“Leaving here, find your way to the Cottingham Expressway. After a short sprint, you’ll take the Hwy 28 East exit. But then you might want to get comfortable because you’ll be set for a 16- mile trek. After rounding out two spacious curves, your next turn will be on the left: Rosier Road.”
In my third semester of college, I took a public speaking class in which one assignment was to give an informative speech. To tell my audience something they didn’t already know. I wasn’t to persuade them or motivate them. I would debate no one nor demonstrate anything. Simply inform.
So, I decided to give a three-minute speech about how to get to my family’s home. And because the circumstances were funny enough, it was entertaining as well as informative. Well, that’s how I remember it anyway.
Right there, in Weathersby Fine Arts Building, I shared with those in my class something I told few. And though I had given them explicit instructions on how to get to my family’s home, I would certainly never have given them an invitation to drop by. Not one of them. Not ever.
Just a few years earlier, I’d had an uninvited visitor. The stirred dust was my cue to run.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Crouched in my mother’s bedroom, I held my breath.
Another triplet at the door.
Still holding my breath, careful to not make a sound. What is he doing here? How did they find me? Is this some joke?
Again. Knock. Knock. Knock. Louder. More determined than before.
But no one was more determined to find me than I was to remain hidden.
Hiding in shame. Fearful of being found. Afraid of being fully known.
The enemy of our hearts will use anything to convince us of our unworthiness. And for me, he used my family’s lack of resources to convince me I was unworthy of love. Our house was a constant reminder to me that I was not enough. Not good enough. And the accompanying shame of that caused me to hide.
How could a house have that much power?
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.1 PETER 5:8
It may have been different had those shabby thin walls also offered security and comfort. Had the kitchen table been surrounded with bellows of laughter. Had the dingy and dark rooms been filled with a thousand ‘I’m so proud of you’s.’ Perhaps.
All I know is that eighteen years of living in that tattered little house had etched shame into my heart, deep enough to last me a lifetime.
I am grateful it didn’t. To be sure, it hung around for more years than I’d like to admit. Holding people at a safe distance. Running from what I believed had defined me. Trying to prove my worth.
But Jesus pursued me. While I had trusted Him at the young age of nine to save me from spending eternity in hell, I had not trusted Him enough to love me. Eventually, I surrendered, and He began peeling back the layers of my shame, replacing them with His truth. Covering with His grace. Calling me into a life of freedom in Him.
Oh, it was painful. Have you ever been peeled? One layer at a time? Giving up what has kept you hidden and protected? Learning to trust that His best is also your best?
It is scary, and it hurts. But His grace is enough to soothe the exposed and raw places. Though the scars remain, they are a reminder of His beautiful grace, not of my shame. They prompt gratitude for my healing. And compassion for those who struggle with the same.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.PHILIPPIANS 1:6
The enemy of my heart used a tattered old house to whisper shame to my heart. What did he use to whisper it to you? A magazine and a mirror? Or a scale? A report card? A divorce? A single parent home? Drugs?
Shame is the enemy’s favorite tool. It keeps us hiding from the only One who can offer grace in its place. Jesus.
There are days when the enemy of my heart whispers his same old lies, “You are not good enough.”
When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.JOHN 8:44
Those are hard days for sure. But I am learning a new thing.
I show the enemy my scars. And say to him, “I am not good enough. I never was. But Jesus is more than enough. I am His and He is mine.”
So, did I ever invite my college friends to my house? No. Not even my roommate, who was my maid of honor at my wedding, received that invitation. I’m sorry, PJ. (The work in my heart would begin years beyond college.)
And the uninvited round of knocks at my door? Did I answer? Not that day. But it was the first step in knowing that someone could look beyond my poverty and like me anyway. Five years later, I married the persistent one knocking on my front door that day. Forever grateful. I love you, Mike!
Father in heaven, I am so grateful for Your love. Your patient and ever pursuing love.
I pray for others, who like me, are hiding in their shame. Maybe they don’t even realize it because it’s how it has always been for them. I ask You to move close. Speak to them in ways they can hear You, and trust You enough to take just one step toward You. Surrendering what has protected them. Receiving Your mercy and grace instead.
In the sweet name of Jesus I do ask this of You. Amen.