Did your heart stop when you read that? Because I know my heart did when I heard my counselor say that during my session today. Then my heart dropped when the full force of shame set in: this is, in fact, what I have been non-verbally communicating to God the past few months.
We were discussing the contempt issue – which is to say, the fact that I harbor extremely murderous hate toward myself. And, occasionally (and to a far lesser degree), toward others. I was more disturbed by the fact that I express this anger and hatred toward others – it is almost always unintentional and always undeserved on the part of those who are on the receiving end (often my counselor, nutritionist, and well-intentioned friends). My counselor asked me if I even wanted to change this. I thought about for a moment.
Well, I mean, I don’t really care so much that I hate myself. But I am really upset that I give that vibe to others – I have some really fantastic people in my life and I don’t want to treat them like that, even unintentionally. They deserve better.
That’s when she let me have it. My counselor has given me a couple of rather serious, slightly heated words of truth before. But I have never seen her this upset. She went on for at least five minutes about how this sort of attitude toward myself is killing my soul – I am murdering myself every time I speak these things over myself (and incidentally, thou shalt not murder). I am refusing Christ’s love and uttering a great big “Fuck you, God!” every time I tell myself I am unworthy, unlovable, undesirable. God has told me the exact opposite and I keep shoving it back in His face. And until I let myself actually experience the love of Christ and allow it to affect me, I cannot possibly love the people He has put in my life. And if I’m not loving them – I’m simply using them.
(So put that in your pipe and smoke it, eh, Jessica?)
I sat in stunned silence for two minutes. When I finally found my voice again, it was small and barely audible and my eyes remain fixed on the man with the leaf-blower outside.:
That was…helpful. Thank you.
And truthfully, it was. Sometimes, I need someone to shove the truth in my face and make me look at it, even if it leaves me feeling incredibly small and worthless and stupid. We talked about this, the fact that I was clearly having an emotional reaction to her words as she spoke, even if I were unaware of it. It was written all over my face.
My description for how I was feeling was “little and stupid” – that I was frustrated with myself because I can tell myself intellectually exactly what God says about me. I know exactly how stupid I’m being. I am the beloved. I am a daughter of the King. I am worthy and desirable and deserve to be healthy and whole. So why do I continually act like the prodigal come home preparing to make himself a slave?
Contempt contempt contempt. Borne out of shame. I hate shame. I can go from shame to self-contempt faster than it takes to exhale the last breath. Contempt is so much easier. Contempt has action, punishment, retribution. Restrict, purge, cut, run, bruise, kill, die.
My counselor points out that this shame is what I really felt, before contempt set in. I agree with her when she outlines the other responses I might have been having, but unable to express: Wow, that was really hard to hear. I don’t know how to receive that. I am really ashamed that I am sending those messages to God and other people.
What she says next is the part that I have difficulty with: that it’s OKAY to stop at the shame, that I need not go directly to self-flagellation. That in this case, shame is a legitimate, healthy response to having someone point out your sin and bring it into light. She dragged out my sin, my utter refusal to trust and believe God and exposed it for all to see (and hear throughout the office) and shame is absolutely an appropriate response to that. Without that legitimate shame, there is no push toward repentance and no openness to growth.
I left my session nearly in tears, begging God to keep me in that place, keep processing, keep feeling legitimately shamed until I could find myself in a place to write all this down. I spent the next hour and a half at the local 24-7 prayer room writing and praying and thinking. I took five pages of notes in my journal, part desperate prayers, part apologies, part reminders of what happened today.
My counselor told me at the end of my session today that this was a fight much bigger than my physical life. That she is fighting for me in the spiritual realm because my soul is on the line and she is not letting the enemy take me.
The final page of notes from my time in the prayer room is a reminder of that. In large, bold letters is one word:
Followed by a statement: this is not just about you, kid.
So tonight, I’m thanking God for hope – which is slowly breaking into the dark places – and for the people who are standing next to me in the trenches – fighting with me and for me when I lose sight of just how important this is.
ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, שהחינו וקימנו והגענו לזמן הזה.
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‑olam, she‑hehiyanu v’kiy’manu v’higi’anu la‑z’man ha‑ze.
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.