When things didn’t go as planned or if someone treated me badly, I assumed I must have deserved it. I strongly believed outcomes and results were reflections of how hard I worked and how I presented myself. Shame is such a powerful tool of the enemy.
I thought sexual harassment was something I was born to deal with. It was something that happened before I even started grade school, it followed me into my middle school years, again it nudged itself on me in high school, and of course this familiar acquaintance showed itself in college. From as far back as I can remember, throughout my entire life, boys then eventually men would come and try to see what they could take from me. For instance, I remember my first waitressing job in college; I was trapped in the restaurant walk-in fridge with one of the cooks who would not let me leave unless I allowed him to kiss and touch me. Luckily, before he took a step towards me as I just stood there frozen, he decided we had both been in there too long and he didn’t want to get caught. That day I was fortunate nothing happened, but I blamed myself for going in there and then blamed myself for never saying anything to management, my parents, or anyone else. You see, the devil made this occurrence so frequent in my life that eventually it twisted my thought pattern. I believed the lie that since it was not an isolated event and happened continuously throughout my life, I had to be the cause. I knew men would comment on my appearance and would always shower me with compliments on my looks, but I just didn’t understand how it turned into these dangerous situations. I thought, “I must be doing something wrong,” which later led me into believing this was my burden to live with.
Suppressed memories and injuries have a funny way of reminding you that they are not going anywhere and letting you know they are still holding you captive. I became selfish for my happiness and somehow I had twisted in my mind that if nobody was going to look out for me, I would. Of course you can’t always control what happens to you, around you, or to those that you love. But despite knowing that, I found myself trying to control everything around me at any cost necessary. And I did all of this to “win at life;” and to be honest, it didn’t fill the void. I would chase after excitement then once that was over I would look for the next thing to make me happy, whether that be a new relationship, experience, vacation, or activity.
For so many years, I thought if I could do things the “right way” by society’s’ standards (get into the right crowds, look a certain way, gain the credentials) that I would be okay at this thing called life. So I learned what I needed to do in order to become great through societal expectations. Consequently, I became more manipulative, competitive to a fault, and willing to step on others to get where I wanted to go. My actions were always centered around my happiness, wants, or dreams. I felt entitled. Therefore, I was determined to be the boss of my own life and to always have control. I became good at detaching from people and felt justified because society is steadily screaming to us, “cut off whoever is not benefiting you,” so if others did not follow suit, I would quickly replace them. I slowly became good at being in the world and of the world. I knew how to respond to get what I wanted and also knew what people were looking for, so I would mold myself to fit in and be accepted. And ultimately, I became lost in it, lost with comparison, trying to get ahead and stay ahead, and trying to be this picture perfect woman, which ultimately led to me forgetting who I truly was. My value and self worth was tied so heavily to the acceptance of others that positive thoughts of myself did not exist unless they were validated by someone else. And since everyone I was surrounded by had the same mentality, they were using me for as long as I benefited their goals and life. Ultimately, it was a toxic environment.
Living this way, I knew my happiness would only be short lived and as a young adult I repeated the cycle of partying, drinking, working harder to try to please others and to fill that void with self-gratification. At this point in my life, church was something I did as a checklist, but I wasn’t all the way committed. I grew up occasionally going to church but I viewed it as religion and not a relationship. Throughout my life I never felt convicted about how I was living unless it was outside of society’s morals as well. In 2016 I had just gone through a horrible breakup, started a new job in a new city, and our family dog passed away so I did whatever I could to escape my thoughts. I would go out every weekend, I had completely lost my appetite and dropped fifteen pounds within six weeks, and really did whatever seemed like it would help me cope with that disappointing and unfamiliar time in my life. So I started partying harder and going out more when I realized I didn’t want to go down that path anymore. The attention of men did not matter, the fact that I was working my career field did not make me feel whole and it finally registered in me that I couldn’t help myself on my own. I gave church one more try, but I decided to be fully invested and thirsty for a solution for my life. One evening I went to a women’s program held at the church I was trying out in Dallas. I remember it so vividly because it was the first time that I saw other women being transparent of the shame or guilt they were carrying and really discussing how it imprisoned them. And I remember that being the first time I felt people saw me for who I was, a hurting soul that just needed to know I didn’t deserve any of the bad that happened and that I was loved by God no matter what happened to me, despite how I acted out of that pain, and regardless how far I had gone from Him. That night we discussed the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-6 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friend and neighbors together and says, ’Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’.” And that day I decided to accept that God is just happy that I am coming back home to Him. From then on, I went 100% in for Christ. I began going to church steadily, I surrounded myself with people who were also growing in their faith, and I took on the scary task of working through my past because I was no longer going to hold guilt or shame in my life anymore. I realized, for years, I allowed shame to keep me from claiming my value.
I have once heard quoted before that, “women are made to believe that we are strong by how much pain we can endure,” and I want to shake up that narrative completely! I want every woman to know that we are strong because God made us strong. Ever since that day, when I decided I am not identified by my pain, I have seen God use me in ways I could never imagine. Instead, I am a piece of the larger puzzle God has made to help bring others to Him. I feel true joy at all times knowing my purpose has been waiting for me to shed this shame off so that God can start using me to spread His kingdom and invite others to the table. He could not use me before with all of my selfishness, and manipulative ways, because I was downright “ugly in spirit.” By slowly shedding off these defense mechanisms and ugly characteristics that I built from my past I was able to let go of perfectionism, work on letting people in, shed my need to constantly have control and chip away at all of the other baggage I carried around to make me feel safe. I learned I had always had the protection of God, and Christ was to always be with me no matter the situation. And because I was in that mindset for such a long time, I always want to make sure other women out there know that whatever you have been through that makes you think you are too past gone for God to accept you; He is waiting for you to let Him in! Just as He says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” So come on ladies, let’s begin to work on becoming the woman He designed for you to be.
Food and Faith Blogger