No one ever dreams of failure. Or of betrayal. And no one ever dreams of shame that glues itself to the insides of our souls leaving us a broken shell of what we were meant to be. An identity reflecting the darkness of shame.
I was the typical little girl.
Visions of the white dress, the handsome groom, and the happily ever after filled my mind. I dreamed of a lifetime of unconditional love and a forever marriage.
Were you ever that little girl? The one with the dreams? The hopes? The happily ever after?
With the dream so big and the need so powerful, you were swept away? Forgetting logic and truth? Ignoring red flags? And stepping heart first into the quicksand of shame?
If you were, I understand … because it is my story, too.
My story of failure and betrayal.
And my story of shame.
All it takes is a tradition of demeaning, critical words from the right person. … or nothing from the right person. No interest in you, no words spoken to you, no love. If you are treated as if you do not exist, you will feel shame. Edward T. Welch, Shame Interrupted
My first marriage didn’t last a lifetime. The unconditional love I’d dreamed of was not my reality. I’d listened to hate-filled words, allowing them deep access into my heart and mind. Each one seemed to edge deeper until I felt the last of my wholeness shattering into a million pieces. My worth was nonexistent. Only shame remained.
You see, at that point in my life, I didn’t know truth. I didn’t know the God I prayed to daily also called me His.
That He called me wonderful.
I didn’t grasp the depth of His love nor the fact that He had paid a high price for my freedom because He considered me priceless. Because I didn’t grasp those life-changing truths, my identity was not rooted in Him, it was rooted in the needing.
Success and usefulness determined my worth. Being chosen gave my existence value. That mixed-up identity held me captive. I ignored the red flags and chose the man anyway, eagerly stepping down the path of abuse and eventual divorce.
Forever had been promised. Love was professed. But, he would tell me, “You are the problem.”
And I believed it.
I allowed the offender to heap shame upon my soul. And then, as the divorce became a reality, I in turn, heaped the same kind of shame upon my own soul.
Two layers of shame that would remain in place for a very long time wreaking havoc on my life. Because, my friends, shame is a weapon the enemy loves to employ.
I don’t know your particular story of shame. But I know words have the power to harm. From whom they come is irrelevant. The potential for pain is always there. They have the power to inflict deeply rooted wounds lined with none other than shame.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21 ESV
So what do we do when our identity is reflected in shame and our worth is entangled in its chokehold?
I’m not a professional, but I can share hope from this side of a victory that was hard fought and won.
It started with facing my brokenness.
I had to recognize that I was trapped believing the words that had been stuck to my soul. I had to acknowledge the pain they had caused.
Professional counseling was a must.
I needed a safe and unbiased place to share the deepest aches within my heart.
I needed at least one trusted person in whom I could confide and simply be myself.
Not a place where I had to give details or rehash the past if I didn’t feel like it.
I read literature that would encourage me along my journey.
Books that would direct my thoughts in the right order. Books that would give me perspective and help me grow as an individual.
Then I simply kept putting one faithful foot in front of the other.
Those steps took me a long way toward healing. They walked me into the next chapters of life where God had amazing things waiting for me.
But yet after even six years, there remained remnants of shame. Shame that would raise its ugly head whenever I fell short of my own expectations. Shame that loved to tell me I wasn’t good enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. Capable enough.
I still hadn’t found the freedom for which my soul longed.
The chains of shame had not been broken.
I was in need of the final step.
Surrendering my heart, my hurts, my dysfunction, and every broken piece of my soul to Jesus.
In that moment of surrender, I met Him all over again. Only this time, I understood the depths of His love. The power in His name. I recognized my worth was so much more than any amount of success or usefulness. I was wonderful just because I was created as His child and in His image.
That is when my chains were broken.
Jesus set me free and handed me the key. A key I’d need to use again and again because healing isn’t instantaneous. It comes in layers. One by one they are healed….as one is healed, the next is revealed. So we do the work to heal that layer, unlock the chain, and live in freedom. Meanwhile, Jesus is there every step of the way. Cheering us on and leading us as we dig into His Word and commune with Him in worship and prayer.
Today, I am happily married with beautiful children.
I’m happy to say I live in freedom … most days! The enemy is relentless and tries to stick shame back onto my soul, but friends, I know where my help comes from. And I know the
ultimate chain breaker. The One who holds the keys that will set me free!
About the Author
Lori Schumaker is an encourager at heart. There was a day not long ago when she prayed that the Lord would break her heart for what breaks His. Her eyes were opened and her soul was stirred – and sweet offerings of encouragement to others became her purpose. This is the focus of her blog, Searching for Moments, found at www.lorischumaker.com. Join her as she walks beside you through the difficult, lovely, and holy moments of this beautiful thing called life. You can also find her here on social media: Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Twitter