Sometimes facing a fear means sharing it publicly. And while it would be easy for me to stand behind the Oz curtain and preach talk to you about our word for the month—fearLESS—I’m not really “into” easy. I’m into real.
The fearLESS challenge for Monday was to share your scandalous story, so as your fearLESS leader, I’ll go first. But let’s just get a few things straight:
Alrighty then….let’s move on.
My own journey with fearLESSness actually began 18 years ago as an unwed, single mom. While most 19 year olds were learning things like how study for exams, drink at parties or cook meals, I was learning how to change diapers, nurse a baby, and hold down an hourly-wage job. Being a college drop out wasn’t exactly on my bucket list – nor was being a mom at 19 – but there I was, kicking the bucket to the curb.
The sordid details of the shotgun wedding, raising a child as a child, and living in small town USA are interesting for sure, but not as important as where that journey took me. The journey that I chose was most definitely filled with redemption and grace and hope and love and Jesus – but also with insecurity, condemnation and shame.
And it was the shame that held me captive.
The shame was so deep that nothing was able to snuff it out. Returning to college with a 10-month old and graduating in 18 months wasn’t enough. Getting married to a man who didn’t just say, “yes” but instead said, “heck yes” to an already-made family wasn’t enough. Moving to a new city, getting a well-paying job, and joining the “good” church –nothing was enough to cover my self-made prison of shame.
Nothing was going to be enough until I made the decision that I was enough.
My messy past, my broken pieces, my heavy baggage, my screw ups – I used all of these things to determine my worth, and what I determined was that I was worth nothing.
I walked around covering up my messy, hiding my broken pieces, and pretending my heavy baggage wasn’t really heavy at all – AND IT WAS EXHAUSTING. More than that, it was fake.
Socially, I was a nightmare. I found myself trying to dodge any conversation that included the question: “How long have you guys been married?” because the math of my two-year-old marriage and 4-year-old child left lots to the imagination. So I carefully calculated and crafted my “perfect family” story – but, oh, the tangled web we weave! It became harder and harder to remember which story I had told to what person, and keeping the “facts” straight was impossible. Sometimes I couldn’t keep the story straight -- and then I looked foolish AND scandalous, and I might as well just smoke a cigarette and work in a tattoo parlor. (Because that’s what scandalous moms do, right?)
And then one day it ended.
The day that Beth Moore spoke directly to me happened during the Believing God bible study. Like, I’m pretty sure she was making direct eye contact with me on the DVD… and as she spoke, the world I had carefully built and concocted, was decimated.
That study ignited a fire in my heart to share my scandalous story – and it wasn’t a passionate, positive burn. It was an ouchie kind of burn…the kind of burn that doesn’t go away until you do that thing you desperately DO.NOT.WANT.TO.DO.
And so I did it. I shared, with purpose, FEAR and gut-wrenching honesty, my scandalous story with my bible study small group.
And. It. Was. Ugly.
The crying was ugly…the dang-blasted ugly cry that requires Kleenex because snot is running down your face. (Oh yeah. I looked H-O-T.)
What followed as a result of that snot-filled testimony was a new desire to share my story – not stuff down a scandalous secret. Much to my surprise, my testimony was received with compassion…not judgment, kindness…not contempt, intimacy…not isolation. And that response placed a new song in my heart that day – a song of redemption and restoration…and glorious grace. (Psalm 13:6 “I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me.”)
And it was this act of fearLESSness that broke the chains of shame.
The deal with shame is this:
Shame keeps you chained to and identity that doesn’t fit.
The more we wrestle trying to break free of the chains, the tighter the chains get. Eventually, we stop wrestling. And when we stop wrestling, we start believing the chains are actually helping us, holding us, keeping us safe. Slowly but surely, the identity that doesn’t fit becomes part of our wardrobe that we willingly put on.
Breaking free of shame is about as fearLESS at it gets. It takes a crazy amount of Jesus, going toe to toe with fear, and showing those broken pieces to people who might raise their eyebrows. I can honestly say it took two years for me to completely break free of shame, but when the chains fell off – it was instantaneous freedom. And. I. Danced. Like. A. Wild. Woman. (Welcome to REFIT, folks.)
What I’ve learned through that journey is that people are definitely intrigued by perfect lives…
I want to live messy before others. I want to risk "falling from grace" in the eyes of the “eyebrow raisers” if it means one person can actually experience grace. I want my past to be a continual reminder of redemption…not an empty prison cell awaiting my return. I want to live fearLESS and breathless…and careLESS (read that carefully), and shame LESS…all the other “lesses” that make sense, and some that don’t. I want the journey filled with bumps, twists and turns. I want the scars that heal but don’t callous. I. WANT. MESSY.
And now it’s your turn. Are you ready to share your scandalous story? Are you ready to pick the lock of your chains of shame? Are you ready to live fearLESS before others and share your own messy story? Then go for it. I think you’ll be surprised by how many people are drawn to Jesus through brokenness…not perfection.
Speaking of messy…in four days I move that 10-month old into her college dorm room and not one thing is packed. Maybe it’s denial. Maybe it’s procrastination. Maybe it’s a secret hope that she’ll proclaim that she would rather just live at home and help me cook. But if there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s this: shame has no place or permission to exist when such a beautiful story of redemption is sleeping in her messy room.
And THAT, my friend, is a song worth singing…
Peace and love,