Well, I'm back. I have so much to say, I'm not sure where to begin...God has been dealing with me in the most loving and heavy and difficult and beautiful ways the past few weeks, and I want to share with you the amazing things He's been revealing.
I should start by addressing my last blog post. I was re-reading the things I had written over the past months and years, and marvelling over what God has done and continues to do in me. It feels a little wrong to be inspired by one's own writing, but I found myself so encouraged as I looked back over the miracles and break-throughs and lessons learned and insight gained over the past 3 years of my life. Alas, I also discovered lessons that I had completely forgotten and was in need of learning all over again. That's life, I guess - it's never a smooth, steady ascent to the mountaintop, but rather a jagged journey back and forth and up and down and all around...Well, I got to my most recent post and was struck by the language and tone of the first paragraph - it just reeked of shame, of all things. Just in case it's not fresh in your memory :), here's a recap: I was going to take a break from blogging to sooth my soul that had been rubbed raw by so much personal exposure, in addition to a variety of heavy things weighing on my heart. In short, I was ashamed of having revealed myself, and of the self that had been revealed. Upon later reflection, I realized that there was absolutely nothing upon which to base that particular feeling. Not one person who has commented or sent a facebook message or an email or spoken to me in person has made me feel that anything I have revealed was shameful in the least - on the contrary, I've never gotten so much positive feedback and encouragement from anything in my life! If that's the case, then I have to conclude that my sense of shame comes from within (dang-it). I am ashamed of who I am.
And so I've been trying to unpack it, but to be honest, I'm stumped. This is a brand-new issue for me; but it sure explains a lot, now that I'm aware of it! I've been looking back over my life, trying to pin-point the origin of all this shame - and I'm the first one to admit that my memory is more like an afghan than anything else (soft and hole-y) - but for the life of me, I can't figure it out. I can point to ever so many incidents, from as early as age 6 up until very present-day, where shame was quite obviously a factor in my actions and reactions and relationships. (In fact, shame is very much a unifying theme in this blog - but I was only able to see it after reading from beginning to end.) But I can't figure out why. (And that annoys me) Unlike so many people I know, I recall a very pleasant childhood, very strong and healthy family connections, great friends, a remarkably positive schooling experience, many opportunities to safely explore my gifts and talents and lots of support and encouragement. Now I'm not claiming that any of that was perfect, by any means, but I had a much better and stronger and less-traumatic start to my story than so many I've heard. I'm very thankful, but confused - so why the shame?
Well, I still don't know, and I'm not giving up trying to get to the bottom of it, but I do have the choice to start from right now to recognize it and refute it when it rears its' ugly head. And I'm seeing it now in the littlest of things - how I can't take a compliment, or look people in the eye after having revealed something of a personal nature, or not allowing time and energy for self-care or denying myself permission to dream and act on those dreams...etcetera, etcetera... Shame is the basis of my self-esteem issues, for sure. And not even shame for something I've done (though there's that, too, of course...) but for something I can't do anything about - the essence of who I am.
If this all sounds familiar, I know - I've discussed the results of all this shame in other places here. And maybe you're sitting there thinking, 'Well, duh, Joy - pretty obvious!'. Well, it certainly wasn't obvious to me! In fact, after I had written my last post, one of my most vocal and wonderful supporters sent me a message and identified the issue for me - what a welcome wake-up call! I have always been ashamed to be known. But the basic answer to the problem is the same - the answer to every question, just like in Sunday School :) Jesus! It's in Him and through Him and by Him and because of Him that I can get out from under this shame-cloud and live in freedom. He has made me who I am! On purpose, even! And the whole reason I started this blog was to discover/uncover (the) real Joy - to dig out from under that heavy pile of shame and be who He has made me to be! Man, how could I have missed it? How did I not see that it was shame that was calling the shots the whole time? Yeesh. No matter - now I know, and knowing is at least half the battle :) One more step along the path that not only leads to real joy but is real joy - joy in the journey, not just at its' end. May we all have the courage to take one brave step after another on our own joy-paths!