I once was paralyzed… and now I’m free (well, getting there)

Have you ever felt the weight of a burden so heavy, that the pressure from it leaked out in various expressions? For me, it often takes the form of desperate, unheard cries, or detaching myself from the pain until I becoming totally emotionally numb. Have you ever experienced the unrelenting despair of carrying a hidden burden in shame for extended time? It can be devastating, crushing, unbearable.

I have spent most of my life hiding the shame I felt. Actually, hiding the shame of my shame is more accurate. At first this way of coping was fairly inconsequential, but I eventually did this to the extent of shutting off almost all feeling. My shame was finally hidden, and I was safe from others, but left me with only remnants of life inside. Not even the people closest to me knew the turmoil eating away at my life.

A few days ago I had a very significant day. I had the blessing of spending time with a dear friend catching up on life. And those festering, shame-covered wounds? I led her to them. Yes, it felt risky, but I have known her long enough to be confident of her character. I trust her. I cannot describe the respect with which she responded. Her face showed not the disgust I feared but compassion and a desire to understand.

What has changed that made you be able to talk about this now?” my friend asked me, knowing how difficult that was for me to share.

I’m not really sure. All I know is that layers of shame have slowly loosened from my burdens. My failures, my fears, my past–they are all becoming untethered from the grip of shame that held me so closely.

This snippet of our conversation reminded me of John 9 right after Jesus had healed a man born blind. Jewish leaders questioned the previously-blind man as to whether or not Jesus was a sinner. The man replied:

Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. (ESV, John 9:25)

I don’t know why Jesus has allowed me the healing from shame to be able to be transparent with my closest community. I don’t know why He has allowed me to experience such grace, such acceptance in my dearest friendships.  I don’t know why the LORD has chosen to give me freedom now and not years ago, nor do I understand why He has offered it to me and not yet others. The depth of my God’s mercy I do not understand, but like the blind man I testify to all who will listen: one thing I do know is that I once was paralyzed with shame, and now I’m free.

Let me be clear: I’m still dealing with some consequences of being driven by shame, but they are gradually fading. It is a process which has contributed to my growth in maturity and in sanctification–a fancy word which means becoming more like Jesus Christ. I have found freedom in allowing the chains of shame to be loosened from my burdens. The Holy Spirit really does bring liberty. He has been good to me. Finding freedom has not meant abandoning values or convictions. My morality remains the same, even though it can seem easier to follow whatever my heart desires in the moment.

~

To my surprise, my friend expressed that my example of vulnerability had encouraged her; it gave her courage to continue processing through personal struggles, trusting that God will use it to bring redemption. “I? Inspired you?!?” I thought. God really can use anyone or any circumstance.

Life still hurts–it still can be almost unbearable at times. God doesn’t promise that pain will go away (in this lifetime). I also still have a long ways to go before I would say I’m truly living in freedom. The new path that I’m on promises to be difficult and it could perhaps bring even more pain than the shut-down and shame-protected (how ironic is that pair of adjectives?) version of myself. Nonetheless, the freedom from being fully known and loved is worth the pain of mistakes and failure. 

I pray that your journey will parallel mine in the quest of liberty from shame. I ask my Father that you will experience the depths of freedom which I am beginning to see. Do you have experiences of freedom? What’s your story?

Advertisements

Real Talk for Straight Folk

Real Talk for Straight Folk.

I just found Julie’s blog last night and am blown away at her sensitive, compassionate, and articulate discussion of being a gay Christian (who holds the “side B” viewpoint). This particular blog post gives insight to ways that heterosexual believers may love their brothers and sisters in Christ who have a homosexual orientation.

Memorial services… for the living

Have you ever been to a funeral or memorial service where people share something along the lines of “I didn’t say this often enough, but I loved them,” “I regret not ever telling them how much they meant to me,” or “Now I wish I had the chance to make things right between us”? Those comments always break my heart. It is so easy to let time slip by without telling our loved ones how much they mean to us. I am guilty of that too.

I have made it one of my goals to “appreciate” the people whom I appreciate. I have found that giving genuine encouragement is surprisingly and unfortunately awkward in our culture. Our verbal encouragement skills are left unpracticed as well as our compliment-receiving skills. Because, let’s be honest, it is difficult to actually receive praise in a humble and thankful way.

I have been blessed with some friends who are gifted with the ability to encourage. They have taught me both how to speak truth and blessing into others’ lives and have helped me learn that humbly accepting the compliment is actually a gift to the encourager.

What if instead of an expensive birthday present, we wrote a thoughtful card explaining all the positive character qualities we see in the person? Or if we had an open mic “memorial service” for someone who was alive so that they may hear how their life has impacted those around them? Let’s reverse the cultural trend of being awkward about encouraging. Please?  It will take a movement, but it’s already underway. Won’t you join me in encouraging loved ones? Do not waste an opportunity to speak life into your family, friends, coworkers, even strangers. Let’s not wait until it’s too late. Let’s celebrate life now. 🙂

The disorientation of change

Some people claim to enjoy change. I am not one of those people. I am thankful for the good that often results from change, but the process is not one that I desire or seek.

I remember one of my professors describing the two different ways people respond to new information: assimilation and accommodation.

Assimilation: incorporating new knowledge into the pre-existing system of viewing life. We respond in this way all the time. When we ask a friend what is new in their life or visit a new restaurant, we process the new information without much problem. This is the kind of type of change that response and catalog it into our worldview.

Accommodation: adjusting a schema to new information. This means adjusting your whole system of viewing life into a new system. THESE are the kinds of changes that are often difficult for everyone: when we learn that we have a chronic disease, when we move into a new culture and need to learn a whole new way of life, when we are betrayed by a long-trusted friend, when something happens to fundamentally change our beliefs and values. Not all of changes are necessarily bad, but they can certainly shake our foundation.

 

I recently graduated from a university, moved to a new house, and am about to start a new job. I have found that this transition has been a change of the “accommodation” magnitude. It feels like my whole world is a little unsteady. Especially in the first week of the transition my mentor gave words to how I was feeling–disoriented. It is as if everything that was familiar has been moved and is out-of-place. One morning I found myself overcome with thankfulness for being able to have moved my clothes dresser to my new place. This seemingly insignificant detail helped me that morning feel familiarity and stability when everything else seemed to be different. Silly as it is, it gave me relief from the disorientation for a minute because I knew exactly in which drawer my socks reside; at least something was still in-place. 🙂

I think being disoriented for now is ok. It’s not fun, but it points me back to the only Unchangeable One. God is my rock who does not change. In times like these, I find myself connecting especially with the book of Psalms. It is full of prayers that cry out to God in times of uncertainty and distress. In “lament psalms,” the writer calls to God in their pain, asking for relief and comfort while still praising the LORD because of the good things God has done and for who He is. Here is a few verses one of these lament psalms:

Psalm 18:1-2, 6 (ESV)

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold….

In my distress I called upon the LORD;

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

I find such comfort in viewing God as my stronghold who actually listens to my cries.  I could tell stories upon stories of God’s mercy to me.

Transitions can be messy (both literally and metaphorically), and I’m learning that it’s ok… just as long as the transition period is just that–a temporary period that doesn’t last forever. Soon I will adjust to the new way of life and it too will become familiar. For now, I seek the LORD for strength. He has never failed me, and I trust that He will continue to be a faithful provider.

Have you ever felt disorientation with change? How have you found that you cope with it?

If I must weep

“If I must weep with You, My Lord, Your will be done.”

I like to arrange–or rearrange, rather–hymns and put them to new music. I love to connect people today with great hymn writers’ deep theological expressions. “My Jesus, as Thou Wilt” is one that I worked on last week. I usually only end up liking a small fraction of works that I compose and arrange, and this was one of the few. Perhaps I’ll post a recording of it on here eventually.

As I was writing and doing initial recordings of the song, I became impressed with the lyrics. The prayer is emotive, theologically sound, and full of wisdom. It only impacted me, however, to the extent that I was feeling pain.

Have you ever learned a life lesson that doesn’t seem to apply to you at the time? And so you gladly display it as a lesson you are learning, but without actually having to personally invest in it much? God has a funny way of circumventing my pride and showing me that the lesson is indeed applicable for me.

I am learning that often it is only through suffering that l can holistically learn the lessons about which I have cognitively processed.

When life is going smoothly it is easy to praise the God who gives. In seasons of blessing it is also fairly easy to say that you will bless the name of the LORD when He takes away. But what about when He actually does? When life hits, when trials come, my plan to persevere in joy often slips my memory. I know that trials can develop perseverance; suffering can grow faith, mature character, and increase faithfulness to the LORD. So if I don’t have an intrinsically negative view of trials, then why do I tend to view each individual trial as an unacceptable hindrance to my well-being that needs to be immediately reversed? I suppose growing less spiritually nearsighted is an element of maturity which will come as I grow more like Christ.

Why do I bring that up? Suffering’s heaviness overwhelmed my perspective tonight. After much weeping and prayer, God allowed relief from my anguish for the night. He reminded me of the hymn I had just arranged and gave me the strength it pray with sincerity. As much as I protest the process of suffering, I am thankful that God is using my pain to shape me.

I am once again learning (isn’t it funny how lessons seemingly need to be learned several times, in cycles?) that even though God is the Healer and that His healing is something I should seek, pain is not guaranteed to ever go away on this earth. Suffering reminds me to recognize my dependence on the Father; it is a reminder to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Son. It makes me long for my eternal Home for which I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. I trust that God can use evil for good, even if I will not be able to see or fathom it in this lifetime.

Remember. Always remember to remember that God is good. He understands suffering. He sees my pain–both hidden and apparent–and it all grieves Him. I weep not alone, for I have an advocate before God’s great throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16). Praise be to the God of mercy.

 


 

Here are the lyrics (modified slightly to fit a modern audience):

My Jesus, oh may Your will be mine

Into Your hand of love I would my all resign

Through sorrow or joy, conduct me as Your own

And help me still to say, “My Lord, Your will be done.”

My Jesus, though seen through many tears

Let not my star of hope grow dim or disappear

Since You on earth have wept and sorrowed oft alone

If I must weep with You, my Lord, Your will be done.

My Jesus as You will all shall be well for me

Each changing future scene I gladly trust with Thee

Straight to my home above I travel calmly on

And sing, in life or death, “My Lord, Thy will be done.”