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Scripture With A Side of Shame

Updated: Jan 20

At the time of this post, it’s week 5 of the COVID quarantine.


Easter was last Sunday, and my family joined virtual church from our couch. We called family members we weren’t able to see in person. We ate lunch – just the three of us. Again. We watched a movie. We stayed inside, which was fine because it was rain/sleeting most of the day. This was the only “normal” part of Easter – Midwest springtime weather.


I found myself in a funk.


As I reflected on what I was feeling, I realized… I’m in the anger stage of grief. I longed for life as it was, recognizing it will never be that way again – at least the way we knew it. I wanted to go to the gym. But I can’t. I want to go visit my dad at his church in his small town and remember memories growing up in that town as a little girl. But I can’t. I wanted to eat out and enjoy an Easter lunch. But I can’t. The feeling of being controlled is oppressive and there’s no known end in sight. So, I grieve.


I also acknowledge that I’m having these feelings and that it’s ok. I’m not the only one. Feelings will pass, they always do. But for now, I’m giving myself permission to feel what I’m feeling. To grieve in my own way – in a funk.


I know, deep down, that we will rise above this – as a nation, a state, a community, and a family, and will be better together. But we’re not there yet. We’re stuck in this murky middle of waiting, wondering, worrying, and being out of our routines. We’re going to need each other more now than ever. Give yourself permission to ask for help and reach out if you need to talk.

 

In writing the introduction above, I want to preserve what’s going on in the world at this time, not knowing when others may read this online. It also provides some context this blog post…Scripture with a Side of Shame.


Growing Up “In Church”

Part of who I am and what I believe comes from my early, formative years growing up “in church.” By that I mean:

  1. We attended church services every Sunday morning, and typically Sunday evenings as well. (In the winter, we’d go to my grandparents’ after morning church and have lunch. Then we’d go to their 2 pm church service before heading home.)

  2. The seats were hard wood pews.

  3. The offering plate was brass with a red (or purple) velvet bottom.

  4. You had to pay attention to the numbers posted on the board near the pulpit so you knew which songs would be part of the service. (#305, #579) In the older churches, organists were still common. My grandmother was one of them.

  5. Kids attended Sunday School on Sundays and youth programs on Wednesdays.

  6. Kids spent one week each summer at bible camp.

  7. We listened to a lot of gospel quartet music.

  8. We sang “old hymns,” many of which I still treasure to this day.

  9. We dressed up in our finest duds, not just on special holidays. Every Sunday. (I still remember my dad’s reaction the first time he saw jeans in church.)

  10. During a Lowell Lundstrom event, when he did the salvation call to the front of the stage, I went and prayed Jesus into my heart. I was around 6.

Lessons From Our Formative Years

When we’re young, we are utterly dependent on our caregivers – for food, for shelter, for survival. Since we’ve never known anything different, we go along to get along. After all, our survival depends on it. It’s the only thing we know.

When it came to church, I went along with what I was told. It was expected, and I didn’t know any different.


In saying this, my intention is not to sound disrespectful. I have many fond memories of growing up in the church community within our community. The people in the churches I grew up in were servants who supported one another. They invested in me, and my family, as they continue to do today.


Rather, my intent was to reinforce that because church was an expectation of being a part of our family, I learned what I was taught within that context.

What I internalized from an early age is that following the rules, being good, serving, and following authority are the right things to do. They also make you “worthy.”


I fully acknowledge that this may not be how it was actually taught. It IS my perspective of what I learned and how I applied what I was learning. It’s how I learned to work within my cultural system. I truly believe the intentions were honorable.


What I didn’t realize until much later in life is that doing what I was told, following the rules, pleasing authority, and being the ‘good girl’ all became life strategies I carried into my adult years. They may have helped me navigate my early years, but they weren’t working anymore.


It wasn’t something I was consciously aware of at first.


As an adult, I tried to do the “right thing” – starting a professional job, getting married, starting a family, finding a comfortable home in a good community, and finding a church.


Along the way, I was also picking up on messages about how I “should” live:

  1. Do this.

  2. Don’t do that.

  3. Don’t EVER do that.

  4. Whatever they are doing – do the opposite.

  5. Do this, but only under these circumstances.

  6. Believe this, not this.

  7. Don’t believe that.

I was becoming more and more exhausted, discontent, insecure, and rebellious. When I would “look to the Book” (the Bible) for direction, words of scripture that “should” have been filling me with joy and hope, fell flat and hollow.


I was failing at being the good Christian I was raised to be. And something deep inside me told me I would never be good enough.


The Game of Shame

If you’ve never heard of Dr. Brene Brown, she describes herself as a “shame researcher.” Her mission is to bring the art of science to complicated emotions like shame, vulnerability, and connection, in order to provide empirical data on how to build resilience. She wanted to answer the question: How do people stay resilient and wholehearted when they have been deeply wounded (emotionally or otherwise)?


Her research on wholeheartedness lead to her 2010 Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability. To date, there are over 47 million views. (View it here.)

It wasn’t until I started reading Dr. Brown’s books that I was able to recognize, and give a voice to, what was deep inside me: shame.

Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self, withdrawal motivations, and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness. Wikipedia

I get uncomfortable just reading that definition.


However, it describes exactly the constant tension I would feel daily, multiple times throughout the day. It led to a self-loathing of epic proportions. From the outside, I was successful, highly functioning, and an upstanding member of the community. Inside, I felt dead.


At a very low point, I admitted, “I hate what He created.” Not a good look for a good Christian girl.


So that this post isn’t 40 pages long, I’m going to jump to the end of this story: I did find hope. Joy. Contentment. Peace. Just not the way I was expecting.

Awareness: The First Step

In all my church experiences, whether Sunday services or small group studies, I always felt like an outsider looking in. Surely no one had insecurity to the depths that I did. If only I had more faith…if only I served more…


I tried again and again to go to the Bible, prayer, and services to fill the emptiness inside. Don’t do what you’re not supposed to do. Keep doing what you know to do. Believe what you’re told. Be good. Follow the rules.


Then, in 2019, I went through training to become a certified Enneagram Life Coach. The Enneagram is a personality-typing tool that describes nine (and up to 27) unique perspectives for approaching the world. It’s one of the most thorough models I’ve seen for describing the strengths and personality pitfalls for the various types. And, the coaching was from a gospel-centered approach.


For the first time, I heard explanations of the different ways God created us to be, including me. I saw clearly how each of us has a unique purpose. That purpose isn’t to follow rules, please others, or be good. The purpose is to live out the desires of our hearts, which He put in us when we became His, so that we could fulfill His plan for us on Earth. This path will lead to authenticity, integrity, overflowing energy, and peace. I wanted that.


I came to understand that while each of us will experience shame in our lifetimes, three of the nine Enneagram personality types actually carry what I call “buckets of shame” deep within them. I was one of those three types. Huh.


Not only that, my type (Type 3) actually picked up double portions of shame from the types on either side of my type. Interesting.


As I further learned about the Type 3, I realized:

  1. Not everyone feels shame to the degree that I do. What??? Really??

  2. There are others out there who DO feel the degree of shame that I do and can empathize with my journey in a way that others can’t.

For the first time, I felt deeply seen and understood. I wasn’t flawed. I was human. And there are others out there like me. This brought me a peace and comfort I hadn’t known before. I wasn’t an outsider looking in. I was exactly who I was created to be, before the world told me who I “should” be.


My biggest realization with shame was recognizing the impact it had on my faith journey.


Looking back, I clearly see the times where I heaped the shame on myself (self-loathing) and became my worst enemy. I compared myself to others, felt inadequate and unworthy, then doubled-down to work harder to earn my worth. My ineffective life strategy was complicated by my shame filter.


Other times, I saw where others in my life used a shame-based approach when sharing what they thought was right for me or what I should do. This would trigger my shame filter, which I didn’t realize I had at the time. I would take the advice to heart and try to follow the rules, without success. Feeling like a failure, I’d shame myself and the cycle continued.


Examples:

  1. I was a working mom (but that wasn’t traditional. I should stay home.)

  2. We had one child (but should have had a quiver.)

  3. When my husband and I married, he wasn’t "saved" (so I was willfully disrespecting God’s rules.)

  4. I would seek comfort in food (so I lacked self-discipline, which translated to a weak faith. I needed to pray more.)

  5. I wasn’t a compliant rule-follower. I saw times where rules kept things safe and comfortable. That wasn’t me. I was wired for risk. I see now where this could distress Enneagram types who aren’t wired for risk. Both perspectives are valid and needed in kingdom work. I realized why I received the reactions I did when I spoke up against rules I didn’t agree with, and my voice was shut down to keep things safe and comfortable. This would then trigger my shame.


I feel the need to clarify at this point – this is my personal journey and that others’ journeys will look different. I had been hearing and receiving messages through my shame filter since childhood, that left me burdened and exhausted, even if they weren’t true. This is just to give an voice to how I was showing up in the world before I learned who I was truly designed to be.


No Shame In My Game

I am now living proof of this verse:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 NIV

Shame killed and destroyed my ability to be present. It was the constant nagging voice of where I wasn’t measuring up and how much more I’d have to work to do so. Shame told me I was unworthy and worthless. Sometimes the voice was mine. Other times, it was from those they offering “helpful” advice.


With what I’ve learned about myself, other types, and God’s path for me, I can now more clearly hear #TRUTH that comes from the power within me. It was always there, but I couldn’t hear it through my shame.


I can now feel authentic peace, contentment, and joy. I can also experience a COVID 19 funk, and just accept that it’s normal. I don’t have to pile on shame for “not being stronger or not being a more mature Christian.”


I’ve also found my voice in this process.


This has led me to share with you my most recent experience with reading scripture.


My goal is to raise awareness of how sneaky shame is, especially for Christians. It wants to rob you from contentment, joy, and peace. You can have life more abundantly. And you can find your #TRUTH. The truth will set you free.


I want this for you.


You deserve to experience this in this one short life we have to live.


Scripture With A Side of Shame

I woke up early with another day of “non-normal routine” ahead of me. I pulled out my bible app to check in with the verse of the day, which was:

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. Philippians 1: 9-10

As I unpacked what this verse meant to me today, I liked verse 9. “A love that overflows” comes from first being fully known, understood, and accepted. We all want this level of intimacy. Our Creator knows us fully and accepts us deeply as His own. When we step into intimacy with our Creator, we receive the gift of love overflowing. I’ve experienced this, and I agree! My hope is that everyone experience this level of love in their lifetimes.


In verse 10, “I want you to understand what really matters.” What really matters? I REALLY MATTER. YOU REALLY MATTER. YOUR/MY PRESENCE MATTERS. We matter to our Creator. Yes, He can accomplish anything without us, but he trusts us with the plan and path he formed JUST FOR US. Once we understand our unique design and path, the shame/fear/discontent subside. We are empowered with the authority of His plan for us. He is FOR US, and will guide and provide.


Up to this point, I was feeling inspired by the words I was reading and the truth I was hearing.


Then I read the last part of verse 10: “…so that you may live pure and blameless lives until His return.


Suddenly my thoughts turned to:

This is a completely unrealistic goal! Why would this well-intended Christian set people up for failure? NO ONE will live pure and blameless in this life time. Not me, not any Christian. #TRUTH


Surely “being good and following the rules” isn’t the goal. I’ve spent my life trying to follow the rules and lived dead. Shame. Disconnection. Burdened.


My goal now – His path for me – is to help others unburden themselves from beliefs and patterns that keep them stuck. I want them to experience “pure freedom” in Him. But it’s different from “being pure.” That’s just unrealistic.


I then recalled messaging from other well-intended Christians when discussing verses like this:


As long as we follow the rules, we are safe from condemnation and will receive favor. Don’t do what you’re not supposed to do and you’ll be ok. Be good. Be pure and holy. That is the goal.


Conviction is that “prick” in your heart to move you to surrender to His will. If you’re feeling convicted, there must be unconfessed sin in your life. So, it must be you. It says right there that the right path is being pure and blameless. Why can’t you just do what it says?


And then I realized... my shame filter had been triggered.


Authenticity over Shame

I recognized what was happening almost immediately.


I granted myself compassion. I never know when or what will trigger me, but now that I can see it for what it is, I could step out of shame and back into truth and acceptance.


Still, the last part of verse 10 didn’t feel true to me and it kept nagging at me. What was this part of verse 10 really saying? What did it mean to me?


My original life strategy told me to accept ALL the bible, every word, at face value. Follow the rules. Follow authority. Do what it says. Not doing so is wrong.

I had to dig deep. Could I accept that I didn’t accept this part of the verse for me? Could I “risk” not pleasing others who may not agree with me in order to maintain my integrity? If I asked for guidance, would He provide?


Yes.

After a time of stillness, the words that came to me were, “…only then can you live lives of authenticity and courage until He returns.”


And…You?

Summarizing the main points of this post:

  1. We all grow up taking on the beliefs, messages, and structures of our formative years. They may not be working for us anymore.

  2. Growing up in “the church” doesn’t automatically translate to a life lived abundantly.

  3. Unless we’re willing to look inside, at who we are at our core, we may tend to follow others and their ideas on what we “should” do, leaving us burned out and discontent.

  4. Once we know our unique path, we know what’s true for us. It may not be true for others. It is based on the #TRUTH.

  5. We all have triggers/filters (mine was shame) that keep us stuck. Once we acknowledge and accept these parts of ourselves, we can have “pure freedom.”

If you can relate, but aren’t sure what to do next, I can help.

Consider a free, 30-minute phone consultation to discuss your unique situation and how we may be able to work together.




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