I replayed the conversation in my head, over and over again, wishing I could go back to change my words and attitude. My stomach twists and twirls like a tornado is whipping around inside, my head cycling the lies I’m tempted to believe about my whole self: I am ignorant, I am arrogant, I am prideful, I don’t know what I’m talking about, I am a burden, I am not of value…in fact I hurt others so much I shouldn’t even have a voice.
Somehow I’m shoved straight back into multiple conversations that happened on the weekly years ago. We were on staff at a church at the time—my husband the Youth Pastor, me the Outreach-Hospitality-Youth Ministry-Office Assistant—and our pastor frequently reminded me of my pride. His words pierced into me in ways that altered me forever, compounding the lies I already struggled with.
Prideful. Arrogant. A burden. Worthless. Entitled.
These are the identities I’ve battled for years, walked through entire days-turned-weeks covered in shame. At times they’ve won, silencing me into depression and doubt, crippling my daily life and productivity. At other times I find strength to speak Truth over myself, to combat the swords of words turned into identity.
Recently it’s been a fight with the former, using every ounce of excess energy to not fall into the drought of doubt and depression. Discouragement is defeating when it nags at you all day every day.
It’s exhausting, warding off the lies and false identities that like to attach themselves to our souls and selves.
It’s easy to be bogged down with the inner voice demanding: who do you even think you are? You deserve desolation and depression.
Once in a while I wonder if I’m the only one. The only one wondering about myself, believing the absolute worst, listening to the lies threatening to defeat me.
But I’d bet you struggle with doubt and false identities shoving their way into your head and heart.
I’d bargain shame tempts to creep in and cover you, becoming all-consuming, debilitating your every move because you cannot shove the lies from your mind.
I don’t know about you, but once in a very rare while I’ll catch myself protecting my heart by hardening it, writing off other people or putting the blame somewhere else, using every effort to avoid feeling the shame or lie pushing itself in.
But usually I find myself sitting so deep in shame, I am buried beneath it. False identity and lies heap shame on me, forcing me to own the shame instead of the Truth.
In the deepest parts of me I want so badly to share with others the grace that Jesus continues to drench me in. And grace is for the messy, right? His grace is scandalous and unending. If it wasn’t, none of us would need it.
I continue to uncover that I have no way of sharing something I don’t actually have. I cannot release and hand someone something I am not holding onto for myself.
If my greatest goal in life is to chase grace and drag people along with me, then I must intentionally sit in it for myself. Embracing grace for myself is where it all must start, but doing so is stupidly difficult at times.
In order to actually grab ahold of the grace being handed me, I have to actually acknowledge my actual need for it. This only happens when I have the courage to be gut-wrenchingly honest about my mistakes, missteps, faults, and false identities.
I have seven questions I walk myself through when I find myself bogged down with shame and false identities. I’m not a fan of formulas and strategies, but this is something I have done time and time again and it has yet to fail me.
Chasing Grace In An Ungracious World was created initially for myself, printed out and hung in my office, where I often journal and find myself face down crying into carpet fibers of the mess of brokenness I often find myself in. I turned it into an official document for anyone who wants it, walking through the very questions I answer with utmost honesty, as I wade through the trenches of shame.
Honesty is often scary, entirely vulnerable, and sometimes feels ugly. But it is the avenue to wholeness, to healing, to grace.
Let’s shed your shame and walk in grace.
We have to process our brokenness so we can be whole, grab ahold of grace, and share it with every person we encounter.
Offering ourselves space to process our shame and our pain helps us become better parents, better spouses, better friends, better employees, better employers.
When we know where our shame stems from, we can fight the walls we are tempted to build. We can push back against hardening our hearts, and in doing so, we can love others far better.
When we aren’t all about protecting ourselves, we are able to see the world more clearly. When we see the world more clearly, we are able to have true compassion and empathy.
I believe there are oceans of grace waiting for each of us, ready to swallow us whole so the shame doesn’t have a chance to.
So much love to you, dear friend. I hope to see you around.
Natalie Brenner is a wife, mom to virtual twins, and photographer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Like you, Natalie is a fierce believer in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She’s addicted to honesty. You can love Jesus or not, go to church or not: she’d love to have coffee with you. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a lover of fall. Connect with her at NatalieBrennerWrites.com and join her grace-filled email community.
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