Breakthrough: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

The other evening an opportunity presented itself for an uninterrupted discussion with one of my children.  What began with one objective in mind, which was to debrief a new movie they had gotten to go see with grandma who was in town, turned into a tearful conversation of their personal dealing with guilt and shame.  The Lord in his kindness gave much grace to navigate what was in many ways, a heart breaking exchange...

(Where does the time go? They have all grown so much since this picture was taken?!.)

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11 (emphasis mine)
For the sake of my child's privacy, I'll try to paint a portrait of their story by using simple strokes of generalities.  Not everyone needs to know all the details of their life.  It's their story to tell.  However, I hope in sharing a small piece of their story we all may be encouraged when it comes to dealing with guilt and shame.

Following a special treat out with family for "Taco Tuesday," I sat down to digest outside on our deck.  When the evening starts to settle in and the temperatures begin to cool, our backyard has become a place of rest and reflection.  Tony and I often sit out on our deck and listen to the amazing sounds of God's creation.  Sometimes we sit out there and enjoy the sights and sounds of our children playing together.  This particular evening all of our children less one dispersed throughout the house for various activities.  One child joined me out of the deck in order to prepare them briefly for an upcoming counseling appointment.

As we began to talk through what that appointment might look like, establishing goals and the like, I asked them if they had any memories from early childhood that may or may not be difficult.  This precious child of ours, who has been more inclined to bury things and compartmentalize first replied, "I forget that I'm adopted."  I replied somewhat with a smile, "I often forget that you're adopted, too.  I feel like you have always been my child."

As an aside, I'd met with this counselor previously and shared that one of our desires or goals for their upcoming counseling sessions was the possibility of creating a space for our child to process their adoption.  This one particular child of ours from day one seemed as if they wanted to forget and forever file away their early beginnings in their country of birth.  As illustrated in the comment above, they, though at face value a seemingly sweet statement, simply don't want to think about or talk about their first handful of years.  While, I do not want to force them to revisit potentially painful memories, I also do not want them to hide from them.  I proceeded to share with my child an abbreviated version of their own grandmother's past.  It went something like this...

"Your grandmother had some painful memories from her childhood that she filed away for many years.  You see, it is a natural coping mechanism we have deep within us that can lead us to hide from difficult things or avoid dealing with those memories.  However, one day when your grandmother was around my age, while facing multiple stresses like raising her four daughters, she started to have nightmares.  Those bad dreams included the flooding back of memories from her childhood that she'd repressed or locked away. It was a difficult time for her.  It was also a revealed time for her to get help in processing those memories. The reality is, we cannot run and hide from things.  We need to work through them in a safe space...."

To my surprise, our child opened up about having one difficult memory, not from their earliest years, but from about four years ago.  They recalled a time when they'd gotten into trouble for inappropriate behavior and poor decisions which led their siblings down along with them.  They shared that whenever they are being corrected for poor behavior, mistreating others, moments of disobedience, or whatever the case may be, their mind immediately goes back to that place of shame and guilt from everything they had ever done, but particularly that one moment years ago.


We talked through that occasion years ago and the circumstances surrounding it.  Part of that process entailed remembering correctly the events around it, identifying the things that were not true, and separating them out.  It will be impossible for you, the reader, to understand with such broad strokes, the significance of this moment.  There's not a lot I can do to change that.  I will just go on to say again, that the Lord granted much grace in that moment to navigate through the heartache.  He gave me peace and patience to press through with gentle questioning and processing together of everything surrounding that memory.  "I was not a Christian then, mom." As my child cried and continued confessing their humiliation, guilt, and shame from all those years ago, I could feel the Spirit's prompting, "What does the gospel say?"  

"It says I was a sinner and dead in that sin."

"That's right.  You were, I was, and we still are sinners.  We were spiritually dead in sin.  But, what does the gospel say to you now?"

"I have been made alive in Christ."

"Yes.  Shame and guilt no longer have dominion over you.  You have been forgiven.  You are set free from the bondage of sin and shame.  It is finished.  It is done.  You need to lay that burden down and let it go.  Will we continue to sin?  Yes.  Is that who we are?  No.  Our identity is in Christ and what he has done."

Confession.  Tears.  Reminders.  Grace.  Forgiveness.  Hugs.  Release.  Relief.  Breakthrough. Gratitude.

Please continue to pray for us.  May you also be encouraged today:

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you."

Romans 8:1-11


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