I have to confess… I spend a lot of time thinking about what others think of me – comparing myself against them and feeling inadequate. I am insecure. I don’t often think too highly of myself, and many times I am downright mean to me – I berate myself for not eating enough vegetables, for eating too much chocolate, for having two cocktails instead of stopping after one, and for aging (like THAT is something I can control).
A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time with a dear friend. Our conversation turned to the topic of shame, and when I mentioned to her that I have really struggled with shame throughout my life, she said she didn’t want to think about me feeling that way about myself. I told her about the work I have been doing to fight my shame battle, but that it is a daily practice to stay out of the shame pit, and I don’t always succeed.
She asked me how shame affects how I feel about God. We talk a lot about God and our faith. We met more than ten years ago when she led a bible study I participated in and I was drawn to her sweet spirit and warmth that exuded from her. So I wasn’t really surprised when she asked me this question, and it was definitely not the first time I have thought about it. My answer: I don’t doubt God’s love for me. I have no problem showing my flawed self to God – after all, He sees everything I do, anyway. Letting myself be known by God is not my problem… my problem is believing what He says about me. My problem is that I see myself as a deeply flawed screw-up who just cannot seem to overcome my junk. And that’s on a good day. My friend had a pained expression on her face when I told her this, and she encouraged me to believe what He says about who I am. After I left her company, I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation, and I knew I needed to figure out how to get to the point of being able to consistently view myself the way God does.
So I have been facing this head-on for the past couple of weeks…thinking about it, processing why I feel the way I do about myself, getting really real with myself. Then this past Sunday I was watching our church service from my laptop and wouldn’t you know it, the message seemed like it was written just for me. As I listened to our minister teach about how God sees us, His children, it hit me: this was exactly what I needed to hear. Tears started streaming down my cheeks and I was overwhelmed with emotion. You see, I had been praying about this, asking God to help me see myself the way He sees me. Asking Him to help me stop being so hard on myself. And there it was: His answer to my prayers – reassurance through the words of my pastor:
You are His child (John 1:12)
You are not condemned (Romans 8:1)
You are an heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
You have wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30)
You can be confident (Ephesians 3:12)
You are forgiven (Isaiah 43:25)
You are loved (Romans 8:35-39)
Wow. To say I was overwhelmed with gratitude and awe would be an understatement. As I continued to listen to my pastor, I thanked God for His message to me and something inside of me started to shift. I started to accept these truths and hold onto them.
Shame may not prevent me from baring my soul to my Creator. Shame may not cause me to try hide who I am and what I have done. But shame does its best to keep me from believing I am who He says I am. Is my perspective going to change overnight? No. Of course not. But what I received Sunday was a direct answer to a direct prayer, and that is something I neither take lightly, nor choose to ignore. I could fill a book with the direct answers I have received to direct prayer since I started to truly trust that God is listening to me – that He wants to hear what I have to say – and every single time it happens, I am blown away. Who am I that He would not only hear me, but respond. And that right there should be all I really need to know. The fact that He hears me and answers me tells me exactly how He sees me. And if my Creator sees me that way, why shouldn’t I?