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.