How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
I can see it now
I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
BROKEN VESSELS, Hillsong Worship
These lyrics wreck me. For most of my life I couldn’t see the love in the eyes of Jesus. Years ago, someone asked me to imagine Jesus was standing in front of me. I instinctively turned my head away in shame. I couldn’t imagine looking into His face. I feared His ability to look into my eyes and truly see me. I was drenched in shame.
Guilt is when you feel you have done wrong.
Shame is when you feel are wrong.
The concept of being near Him or allowing Him to look into my eyes was too shameful for me to allow. I turned my head to hide my shame.
When I sing these lyrics, I smile through tears because I can finally see the love in the eyes of Jesus. Amazing grace. I once was lost – broken, stuck in shame, hiding, pretending that my attempts to hide my pain were working. Turning away from myself, God and anyone who might see through my fake smile to the emotional wounds below the surface.
I once was blind. But now I see. I was blinded by shame. It kept me looking inward. I lived in a shame cycle. I would have a human experience (make a mistake, be less than perfect, say the wrong thing, etc.) and my body would flood with shame. It was a full body physical reaction – literally bathed in shame. Then my mind would shut down. My defense mechanisms would go up, reasoning would diminish, and words would fail me. I would go numb. The shame led me to emotionally withdraw from myself and anyone around me. Autopilot and denial would take over until the next occurrence. Autopilot allowed me to function. I stuffed the shame down and pretended nothing happened. Awkward. Yet, I felt I had no other choice. The feeling of shame was all encompassing and I had no skills to deal with it. My coping mechanism was to push it down and pretend it wasn’t there.
The breaking of my shame has come through vulnerability. It’s the reason I choose to be so vulnerable in this space. Courage breeds courage. When I go first, I hope it will inspire and encourage you to take a step toward vulnerability too.
This is what the beginning of breaking free looked like for me. I joined a book study of Released from Shame at church. There were probably 6 of us including the leader. The women vulnerably shared their stories and feelings. I was in awe. I had never observed such vulnerability. I thought they were courageous, brave and beautiful. It was an honor to be trusted with their pain and deeply personal experiences. Their vulnerability broke through the lie I believed that if I shared what was really going on inside of me, it would push people away. Their transparency drew me closer. I identified with their feelings. My heart broke for their pain. I felt admiration for their strength, awed at their perseverance through hardship, and inspired to hope that I could be vulnerable without falling apart into a million pieces. Their courage showed me the path to find my courage.
It took years of observing vulnerability before I could do it for myself. It took a trained Christian therapist to break through my defensive/protective walls. It was worth every penny.
Here are some things I've learned…
Healing doesn’t happen alone. If it did, you would have done it. Talk to someone – a good Christian therapist (yes, there are bad ones), a healthy friend, or an emotionally healthy Pastor. This is the deal; we cosign our own thinking. We need someone who will tell us the truth and point out the lies we tell ourselves. This work cannot be done in isolation. It’s time to take the microscope off ourselves and look outward. Some of our thinking needs to be dismantled and replaced with healthier thoughts. I need healthy people, who to speak truth to help me do this.
Some of the truths that replace my faulty thinking…
Perfection isn’t attainable and it’s not the goal.
Humans aren’t perfect, they do their best and still make mistakes. It’s OK to be human.
Learning is part of living. No one knows it all. Besides, no one wants to sit next to a know-it-all.
Most importantly – I’m not broken. I’m becoming. I’m loved right now, in all my imperfections. I’m worthy of life, love, acceptance, community, delight, joy, friendship, and more - right now. I don’t have to earn it. It’s an extravagant gift I get to enjoy today.
Gratitude works. Making a daily gratitude list is life changing. Do it. Start with 3 things.
These truths have changed my life. They were foreign concepts for most of my life. I’m awed by the reality that I own these truths now. Sure, there are times I need to remind myself. Yet, these truths are at home inside of me. That is revolutionary!
Back to the song lyrics. Raising up the broken to life. This is my song. This is my passion. What God has done in me is amazing grace. He has raised a broken spirit to life. He healed a shame-filled little girl and is using her to spread his message of extravagant grace and healing. My passion is to see God do His work in you. In our friends. In your family. I want to see the broken, bound and shame-filled break free into God’s amazing grace. Everyone is invited.
I lovingly invite you to act. What do you sense is your next step?
Here are some ideas…
Expose yourself to flesh and blood vulnerability (Open Alcoholics Anonymous meetings offer raw and real). Not a book, blog or article - you need real people in the same room with you. Listen to a real person, in your community share vulnerably.
Schedule a get together to be vulnerable with a safe, emotionally healthier-than-you friend. If you have a perfect friend, that isn't the one I'm talking about. Choose an imperfect friend who is growing.
Journal what is really going on with you under the surface.
Schedule an appointment with a good Christian therapist.
Post a comment about what resonated with you.
Thank you for making space to listen to my heart. Find someone who will hold space for your tender heart. You deserve it. You are worthy.
The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown
Brazen, Leeana Tankersley
Released from Shame, Sandra D. Wilson, PhD