All this time, I’ve been trying to pluck the dead leaves and prune back the branches of shame. But there comes a time where we need to dig deeper. I have to uncover how the tree might have gotten there to begin with, before these symptoms of shame infiltrated my thinking.⠀
Recently I started thinking about the root system of my shame. I don’t think any one of these factors is the direct catalyst for my struggle with shame. Rather, there are some deep roots that started young, and newer roots coiled in through later interactions and unhealthy patterns of thinking about myself. ⠀
Between the old gnarled roots and the aggressive new ones, this root system became a tangled mess below the surface. I can pull the dead leaves off all I want, but I need help from a tender and gentle Gardener to scoop away the dirt and excavate the deeply woven labyrinth of roots:⠀
•legalism (emphasis of law/rule-following over grace)⠀
•lack of understanding of God’s love for me⠀
•projections of blame/shame from others⠀
•sharing hard parts of my story and receiving judgment⠀
•isolation and running my past failures on a repeated loop in my mind⠀
•fear that my past will define my future⠀
•fear of being unloved by others if I share all of myself⠀
•absorbing the full responsibility from situations where I had only partial or no responsibility (“it’s all my fault”)⠀
•inability to forgive myself⠀
•difficulty accepting God’s forgiveness and the work of Jesus on the cross⠀
Once He pulls back those roots and helps me lift them from the ground, we can make space for soft soil and new seeds. We can plant authentic connection, forgiveness, and new thought patterns in line with Truth. ⠀
Together, we can plant seeds of true freedom from my shame. I’m praying for this freedom for you too, sweet friend, so that we may live like this:
“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” -Psalm 1:3
Since January, I’ve been learning how to play piano. It’s slow going, but it brings me a lot of joy to be able to play and sing worship music (even in the comfort of my own home). Sometimes I play in front of others, but mostly it’s just me and Jesus in my dining room.
On Monday nights I’m the worship leader for a group at church, which usually means coordinating the song selection, facilitating practice, and leading vocally on some of the songs. Occasionally, as needed, I also jump in and play keyboard. It’s clunky and a little awkward and I often apologize for my piano skills over the mic because I am a perfectionist and want others to know that I’m aware that it’s not good. How silly.
The point of worship is to glorify the Lord, not ourselves. I have come to believe that the gift of worship leading is to help usher others into the presence of the Lord, and to help a community of believers come together to offer God our praise. But sometimes, I still make it about me. If I’m in my head too much, I end up thinking about the quality of our playing and singing instead of the quality of my heart. And that is pride at its worst.
This Monday night, I lost sight of the greater purpose of worship. During our team’s practice time, I self-consciously stumbled my way through the music. I just could not get my fingers to work right and I kept losing my place in the music. When my team tried to offer suggestions I kind of snapped, and had to step away in an almost-panic attack. I closed the door of the bathroom behind me and leaned against the door with tears stinging in my eyes. I prayed for forgiveness for my heart, for my lack of humility, for my desire for control. I came out and apologized sincerely to our team. They met me with the sweetest grace and encouragement. During worship time later that night, my playing was not perfect, but my heart was better. And I know the Lord was still there and He was lifted up. Not me. As it should be.
I came home from group that night and beat myself up. About my perfectionism, my pride, my control issues. I wallowed in the fact that I sinned against God and my teammates.
I sat for a while that evening so aware of my own sinful nature. I wandered down a shame spiral- starting to list the other areas of my life where I have messed up. I started drudging up things from last month, last year, 10 years ago. And this was over a fairly small grievance. The shame spirals are wider, deeper, and last much longer over sins that I perceive to be even more severe.
Do you ever do this?
Learning to Let Go
God extends forgiveness and grace to cover our sins AS SOON as we reach out and ask Him for it.
My friends extended grace and compassion to me. They forgave me and let me know that it was okay.
I have to remind myself that when I go down those rabbit trails of looking at my own sin and failures, I am not walking in the freedom that God has given me. I have a hard time forgiving myself and letting go of what has already been covered.
There is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is godly sorrow over our wrongdoings, which is meant to lead us to repentance. When we experience guilt, it is conviction from the Holy Spirit. Guilt draws us to our knees to ask God to make our hearts right with Him and with others. Guilt says, “That specific action, thought, or word was not okay. Let’s go make it right with God and the people that may have been hurt by that.” Guilt recognizes our responsibility in wrong-doings and brings empathy along with it. And when we offer our sin up to the Lord, He makes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Our sin is removed as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
But shame? That is not from the Lord. Shame has a painful grip, and says to me “YOU are a mess. YOU are too broken for forgiveness. YOU are a bad person.” It takes my eyes off of others and brings them fully onto me. Shame separates me from the Lord and others, and often makes me isolate. I feel disgraced and find myself wanting to hide. While guilt spurs us to action, shame is chaotic and paralyzing.
Last night I was reading 2 Corinthians 3, and came across this verse:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
When I am sucked into a shame spiral, I push out the Spirit of the Lord. Because shame holds us captive.
When I encounter shame, I need to remind myself to invite the Spirit of the Lord in to remind me of His forgiveness. Of His grace for me. Of His ability to let go of my past.
And if He, the creator of the universe and a perfect Father can let go of my past, I can too.
I am learning to let go. To step out of the spiral and invite His Spirit of freedom to enter in. To remember that I can learn from these times when I stumble. To say “it is finished” and move forward with confidence that He is continually making me more like Him. To speak kindly to myself, with the words that He gives me as reminders of His grace.
If you struggle with letting go of your past or shame too, I want to share some verses and a prayer to encourage you today.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9)
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us,” (Psalm 103:8-12)
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame,” (Isaiah 50:7)
“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed,” (Psalm 34:5)
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace,” (John 1:12-14, 16)
You are not a god that is far away, looking down on me with a wagging finger of disappointment. You are a loving, perfect parent. You see me as Your sweet and precious child. You welcome me into Your arms. Thank You for the GIFT of redemption and forgiveness that we can receive through Your love and through Christ’s sacrifice for us. Lord, I pray for Your Spirit of freedom to be close to me. Help me to remember Your Truth about Your mercy and love. I pray for strength and courage to let go of my past. Help me to see that it is not helpful for me to drag around self-condemnation. I pray for Your guidance to learn to walk with confidence in the knowledge that I am wholly forgiven and redeemed. Thank You for loving me for exactly who I am. I pray that I could bring YOU glory in the way that I walk that out. I love You Lord.