“Hey, have you seen that picture of you that is going around on Facebook” a friend of mine stopped and asked as I scooted out of the sanctuary.
“Oh gosh, not again! I haven’t seen it this time, but I saw it once before.” I replied, trying to quickly end the conversation. I remember feeling physical annoyed and flipping my wrist back and forth to minimize any conversation that might occur. My unaware friend went on to explain how amused her young adult daughters were concerning the “dated” appearance of the cast of characters captured by the camera. I was grateful her remarks were lighthearted and accompanied with laughter.
In stark contrast to her entertained attitude, I wasn’t so carefree when it came to re encountering my past. Suddenly, a strong sense of discomfort washed over me as I stood on the curb sharing empty pleasantries about a photograph snapped approximately thirty years ago. Honestly, all I wanted to do was remove myself from the exchange and forget the picture was ever taken, much less shared with the public.
I knew the photograph she was referring to (at least I think I do). It wasn’t even that bad! It was simply a snapshot of a crew of college kids being crazy. There wasn’t any illicit behavior or condemning actions going on. (Unless you focus on the Farrah Facet hairstyle that framed my face) The others, my friends from university were all gathered together in the group shot and seemed as carefree and “collegey” as me!
Honestly, the image itself was harmless! So what was my hangup?
Why did the mention of that snapshot sting so bad?
Why did I want to wave away what was recorded on that piece of Kodak paper?
Like so many times before, when someone or something lured me to walk in “way back when”, instead of pleasantly reminiscing about the days of my youth, I immediately shut down and wanted to forget what was.
In fact, if I was being totally transparent and brutally honest with myself, that uncomfortable feeling that overcame me while standing on the sidewalk at church was all too familiar. I had felt it before. It had bullied me on many occasions. And, in fact it’s negative message to my inner self had shaped me for many, many years in the making. But never did I give those thorny thoughts my full attention. Each time they snuck into my psyche , I suffocated them to ward off the work to be done. Using the worst coping skill available, I stuffed my emotions and denied the uneasy reaction trying to make it go away.
However, on this Sunday, as I scurried to my car, with David oblivious to my anxiety, I knew God was doing something different. He was stretching my awareness so much that I had to admit to myself:
I didn’t have a problem with the picture! Instead, I had a problem with my past!
So much that even an innocent picture taken many years ago, held the power to send me sinking in a swamp of shame.
As uncomfortable as I was, I continued to silence my emotional state.
No one knew what I was going through. Therefore, for all of these years shame, guilt and regret had a death grip on me.
Furthermore, writing about “all of this” in the past tense isn’t showing complete honesty, as these burdens bear down on me today. They cause me to tiptoe through the thoughts of my teenage years. They mar the memories of my youth. They cause me to disconnect with people from my past. And, they make me feel like I want to forget a large portion of my life.
The colloquial phrase often referring to this pattern of pain is having “skeletons in the closet.” But, based on my belief system this type of situation is identified as “spiritual bondage.”, which is better described as a certain type of powerful fear which rules over and against the confidence of Christian faith.
So, as I begin to pray for the courage and bravery to let God shine a light the tarnished spots of my soul, I look to Jesus on how best to deal with my shame. He clearly spells out his instructions to me and to any one else that can relate to where I am. I am learning that when we talk about guilt and shame, we must also speak about the gospel.
So I once I again I turn to the scriptures to set my thinking straight:
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”(NIV)
“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” (NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,(NIV)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (NIV)
2 Corinthians 3:17
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (KJV)
“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people – free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.” (The Message)
If there is any out there who suffers with shame and guilt, who is shackled by past sins, yet desires to walk in the freedom of forgiveness, please join me in this simple prayer:
I know and believe that I am blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, adopted, accepted, favored, redeemed, forgiven and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-11).
I repent of believing lies that have held me back and kept me looking down.
I believe I am everything God says I am from this day forward, and forever more,
in Jesus Name,
On so many occasions I have begged for forgiveness! Now is the time to actually accept it for myself!