One year ago, I was sitting in a quiet room, nestled in a country forest.
I saw deer that morning, grazing as the sun rose and the mist lifted from the grass. The picture-perfect backdrop seemed an unlikely place to agree to enter a battle I felt ill prepared to fight. I remember it as the day I threw my hat into the ring.
For some time, Papa had chased me, inviting me to participate with Him in a gritty, unglamorous pursuit to expose the inner workings of shame. Exposing it in my own life proved to be training ground for my next steps. I remember making Him a deal, perhaps dangerously so: I would brave being seen and known, if it meant that other women would come to feel they could too.
Being seen and known is the opposite of familiarity.
Familiarity is knowing and staying in the cage: the one that clearly defines who we are in relation to everyone and everything else in our little world, how we relate to them and, most importantly, how we measure up. Somewhere inside, we hold a deep secret belief that we don’t quite measure up to others – we’re not good enough as we are, where we are, and we must try harder to perform our way to acceptance. It’s a cycle that traps us, backs us into a corner, and causes us to wear more masks than we can count or keep straight. We hide behind our performance, behavior, acts of service, pursuit of excellence, and noble activity…
We are hiding in plain sight.
Our world values these things. It teaches us the mold to which we must conform in order to be loved, accepted, valued, worthy, and to belong. The danger lies not so much in what we hide, but in “who” we hide… We hide the very core of who we are.
This is the goal of shame.
So many of us do not identify shame working in our lives, because we do not identify with it: we figure we haven’t done anything too terrible, so what do we have to be ashamed of? Maybe it’s a good question, but it’s not a fruitful one.
Do you have an inner mean girl?
It’s a critical, negative, identity-attacking voice that steals your pronouns and sounds an awful lot like your own thoughts:
I have nothing to offer this world.
I’m such a failure – I’ll never get anything right.
No matter what I do, I’ll never be good enough.
Why do I always say those things? I need to dial it back.
Sound familiar? If so, it’s not you, and it’s definitely not God: It’s your inner mean girl, the voice of shame.
She says who we are at our core is so fundamentally flawed, we can never be enough for God or anyone else. It’s the polar opposite of the truth revealed in the Bible, which says He knew everything about our days before we drew our first breath, and loves us anyway. Our performance and masquerading doesn’t trick the one Who got down in the dirt to form our inner most parts. He is for us, and He is for our freedom.
There’s an ever-present war still raging between the Spirit and flesh. It’s not a battle we are fighting, but one we experience since we are the ones being fought over. We’re worth that fight to Jesus, every day, at all times. Victory has already been fully won, but the inner mean girl lives on in our present reality. Her voice is what makes us want to hide.
Jesus’ voice makes us brave being seen.
I am convinced that our familiarity with the masks we wear stifles our ability to accept who we are in Christ, and to accept who He really is in our lives today. Our inner mean girl so colors the way we view ourselves and the world, we believe the lies she tells us about our safety, security, and identity in Christ. She’s not a reliable source. Her words tell us we must hide in plain sight, behind our good performance, acts of service, best behavior, crowning achievements, and noble activity.
I hid behind them too… and the moment in the country setting was the day I stopped. It was a sacred moment of grace many years in the making.
Putting my words into the world is a stretch in my steps of faith. It’s uncomfortable and risky, and it makes me want to hide behind bushes while sewing fig leaves to cover myself. However, I can no longer sit back while shame batters my brothers & sisters. The journey to healing and wholeness is rarely meant for us alone, but for the encouragement of others. Even Jesus reminded Peter that His sifting would eventually result in strengthening his brothers (Luke 22: 31-32).
So what if we trade familiarity and our well-worn masks of put-togetherness for a vibrant, thriving life with Jesus? What if we walk in it now, not some day, and what if it changes everything about the way we see ourselves and the world? What if it looks like freedom?
May we dare to find out.