Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not ashamed

I turn 54 on Friday. Senior discounts are just around the corner . . . as is the amazing title of "grandma."

One gift I give myself every year is the luxury of looking back over the previous 12 months and noting achievements and milestones. This has been a particularly blessed year!

Greg and I married off our two remaining daughters and found out that we're going to be grandparents this fall! I climbed my first real mountain, traveled to Africa and grew my first tomato.

On top of all that, I began my exodus out of shame . . .

At a Genesis Process training I attended last September, God showed me clearly that the root of most of my unhealthy (sinful) behaviors came from a deeply ingrained sense of shame. At this seminar, I learned that our limbic system (primitive brain) equates shame with death--and will do anything to suppress that toxic emotion. Addictions, compulsions, isolation, rage . . . all these can be covers for shame.

While it might surprise you that it took me 53 years to identify this poison in my life, I now understand that shame is about as difficult to spot as a cockroach in a dark room when a light is turned on--the dirty rascals scuttle under the nearest shadow to avoid detection. My shame would disguise itself in all manner of ways--from eating disorders to anger issues to panic attacks--and I'd end up focusing on the shadow and not the actual culprit.

But when God turned on the light and removed all the hiding places last fall, shame had no where to hide. I had to face this deep, dark secret of my heart. And by facing it in the light of God's love and truth, shame's death grip on me was broken.

Perhaps I should define what I mean by shame. I'm not referring to healthy guilt or conviction over sin. I'm talking about the pervasive sense that "there is something terribly wrong with me." It's what Adam and Eve experienced after they fell from grace in the Garden--when shame first entered into the human race. They grabbed fig leaves to cover themselves--and we've been scrambling to cover our sense of nakedness ever since . . .

I'm not sure why shame has always had such a grip on me. My grandma once told me, laughing, that my mom's first words to me were: "That baby is so ugly it can't be mine--there must have been a mix-up in the nursery." She told me the story as if it were a great family joke. Swollen and bruised from a nasty breach delivery, I must have looked like an alien life-form when I was presented to my mother. No wonder she didn't want me.

The nurses finally persuaded my mom to take me home, but I've often wondered if my newborn soul was shamed by her rejection . . . there's something wrong with me . . .

Wherever it came from, I'm sure shame will raise it's ugly head as I continue on my journey. But now that I've got some tools to help neutralize its venom, I shall travel with a much lighter heart.

And I am shamelessly anticipating my 55th year of life!