07 Feb My First Breath of Freedom
I spent decades hiding, hoping, praying that the people closest to me would never find out what a terrible sinner I was. I grew up in a Christian home and came to know the Lord at an early age. I lived the life of a believer as I had been taught through most of my teen years. It was in college that the wheels came off. I found myself struggling to maintain my father’s list of “good girls don’t do these things.” I did all of them—and more.
The church I grew up in did not teach me that no matter how far away from God I found myself He would still love me and never give up on me. The guilt I felt over my actions and the shame I was covered with kept me from turning to the Lord and to anyone else. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone the things I had done. The church I attended in my 20’s and 30’s was no different. Each week I put on my best dress along with my fake “I’m fine” smile just to cover up that I was slowly dying inside.
“The guilt I felt over my actions and the shame I was covered with kept me from turning to the Lord and to anyone else. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone the things I had done.”
Fast forward to my mid 40’s. I had been at Grace Church for 5+ years learning about living life in community. I was starting to see those truths take hold in my life and in the life of my family. I had a dear friend I went to lunch with often. We spent hours talking about our families, our spiritual lives, and the Lord. One day we were sitting in Atlanta Bread on Pelham Road. I have no idea why, but on that particular day, I started talking and blurted out to her every horrible sin that I had locked away, buried in my past. I had no idea what her reaction would be. I had no idea what my reaction would be!
To say that I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom would be an understatement. It felt like I had taken my first real breath in years. In that instant, I felt like I was living John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The truth is I was a sinner then, and I am a sinner today; we all are. We all have our particular bent towards certain sins. We make ourselves feel better by creating levels of sin so we can say that we aren’t as bad as someone else. But to God, there are no levels—just sin. All sin is the same, and Jesus died on the cross to free us from the bondage of it.
“To say that I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom would be an understatement. It felt like I had taken my first real breath in years.”
I had already been set free from the bondage of sin by the free gift of salvation and grace, but I wasn’t living like it. I was still letting the shame of past sins and what people would think of me rule my life. I was set free from hiding that day. I no longer cared what people thought. Jesus’ opinion was all that mattered. If I felt this good after telling just one person, imagine how good I would feel if the whole world knew. I wanted to run up and down the street shouting out my past transgressions.
I didn’t do that, but I did choose several more friends to share my past with, and not one of them shunned me because of it. It would have been ok with me if they did. I knew that God was pleased, and that was all that mattered.
Since that day, I have a new mode of operation. Instead of hiding and covering up, I try to be authentic and transparent in my relationships. It is within the humility of admitting that I am a sinner and owning up to it that my empathy for others and their struggles continue to grow. I can be to someone else what my friend was to me, accepting and understanding.
“It is within the humility of admitting that I am a sinner and owning up to it that my empathy for others and their struggles continue to grow.”
Heavenly Father, I praise your name for setting me free! Your Word tells me in Psalm 34:5 that those who look to You for help will be radiant with joy, and no shadow of shame will darken their faces. What an amazing truth that is. I’m so grateful that You loved me then and You love me now. In Jesus’ name.
Beverly Kinard has been married to her college sweetheart for 30 years and is making the most of her empty nest. When she is not in the kitchen trying a new recipe, you can find her traveling, watching college football, or shopping for shoes. One of her greatest desire is to finish well the race the Lord has laid out before her!
We all experience shame, but it’s not something we talk about. Friday, March 9-Saturday, March 10, all women are invited to join us for a Shame conference. This conference is an opportunity to identify the experiences, thoughts, and feelings that cause us shame, to learn what shame is, how it affects us in everyday life, and how to live in the freedom and comfort Christ holds out to us. Click below to register.
March 9-10 | Pelham Worship Center