Letting Go of Shame by Holding On to My Worth in Christ
I drove to the women’s retreat with reservation. I wondered if deciding to attend was the right thing for me. The overwhelm of juggling the needs of teens and a toddler and transitioning to a new church felt like too much to handle. This was the first retreat I was attending since joining this church. The transition was a season of loneliness, disconnection, and sorrow filled with heartbreak.
Change had always been a hard thing for me.
I felt invisible as I pushed forward through my daily routines. I tried to trust God, but I couldn’t change the feelings that had settled deep within my soul. I would later realize that these feelings went far deeper than the season I was in.
I was thankful that my younger sister agreed to join me. She offered a place of security in a space filled with women I kindly greeted on Sunday mornings. As we chatted, every now and then I scanned the room. I observed the interactions within different groups who looked like they shared a common story, comfort, and a sense of community. Fading into the background of the room was a familiar habit of mine. Observing the interactions of the people around me was a practice I had grown accustomed to from the time I was young.
Entrenched in my core beliefs was a feeling of being unseen.
It began in my childhood and became active in every way that I carried myself into physical spaces. The title of daughter did not align with any sense of comfort, security, or belonging. I was a child who dealt with the remnants of domestic violence in my home, the separation and divorce of my parents, and lots of struggles that followed as a result.
I was too young to have the words to name all the feelings. I felt like I had my first break up at age 8, years before I would ever experience an intimate partner relationship. An absent father in combination with other painful memories had left me with a void that was expressed without words, in every relationship and interaction I encountered.
I was married, had three daughters and an established career. I volunteered at my previous church to the point of burnout, seeking out opportunities to draw near to God. I worked as a mental health professional in a high school setting, helping teens and their families move forward through difficulties, but these things did not fill the space within me that felt unworthy.
The hard thing about emotional scars is that they can’t be seen.
Hidden even from myself, was a wounded girl that helped me resonate with the brokenness of so many students I had counseled throughout the years. When students felt broken, abandoned, misunderstood, and alone, I was able to offer support through a lens of compassion that was more personal than they ever knew. The teens who didn’t have a father active in their lives often tried to find words to express a sorrow that was buried deep within. Being able to counsel them through their emotional pain felt like my purpose.
The first day of the retreat began with ice breakers. I had opportunities to get to know other women a little bit more. We transitioned into corporate worship. I was replenished with hope after every lyric we sang together. There was something unexplainable about singing worship filled words with others. I was drawn into a warmth of God’s presence that washed over me. These were the moments of safety and belonging that I longed for.
The speaker shared a message that broke down the way shame impacted us as women and how it over shadowed the way we viewed our worth as a result. I took notes, as every word she spoke offered a spiritual perspective that I needed to hear. She talked about how shame stood as a barrier between us and God. Shame told us we were worthless and no good. It labeled us based on what we had done or what had been done to us and prevented us from experiencing intimacy with God.
Hope lied in the fact that shame only had the power it was given.
I learned that I had been living in the shadow of shame for most of my life. A sense of feeling small, worthless, powerless, and unseen was woven into anything that I did towards myself, while I gave everything I could for the needs of others.
The speaker described worth as something that had nothing to do with our gifting and everything to do with the price God paid for us. This was something that I needed to hear.
I needed to let go of shame and hold onto a worth that was God given.
On the second morning, a woman felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to share a journal entry from her prayer time the night before. She was sure that the message she had to share was for someone present in the room. She shared words that felt so personal to me that I sat in awe and wonder that someone else in the room could be feeling what I felt. I was convinced the message was for someone else despite what I had learned the night before.
When the morning session ended, we gathered in our small groups to walk to lunch. The woman who shared her journal entry approached me as I stood at the back of the room. “Excuse me,” she said, while looking straight at me. “What’s your name?” I was confused about why she would be approaching me as I told her my name. She made direct eye contact and spoke through a confident smile.
“You see yourself as being invisible, but you are not. Jesus Christ sees you. He sees value in you, and He delights in you. You need to spend more time with Him.”
Her response left me speechless. As we parted ways for lunch, I took a moment to write down what she said to me. I wanted to remember every word she said. After she walked away, my sister approached me with a shocked look on her face, asking if I knew the woman. I did not know her before that day.
Receiving an unexpected word that was so personal to the weight I had carried for so long gave me a strength that I had not realized I needed.
A weight lifted from the worry of the season I was in. I felt a renewed fulfillment in God’s presence. I could no longer deny that God saw me. He knew me. In fact, He sent a messenger who I did not know to seek me out of a group of about 80 women to tell me so.
The challenges I faced in that season did not change that day but my posture towards everything was different. That day became a defining moment in accepting my identity as someone who is seen, valued, and deeply loved. It was the beginning of a new journey as I learned to embrace the title of daughter to a God who is a present Father, looking for an intimate relationship with me. It was so personal, yet it is the embodiment of the relationship that He wants to have with all of us.
Aida Maravillas helps overwhelmed moms balance their own self-care with the demands of motherhood. She has helped moms and teens in the school setting navigate social emotional challenges for 20 years. This has given her a lens of motherhood through the intersections of faith, parenting, and faith. Her simple Self -Care Planner will help you rethink your approach to self-care and develop a practical approach to it. The planner can be found on her website. You can connect with Aida at aidamaravillas.com and on Instagram @aidamaravillas
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