Incoherencies on Being Young and Shame

I had a really great time a few nights ago, out with some co-workers and friends to celebrate a redeemed marriage. I’ve been trying to figure out who my friends are, especially because every single book I read on being healthy while working in ministry warns against not having good friends. When I was with this group of women, I felt like I could actually be myself.

Yet, as soon as I got home, this overwhelming feeling hit me with a wave of total fear and anxiety.

You know the feeling when you wake up and everything feels fine until the memory of laying yourself open washes over you and you want to hide under the covers? What did I do?
— Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

She calls this the “vulnerability hangover.” Quite honestly, along with the social paranoia that I battle regularly, the constant aftermath of replaying every single detail in my mind can be just exhausting. Because of those things, I don’t tend to keep reaching out, to keep putting myself out there.

I’ve thought about this a lot today, partially because it’s also my birthday. The question comes up a lot as I serve in my church about how old I am, or rephrased, how young I am. For the opposite reason that most people don’t share their age, I’ve felt like I’ve needed to cover the fact that I am quite young, and younger than what most people would think. Once that yearly-changing fact is disclosed, I fear I am written off by many who are older than me, which is most everyone that I serve.

These emotions that hit me regularly are all full of dirty, filthy shame.

The definition of shame even expounds upon the fact that it can be caused by so many different things, in that “shame is a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.”

There is shame that should be there, when we fall like Adam and Eve, missing the blatant mark and deserting God with our words and actions. We hope that when we feel shame when we have done the same, that shame would lead us to see Christ and the ways that He both bore our shame and made a way out of shame. He provides the perfect covering for the shame with the gift of His blood and resurrection. However, there is shame that I believe is from the enemy.

My husband has a tradition of consistently reading the Psalm that is the same number as his age for that entire year of life. This morning I remembered that my Psalm switched with my new year of life. The first three verses became such a gift to my soul, an answer to my prayers.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
— Psalm 25:1-3

My shame lately has been in this tension of not having control; not being able to manipulate what my future should be post-graduation in December, not being able to be the exact savior to everyone I serve in the place where I work, and even not being able to force God’s hand at making me into this different version of myself that I would rather be. A lot of my shame is misplaced and unnecessary, but it comes out of a lack of trust in God. When I distrust God, I follow along with Eve in listening to the serpent saying: “Did God really say?”

O my God, in You I trust.

Some of my shame is also discontentment in the manna, the daily bread, that He has given. Do I trust that He does nothing without a purpose, without a plan? Do I trust that He withholds nothing good, or do I keep lusting after the fruits that I can grasp?

Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame.

So here is to year twenty-five. No shame in that. With open hands, I pray that the shame that I feel can turn from unholy obsession with myself into a holy rest in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To trust Him is enough.