Shame, Our Souls, and the Gospel

(Shared with permission – I hope you all enjoy! Juliet)

By renee@devotionaldiva.com (Renee Fisher) on May 20, 2014 06:00 am
shame

[Guest Post by Kimberly Davidson Campbell – I have never met a woman who had it all together on the inside. Maybe you do a good job or holding everything together on the outside, but there’s always traces of shame that tries to steal our joy. I appreciate Kim’s words of encouragement today. Like fresh water in a desert oasis of my heart. Receive them today with love!]

As I sit in the passenger seat of my husband’s now trip-cluttered (otherwise immaculate) Camry, I am intrigued and overwhelmed by all the areas of shame that plague me. 

These areas of shame don’t just plague me — but in some way — they plague most of the women we know.

According to author and blogger Shauna Niequist in Bread & Wine, most women are battling shame in two areas: how their bodies look and how their homes look. I would like to add one as well: how their children look (or act).

Here are some of those examples in my own life:

  • I’m ashamed that my husband is unable to give me a piggy-back ride or carry me over the threshold.  This isn’t because he isn’t strong.  He is.  I love his arms and how strong they are. It is because I weigh almost 40 lbs more than him.
  • I am ashamed because of my flabby body.  It is now covered with stretchmarks from two kids and losing large amounts of weight several times. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything – but I don’t like stretchmarks.
  • I am ashamed because my closet is a mess and my husband’s is all in order and tidy.
  • I am ashamed because I struggle to keep our home as clean as the mister would like it.  So I come unglued when he suggests that he could help do some of the dishes or vacuum. Shame affects pride.
  •  In high school, I was ashamed as a part of the cheerleading squad and traveling singing group because the order size for my uniform or dress was always bigger than everyone else’s.
  • I struggle when I am in public with my toddler and he is pitching a temper tantrum because he doesn’t want to do something.  My parenting skills are not what they should be if he is misbehaving.
  •  I (wrongfully) pride myself in that my boys have never had to have their nursery number put up on the screen during church for me to come and get them. I would die in horror if that ever happened.

You may or may not be able to resonate with any of these examples, but I’m sure you have examples of your own.

Maybe it’s why you can’t look at pictures taken long ago. Or why you keep private stashes of House Beautiful or Shape for midnight reading. Maybe your shame in your body comes from a tattoo from another time in your life you would gladly remove if you could. Or maybe it’s the scars from an abortion or eating disorder.

Shame is not only an indicator of the outward home or clothing size or perfect children. Shame reaches our souls and steals our joy!

Shame also reveals many other truths about our hearts:

  1. It reveals pride. I’ve mentioned this before, but pride is so ugly in a believer’s heart. Everything we have ever received is from God and is not of our own doing. So, when we strive to keep appearances up for the sake of making ourselves look better – it is not a helpful tool in sharing the truth of God’s Word.  (Ephesians 2.8-10; Isaiah 2.17)
  2. Comparison is a nasty habit. Whenever we compare our lives with those of others it reveals an ungrateful heart to the Lord. It is wrecking friendships as well. Oh, be grateful in your heart for all that God has done for you and in you! He works all things together for our good and His glory! (Romans 8.18-39; Colossians 3.15-17)
  3. Both of these areas of our hearts reveal a lack of love for others. One of the two commandments we are given in the Word is love your neighbor as yourself. Friendships are one of most important things in my life.  I love the sweet friends that God has blessed me with over the years and in every place I’ve lived. But, when I let sin hinder those relationships, it brings bitterness that takes forgiveness to overcome – by the truth of the Gospel.  (1 Corinthians 13)

The Gospel – the life and work of Jesus Christ – as it does for every area of our lives, has a direct impact on our life and soul of shame.

  1. Jesus doesn’t love you because you are skinny or wear a certain size. I remember Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada boasting in the fact that she was now in a size 4. But, her life wasn’t any happier than it was when she was slightly bigger. Jesus work in our lives often to heal us from an addiction to the scale or the tag on the skirt.
  2. The gospel isn’t yours only if you have a farmhouse table in your dining room or your baseboards never have a speck of dust on them. The gospel is ours not because of anything we have done – but because Jesus has done everything.
  3. Christ is ours no matter how our children behave – or misbehave! Claim that truth!
  4. Christ frees us! Romans 8.1 is a verse that every believer needs to claim for their lives as a mantra. We are free. There is no condemnation!

The next time you find it hard to believe that you are more than your house, your outward appearance, or any other area you find yourself ashamed of – rest in the doneness of the Gospel of Jesus! And boast in that!

kimberlycampbellKimberly Davidson Campbell is a wife, mother, freelance writer and photographer who resides in the Atlanta area with her family. She graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in Education. Her passions include life-on-life discipleship, speaking, teaching, writing, cooking, being healthy, and photography – and mostly spending time with her husband and two very active sons! She blogs regularly at http://kd316.com.

[photo credit: Jims_photos via photopin cc]

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The Bridge of Vulnerability

How deep The Father’s love for us… His timing is impeccable. He sees us. He knows what we need, even when we aren’t sure. May I share with you my most recent revelation of His love?

So, I’m simultaneously reading Daring Greatly, Brené Brown’s bestseller, subtitled, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and working Step 8 in my Twelve Step group. If you’re unfamiliar with the 8th Step, it goes like this: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” There’s a lot that is scary in “working” Step 8. It’s definitely an opportunity to prepare for the risk of being vulnerable with those who may or may not receive my attempts at amend-making or be interested reciprocation.

I’ve got my list made. I’ve asked God’s Spirit to reveal to me whether anyone else should be on it. One of the questions in my Step work this week asks, “What people have I injured by withholding response or relationship?” Ouch. Isn’t it so much easier to just remain silent? To allow years and decades to pass without responding to or engaging in relationship with someone who has crossed our life’s path and gotten injured in the crossfire of our own pain and the ways we’ve numbed it? If you’ve ever worked a 12 Step program, you know that the one who ends up injured most when “I” refuse to face truth is “myself.”

Honestly, I’m scared of Step 9. I know it’s coming. Making a list is one thing. Making “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others” is quite something else. I’m nervous about what “they” might do or say, or worse yet, what they may not do or say. I’ve tried this before, with an ex-boyfriend whom I left in a hurtful situation. He didn’t acknowledge my angst. Didn’t accept my apology. I’ve not forgotten the aftermath. But I want to.

Guess what Our Loving Father did for me? Right in the thick middle of Step 8 and reading all about how vulnerability is (according to Dr. Brené Brown) “the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences,” He gave me the opportunity to know how it feels to be on the receiving end of “making amends.” He allowed me to hold the vulnerability of another person in my hands and to recognize the truth of what Brené Brown shares in her powerful book: vulnerability is not weakness. Instead, it is “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Brené says, “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” (p. 34) After last weekend, I am in full agreement.Vulnerability

Here’s the short version of how it happened: My biological father, whom I have not seen in four years, bought me a plane ticket to come for a visit to Colorado, where he lives with his wife and two teenaged sons. My husband came, too. We had a great time hiking in the Garden of the Gods and enjoying the beauty of a crisp Colorado spring. Then the blizzard came. (I can call it a blizzard – we were visiting from Florida, where it was 92 degrees Fahrenheit when we left home.) The chill forced us to sit by the fire one evening and talk. Talking can be pretty terrifying when it’s something you and your father have spent a lifetime avoiding.

The backstory may sound all too familiar to you (or to your children): My parents separated when I was 5. Divorced by the time I was 6. By the age of 7, I had a new stepdad and lived on the opposite side of the United States from my father. We rarely saw one another for most of my life. I was in high school before I made an internal decision to be intentional about getting to know him. We tried, but it was difficult because we lived in different worlds and connecting often felt awkward.

So, here I am last weekend, freshly turned 44, sitting in my father’s living room reading Brené Brown’s book on vulnerability, when he does one of the most outrageous, courageous, vulnerable things I’ve witnessed. He starts sharing his heart. With me. I will honor his privacy by not disclosing the contents of that conversation, but it was sealed with tears of anguish for the years of regret, and a passionate apology from a father who wished he had been able to be more of a daddy to my sister and me. I was dumfounded, frozen and staring. Then moved by compassion to embrace him with love.

As I lay in bed later, reflecting on the things my father shared, I was reminded of the way they parallel so many of our God stories. We may wander through life feeling abandoned, alone, and unloved, never realizing that Our Father agonizes over us. Unaware that He loved us from the very beginning and never once stopped, no matter how far away we were. He’s spent eternity longing for relationship with us: forever allowing us the freedom to choose to be “found,” always aware that true intimacy can never be forced, even by the Creator of those He longs to be intimate with.

I thought about the fact that my relationship with my earthly father shifted when I made a conscious effort to reach out to him as a teenager. That is when the walls began to slowly come down, brick by brick. Unfortunately, many partitions remained intact…until last weekend, when, with one giant leap of vulnerability, he bravely knocked down all remaining barriers, opening a way for healing to take place. It was a rare and beautiful thing to observe. He did Step 9 without even realizing it!

Being on the recipient end of “making direct amends” revolutionized my looming Step 9 and made it seem not so scary after all. I now understand how burden-relieving it is to witness the courageous vulnerability of a person seeking to make things right. I can only pray that I will be that brave.

Our earthly fathers are important. Whatever the status of our bond, it’s a relationship that matters. Unfortunately for so many of us, the fraying of fatherhood has deeply impacted our view of God and our perception of His view of us.

My Father's Bible

My Father’s Bible

Perhaps we can learn something from my experience with my father. Maybe it will be simply this, “For God so loved___________(put your name right here) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). God longs for an eternal relationship with us. He has done everything within His power to provide for that. He has loved us from the beginning. Unconditionally. Even when we didn’t know it. The choice is ours. Do we accept His gift, or do we reject it? Will we take His ministry of reconciliation and spread it to those whom we, in our broken humanity, have injured? Will we dare to be that vulnerable…with Him and with others? I pray so. There is abundant life waiting on the other side of the bridge of vulnerability. Just ask my father.

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7fGEOH2XiY

 

Peace For Hurting Mothers

Vulnerability

Tulips In Rain by winter_can_wait

“He was always such a good boy.” She spoke quietly, sunlight from the window illuminating every furrow in her forehead. She wasn’t particularly pretty. But perhaps she had been before grief had taken over her features. Moving toward the light, she scanned the spring-green countryside before continuing.

“I loved him as mothers love sons. Fiercely. Madly. He was always my favorite, but I tried not to let it show. I couldn’t help it. He just had that way of pulling my heartstrings.” Turning from the window, she settled herself on low cushions and closed her eyes for a moment. “He was different. Special. I really wasn’t sure where life would take him. But I just knew he would go far.”

Then the tears came. Just one or two, from beneath dark lashes. She fought them bravely, struggling for the composure that had held her together through the years as fingers pointed and tongues wagged in not-so-soft whispers that cut like shards of glass.

“I was thrilled to hear of his adventures with those eleven friends of his. News traveled quickly when something miraculous happened. True, a couple of them were a little rough, especially those sons of Thunder! But from what I understood, they had each other’s backs. And the power of God was surely with them. Why, he even healed the sick and cast out demons. He shared the stories with me himself during his last visit home. I just don’t understand what happened.”

She shook her head as if trying to jar the memories loose. “If they were unkind to him, he never told me. He didn’t give a hint of betrayal. They always seemed like such a close-knit group. I mean, for three years they were together, night and day. I cannot fathom what went wrong. How could such a terrible thing happen? That’s not how his ministry was supposed to end. That was not how he was supposed to die. Oh, Judas! My Judas!” Her tears could no longer be contained as violent pent-up sobs shook her small frame.

Can you feel her ache? Identify with her heart? Do you know that mother? You know…the one whose son is in juvenile detention? Or rehab? Maybe she’s the one whose daughter overdosed a couple of years ago. Or whose sweet grandbaby grew up to be a perpetrator. Or the one who isn’t a mother at all because she had one too many abortions, wrecking her chances of conception. What is she doing for Mother’s Day?

Perhaps you have been the mother, or the wife, or the sister who is being whispered about. Or maybe it’s your husband who ran that stoplight while driving under the influence. Or your teenager, who didn’t see that guy on the motorcycle because she was texting her boyfriend. Is that your daughter-in-law, whose black eye reminds you of the days when your son’s father did the same to you?

Mother’s Day makes some mothers want to curl up in a tight ball of shame and hide behind their wall of pain while their friends are opening pink Hallmark envelopes and going out for brunch. Chances are, you know one of those shame-filled ones. She may be in your pew, your prayer group, or your circle of friends. She may be in your mirror.

Dr. Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” In her book Daring Greatly, she cites some of the responses people gave when asked for an example of shame. Here are a few, as found on p. 70:

  • “Shame is having someone ask me, “When are you due?” when I’m not pregnant.
  • Shame is hiding the fact that I’m in recovery.
  • Shame is bankruptcy.
  • Shame is my DUI.
  • Shame is infertility.
  • Shame is telling my fiancé that my dad lives in France when in fact he’s in prison.
  • Shame is Internet porn.
  • Shame is hearing my parents fight through the walls and wondering if I’m the only one who feels this afraid.”

 If I could speak for the mother of Judas, I could probably add, “Shame is having your son hang out with Jesus Christ for three years and blowing it all by betraying Him and then hanging himself from a tree.”Judas' Tree

Maybe it seems strange to talk about this on Mother’s Day weekend when everything is meant to be roses and kisses. But holidays are some of the most difficult times for people, especially those in recovery. And if we are truthful, that should probably include most of us. Maybe this isn’t your particular holiday to mourn, but I can almost guarantee there is one.

Thursday would have been my husband’s mother’s birthday. She passed away just last spring. He did what I’m encouraging each of us to do when these things come up. He reached out. He called his sisters. He called his dad. They remembered Mom and comforted one another with words. They brought one more measure of healing to the wound that is losing a loved one.

Was it Judas’ mother’s fault that he went rogue and is best remembered for betraying the Son of God? Should she have had to walk in shame for the rest of her life because of her son’s adult choices? I don’t know if she did. But it would certainly be tempting, wouldn’t it? Shame makes us want to hide. Shame says, “You are a bad mother.” Shame says, “It’s your fault your kid turned out that way,” or “You don’t deserve to have kids anyway, after the kind of life you’ve led.” Shame is a liar.

After 12 years of researching shame, Brené Brown suggests four elements of what she calls, “shame resilience,” which, she says, “always ultimately lead us to empathy and healing:

  1. Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers.
  2. Practicing Critical Awareness.
  3. Reaching Out.
  4. Speaking Shame.”

 If this Mother’s Day isn’t looking too bright, for whatever reason, may I encourage you to practice courage and reach out to someone? Own your story. Don’t let it fester. Don’t bury it. Talk about it. Share it. And talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone else if you really loved them and were trying to comfort them. Let’s be kind to ourselves, and kind to one another.

Not every mother’s Mothers’ Day is joy-filled. But every mother deserves to know that “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Peace is one of those good and perfect gifts. Whatever your story, may His perfect peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds (Philippians 4:4) today.

*Thank you, Winter_can_wait, for sharing your beautiful images with us. More from Ami can be found at http://twenty20.com/winter_can_wait

She Dared Greatly

I‘ll simply call her, “She.” because you may know her. “She” may live in your community, too. “She” could wear high heels or flip flops, but you’ll recognize her, not for her shoes, but for her heart. Next time you see her, whoever “She” may be, give her a “Woo hoo!” for being vulnerable…for living Wholeheartedly. Let her know you’re in her cheering section!

She wore her rhinestone-pocketed jeans tucked into cowgirl boots. Her naturally curly hair was blonde and straight, her smile bright with expectation. I have not been quite so proud of a grown-up for a long time. Part of me wanted to run onto that stage and wrap my arms around her. Instead, I shouted, “Woo Hoo!” Texas-style, as she stepped up to the podium. Within seconds, I was silently glued to the pew, not wanting to miss one word of her precious gift to Jesus.

You see, she had promised Him that she would tell her story, after He, in a quiet moment, had asked her for it. At first, she shied from the real story, wanting to hide behind the fluff of other, brighter stories that would roll more gently off the tongue. But He persisted. She, wanting to please Him after all He has done for her, for us, relented in humble obedience.

I could feel a shift in the atmosphere as the women shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Most of us had been there, right there, in those shameful places she bravely described with tears in her voice. But most would never dare stand in rhinestones and boots baring our souls before hundreds of strangers. I applauded God as they applauded her. She resonated deep within souls who had come with unspoken expectations, but were completely unprepared for the splendor of sheer vulnerability in blue jeans. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, she connected to the hearts of her hearers. More importantly, she connected her hearers to the heart of God.

photoFor my birthday, I received  Brené Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. In the introduction, she states, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.” When we, or someone we love messes up badly, or is stuck in addiction, it’s so easy to hide behind a wall of shame, pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. But, according to Dr. Brené Brown, when we do that, we are not living “Wholeheartedly.” In fact, we may not really be living at all. We may be merely existing.

Dr. Brown says on page 9 in her book, that wholeheartedness is “a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness,” and that (p.11-12), “The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection. In fact, the willingness to be vulnerable emerged as the single clearest value shared by all of the women and men who I would describe as Wholehearted. They attribute everything – from their professional success to their marriages to their proudest parenting moments – to their ability to be vulnerable.”

When I read that, my immediate thought was, Then all Christians must be “Wholehearted” people, because we believe that we are worth the very life of the Son of God. But in my spirit, I knew for certain that not all of us who proclaim Christ as Lord are living our lives from a Wholehearted stance. Way too many of us are hanging our heads on the way to the altar, if we can even crawl out of bed and make ourselves go to church. Sometimes we give up trying because the masks become too heavy to hold in place. It’s easier to just stay away. Our shame and fear have kept us stuck in a place that is far from the abundant life Our Savior has called us to live.

But, not my rhinestone cowgirl. No way. She’s living abundant life. She’s living Wholeheartedly, pouring out the oil in her alabaster box as she throws herself at the merciful feet of Jesus, just wanting to give the most precious contents of her life back to Him. I loved her for that. I loved Him for giving her the courage to be just that vulnerable.

Brené Brown’s research has shown that the Wholehearted “have developed practices that enable them to hold on to the belief that they are worthy of love, belonging, and even joy.” She says, “those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging.” (p.11)

We are, each and every one of us, worthy of love, belonging and joy! “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV) You are loved. You are worthy of the greatest gift heaven has ever bestowed. Will you walk that out today? Go ahead. Pull on those boots! They were made for walkin’ – Walkin’ out your wholehearted, vulnerable life. Make your Jesus proud. “She” sure did!

http://katiecouric.com/2012/09/13/daring-greatly/ (Click HERE if you want to see Brené Brown discuss vulnerability with Katie Couric.)