In the shadow of shame

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As a college student going to school to study the Bible, I was struggling with pornography. Porn had a powerful hold over my life.  There was an internal war raging and guilt flowed through my veins.  I had tried countless times to be free of this addiction, yet time and time again I came crawling back to the altar of my computer.

Failure soon became my identity. It wasn’t that I failed but now I was a failure. Failure is who I am. I began to believe this is who I am and I will never change. I was broken, hiding—shame had become my companion.

Shame is powerful.

Shame says that you are what you did. It’s not that you failed or you made a mistake. Shame says you are a failure; you are a mistake. Shame finds its power in the silence, in the absence of community and our destructive self-talk.

In that college dorm room trying earnestly to pursue God, I was living in the shadow of shame. It tainted how I saw life. It tainted how I thought God saw me.

I remember one particularly dark moment of shame. Shame was whispering in my ear, you are a failure, you’ll never change, it is not worth going on. And an insidious thought ran through my head to end the misery, the world would be better without me. That really scared me.

The deep work of the Christian life is rejecting our perceived identity and embracing God’s imputed identity.  

This is spiritual formation. As a follower of Jesus, our identity is not based on what we have done or even what has been done to us. It is based solely on what Jesus has done for us. Our identity is not based on WHO we are but on WHOSE we are.

I remember the turning point for me. One night in my dorm room, I had a dream. The room was dark; the only light came from the blue hue of my laptop. Sitting at my desk looking at the computer was the 8 year-old version of me, scrawny, blonde, innocent boy.

My heart broke for that little boy. “Don’t look at that junk! Don’t get stuck!”

It was in that moment that I first saw how God saw me. He did not see a failure, He saw His kid that He loves. He was not made or angry. His heart broke for me.

The truth is, I am His kid. I do not live in the shadow of shame. I dwell in the shadow of the Son He loves. My identity is secure, fully loved, completely forgiven, absolutely delighted in by my heavenly Father. And that changes everything!  That was the beginning for me to experience freedom from my addiction.

There is this incredible Psalm that I memorized in college, Psalm 15. In it David asks, “Who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” One of the things David says about those who live in the shadow of the almighty is that they, “speak truth in their heart.” I love that.

My friend Kevin Queen says, “If another person talked to you the way you talk to you, you’d file a restraining order. Replace those lies with truth.”

Pay attention to the self-talk. Is it true of what God says is true of you?

No matter what shame says, you do not have to live in the shadow of shame. You are God’s kid. He loves you more than you could ever know. He’s not down on you. You already dwell in the shadow of the Son He loves.

Start telling yourself the truth.

4 Things I Would Do Differently [if I could go back and do it all over again]

 

12112297_10156236155730096_683073515495586608_n-copyA couple of Sunday’s ago we celebrated our 4th birthday as a church. 4 years ago we stepped out to start Awakening Church to reach this generation.

I can still remember the butterflies I felt our very first service.

A couple years into planting Awakening I started a list of what I would do differently if I could do it all over again. Many of the lessons I was learning, I was learning the hard way.  I wanted to make sure that I did not miss the lessons God was teaching me or repeat the same mistakes.

I thought I’d share 4  lessons I learned over the past 4 years. These have deeply shaped my life, my leadership and as a result our church.

  1. Really listen to those who are older and wiser.

When we set out to start Awakening Church there was an older gentlemen by the name of Ken Dean. He is a wise sage known as Father Dean. He generously gave me his time and wisdom.  I would sit at his feet and learn. The problem was I wasn’t really listening. I only listened for the things that confirmed what I was already thinking and dismissed the things that challenged my thinking.

Before there was Awakening Church, there was Awakening ministry. It was a college and young adult’s ministry of Westgate Church. I remember Ken telling me that I needed to stop our evening services for at least 2-3 months so that we could restart something new. This would’ve given us the space and time to thoughtfully launch our new church. As well as, it would have marked the ending of a sweet season for those who journeyed with us in Awakening ministry.

Oh that I wish that I had taken his advice. It would have saved us so much pain and heartache. Instead, we limped along as a church those first couple of years even though we had a crowd showing up.

  1. Have the courage to have the necessary conversations.

My wife thinks I like confrontation. It may be because I’m a fairly blunt person. But the truth is, I hate it. I do my best to avoid it. Looking back I realized I wanted to be liked or thought of well more than having the tough conversation. I had a tendency of avoiding necessary conversation and hoping things would get better on there own. They often get worse, not better.  I now realize that my aversion to the necessary conversation was actually limiting my leadership and others development.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4v15

  1. Lead from your knees, not from your own strength.

There is something about the crucible of pain, especially self-inflicted pain that moves good ideas to a conviction for life. When we started Awakening I liked the idea of leading from my knees. It sounds good. It’s what a pastor should say.

Truth be told, in the first two years, I didn’t come close to leading from my knees. I led out of my own strength and energy. I thought if I worked harder, smarter and more hours then we would be “successful.” Sure I would pray but only to check in with Him to bless my agenda and plans. It took the toughest year of ministry I’ve ever experience for this to become a soul shaping conviction.

Today, as a staff we take 30 minutes out every work day to stop and seek the heart of God. Not because we have to but because we need to.

  1. Do what only you can do and give the rest away.

I have a really hard time asking for help. My mode of operation often has been if I can do it then I should do it. I never realized until recently how much that actually held back our church. In the early days, I was apart of everything. Setting up chairs. Sound system. Lights. Café. Tearing down. Organizing our trucks. We have great people serving but I felt guilty not being there. How could I focus on the one thing that only I could do, preach a great message, while people were sweating to setup for Sunday service.

Unfortunately, this communicated to our amazing teams that I didn’t trust them. It also kept me from bringing my best contribution to our church. As a result I taught mediocre messages, I didn’t keep the vision white hot in front of us and I was too overwhelmed to raise up and develop key leaders.

Part of growing and learning is making mistakes. It is part of the process. We all have things we wish we could go back and do all over again.

The key is to learn from the pain of our past and apply the lessons we learned.

“Though you cannot go back and have a brand new start. You can start now and have a brand new end.”

– John Maxwell