Unveiling a Culture of Shame: Shining Light into Darkness
Through my healing journey from trauma, my eyes have been opened to all the ways shame is unknowingly being perpetuated in Christian community. So many seeking to help their brothers and sisters in Christ through mental, physical and/or emotional anguish, are in fact adding to the weight of their burden, just as I myself did until God allowed me to walk through suffering myself.
My body physically responds to triggers of multiple traumatic events I walked through as a child and as an adult. These events altered the make-up of my brain to such an extent, that whenever I find myself in a situation that remotely mirrors the unsafe situations I found myself in then, my mind AND body will be overcome with a rush of emotions and adrenalin exponentially stronger than a person with a healthy brain produces. I also hear cruel lies spoken over me and have experienced terrifying flashbacks.
However, I know my Heavenly Father is present with me through these storms. And surprisingly these triggers of trauma have in fact been God’s gift to me, because each time they have led to so much healing and restoration. So much so that, coupled with the therapy I have walked through and the Living Word that is daily bringing healing to my heart, the intensity and frequency of these triggers have dramatically reduced. And even through each attack, my faith and trust in God has only grown deeper, as He has revealed His presence in a more profound way, reminding me of the truth of my freedom from fear, sin and shame.
Colossians 2 ESV
14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]
Sadly, throughout my healing process, I have, however, not just experienced loving fellowship, but also condemnation and shaming in physical and online Christian community.
I have been encouraged to repent of my forefathers’ sins to be fully freed of my mental illness, instead of being reminded that all my and my forefathers’ sin and shame has been nailed to the Cross and that I am invited to come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy in my time of need.
I have been told I need to be “set free” or have “strongholds broken”, rather than being reminded that our freedom has been paid in full at the Cross and each one of us is being transformed daily from glory to glory, as GOD opens our eyes to see by faith. You see, each one of us already lives in freedom, yoked to our holy Savior, and each one of us is simultaneously being freed from our sin daily. Have we forgotten that God actually perfects His power in our weakness, as we draw near to Him?
I have been told that perhaps I need to have “evil spirits” expelled from me, rather than being assured that no demon can overpower the fullness of Christ present in me. Have we forgotten that the enemy may condemn us internally, as He does all God’s children, but that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world?
When I confessed my struggles with mental torment, I was encouraged by my pastor to retreat from fellowship with my brothers and sisters. God broke my heart for him also, as I saw how deep spiritual abuse can go. You see, he told me that I should take the same advice once given him: I should go sit in seclusion, like wine in a barrel, so I could ripen and become tasty and of good quality. He was only repeating the terrible harm once done to him.
I was told I am unforgiving, when God called me to cut ties with the church where I continued to face unsafe situations that triggered trauma. Interestingly, cutting ties, after I had forgiven each person who had hurt me, actually brought deeper healing and enabled me to see, confess and turn away from sin in my own life. It is then I sought forgiveness for hurtful actions I had committed at my old church, in my friendships and in my own home. I saw how I had tried to defend myself, assert myself or protect myself through the waves of trauma, rather than boast in my weakness, lean into God’s strength and seek (professional) help, love and support.
I now know that God wept with and for me through each wave of shame and that He never ever advocates our condemnation and shaming.
I will no longer stay silent. I will no longer believe my many sins, my mental illness or my Prodigal past warrant the hurt and abuse I have experienced in Christian community. Instead I will choose to shine the light of God’s love and grace into our churches, so that Christ may unify us in who HE is. I am speaking up because I long for the shame that is weighing heavily upon many more inside our churches to finally be lifted. I long for us to breathe as One in Christ.
Hebrews 13:3 ESV tells us to: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Trauma is a type of prison and is definitely the direct result of being mistreated. Will we as the church choose to remember men and women who are suffering, as though we too are in that prison of trauma with them?
Will we affirm them in the truth of their freedom in Christ as we invite them to sit next to us in our pews? Will we hug them and pray with them, rather than slinking back as if they are possessed? Will we be loving enough to speak truth to them that may hurt them, but also open their eyes to the kindness of our God? Will we show them that our God never pushes us away in our sin, but always bends down to shower us in grace and embrace us in compassion, when we turn toward Him?
And if God calls them away from our churches to rest in His arms and surround them by members of His Body who are able to comfort them from the comfort they have received. If He calls them out to protect them and others from them, to heal them on a deeper level, will we choose to remember them in love? Will we choose not to condemn them in word and deed for their retreat?
Will we weep with them and with our God for the deep wounding they have experienced in this broken world? Will we choose not to perpetuate their shame, but be lifters of shame in their life by boasting in our own weakness and need of grace daily? Will we affirm each beautiful child of God as forgiven, spoken free, healed and whole in Jesus’ Name? I pray that we may.