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afraid of the dark

are you afraid of the dark?  i am.  growing up with an older brother almost guaranteed that would happen.  i could tell countless stories he told me when i was a young girl and, to this day, if i have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night i tiptoe into the bathroom and then walk slowly back to my bed until i become so overcome with the creepy imaginings in my head that i run as fast as i can, launch into bed, and quickly dive under the covers for fear of what might be hiding underneath.  and i have a lovely, cozy room with beautiful bedding, and it looks so pretty in the light.  but in the dark?  ghosts and goblins might live under there.  and i could vividly describe for you the pale, bony, witchy hand that i imagine creeping up from under the bedskirt if i dare let my foot slip out from the covers and dangle over the edge.  seriously.  a grown up, afraid of monsters under my bed.  good grief.

many of you have made comments to me over the last week about being brave.  certainly, reading the above makes you seriously question your judgement.  but i’ve been thinking about it because i’ve heard it a lot.  brave.  brave for writing the things i’m writing about.  courageous for being so vulnerable.  and then i wonder…should i not be writing these things?!  perhaps some might think i have no shame.  and so i’ve thought about that too.  do i?  have shame?

curious, i went to my friend merriam for the definition.  ashamed means: 1a. feeling shame, guilt, or disgrace; 1b. feeling inferior or unworthy; and 2. restrained by anticipation of shame.  many people talk about shame, guilt, embarrassment, and humiliation interchangeably but in her book, brene brown explains that they are separate, distinct experiences.  guilt is feeling badly about something you did, and has the potential to motivate positive change.  it can motivate you to apologize, make amends, and stop destructive behavior.  shame, on the other hand, extends the belief from ‘i did something bad’ to ‘i AM bad.’  it’s about being an outsider, flawed, unworthy of acceptance.  shame can be the source of more destructive behavior, creating a downward spiral.  if you struggle with guilt and/or shame i highly recommend her book.

so i’ve decided.  for the most part, no.  i’m not ashamed of my past or the vulnerabilities that make me just like the rest of you.  i am certainly not without regret, fear, embarrassment, or bad decision in my life, but not ashamed.  how about you?  do you suffer under the weight of shame?  are you paralyzed by its power to make you feel inferior, unworthy?  has it stolen your dignity?  left you crippled in a state of perpetual unworthiness from which you cannot break free?  you were meant for more.

i’m not inherently brave.  very few of us are.  it’s a decision, one we must choose over and over again.  a lot of times, i’m really afraid too.  but i crave authenticity and wholehearted living.  i desire freedom and grace.  and the reward of the freedom to be me in this world is worth the risk that it takes.  it’s why we’re here!  this isn’t just my story.  it’s your story.  it’s our story.  i think perhaps my fear of the dark is related to my comfort with vulnerability.  just like the monsters under my bed; i’ve learned that fear grows in the darkness too…in the quiet of our shame.  we keep secrets, we tell untruths, we protect ourselves all with the goal of self-preservation when, in truth, we are stuffing ourselves further down into the darkness of disgrace and unworthiness.  turn on the light.  shame is a lie.  shame is a hinder; a shackle, and we need to release ourselves from the burden of its weight.  we were meant to shine brightly, and the power the enemy has over us is in his ability to keep us locked in his grip of deceit.  break free.

go boldly.  be brave!  take the risk of vulnerability for the reward of authentic life.  it is worth it.  but before you go charging forth in naked splendor baring your beautiful vulnerability for the world to see, pause.  you can still be authentic without sharing your intimate stories with everyone in your life.  there are people who are not ready, or do not wish, to take this journey.  share your story with people who have earned the right to hear it.  that may be a small group, that may be one person…some of your stories may be only between you and God.  the unfortunate reality is that, while seeking authentic vulnerable relationships, we must also be wise and discerning.  but you need to be free.  you know your people, you know who can be trusted with your heart.  and if you don’t have someone you can fully trust, our God is faithful.  He is a God of mercy and grace and He loves without measure.  nothing you confess could make Him love you less.  He says, “come to me all who are weary and burdened and i will give you rest.”  rest in Him.  release yourself from the grip of shame, turn on the light and watch the goblins flee.   be set free to be a beautiful light shining in the darkness.  it’s what you were made for.

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