It is pretty common for Matt and I to go through the intense fire of a topic before having to teach on it. Usually we are prepared for it and most of the time, in the middle of the blazing licks of fire and tension between us we realize what is happening. God is allowing us to feel the weight of the issue in our own lives so that we 1) stay humble, 2) remain vulnerable with you, and 3) can present the hope and healing that is available on the other side. It is a grueling process, painful, and confusing, and this week was no different.
After spending a week researching, reading, and writing on shame, I was hearing a lot of my own familiar shame messages. I realized that I need to practice what I was “writing” and responded with courage to share with Matt what I was struggling with. The truth is, He sees my potential, my created potential, more than I see it. And I see his. In the midst of shame, it is easy to settle in and take a long winter’s nap. But he reminded me, that he is only who he is because he started to choose to see himself as I see him and that I never relented (not to be mistaken for nagging), and that he was thankful. This was his attempt at telling me that I may not see myself as he sees me, but that won’t stop him from encouraging me toward my potential, regardless of kicking my feet and believing the lies of shame.
We all experience shame in different ways. I struggle with insecurity sometimes like the rest of you. Sometimes I would rather stay small, stay in my own home even, than risk failure, humiliation, and hurt. But the truth is... I am not small, neither are you. We are big, amazing, capable beings that the Creator designed strategically to do great things (not always translated to world-changing things). One of those amazing things, is grow, change, meld, encourage, mourn with, relieve tension with, disagree with, create with, and forgive with your spouse. We are meant to take our brokenness, caused by consequences of sin in the world, to our mate and allow God to heal us with compassion and acceptance. Now look, I know this is hard- excruciating even, especially when your spouse seems to not have your best interest at heart. You may be reading this and screaming, “But Corie, you don’t live like I do. I feel like my husband hates me, ignores me, and does not want or care about us.”
I hear you, I hear you all. Even now, shame is talking. It’s telling you that you will never have a healthy marriage. That there is something wrong with you that your spouse would rather watch a football game than speak into your heart. That the only hope for a good sex life is to lose the last 10-20 pounds and until then you are “no good”. That you did something wrong and don’t deserve love and belonging. I even hear you saying, “I don’t even know if he loves me any more.” You want to know what mine are? I often hear, You’re not enough. You will fail. When you get it all perfected, then you will be loved. Who you are is not enough to be fully loved, you have to earn it."
If I were sitting across from you right now enjoying some warm beverage together, I would say to you that if we feel we don’t deserve love, acceptance, or belonging then we are not hearing the piercing voice of God. We are listening the the lies placed in our mind by us, that destructive boyfriend, father, mother, whoever- you know who they are. The only voice that is correct and overflowing with truth is God the Father.
Each of us are created to crave a love that is unconditional and unfailing. The truth is, there is no unfailing love except for God’s. He knew it would be that way. He created such a desire in us to love, find love, and be loved, that we would go to the ends of the earth searching for it, only to find that only He is perfect and unfailing in his love.
If you were to read any of Brene Brown’s books, she would tell you that one of the things she found in her research was that those who lived wholeheartedly (someone who lived with courage, who felt connection and belonging, and experienced joy) all considered spirituality as crucial to resilience, or their “bounciness”. I don’t know about you, but right about now, bouncy sounds pretty good on a tough day. From all of those that were interviewed, she came up with this definition for spirituality:
Recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.
Now although we have referenced a lot of Brene’s research in this week’s topic, lets take some time to ground in the truth of what the Creator God has always known about our need for connection and how he designed for us to deal with shame. I love when science confirms what we already knew in scripture. Here are some questions I can hear you saying:
1. Don’t these messages keep me humble? It sounds prideful to think differently!
Let’s start of by explaining the difference between humility and self-deprecation. Humility is our ability to see our place in respect to God’s reverence. It is seeing ourselves for who we are in the shadow of His grace. It does not mean we are to bow at His feet feeling lowly and seeing our unworthiness of His mercy. On the contrary, it is bowing at His feet feeling completely loved as He made us, seeing clearly the sin in our lives and being motivated towards forgiveness and restoration. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you.” He cares for you! He is not a God that wants you to implode in seeing your faults and imperfection. Quite the opposite, He desires to show you just how loved you are in your imperfection. In that moment, we are made complete- and His love is made complete in us (1John 4).
2. I don’t know if I can let go of the shame messages. I honestly believe that they could be true.
When we feel completely surrounded by shame, it feels near impossible to see anything else. When I work with those who have been abused, mistreated, and taken advantage of, the biggest obstacle is helping them see that they are worthy of love and respect simply because they exist. Is that you? Is it hard to believe that you are loved because no one has ever treated you with kindness? If so, I want to tell you that this world is a place full of evil, sin, bad decision-making, and heartbreak. It is so hard to believe there is a God when you feel you have not seen Him step into your pain. Taking the first step in looking for Him is hard when you have so much hurt and disbelief, especially when you don’t know where to look. The consequences of sin in the world have succeeded by feeding you lies about your worthiness like a constant IV. Ask God to show you His love, where He is. He is right next to you and always has been. He has grieved with you in your darkest moments of hell and hurt. He has longed for you to know that He is there and loves you as you are. He longs to show you that only He can judge those who have hurt the innocent. He is good, all-knowing of exactly what you need and is waiting to overwhelm you with His love. "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139).
You must believe that He has always been there and that His hand upon you is that you have survived. He has sustained you to this point, even if you think you did it by yourself, and He has more to reveal to you. Begin to read scripture, the books of John or Psalms are a wonderful place to start. Honestly tell Him of your unbelief and ask Him to show you His love. He will not let you down! Shame cannot stay when the truth of God moves in. Slowly, your Creator will begin to shine light in the dark places and you will feel His safety and goodness.
3. It’s so hard to believe anything different when my spouse doesn’t seem to fight for me. Sometimes I feel the messages come from him/her.
It is so hard to fight for yourself. I have been there. Matt and I have told our story of the dark moments in the beginning of our marriage. Honestly, we were not fighting for each other or our marriage. We have felt shame’s crippling blows come out of the mouth of each other. We have had our fair share of moments when we have been the enemy to our spouse instead of an encourager and champion. This is the moment where I tell you that it matters what you believe about yourself. Brene Brown says it, scripture says it- you absolutely must love yourself. Jesus clearly states in Matthew 19:19 that the greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul sums up the entire law (known as the Old Testament law) with this command. God knew we would stumble in our imperfection. He knew that because we have free will to choose daily to follow Him or not that we would struggle to see ourselves as worthy. Yet he reminds us that it is impossible to love anyone if you do not love and care for yourself. And yet we have already said that we cannot see ourselves rightly without seeing ourselves in God’s eyes, soberly and completely loved.
The answer then, friends, is the absolute only way we will live in the truth of who we are, fully flawed and at peace is to fill ourselves with the truth of God’s words to us. How brilliant that He knew how much we would need Him and His unfailing love. How amazing that He knew we would search to the ends of the earth allowing other flawed people (including our spouses) to fail at being who only God can be. It has been our decision to allow others to tell us who we are instead of He who created us. We must confess to Him that we have allowed the words of others to give us value when they were never supposed to have that role, in a sense we made them a god. Fill your cup with Him each morning. Give Him back the throne in your life and let Him fill you with your worthiness. It is then that we go into our marriage with full confidence of our worth and are able to ask for that from our spouse, offer love to them out of the overflow of God’s love meant to be shared, and still have enough left over to fight the shame messages that tempt us to forget it all. Jesus still performs miracles of multiplying what we need- in this case, truth to sustain our view of ourselves and some left over for our spouse.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubles and do not be afraid.”~ Jesus, John 14:27