Just a few weeks ago I got to sit down with my sister who I adore and love, and talk about some of our greatest victories and struggles. We live 3,000 miles a part but I’ve been able to visit her for a bit and that was absolutely wonderful. My all time favorite and only sister, Helena, is one of those amazing women, who makes it all look a million times easier than it is. She’s a super gifted lady who finds joy and beauty in her garden, loves being a mom, is a musician, and can get a read on about anyone and is just lovely, really you’d love her. Did I mention she is a mother of five, with her oldest not yet 8!? I think all of us can glean from our heart-felt conversation – which she agreed to share with everyone here so I’ll try to capture it here for you.
Helena really opened up and our conversation got rolling, as we talked what came up is a thing that I think haunts us all at some point. We see it right there with Eve. We think we can ignore it but it’s a pesky and hidden thing, really an everyday thing but it may be in our biggest storms and struggles too. Shame. Perhaps shame’s greatest repellents are light and truth and that is exactly what Helena brought to our conversation.
What is something you’ve struggled with?
Shame and failure. Shame about something I did or something I said that I regret and then the enemy tries to put it on replay in my mind. I’d find that a memory of something I did would rise up during quiet time or come to mind when I’d be doing something mindless…I’d catch a glimpse of my face all scrunched up and I’d be feeling squirmy inside. After seeing my emotions, and shame being expressed all over my face I couldn’t ignore it. I started facing this thing inside me.
Let’s talk about how you moved past these memories and emotions that were “haunting” you?
I finally felt like enough is enough and and I asked Jesus to reveal what this is. I identified all this as feelings of shame. As I was wading through this mess of shame I thought of Eve. After her and Adam sinned they felt ashamed. One of the first things they did was to cover themselves and hide. It’s like I can feel the heaviness of the shame here. This sculpture of Eve after the fall by the artist Rodin shows this compulsion to hide when shame arises.
I continued fleshing this thing out, this shame that was holding me back. If you can picture with me a big old coat… it’s heavy, you can hide under it, and it weighs you down. This is like shame. Then there’s the sweet Tale of Peter Rabbit, the story goes that he went to look for some carrots in grumpy old Mr. McGregor’s garden and as he is running back home he gets stuck, but really his coat gets him stuck. As soon as he wiggles out of his coat, he’s free. Right, so it’s not quite as simple as little Peter Rabbit, but yes, we all need to get that “coat” of shame off and get free!
Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
When did you start to gain victory over shame in your life?
I started to just get angry at anything distracting me from running the race. I started to become unsatisfied with living a life that is not God’s best. I just feel like it’s useless to be tangled up and not running the race. So I began to identify “trippers” – things that get me distracted. I started regularly checking in with myself – what is the root of whatever I’m getting tripped up on?
What does “running the race” look like to you?
Part of that is related to your calling. Our greatest struggles are often linked to our victories in some way.
I struggle with feelings of failure, comparison, fear, feeling overwhelmed and for me, these left unaddressed can turn into anxiety. And then all of that can get in the way of my callings and get me off track.
What “keys” are helping you run the race and do what you’re called to do?
Jesus! For those of us who have been in church for a while it may sound like a “pat answer” but actually the cross is everything. The empty tomb really does change everything! I have to run to the cross. Any burden I have I need to imagine myself at the cross and giving it to Jesus.
What practices do you do that keep you on track on your faith journey?
Calling out lies and claiming truth, giving truth the bigger place in our lives in place of those lies – in our thought-life, emotions, and actions.
It sounds simple but actively believing what is written in the bible! Choosing to act out truth. A key passage is Philippians 4:6,7 (the message)
Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
I had to transform my worries into prayers and I had to let God settle me down. Then worry moves out and Christ moves into the center of your life!
Thanks so much to Helena for sharing with us about her struggles and victories. After having had this conversation with my sister I started a bible study – Restless by Jennie Allen and it’s focusing on our callings, giftings, and purposefully living for God’s glory in the ways he’s wired us individually. There’s a lot of overlap from this conversation and the Jennie Allen study. So I think God is highlighting this topic for me to pay attention to! One thing that’s clear is we all have a race to run and we all have strengths and gifts that let us do that in a unique way. Everyone’s part to play in God’s story is vital! I know for me, its way too easy to get distracted and tangled up with all sorts of things! Like Helena talked about, I’ve got to pay attention to whats hindering me and Jesus and I, with God’s Spirit changing me do the work of getting rid of it! So let’s be running, endurance running together – yeah? Each with our own unique stride.