I have a real fear of caves, you guys...

... Call it a slight (ok very overt) claustrophobia, but there is nothing in me that ever wants to go deep into the recesses of a mountain just to see with “might be in there.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN. Like what “might” down there that is worth seeing that compares to the rest of the whole earth? Animals?! Bats?! “Cool” rock formations?! In the dark with an entire mountain resting on this deep hole in the ground?! That’s a hard pass. No. way. In my mind, spelunking looks like that scene in FernGully where the girl and the guy dance around and the glowworm poo lights up the caves (ew) and it’s really pretty and romantic, even though she’s a fairy girl and he is a construction worker who got shrunk to be the size of a bug. But ideally, that would be pretty neat. But reality tells me that nothing in me wants to go into any dark caves.

Recently one of my high school leaders stepped out of her role in our high school ministry in order to follow her calling to work with human trafficking victims in Los Angeles with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). I have a tradition of giving my leaders some form of lamps/lights when they step out of our ministry, and the kind of light says something about who they are, is a reminder to pray for the students they have walked with, and to remember how God is still calling them to be light in the darkness. For this leader, Summer, I got a headlamp. I had this image in my head of what she was going to be doing with human trafficking, metaphorically, and it was that she was going into the deepest, darkest places, and pulling people out to restore them to their true identity. “That you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 peter 2.9

I’ve come to realize that’s a lot of what we get to do as Jesus-followers. People are walking in some deep, dark places, and we get to say, “tell me,” and watch them experience freedom from shame when they share what is really going on. Even we get to bring our darkest places to each other and experience the freedom that happens when we bring our darkness into the light… but what holds us there is shame.

Shame. It’s the worst. There are far too many people walking in shame and I’m heartbroken over it. Brené Brown says, "Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough."

 The enemy uses shame to lie to us about who we are. Shame says:

1.     You’re fine… It’s not that big of a deal, just don’t tell anyone. No one needs to know because what you’re hiding is no big deal. Everyone struggles with something; it’s not as bad as their stuff (comparison to justify self). Just keep moving on, it will go away eventually.

2.     Hiding is safer… For you to let someone else know what is going on here will only bring more shame. If you let someone know what you actually think about, they will reject you and desert you. You’ll be safer if you hide and don’t let anyone in.

3.     You will never have victory in this area… Since it’s not a big deal, just keep doing it. You’re not going to succeed in not doing this, so just give up. You will always struggle with it so just give up now.

4.     You will be rejected… If they really knew you, no one would want to hang out with you. If they knew how much drama you are//how much you cry//what you struggle with late at night//etc., no one would want to be your friend.

5.     You are alone in this struggle… It’s just you who struggles like this. No one else, just you. You are disgusting for thinking these thoughts, and you will always be alone in this.

Let me set the record straight, sister, brother…

1.     You’re not fine. That’s the reality. If there is a place in your mind/heart that you don’t want people to know about, that is shame.

2.     Hiding will only make things worse. You’ll create avoidance patterns to hide your hiding, and it will only spiral downward. If you have noticed yourself pulling away from people out of fear that they will "find you out," then you're in hiding. Hiding is usually self-preservation-centered, but it will not do what you hope it will do: protect. Deep festering wounds do not get better on their own; they have to be opened up and dealt with.

3.     There is victory in Jesus, He has broken every chain. You have to come into agreement with His victory, and then bring that struggle out into the light in community before real progress can be made.

4.     God already knows all your crap, and He has fully welcomed you in. Christians, we have to be a safe place to bring our darkest darkness so that it can be brought into the light. I will never reject someone who has let me know their crap… I let them know that it’s time to walk away from it, and that it’s time to make some new choices, but there is never judgment, only hope and Truth.

5.     You’re NOT alone. It’s funny—I have these three high school girls who started to share their deepest darkness with each other, one-by-one, and they all realized they had the same thoughts that they were hiding from each other. Their vulnerability has set them on fire for Jesus and propelled them into freedom. Not only that, but they are bringing other girls into the conversation, letting the other girls have a safe place to bring their stuff, and those girls are getting freed up because suddenly the places of shame have light shining on them and the enemy is losing the foothold completely.

Brené also says, "A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick."

Call me. Call someone. Talk to your pastor. Please, take your darkest places and "bring them into the light" (aka tell somebody!) for healing and restoration to begin. Shame is ugly, and this is not becoming of you.

While I’m terrified of being in the pitch black caves in a mountain, I’m not even scared at all at your deepest shame because I know the authority Jesus has to break it off, the joy that happens when you are finally fully known and fully loved, and the healing that comes when you let Him have it.

love you.