Tears pool at the lower eyelids of this child who rarely cries. The teen years are hard and confusing. But as she talks with me this day, I sense something deeper, something beneath the frustration with herself, beneath the fears of all the mental/emotional/physical changes she is dealing with. And what I sense is very, very familiar to me.
I sense shame.
“I want you to imagine something,” I tell her.
She nods and closes her eyes.
“You are standing at the foot of the cross.”
I wait a moment and then ask, “Are you facing it or turned away from it?”
“Turned away,” she whispers.
“In your hands is your guilt, your fear, your shame. You’re not running from it any more. You’re holding it, admitting it. You don’t know what part of it is real or is your responsibility—it doesn’t matter anymore. You can stop fighting.”
Her eyes are closed, but I see her swallow.
“You need to turn around. You need to face the cross.”
An expression, almost of pain, ripples across her face.
“You can do it. It’s okay.”
I give her a minute.
“Are you facing the cross?”
“What are you looking at?” I ask.
She doesn’t open her eyes. “At what I’m holding.”
“Look up, honey. Trust me. Trust Jesus. Just look up.”
I see her chin lift. Her face relaxes.
“Jesus is looking at you, isn’t he?”
“It’s not what you expected, is it?
She shakes her head.
“Sweetheart, he knows all your shame, all your fear, and he’s not shocked. He took care of all of it. Are you still holding it?”
“Drop it. Let go.”
Her hands, still cupped together on her lap, now pull apart.
“Jesus is not fixed to the cross anymore. We bring our burdens to it, but his work on it is finished. His arms are free.”
I don’t have to speak anymore. I watch as her hands lift.
And I know she is in his arms.
I tell this story with my daughter’s blessing. She wanted me to share it because we have talked about how she is not alone in her struggle with shame. We experience shame over so many different issues, but the reality of the cross sets us free. It allows us to stop our frantic and pessimistic striving, to accept our failings and know that God would/will use them for his good. We can listen to the Holy Spirit and allow ourselves and others to be on a journey rather than in a series of tests. Together, my daughter and I share this in the hope that it will help someone else today.
My friend, Aubrey Sampson, has written Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul. Aubrey writes and speaks with authenticity about this battle. If you or someone in your life wrestles with shame, please consider buying her book. The link connected to Aubrey’s name above takes you to her personal website. The link connected to the book title takes you to its purchase page on Christianbook.com’s website.