Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to Shake Off Shame

by Alycia W. Morales

Warning: I'm going to be very open in this post and talk about things younger women/teens may not need to read. I will not be vulgar, but I will be straightforward. You've been warned.

Today I opened my inbox to discover a post from Jeff Goins entitled "Shame Is Something We Learn." It caught my attention, because just a year ago or so, I had an intense Twitter convo with a woman over the definition of shame. It all started when I began tweeting against Planned Parenthood as part of a campaign. At the time, Planned Parenthood was teaching teenagers to experiment with BDSM. And now, we have 50 Shades of Grey to continue the promotion that these things are normal and acceptable... I think of that conversation often. And I think of how she felt it was normal for victims of sexual abuse or rape to feel shame. As if they should cling to it.

In my humble opinion, shame isn't something we should own or wear when it is inflicted by someone else. Date rape came up in that conversation. And I argued that the victim of date rape should not feel ashamed of what has happened to her. Here's why I feel that way:

The definition of shame is this: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, short-coming, or impropriety. It's a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute. It's something that brings censure or reproach, also something to be regretted.

According to the definition, it's an emotion we feel when we are conscious of guilt, short-coming, or impropriety. When I read this, it tells me that I should feel shame when I do something I know goes against my moral values. On purpose. Or maybe on accident. It's something I feel when I sin. When I wrong God or someone else or even myself.

But certainly not something I should feel if someone else wrongs me. I'd be saying, "Shame on you!"

As I mentioned in my previous post, I felt shame when I had many relationships with men and ended up having an abortion.

What I didn't mention was that I've also felt ashamed of something else for many years. Something I haven't whispered to my mother, my sister, or my Pastor's wife. I've only told one friend. One. And my husband. No one else. But in the transparency of uncovering the lie that we should feel shame over things that have happened to us, been forced upon us, been done against our right-minded consent, I will share it with you.

Let me begin by saying this: It's only been recently that God has brought the truth of this matter into His light for me. It's another step in my healing process. And healing is a process, so I wouldn't expect someone else (you) to be completely healed and set free the instant you read my testimony. Although that would be wonderful, and I would applaud God for it. And He could do it. What I would like for you is to consider allowing God to remove the brand of shame from your heart and allow you to walk in the freedom of knowing that what has happened to you does not make you who you are or taint you.

One afternoon when I was a freshman in college, the guy I was dating showed up at my dorm-room door. With three of his friends. Because he threatened to make a scene if I didn't let them in, and I hate to draw negative attention to myself, I let him in. You can imagine what happened next. He and his friends would say I consented to it, but I never said I wanted to do anything with these guys. This is a guy who had "just kidding"-ly held a knife to my throat at one time before that afternoon. Knowing he carried that with him, I wasn't about to try to fight anyone off. I'd rather been "shamed" than dead. Needless to say, that relationship ended quickly.

Do I have anything to be ashamed of? Opening the door because I didn't want to cause a scene? Being gang raped because I feared for my life if I should try to turn them out? I didn't ask for what I got that day. It wasn't "my fault." And I refuse to take ownership of their actions or the shame Satan would try to brand me with.

I have repented for agreeing to date the guy in the first place. I have repented for having a sexual relationship with him prior to that day. Those are my sins. Those are to my shame.

But his choice to bring his buddies by and have their way with me? That I take no responsibility for. He and his friends will have to answer to God for that one day. Shame on them...

See, shame isn't something someone else should be able to pin on us, forcing us to wear it like a name tag. Someone else's sin isn't our burden to wear. It isn't something we should adopt as our identity. It should never define who we are.

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
Isaiah 54:4-5

Instead, we need to put on our identity in God, the Father. Our maker. The One who calls us by name, who knew us before He fearfully and wonderfully created us in our mother's womb. We need to label ourselves Redeemed by the Holy One of Israel. Covered in the blood of Jesus. Once scarlet, now white as snow. Once captive, now free. Saved by grace. Beloved. These are the words that define us when we accept Jesus as our Savior and enter into a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And as the years go by, we remember what happened to us, but we learn that we don't have to let it define who we are. And we let Jesus heal that wound inflicted against us. And we gain the courage and the strength to stand up and say, "I will not be ashamed." And we are enabled to forgive, even if we don't forget. Because forgiving someone doesn't mean we condone what they did to us. But it frees them from the prison of our hearts and makes room for God to come in and fill us with His love.

Are you allowing shame to keep you from living? You don't have to. {Click to Tweet}

Why We Shouldn't Feel Ashamed Because We Were Abused {Click to Tweet}

The following are a few of the books I've read that have been a huge help in my healing process:
Not Marked by Mary DeMuth
The Day I Met Jesus by Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola
Captivating by Stasi and John Eldredge

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Day I Met Jesus - A Post with a Book Review

by Alycia W. Morales
A month or so ago, I opened my e-mail to find an invitation that I couldn't pass up. Mary DeMuth invited me to be a member of her launch team for her upcoming release, co-authored by Frank Viola, The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels. Since I'd always been fascinated with these women, I said yes to Mary's invitation.

I read five stories of Jesus's invitation to women who'd been outcast, abused, forgotten, betrayed, and lonely.

And I found that I could relate really well to one of them.

Frank affectionately calls her Photine. You and I would know her as the Woman at the Well or the Samaritan Woman Who Encountered Jesus.

She's the woman who had many relationships with men. Five, to be exact. And she was in her sixth. And he didn't want to marry her. She was an outcast. She was lonely. All she wanted was to find someone who would truly love her, who would find her valuable, who would cherish her.

It was only 21years ago that I was in the same situation. I'd known my fair share of men. Only I wouldn't call them men. None of them wanted to accept responsibility for their actions. Some were abusive verbally. Some were abusive physically. And when I ended up pregnant, the father decided he didn't want to be a father at that time, so I shut off my emotions and buried my deepest values and walked through the doors of Planned Parenthood to plan not to be a parent. And that's where I met Jesus as my Lord and Savior. On a sterile, cold, metal table while a nurse held my hand, stroked my hair, and cheered me on for being so brave. "Most girls are screaming by now," she told me. It was a lonely, lonely place. But in the midst of my darkest hour, Jesus was there, offering me living water and true love. This was the day I met Jesus.

When I visited home the next week, I attended church with my family. I said a prayer of salvation, asking Jesus into my heart and my life. Only I struggled with leaving earthly relationships behind. So I quit school in an attempt to avoid temptation, only to fall back into its slimy hands a few months later. I left home, moved in with my boyfriend, and discovered he wasn't any better than the others. A couple of days after he threw me up against a wall and pinned me by my neck, I wrestled with sleep. Despite coming home from the graveyard shift at the local diner and being dog tired, I could not drift off. Something had me tossing in the bed.

And then I heard Him. Clear as day. He stood in the room, I know it. His Fatherly voice gently reprimanded, "If you don't go home now, you'll never see your eternal home."

Which is why I wrestle when I hear people say, "Once saved, always saved."
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23)
If God told me that if I didn't obey His word, leave my sinful ways behind, and follow Him I wouldn't see my eternal home, why should I expect that if you remain in your sinful ways but claim to know and love Him, He wouldn't say the same to you? Just because we say a prayer doesn't mean that we are transformed in that exact moment. I said the prayer that year before. I meant it when I said it. But my desire for a relationship with God wasn't there. Not until He called me out of my pit. Not until He spoke those words to me. I had to really want that relationship. I had to act on it. I had to put feet to my faith. I had to decide I'd much rather hear, "Well done, My good and faithful servant" than "I knew you not."

I decided in that moment that I would do whatever it took to get home. I wanted an eternity with Jesus. Not an eternity in hell.

What I've discovered in the past 21 years is that life with Jesus on earth is like heaven. Sure, I still have my ups and downs. I still face trials and tribulations, loss and heartache. But I also know that I am secure in His love. I have joy in the midst of everything that happens, good or bad. I have more than I could ever hope or think or ask for. Even when I have nothing. Because I still have Jesus.

Trust me when I say that life without Him is hell. Darkness lurks around every corner. Death waits like a cat ready to pounce on its pray. The enemy of our souls comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I know. I've been in his grip before. But I refused to stay there ... and that has made all the difference.

Here's what I think of Mary and Frank's book:

I have always loved the stories of the women in the Bible. Particularly the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42). She and I share similar stories. Multiple men. And then Jesus came in to our lives. And we’ve never been the same since. It’s a story of redemption and a second chance at purity and true love. It’s the story of an outcast who accepted an invitation to become a bride, a daughter, a princess in the kingdom of God. Who wouldn’t say yes to that?

“After six failed relationships, Photine encountered her true husband. A man who would love her like no other man ever had. A man who would never use or abuse her, but who would cherish her with the purest love in the universe. And she, a woman of ill repute, became the first evangelist to the Samaritans.” – Frank Viola

What I love about this book is that Mary DeMuth brings 5 women from the New Testament to life. We get a glimpse into their daily lives and the things they’ve encountered and endured at the hands of men. And we get to be with them in the moments they meet their Savior, the Man who will love them as they deserve to be loved. The One who won’t see them for what they’ve done but will see them for who they are. The Lover of their souls who will transform them and their lives with six simple words: Your faith has made you well.

To top that off, Frank Viola offers insight into the time and culture in which these women lived. We see the why behind the what. His information further brings these women, their communities, and Jesus’s encounters with them to life. If you’ve ever wondered what life truly was like in their day, this book will fill you in.

I highly recommend this book for any woman who has related to the women who encounter Jesus in the New Testament, to women surviving in abusive relationships, to the outcast, to the lonely. I also recommend it to anyone who has a desire to better understand God’s love for us and how far He would go to meet us. You won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. This does not affect my review. I would give it 5 stars even if I bought it for myself, which I will do again.

To purchase a copy today, please visit your favorite online retailer:
Parable: Mary has a special offer for you if you buy it from Parable. Read about it here.
Barnes and Noble

Inspire Us
To win a copy, please leave a comment below and tell us a little about the day you met Jesus. If you haven't met Him yet, ask the question that burns deep in your heart. If you have no questions, tell us what you're looking for. I will choose a winner on Friday.

Find out about the day @AlyciaMorales met Jesus. {Click to Tweet}
Are you an outcast, lonely, or abused? {Click to Tweet
Win a copy of The Day I Met Jesus by @MaryDeMuth & @FrankViola #DayIMetJesus via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}