Shame, I’ve concluded, is largely a choice… though most of us don’t know that in times when that knowledge is most critical. This is true in the ‘big and tragic‘ things of life, and in the ‘Oops! My button just popped open in the most inconvenient place, with my hands full‘ things. But it took the latter to convince me–the oops moments–to convince me of the former.
I have a history of inopportune ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ to draw from, with the most recent being today…
It’s that moment when you look down, and see that, not one, but two, buttons have popped open in most inconvenient places… moments after having cheerfully greeted a Mennonite couple, who look vaguely familiar… (And, no, the shirt is not tight! the buttons have issues!)… and you are surrounded by people, with your hands full… you turn to hide, only to find that a gentleman stands directly in front of you, looking at you with a warped blend of amusement and compassionate… he holds it together for a moment, eyes twinkling, but ends up breaking into a huge grin, and then a little chuckle, as I scramble–awkwardly holding my purchases–to redeem whatever dignity I think I just lost… I determine, immediately, that I will not be ashamed of that which I cannot control and did not choose, and grin right along with him, lift my head up confidently and carry on… And in that moment I’m relieved it wasn’t Anderson Cooper standing before me, as he would undoubtedly break out into uncontrolled and never-ending girlish giggles… (And, yes, I did think of him after the moment passed)
There are a few things I know, and these are the things I hold onto in a moment such as this, or the more serious ones, so that they don’t define me, or bring shame on me. Whether a clothing dilemma, or an attack from some hurting soul, or the anger of someone who feels exposed by my ministry, the same holds true in every part of my life; I lean on what I know to be truth. There is power in what you know to be true, and if you ‘know‘ who you are, as a child of God, and if you ‘know‘ that your heart intent is to heal and give ‘life’ to those around you, and if you remember that you are human, then shame has little access to your heart and mind.
Jesus said, “the truth will make you free”, and I believe this to be a fact in every part of life. We think of this in terms of being ‘set free’, because His words are often misquoted this way, but the truth is He makes us free. His freedom doesn’t require an adjustment in circumstance; it requires an adjustment of thoughts and belief systems, so that we are free in any circumstance. (This doesn’t mean we should never change or leave particular circumstance; it means we are free in spite of them, and that may be the very thing that sets change in motion.)
Not that many years ago, had my shirt popped open, exposing cleavage even the boldest of women might cringe at, I would have fled the store (possibly in tears, but certainly flushed and flustered) and it would have toyed in my head for days. The thoughts would have tormented me and made me anxious, but today, while I would have not chosen it and preferred to keep my clothes in tact (and thereby my dignity), it had no power over me.
More importantly, the past with all its shame has no power. Coincidentally, about fifteen minutes earlier I had dropped a book off for a woman in town, who wanted a second copy for her daughter. A woman nearing seventy, she didn’t hide her shock and horror at what my life had been, focusing on my teen years of rebellion and sin. “You were a bad girl!” she said, “But praise God, not any more!”
Yes, praise God, not anymore! I agreed with her, and laughed at the wonder of grace and freedom.
It is not my identity–these ‘holes’ I once had torn in the fabric of my spirit, by the choices I made. And though they were there, and I know it well and have chosen to tell them publicly, I am so thankful that the past isn’t my identity. Jesus’ righteousness has covered that nakedness, like a blanket of love, covering my shame.
If you walk in shame, I encourage you to find a new identity. Release the things that once held you bound, and walk in the confidence of who you are in Christ, who you are to God. And laugh, now and then, at your humanity, and the things you cannot control or change. It takes the power out of them.
Now… having said all that, I still really hope my buttons were closed when I did my banking at MSCU here in Elmira… ever so confidently… I can only hope…
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
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Good evening Trudy. I debated with myself about writing to you in an email – would you prefer that? I did read your fine, fine book and finished it up last week. I have so much emotion that still I cannot reply in this framework or time. However I will. say ( as I read today in your blog ” Fig Leaf Malfunctions…”) I had to stop at the comment from the lady you dropped a 2nd copy off to who commented …” You were a bad girl.” 😦 Then I could read no more. As I read that today as well as when I read parts of your story ( and had to stop and b-r-e-a-t-h-e) then I had to put the book away for awhile. What I am trying to say is I was so touched and wanted to be there with you as that little girl, then as that young girl- woman and walked along side you. I wept. I am so so so sorry for all you went through . So then I would pick up your book and go again….until I would ache deeply and fight back the tears. Yes , you may have guessed it brought back a part of my girlhood, then later teen life…not knowing God loved me and making choices that could have destroyed my life. But as it was with you I knew there was a God and would “hear” Him and know He was there. Anyways I wrote more than is fair for this format , but have to tell you I am sorry for the thoughtlessness of the people who say, ” You were a bad girl”. May they come into the compassion of the Holy Spirit by God’s grace. And I know that I need more of that too. Anyway thankyou for your willingness to face pain and more pain yet to come due to the release of the book. May you know God’s love and joy and delight in you tenfold by the time you go to bed tonight and each time when someone speaks thoughtlessly. I am reminded to pray for you for the heavenly battles that are ensuing because of your tremendous leap and vulnerability you face . Kindly, your friend , Patty
Oh Patty! You have a kind and tender heart! Thank you for sharing this glimpse inside of that heart. I pray that the tears you have shed, and those yet to come, will wash the pain from your heart and soul, for all you have been through as well. I didn’t realize how the part sounded in the blog, where the woman said ‘you were a bad girl’… it was said by someone who deeply respects me, almost idolizes me–which I try not to encourage, as that is dangerous–and someone who, the few times I’ve spoken with her, has called me a ‘hero’. (Something she did again today, after that comment.) I heard her tone of voice, and saw her eyes as she said it, and that is how I read it here, but I see it communicates something harsh that I never intended. Having said that, I welcome prayers, as there is definitely battles and fears to fight in this process. So I thank you for your kind and caring heart and for praying. You are a beautiful woman!