It has been a considerable amount of time since someone has asked me to explain the scars on my wrists, apart from small children. It has been since I made them that I have avoided the question with shifty eyes and shame.
Every time I notice eyes beginning to wander to my wrist, with an inquiry just beyond the fear of sounding rude, I find a way to hide them. I wear long sleeves, sit on my hands, wear bracelets to cover the ones that wrap too far around. I change the subject to something light and airy, and very rarely let the conversation ever linger on just what would have driven me to do such a thing.
Any moment that I think someone is going to ask the personal question, How did you get those? I am immediately overwhelmed with one feeling. Shame. I’m ashamed that I made them. Ashamed that people can still see them. Ashamed that I would do something so permanent to my body. I am ashamed that it makes other people question whether or not I’m just balancing on the edge of sanity and insanity. I’m ashamed that I can’t find the courage to speak boldly about it.
You know what shame has stolen from me? Shame has stolen my opportunity to take my history and make it His Story of redemption through ME. I have let shame steal countless opportunities to tell of the transformative work of my Savior. Every single time I had avoided the questions of my scars, I have passed over a chance to demonstrate that I was once so consumed with darkness that I had no idea that there could be light. Every single time.
What about you? Is there something in your life that you still try to cover up so people don’t examine it too closely? Are you still consumed with shame, regret, or fear? Stop it! Stop allowing the enemy to rob you of joy and freedom that you could have if you’d drag your hidden arm fully into the light. If I would drag my scarred arm into the light, fully, I wouldn’t be consumed with shame.
Light and darkness have no fellowship. In a room that is dark, the moment a hint of light is shining in, there is now only light and shadow. In a room with only a candle to illuminate it, once the darkness comes to extinguish the flame, there is only darkness left. If I were to let my shame be dragged out into the light, then only truth and light could remain.
It has been comfortable and easy to hide behind this victim mentality. I let myself believe that I went through so much tragedy when I was younger that I’ve some right to be pitied for every choice I made in response. But, the truth is? I made terrible choices. My struggle with self-mutilation was a battle that was uphill every step of the way. It consumed me. It was an addiction that tore my very existence in opposite directions.
I was empty so I used self-mutilation as a means to find fulfillment. I would feed some sick, sadistic need for a moment. And when the high was gone, I would crash harder. The harder I would crash, the more I would find myself wanting to do it. The more I did it, the more ashamed I was of it. The more shame I felt, the more I needed to hurt myself in order for it to go away. And when it was only a temporary release, I would find myself running to go do it again.
It was a cycle that took many years to let go of as an option. I had built my response to pain, chaos, and change on this solitary act. It was my means of coping. And I had to retrain my brain to cope with stressors differently. And it wasn’t an effort that I could have survived on my own. It was a task that required complete dependence on Christ to carry me through.
My struggle with self-mutilation was a bondage that Jesus Christ had to break. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain. And I, Ashley, don’t have that power. I couldn’t do it on my own. And I can’t fight against the temptations that come my way on my own.
But I have the same power that conquered the grave dwelling within me. If you are in Christ–Christ is in you. If Christ is in you, then you possess this power too. We are more than conquerors. We have crossed to the winning side. I’ve read the end of the book, and Jesus’ team wins. Please don’t read this as some hokey summation of the Gospel story.
I want you to hear me, loud and clear. If you are letting shame prevent you from sharing God’s restorative power in your life, then you need to examine your heart. If you are too ashamed to share what He’s doing? Maybe you aren’t allowing Him to do anything in you. Maybe you need to go a bit deeper with Him, and let Him clean out your spiritual heart house. You have to let Him swoop in with His wrecking ball of Love and break down the strongholds that bind you.
If your shame is so much that you can’t let people see that He can heal, then maybe you’ve not let Him heal you. You don’t have to be ashamed. Jesus has washed our filthy rags. He washed us in His blood.
Realize that, perhaps, the shame that you carry isn’t really your shame any longer. What you allow to manifest as shame in your life is really a weapon of the Enemy. He only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. There’s nothing positive in his arsenal. Shame isn’t for those who are in Christ. There’s only freedom.