Shame; Church

It’s ironic, but the strongest resistance to the process of healing from shame is shame itself. We’re ashamed to admit that we need healing, that we have been damaged in ways that cause us shame, but to be healed we must acknowledge all of our wounds. The journey from shame to freedom, and a full life in Christ, must be a blatantly honest, nothing hidden voyage…

When you’re suffering from shame the last thing you want to do is make yourself vulnerable. Your vulnerability is one of the reasons you’re suffering from shame in the first place, so why would you want to open yourself up for more?

~ from Unashamed by Christine Caine

 

Yes, indeed the Church should be the very place for this to happen. Church should be the safest place, where everyone is vulnerable, in their different ways. Sadly, so often it’s not. Often church is somewhere we either hide our true selves (or deny they exist) or we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and lost, yet still people don’t help, don’t reach out in love, instead extending only judgement. Churches are filled with the ubiquitous Christian smile (peace be with you!.. so long as I don’t have to talk to you in any other context) glossing over doubts or failings. After all,  we can’t be a ‘good’ Christian if we show anything other than our middle-class Sunday Best. I imagine this applies to English congregations in particular. How sad. If only we would let Jesus in.

The King will answer and say to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it [showed kindness] for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.

Matthew 25:40 (AMP)

Unashamed: Christine Caine

Shame… prompts us to toss away the good gifts we are given…

Hiding my feelings had already become a way of life for me [as a child]. Shame does that. It teaches us to hide ourselves… Shame… pushes you down and prevents you from becoming all you could be…

When you are abused, at first you are ashamed of what is happening to you. Over time, though, you begin to think it is because of you that it is happening…

…I thought, there must be something very wrong with me. I must be at fault. I must be a bad person. I am not worth protecting. God must not love me. I guess I’m not worth His attention. Shame does that: it whispers lies to your soul…

I had no concept of the difference between the shame of what was being done to me and the shame of my own actions… I worked hard to be sure that all those frightening feelings were locked away and invisible… 

I was a child damaged by shame, shackled to it, and I dragged it with me from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood. Most likely, you have done the same…

~ from Unashamed by Christine Caine

This is a rather large set of quotes to put in a single blog post, but I do hope Christine Caine will forgive me(!). I bought this audiobook last week. I sensed that I needed to read it. In just one chapter I have recognised so much of the broken parts of myself that I am in awe. Christine does not share the exact same past as me. Our stories are different, yet everything that I’ve quoted above was so descriptive of my situation that I felt I could have written it. Much of it consists of things I never knew how to put into words. Even now, with all the hard work I’ve done as part of my recovery, I also realise that some of these things – well, I thought it was just me who thought like that. Shame does that: makes you think you’re the only one because you’re somehow responsible, even when you know that, logically, you’re not. Which shows I still have a way to go, because I thought I had changed these negative beliefs.

This is what I think God is trying to tell me (and who knows – maybe He’s needing you to know it, too): humility is good. Humility looks like Jesus. Humility is not the same as feeling worthless or useless. That’s not humility; that’s shame. Shame has no place on the shoulders of one who belongs to the King of Kings.

God be praised for His perfect timing.  I can’t wait to hear more!

Where are You?

Sometimes people respond to ill health by ‘[feeling] that it’s all their fault, that they somehow brought it on themselves. I don’t know about you, but adding a heavy guilt trip to feeling physically lousy doesn’t sound like a recipe for recovery, does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that the individual has mistaken responsibility for blame…

Blame… is as pointless as what the farmer said to the lost motorist who asked his way to a remote village while driving through a maze of country lanes. The farmer, after scratching his head and thinking for a moment, advised the motorist, “Well if I were you, sir, I wouldn’t start from ‘ere.”

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

~ from Healthier Every Day Hypnosis by Julie-Ann Amos

I have been using hypnosis as a tool in my recovery. I don’t go in for all of it, e.g. Set Free Your Inner Goddess or How to Get Rich. Those things are anathema to me. But that’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water, is it?

I am making good use of hypnosis and suggestions. I listen all the way through first, to make sure I find nothing objectionable, and then if it’s all – how do I put it? – in line with the bible? Yes, if it’s not promoting something absent or contrary to the bible, I listen regularly and I listen prayerfully. The words quoted above reminded me of Jesus’ words in one of my favourite gospel stories – the healing of the man born blind, found in John 9:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in Him.”

John 9:2,3 (NRSVA)

Note that Jesus doesn’t say that the man was born blind in order that he might be healed, but so that he could reveal the working of God. If you read the rest of the story in John 9, you will see that this man reveals God by his testimony, by his honest, earnest faith, not by his healing.

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

Lenten Thoughts: Clutter

‘Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself.’

1 John 2:15-16, JB Phillips

 

I am trying, albeit rather slowly, to maintain ongoing household organising. I figure this will help with easing the pressure on me and my health, which can so easily become a negative loop, e.g. I’m not well so I don’t do what I would otherwise do, when I’m feeling better I get on with it because I hate looking at  it, then I do too much and find myself unwell again (and when I say unwell, I mean more or less bedridden, which in itself is frustrating, as some of my readers who are not in good health will also appreciate). The one thing one cannot help but learn from illness is patience because, like it or not, you’re stuck, and while I am steadily learning how to manage my condition, there are many, many other lessons to learn along the way. After patience comes trust – because when I am laid low who else can I trust but God? When I can hardly move, what have I left except God? This is not complaint. It has helped me to be less distracted, more focused on the things that matter.

 

Jesus had such kind words when he spoke to someone worrying over these same things:

‘As they continued their journey, Jesus came to a village and a woman called Martha welcomed him to her house. She had a sister by the name of Mary who settled down at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was very worried about her elaborate preparations and she burst in, saying, “Lord, don’t you mind that my sister has left me to do everything by myself? Tell her to get up and help me!”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, my dear, you are worried and bothered about providing so many things. Only a few things are really needed, perhaps only one. Mary has chosen the best part and you must not tear it away from her!”’

Luke 10:38-42, JB Phillips

The only person putting so much pressure on poor Martha was Martha herself. Jesus simply wanted to be welcomed. He didn’t care what the house was like, or whether there was fancy food to eat. He just wanted to share himself, to spend time with this family.
Another time Jesus was with his disciples:

‘Then someone out of the crowd said to him, “Master, tell my brother to share his legacy with me.”

 

But Jesus replied, “My dear man, who appointed me a judge or arbitrator in your affairs?”

 

And then, turning to the disciples, he said to them, “Notice that, and be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions.”

Luke 12:13-15, JB Phillips

and

“That is why I tell you, don’t worry about life… stop bothering about what clothes you will need. Life is much more important than food, and the body more important than clothes… Can any of you make himself an inch taller however much he worries about it? And if you can’t manage a little thing like this, why do you worry about anything else? …If God so clothes the grass, which flowers in the field today and is burnt in the stove tomorrow, is he not much more likely to clothe you, you little-faiths? You must not set your heart on what you eat or drink, nor must you live in a state of anxiety …set your heart on his kingdom, and your food and drink will come as a matter of course… For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!”

From Luke 12:22-34, JB Phillips

 

In light of Jesus’ teachings, and what I have been learning over the past few years, I have been trying to follow FlyLady’s routines, as best I am able. FlyLady is wonderful if, like me, you have struggled with co-dependency type thinking. What we need more than anything (co-dependent or not) is to just do what we can do and not worry about the rest. I want to streamline my life, to simplify every aspect, so that there is less stuff – physically, emotionally and spiritually. In one of today’s emails, FlyLady writes about decluttering one’s house:

 

‘When you love what you have and use what you love; it is not clutter.

It is the things that we have stashed in drawers that is the waste of money but I don’t want you to beat yourself up over this. The biggest waste of all is guilt!

Declutter your guilt and get on with the living!’

 

I think I hear an ‘Amen’! Christians are so good at getting distracted by ‘clutter’! We worry about whether we believe the ‘right’ thing, say the ‘right’ thing, do the ‘right’ thing. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God is not in the business of making you feel bad.

Jesus did not suffer on the cross so that you could feel guilty and ashamed and beat yourself up over what you have not achieved, or the life you don’t live. Is not his gift worth more than that? Christ’s sacrifice demands our respect: live your life and live it well. Love as he loved; live as he lived.

‘The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).’

John 10:10 (Amplified)

 

So what is the purpose of guilt if not to beat yourself up with? I am convinced that it is there for God, by his Holy Spirit, to instill within me an awareness of my wrongdoing, of my sin. I feel regret, or repentance, but this is not to beat myself up with; it is to warn me and to motivate me both to seek more of Jesus (being sinless), and to desire to change. Anything beyond that is not of God. Guilt and shame are a vicious circle. I am still learning how to say ‘no’ to guilt. It is not easy! Disabling guilt is such a common thing in one’s Christian walk. Guilt about reading the bible, guilt about not doing enough at church/in the home/with my family/at work/in the community… It is not that these things are wrong, but if you do things because you feel guilty, you won’t get very far. God doesn’t want you to do things because you feel you ought to. God wants you to trust and to follow where he leads. You will know what is being asked of you – and you will know, too, that while God expects no less than what he asks of you, he also does not expect more.

 

 ‘This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.’
Romans 5:3-5, JB Phillips

Be blessed, friends 🙂