God made us for connection. God made us for relationships. It is why we are here—it’s what makes life worth living. What’s interesting is that, when you ask people about happiness and joy, they almost always move toward feelings of disconnection and loss. Why is it that when we bring up connection, the discussion always goes toward disconnection?
New York Times bestselling author, Brene’ Brown, says that “the big unnamed thing—the thing that unravels connection—is shame.” Shame is the fear of relational disconnection. Shame is that inward question we always ask, but hate to admit about ourselves: “Am I worthy of connection? Am I good looking enough? Am I smart enough? Am I strong enough?” No one wants to talk about it, but everyone struggles with it.
In the Fall of 2013, after being placed on a forced “sabbatical” by the Elders of Mountain Springs Church, I found myself confused, angry, and hurt. Never had I felt so betrayed and deceived by a group of men I thought I could trust. I had planted the church 20 years before, and God had blessed that tiny Bible study in our home with thousands of people attending each weekend. It sure seemed like a success story. But was it?
Whatever the Elder’s motives for the sabbatical, it became obvious to Liz and me that I was being given a gift. Yes, as strange as it sounds, it was a gift from God. I was burned out, tired, and my leadership had suffered through the years. In 30 years of ministry, I had never taken a significant break.
How many of you know that God often allows a rude awakening before He can bring a great awakening? This was a rude, very rude, wakeup call in my life. I sought out wisdom from Kent Miller, a professional counselor in Colorado Springs, and we began to meet each week. We met for the next year. Through his guidance and my brokenness, the Lord opened up my heart to the shame I had hidden for so long.
What I learned about shame would change my life forever.
I discovered that the only real healing from shame comes through vulnerability. Vulnerability with some trusted friends. It began to dawn on me that my relationship with God was incomplete without a relationship with other trusted people in my life.
But shame always undermines intimacy! It’s the shut-off valve that won’t let us love with our whole heart. It is that part of our heart that can only go so far in our love relationships. The demonic stronghold of shame has an automatic shut-off for deep intimacy.
But I discovered there were a group of men that really loved me. They were not going to judge me, rebuke me, or turn their back on me. As I opened up about the demonic strongholds in my life, I experienced a kind of love and acceptance that was foreign to my past. Something of the unconditional love of God was breaking into my heart. More next week.
Steve Holt M.A., D.D.