Not everything that we face can be changed. But nothing can be changed unless we face it. Shame is in all of us and wholehearted living begins when we face our shame.
Shame is the fear of disconnection. Shame defines us as failures. Since all of us have a God-given desire for belonging, shame is one of the most powerful tools of demons to unravel our lives. The fear of what others would think of us if they only knew who we were, imprisons us to a life of hiddenness and perfectionism. I know first hand what shame feels like.
In the fall of 2013 the elders at the church I started and the only church I had ever pastored, walked me into my office to let me know they were placing me on a forced 6 month leave of absence, but publically it would be called a “sabbatical.” The reason given—the “unhealthy culture” of the staff team. It was a difficult time and I was frustrated and struggling. The culture needed work and I needed help.
I made a conscious choice to not defend myself or blame others. For the next four months I read books, wrote reports, asked for forgiveness, and did all that I knew to do to work on my stuff. Though the board would not allow me to speak to my staff team as a group, I owned what were my character flaws and tried to the best of my ability to repent of each. It was not enough. It soon became apparent that I was not wanted back by the board and some of the pastoral staff, and that my tenure at my beloved church was over. It was devastating. I resigned.
I have never experienced such a sense of failure and shame. I felt I had let down my team, other pastors, and the Lord. To not be wanted for who you are—even with one’s inadequacies, especially in your brokenness, is traumatic. To have something you’ve built, you’ve given everything to—just taken away, is heart wrenching.
But it was this event that changed my life. Someone has said “leadership is pain.” I would add that leadership is shame. Kenji Miyazawa said, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” As I faced the shame of my life, God began to fuel my journey and teach me lessons of being wholehearted that began a transformation.
The melt down of my heart began with shame but the remaking of my heart came through the discomfort of facing my perfectionism. In my case, perfectionism had become the protective wall around my shame. But the route to wholehearted living is directly proportional to one’s ability to manage the discomfort of facing our roadblocks.
It is agonizingly uncomfortable to face shame. We would rather run from it, deny it’s there, and keep it hidden. But to face it, deal with it, and bring all of it into the light is the way to wholehearted living. God wants our whole heart, even if man doesn’t. Man wants the tidied up part, God wants the ugly. That’s how He changes us. That’s how we begin to navigate the greatest command in scripture: to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
On the Road,
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