There, lurking in the darkness of every man’s heart, is the voice. “The Voice!” It’s the voice of shame. The voice of shame says things like, “I am unworthy; I am ugly; I am weak; I am stupid.” It’s that loud voice that echoes in the chambers of our mind, “Don’t be yourself; run and hide.”
In the Fall of 2013, and into the Winter of 2014, I began to recognize the voice. For me it was a voice of unworthiness that had hampered all my relationships. It was a voice that needed to be needed in everything I endeavored to do. My need for recognition and popularity had driven me as far back as I could remember. From being captain of my sports teams as a kid, to becoming a church planter and lead pastor, I craved the limelight.
All I knew to do at the time, was pray. I began prayer-walking every day. For the next four years, I walked and prayed daily, sometimes for hours and miles at a time. Then, the strangest thing happened.
When I would return from my long walks, I would be surprised to find some men hanging out at my fire pit. They would often bring a cigar (which I must admit was the ticket to honest conversations), we would sit there and share our hearts together. These men became my new “church.” These were men I didn’t even know that well, but they knew me. They understood my pain. They sat there. Not unlike Job’s friends (before they started talking too much), their presence was a healing salve to my troubled heart.
Sitting by the fire, they listened to my shame struggles; they listened and listened. They cared. As Kent Miller, my counselor and friend, unpacked my inner battles in our counseling sessions, I opened up with these men. As I opened my dark places, something very powerful began to happen.
It was only a slight flicker at first. But not unlike the spark that lights a fire, as I opened up my heart to these trusted men, I could feel a new healing invading the darkness of my heart.
I was discovering that the only real healing from shame comes through vulnerability. Vulnerability with some trusted friends. Liz had always been there for me, but there was something happening through these men that was shocking. They had no reason to believe in me, trust me, or care about me. But they listened and even began to open up about their own struggles.
We quickly became a brotherhood of “Bloodstained Allies.”
It was through the vulnerability of these bloodstained allies that I discovered the channel of a new spring of living water. It was freedom. Freedom to just be myself. Regardless of title, position, or power, I felt the freedom of “true self.” The true self for which I had been created. The true self that had been lost. Bloodstained allies were being used by God to initiate me into real manhood. The manhood of being my true self. More on this next week.
Steve Holt M.A., D.D.