Recently, I shared about Baggage Free Living. I have lived life so I have my share of baggage. My baggage is big and it’s heavy, but I don’t carry it anymore. I love Galatians 5:1 (NIV) as it describes what I know to be true.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Jesus set us free so that we can experience freedom in all its fullness. Maintain that position of freedom without wavering by not carrying the baggage of your past or being enslaved by the heavy weight of your life luggage. Galatians 5:1 (ABV-Amanda Bordner Version)
When I was a kid, I was very shy and timid. It’s a stark contrast to who I am today. Today I live out loud. I live out loud because of the freedom I experience. When you have experienced the “yoke of slavery” by the things of your past, by others’ opinions, by disappointments or shame, freedom is a highly cherished gift. I’ve realized because of my enthusiasm and energy my personality can be a bit offensive to others at times, and many times I feel like I’m just too much to take. Honestly, I teeter totter between feeling like not enough and too much. As I continue to grow and learn, I realize that my need to be accepted and loved comes from the shame baggage my life experiences have produced. Or as I mentioned in Baggage Free Living, all my small bags are packed in one really big suitcase named shame. For many years I have experienced shame. However, because Jesus set me free, I choose to maintain the position of freedom and not carry the weight of my past or the weight of others’ opinions.
My First Piece of Life Luggage (where the shame started)
When I was only 4 years old, my biological father committed suicide. Because he did this in our backyard, we moved in with my grandmother. To cope, my mother began drinking heavily. My grandmother took care of me much of the time. While I was only four, I had questions, but never asked for fear of upsetting someone. No one spoke of the suicide. I feel certain we were all doing the best we could to deal with something so traumatic and difficult. It was the 1970’s and I don’t believe we had the resources we have today. Even if there were resources, I believe it’s very hard to know where to start when you need help in such a dark place.
As time went on that silence translated into shame in my 4-year-old mind. That shame began to form who I was. I hardly ever spoke. I was very timid, and I sought only to satisfy those around me. It was like it was my personal responsibility to please everyone, to make them happy, and not upset them. As I got older, my mother still never spoke of what had happened. Occasionally, my grandmother or my aunt would tell me things about my father. No one spoke of what happened or the circumstances that surrounded the suicide. No one asked my thoughts or how I felt or even if I was okay. It wasn’t that no one cared. I know they cared and loved me very much. I guess it was easier not to talk about it. Looking at it as an adult, I think there was genuine concern about upsetting me or making things worse. Avoidance and silence seemed like the best answer.
Since I was so young when it happened and no one spoke of it, I was left to draw my own conclusions. My conclusions…no one will talk to me about it because it’s my fault, something must be wrong with me, why would I not be enough to live for…I’m not enough. If my own father could not love me enough to continue living, how will anyone else really ever love me? I am not worthy of love. My own father rejected me.
In childhood I developed friendships that were kept at a distance because I could never let anyone know the trauma I had endured. If I let people know, they would know immediately I was unworthy of love. They would know something was wrong with me. They would see my deficiency. This thought pattern wove the fabric of me. The fabric that made me up was made of humiliation, disgrace, unworthiness, embarrassment, anger, dishonor, anguish, rejection and self-reproach. It was all sewn together with shame.
This shame led me down some dark roads and to some very unhealthy behaviors, which only added to my shame. These bad choices and unhealthy behaviors just added another piece of baggage to my life, completely weighing me down and adding to the shame I was already experiencing. I could only continue to think something was wrong with as a person. I had no idea that shame was driving me into more shame, but looking back I can see it so clearly.
When I was still very young, my mother married a wonderful man who raised me as his own. He loved me deeply and would’ve liked nothing better than to undo all the trauma that had happened in mine and my mother’s lives. He would’ve given us the moon on a silver platter had we asked for it. Unfortunately, all that love couldn’t heal the hurt and shame so deeply embedded in me. A true healing would require something more, something I was unfamiliar with at the time.
Throughout my life I had three grandmothers that continually prayed for me. (Shout out to all the praying grandmothers out there! Don’t give up! Prayer works!) Two of my grandmothers lived close by and made sure I was in church every Sunday. However, church in and of itself could not rescue me from the shame. To truly relinquish the baggage of shame, I had to open myself up. I had to become vulnerable enough to have relationship. The only relationship that could rescue me and truly set me free from the bondage of shame was with Jesus. I needed him to touch my heart in a very tender place, a place that had been shrouded in layers of protection through the years. Just opening up to Jesus sounds easy enough, right? Well, I think most of us know, it’s not easy. Opening up after living under layers and layers of shame is a tremendous challenge. The greatest challenge to overcoming shame is exposing the wounds to the light after 21 years of hiding it.
Recently, I was sharing my concussion story with someone and I said, “You can only stay in the dark so long.” This has since resonated with me about how this applies to other areas of my life. God loved me just as I was, and He would only let me stay in the dark for so long. I only needed to take a single step toward my heavenly Father, toward light. I found rescue, deliverance and restoration in Him. He gave me, not only eternal life, but a new life . I had to let Jesus lift the shame off of me so I could experience the freedom that is mentioned in Galatians 5.
I share my shame story because I want to encourage you. It’s completely possible through the power of Christ to overcome the things that weigh you down. It’s not an impossibility to overcome the baggage of the past (even the recent past), the opinions of others (past and present), disappointments or our own negative self-image. There’s no magical flip of the switch. It’s a process and a journey. It’s a wilderness journey that takes you to your Promised Land.
The first step is entirely up to you. What are you willing to do to experience the freedom for which Christ died?
Are you willing to expose the scars and stains to the light? Are you willing to let the One in that can give you a new life and break the bondage of shame?
Think about it…
Stay tuned for the next episode…Freedom from Shame.
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©2018 Amanda Bordner