I thought I could love and trust the most. Somewhere, at some point, I locked eyes with rejection and held onto its gaze. I received it as my truth and my identity. There I remained stuck for far too long.
What is it that I am missing?
Why am I less than everyone else?
What will make me worthy of approval?
Life became filled with seeing the best of everyone else and the worst of myself.
I look back and I am amazed at God’s hand in my life even when I didn’t understand the power of His love. He gave me: Wisdom. Strength. Courage. Tenacity. Discernment.
I was a survivor. I survived an abusive marriage and a disease that nearly took my kidneys. I flourished in a teaching career while struggling through the financial impact of a divorce and medical bills. I pushed. I learned. I earned a Master’s Degree by scraping pennies together. I was a tough cookie. A survivor.
So I knew my thinking processes were not healthy. I knew I was stuck in rejection and shame. I went to counseling. I talked with my pastor. I read books. I did the work.
It helped… a little. But not enough to tear away that tightly wrapped curtain of shame. There was a missing piece. One enormously powerful weapon I had failed to use. It was the weapon of forgiveness. Not forgiveness for what others had done to me, but the forgiveness of myself. Maybe Jesus did forgive me for all that I had done, but maybe I could NEVER forgive myself.
I was in my own prison of defeat despite the fact that the key to unlock the doors was readily available to me through His grace. If I could just accept His grace, I could forgive myself.
He gave me one moment where it all became too much. Every failure and every rejection flooded over my spirit. I didn’t know if, or even whether, I wanted to climb back out of that ugly place.
He gave me one friend who spoke truth in love and followed it by a plan of action.
He gave me the space of a trusted environment. All the shame and all the pain that ravished my soul came pouring out in that space. What had been dark was now illuminated by His light. And the light is where the enemy can no longer hide. Victory was claimed on my behalf.
When I left that evening, everything didn’t magically turn to “perfect.” It can’t. It never will because with “perfect” we don’t need Jesus. But that night, the cycle the enemy had perpetuated was stopped. Shame was replaced by His grace and truth. Rejection was given back to its rightful owners. I began the process of denying its power over my life. It was a great big step toward my something better with Jesus.
Today? I’m living out my something better. I still have that handsome husband. Those toddlers are a teen and preteen, and there is a third treasure (child) in the mix. I still have that smile. But now, the curtain of shame has been torn away. Just like everyone else, my life still gets hard. Hearts are broken. Relationships disappoint and hurt. But I’m not stuck comparing myself to everyone and everything around me.
God taught me to accept His grace and forgive myself. He taught me to speak His truth because it reigns over all other words ever spoken. So I will speak this declaration of God’s truth. Will you speak it with me when the enemy prowls and forgiving yourself isn’t easy?
I am thankful to be a cracked and broken vessel giving a pathway through which Your power and beauty can shine through. (2 Cor 4:7)
My weaknesses are proof of your strength. (2 Cor 12:9)
I do not live to compare myself to another because then I will only be tossed into confusion (2 Cor 10:12)
You call me wonderful and marvelous. (Psalm 139:13-14)
I have no need for fear.” (2 Timothy 1:7)