It's no secret that I dream - a lot.... Of course, there's no way of knowing how much I remember of my dreams, but each morning I could go on for at least five minutes in description of something - and, at least once a month, I really wonder if I couldn't write a pretty decent action/adventure or science fiction bestseller off of the creativity that comes from these dreams. Pretty wild.
It's not these creative dreams, however, that have inspired this post. It's the recurring dreams of shame. Most often it has something to do with not graduating from high school, not attending classes, not being prepared for a final (because I haven't attended the class all year), or more recently, not being able to pack up my belongings and make it to the ticket gate at some airport - much less have the ticket to go anywhere. Sometimes, the shame runs deeper - I discover I've left to go to work (subbing) and did nothing to take care of my children in my absence, sometimes it's the lie that I went "all the way" with my first fiance - and having to deal with the ramifications, or that I became pregnant before getting married, or, on rare occassion that I had to own up to my smoking habit. Now, please let me re-iterate, I'm not offering this as a list of condemnation, it is simply a list of the realities that I feel like I am actually living during my nighttime hours. In this "alternate reality" I have to accept the fact that I have indeed let myself down - and those that believed in me, and have to deal with the consequences and ramifications of this. The feelings I have in these latter part of these dreams are full of sadness, guilt, despair, and regret - and sometimes, hopelessness........
Then, I get to wake up. Sometimes, because I've had the dreams so often, I have to consciously work through the fact that I am indeed a high school graduate.... yes, really! That, no, I don't smoke (perhaps I'll have to devote an entire post as to why I can almost guarantee that will NEVER be a habit of mine) and all of the above other fears have not come true. It is the greatest relief - the burden of shame has been lifted.
Now, here's my point. A couple of years ago we were part of a Beth Moore Bible Study that had women from the audience volunteer to come forward to adorn themselves with certain "jackets" that had letters on the back of them. Each letter stood for some common shame that women of our day feel. I tried to find the exact study just now, but it's currently lost...., I'll list from memory - DIVORCE, ADDICTIONS, MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES (DEPRESSION, ETC.), PAST ABUSE, PHYSICAL IMAGE ISSUES, and the list goes on.... It was the most profound visual image - I wish I had it personally on DVD to share its imapct with others. Anyway, the discussion went on about how hurtful and damaging these "coats of shame" were - and what a burden they were to wear - everyone seeing, knowing, judging. But, then, Beth Moore described how Jesus wants to take on these coats of shame, and as part of her demonstration - she asked each woman to remove the coat/shame to symbollicly be free of it - handing the burden to Jesus. It was beautiful. It reminds me of the beauty of waking up from a bad dream, yes, the consequences remain, but if the burden is given to Jesus, freedom truly is ours to take.
Isn't that easier said than done, though? And, I can just hear the thoughts coming from those random readers out there - "Little does she know..." "Has she gone through this?" "What's her basis of experience that she can even address such an issue?". Well, you're right. I haven't gone through an awful lot - but, there are a few things that only a handful of people know about, and there are a whole lot of things that may not earn a "letter on a jacket" but God knows about and it is NOT pretty. Beth described what she called the "cylce of defeat" repeatedly found in His people of the Old Testament - Slavery, Deliverance, Testing (including successes and failures) and then Prevailing Unbelief - which led right back to slavery.......and so the cylce repeats until at some point that Prevailing Unbelief turns to Prevailing Belief - that God is there, the God of Second Chances, the God that wants His people to finally reach their Promised Land.
She had this 5 Statement Pledge of Faith that we were all required to recite each week.
GOD IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS
GOD CAN DO WHAT HE SAYS HE CAN DO
I AM WHO GOD SAYS I AM
I CAN DO ALL THINGS IN CHRIST
GOD'S WORD IS ACTIVE AND ALIVE IN ME
It's that statement I AM WHO GOD SAYS I AM that I think is hard for a lot of us to accept. If we have asked Jesus into our lives, we are indeed perfect to Him - we wear those coats no longer. I pray that no matter what shame you have felt in your life, that you are able to release it to Jesus - and to live, free.