shame blanket

Is Listening to What God Says About You Wrong?

Spending time in God’s Word has become very important to me. I find myself drawn to Scripture that tells me who I am in Him and how God feels about me.

I wrote about a verse Jude a few weeks ago that tells us we are beloved, called, and kept.

Twice I’ve written about how knowing we are clothed in His righteousness makes me believe blanketing myself in shame is something God would hate. (link 1 & link 2)

I spend a lot of time thinking about how God feels about me. I even changed my Instagram name to knownseenliked because I needed to focus my head and my heart on the true identity that God knows me, sees me, and likes me.

All of this focus on me feels wrong. I get a little sting inside that says, Shouldn’t you be focusing on who God is?

Is it wrong? Is my sting right? Should I be focusing more on God and less on me?

My youngest Hezekiah does this really cute thing, but it hit me yesterday that it was very telling to how our brains work as human beings.

Every time I say something complimentary to Hezekiah, which I try to do because I want his 3-year-old heart to know he is amazing and loved, he rejects what I’ve said and tells me his name — which he adorably says as Kia.

Here’s how the conversations go:

Me: “You are such a good boy.”

Hezekiah. “No, I Kia.”


Me: “You are so cute!”

Hezekiah: "No, I Kia!”


Me: “You are a good brother.”

Hezekiah: “No, I Kia.”


Spider man fade, listening to God, identity.JPG

I laugh every time. His insistence that his identity is just his nickname hasn’t stopped me from telling him all the things he is in my eyes. As a parent, I want more than anything to nurture love and kindness in him towards others and himself.

As humans, it is not easy for us to accept positive comments. We are protective and defensive. We easily accept criticism without question, but we are skeptical of praise and complements.

I know this because I had a Christian counselor tell me that I was doing this. He made me start writing down things people said to me that were complementary. It felt silly, but I did it because I wanted to get better. I was so mentally unhealthy, berating myself with negative self-talk.

Earlier this year I saw Curt Thompson speak at the IF:Gathering, and he presented the brain science behind the principle of accepting compliments differently. He shared that research shows that it takes our bodies about 3 seconds to absorb and believe a negative comment and about 30 seconds for us to absorb and believe a compliment. He encouraged us to not push away and deflect a compliment out of humility or false humility because when you do that, you have no chance of ever accepting it. He asked us to take a deep breath and let those kind words that were just spoken about us sink in. He asked us to go back to those words later in the day when we had time to really let our mind believe those words.

If this neurobiologist, psychiatrist knows it is important for good things said about you to be absorbed and I as a parent long for good things said about my children to be absorbed, then can we agree that God wants the good things He has said to His children to be absorbed?

It is important that we listen to the good things God says about us, and I’ve come to believe that that small sting inside of me that says I should only be focused on what is said about God is evil shame that does not want good for me.

Shame is the enemy that keeps us blind and in a corner. It keeps us from connecting to others and sharing our faith.

Obviously, we need to commit time to learn God’s character, and what we believe about God must line up with what Scripture says about God.

This knowing God does not mean knowing how God feels about us is then unimportant. Don’t skip absorbing what God says about you because of humility, false humility, or shame.

God says you are Beloved. God says you are known. God says you are seen. God says you are liked, friended, and included. God says you are chosen. God says you are called. God says you are commissioned. God says you are kept.


New Head & the Heart song this week. Ekkk!

If you’re interested in reading Curt Thompson’s work, he has published these two books:

Revisiting My Shame Blanket

It has been a year and a half since I first wrote about my shame blanket. In some ways, my shame blanket is far behind me because of my growth. If I’m honest, I often carrying that blankie around like Charlie Brown’s little friend Linus.

What I’ve learned about my shame blanket goes beyond just saying I need to drop it, surrender from this bad view of myself.

Here is what I’ve learned about my shame blanket.

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My blanket shields my eyes and heart from distinguishing my feelings.

When I am in the darkness of shame, I cannot distinguish what I am feeling or why I am feeling it. Under the blanket, every bad feeling is because of the badness of me.

The truth about feelings is that naming what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it is extremely important in emotional health. What I did in the past was felt shame for the bad feeling and powered through whatever was in front of me until I hit a wall I could not see because my eyes were in the darkness of shame.

I closed my eyes and worked.

I closed my heart and served.

I closed my spiritual eyes and missed the Father trying to lift my head.

When I would hit a wall, there would be such a jumble of emotions that there was no sorting through the mess. Like those plastic slinkies sold by that Asian company Sunday school teachers frequent, it is a tangled mess. Those things should come with a sticker that says, “Save your sanity by inserting into a trashcan promptly after ten minutes use.”

When I can recognize I’m feeling feelings, set my shame aside, give myself permission to open my eyes and heart to interpret just what those feelings are, then straightening the jumble is possible.

When you’ve realized what the feeling is you are feeling — actually named it, you can gently ask yourself, Why am I feeling this? Here’s where having clear eyes, unencumbered with the despised shame blanket, is so advantageous. Feelings are tricky. Sometimes you are feeling a feeling that is perfectly reasonable. The situation you find yourself in is the exact situation that would cause this exact feeling in any human that had a non-stone heart. In that case, you can tell yourself, This feeling is legitimate. My circumstances are not good therefore I am feeling not good.

Sometimes feelings are liars. Sometimes we feel something and it isn’t true. This is the reason that feelings get such a bad rap. Feelings aren’t facts. In this case, you remind yourself of the facts. You fill your mind with truth and pray your heart will catch on.

No matter what, shame is never the answer.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising
the
shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2 ESV

The problem perpetuates itself when we attach shame to certain feelings.

I should never feel unappreciated because then I’m not being humble.

I should never feel hurt because then I’m not forgiving.

I should never feel helpless because then I don’t have faith.

I should never feel fearful because then I’m a bad Christian.

I should never feel lonely because then I’m forgetting God is always with me.

I should never feel disappointed because God has a plan.

We are not bad for feeling unappreciated, hurt, helpless, fearful, lonely, disappointed or any other feeling. It is not a sin to feel a feeling. Denying you have those feelings to seem holy to yourself or others is harmful. Our righteousness does not stem from our ability to deny feelings, put on a happy face, or become numb to negative feelings. Our righteousness comes from Jesus.

Jesus had feelings.

Emotionally healthy Christians have feelings.

We are skipping a step in our emotional health when we deny our feelings and jump to, “God’s good and I’m good.” Let’s go through the steps of feeling unappreciated. 1. I recognize I feel unappreciated. 2. I realize why I feel unappreciated when I see circumstances in my life that would cause anyone to feel that way. 3. I’ve named my feeling. I remind myself that this is a valid feeling in this situation. 4. I pray that God would change those circumstances because everyone deserves to feel appreciated. 5. I remind myself how God feels about me — I am radically loved by Him, He loves a cheerful giver, and Jesus can relate to feeling unappreciated. 6. I am full in Him, and although it would have been nice, I can live without appreciation from others.

We have worked through that feeling without shame and covered in His grace, mercy, and righteousness. A shame blanket would have clouded that process and put a stop to the process at step one.

As children of God, we have to remind ourselves we are clothed in the splendid robe of righteousness instead of in the dark covering of shame.

So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes!’ Then He said to him, ‘See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.’
— Zechariah 3:4 HCSB

Our robe of righteousness aids our emotional heath by giving us real security.

Our robe of righteousness does not mask our ability to distinguish our feelings because we are wearing that robe solely because of Jesus. It is holy and good, and our Father sees us as holy and good because we are covered in His righteousness and kept in His care.

When we are wearing our robe, we have no shame before God as we work through our feelings honestly. We can acknowledge the truth of our circumstances that exist in our life in the fallen world. We can put a name to what we are feeling. Naming things is good. (It is the actual oldest profession, and Adam was the OG Namer.)

We can ask ourselves why we have the feelings we do without shame. We can determine if our feelings fit the circumstance. We can ask God to change our circumstances if they do. If our feelings are lying to us, contradicting His love for us, we can ask God to help us open our hearts to the truth.

I love the Nick Drake-ness of this song. Excited for this new album.

Uncovering from a shame blanket and relishing the robe of righteousness

I have been buried in emotion, and I've been seeing an emotion pro (otherwize known as a therapist) to help me dig out.  One thing that happens to me when I have deep feelings is that my brain gets hijacked.  I am overcome with feelings of rejection and I cannot think clearly.

We've identified a few triggers that send me into panic.  Anytime I perceive I'm being ignored, feel unwanted, or feel rejected, I believe that I am unsafe.  I am sent into flight mode, and I withdraw myself from the situation that is causing me stress.

My therapist has also told me that I have a shame blanket.  This means that almost every feeling I have has an element of shame linked to it.  I feel like I've done something wrong to cause the stress.  I've caused others to reject me.  I don't even think about it.  Whatever the feeling I'm having or feeling I perceive others have about me, I immediately feel:  it is my fault.

Just knowing I have a shame blanket gives me even more shame.  What is wrong with me?

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As I've been working towards healthier thinking, I can clearly see God working in my life.  This summer I decided to join a weekly, interdenominational Bible study called Community Bible Study.  The books of the Bible we are working through are not heavily read portions of Scripture.  We just got through studying Haggai and we are now working our way through Zachariah.  I would have never guessed that these books of the Bible would have had such an impact on my life, but they have.

Studying the prophetic visions in Zachariah was tough work mentally.  Trying to understand Bible prophecy is like sorting wet spaghetti, nothing feels firm or graspable.  In the midst of this study, I found something that felt as though it had been written directly for me.  Zachariah was describing one of the visions he had about their high priest Joshua.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.
— Zechariah 3:1-5 ESV

 

This vision has direct meaning to God's people at the time it was written. Joshua was a real person. He was actually the high priest of God's people who have left exile in Babylon and are back in Jerusalem working on rebuilding the temple.  

This vision also is a prophecy of the coming Messiah. It is a clear illustration of the atonement Jesus Christ would offer.

So when I say that these verses felt very personal to me, I am aware that they were written for His people then. But they also can be an encouragement for His people now.

The enemy loves my shame blanket. He loves that I feel guilt over every feeling that God created me to have. Feelings are not sin, but the enemy loves that I feel like every emotion gives me the shame and guilt that sinning would envoke.

Do you know who doesn't love my shame blanket?

Jesus.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2 ESV

Jesus endured the cross.

Jesus despises shame.

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As I sat with my Bible study book, unconfidently trying to understand the book of Zechariah. A book written by a priest and prophet around 520 B.C., I was stunned to read this passage and feel how palpable God's love for me was in these words.

This man was standing before the Angel of the LORD, who many believe is Jesus in a temporary form. To his right is Satan, acting as an accuser or a prosecutor. He has a strong case for accusation because Joshua is clothed in filthy, excrament-smelling garments.

Joshua doesn't have to defend himself. He couldn't if he wanted to. He has no defense. Instead God defends him and all of His people that Joshua represents as high priest. 

Not only does God defend Joshua. He commands that Joshua's filthy garments be removed, and he is clothed in a pure robe. He is given a clean turban for his head and clean garments.

Joshua wasn't told to go clean himself up or to wash his garments on his own.

Joshua didn't deserve to have his filthy garments replaced with pure clothing.

Here I am, a child of God who has been adopted into His family. I have been covered with the atonement of Jesus. My sins have been forgiven, and my God sees me clothed, not in the filthy garments I have created for myself, but in the righteousness of Christ.

But I wrap up in my shame blanket anyway.

I think I'm not loved.

I think I'm not worthy of love.

I think my feelings are wrong.

I think my feelings are bad.

I think I am bad.

All of this thinking is tearing me up and paralyzing me. Meanwhile, God wants to wrap my head in a clean turban. He wants me to think of myself the way He thinks of me.

He loves me. He sees me as worthy of love. He chose me. He sees me as good. He sees all the good things he created me to be and do.

How do you let go of a shame blanket?

God is going to have to do the work of prying my hands off of the security of being wrapped in bad thoughts about myself. Shame feels right because I am a sinner, and it doesn't take much to convince me that I am the problem.

Shame feels right and grace feels wrong.

Our flesh will never feel like grace is right because grace isn't fair.

Joshua didn't deserve clean new garments. Joshua deserved the accusations.

I don't deserve for God to take my shame blanket and cloth me in a robe of Christ's righteousness. I deserve the accusations, and my head is full of them.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
— Isaiah 61:10 ESV

Today I have the assurance that my Abba Father is being a good parent to me at reaching down to take something dangerous out of my clumsy, unknowing hands. He is pulling away the comfortable blanket of shame that I have grown accustomed to living wrapped up in. I am crying like a toddler who wants that thing in her hands and doesn't understand my parent is trying to protect me from hurt. Like any good parent, He is placing something safe and good in my hands and hoping I will forget about the dangerous thing that He has taken from me.

Lord, help me to not want my shame blanket. Help me to capture my negative, accusatory thoughts and replace them with the thoughts you have about me.

Help me to feel secure in this robe of righteousness that you have placed on me, even though I don't feel like I deserve it because I don't deserve it.

Jesus told us to pray, "Your kingdom come." And in God's kingdom, we are all clothed in white robes forever and ever.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
— Revelation 7:9-10 ESV

When His Kingdom does come, I will be able to physically see my white robe, and will never ever see or feel my shame blanket again. So I fervently pray that His Kingdom comes, now, here on Earth as it will be in Heaven.

Lord, uncover me from this shame blanket and guide me in relishing my robe of righteousness!

Thank you, Jesus!

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