I was pretty nervous. I had signed up and paid my money to be part of a community of complete strangers, most of whom were living on the other side of the world. I was added to a facebook group and I watched from the edges as people wrote introductory posts about themselves. Lots of people seemed to be happily married. After a few days I wrote a suitably vague post using a new facebook account I’d set up using a name which was not my own. I was terrified that anyone would know who I really was or what I’d done.
A week or so into the course we had our first call. I couldn’t make it, as it was scheduled for the middle of my night, so a few days later I sat down to listen to the recording. The subject of that first week was shame. It was led by B. She spoke of how of all the important things that could be included in Genesis, the thing we are told of Adam and Eve’s early days in Eden is that ‘they felt no shame’. She said that it was so important for us to understand that shame was not part of human identity in the beginning that it is specifically drawn to our attention. Shame was talked about as something that puts us in places where we don’t want to be or wouldn’t naturally be; it can cause us to hide away or talk too loudly.
I had never thought of shame as a concept that affected me, but at that moment I realised that shame was controlling my identity, my life. I have chosen in writing this, not to tell you the details of the other, maybe that is for another telling of this story, but I will tell you that the circumstances surrounding our relationship had left me feeling shamed. B talked about shame being something put on to us by other people, or because of our beliefs about what other people would think ‘if only they knew the truth’.
God does not shame us. We may feel guilt for wrongdoing which causes us to repent and seek forgiveness, but that is different to shame.
Shame had stopped me in my tracks. 12 months before I had been on fire for God. I was more passionately engaged in my relationship with Him than for many years. Following this relationship crisis and the breakdown of my marriage relationship I was no longer attending church. I had felt a need to cut myself off from my christian friends, as I didn’t want to pretend to be someone I was not ( a ‘good’ person). I didn’t feel that I could talk about my faith with others, except through my blog, as I felt like a very poor example of a christian. All of that was as a consequence of shame. Shame had pushed me into a corner and was taking away my experience of the goodness of God. It was convincing me that there was not forgiveness or restoration for me.
I decided that I would come clean to the women in the Be course. I wrote a facebook post. I told this group of strangers on the other side of the world exactly what had happened. I told them about the other. I gave them context and background and detail. I thought it would be better to be rejected by them at the outset rather than to pretend for a while only to be rejected later.
I posted in trepidation. The responses began to appear on the page. So much love. So much grace. So much wisdom. An outpouring of blessings on my life from across the world. An acceptance of my brokeness and a confirmation that my humanity didn’t disqualify me from the love and tender care of a Heavenly Father.
I wrote yesterday how God knew that I needed these particular women. In the book of Esther, Esther is told that maybe she has been put into a position of Queenship for ‘such a time as this’. Well I truly believe that two women in particular were placed in that group for ‘such a time as this’. The first wrote that she herself had experienced a particularly difficult aspect of my situation. I couldn’t believe it. I had never met anyone who had had that experience and for one of the first people I shared it with to say ‘ me too’ was astounding to me. Another woman began her post like this, ” You are loved, because I am loved. You are not your choices because I am not my choices. …’ She continued on for many lines replacing negatives and identifying with me. She shared that she was coming up to 20 years of marriage having also gone through the experience of broken marriage vows. She stood with me in the most powerful way possible. She told me that there was hope.
Lights in the darkness.