Imprisoned by Shame

Imprisoned by Shame

September 9, 2013

“But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3 (NIV)

They were only boots. On their own, boots are good. They are functional, sturdy, insulated. But that day they were an embarrassment, the last resort of a 7th-grade girl whose only pair of shoes was soaked. I couldn’t walk through the foot-high snow to the bus stop without the boots.

Maneuvering my dad’s huge size 11 boots with my size six feet was a clumsy effort. Slide, slide, lift. Slide, slide, lift. My cheeks burned as I climbed the school bus steps, desperately hoping no one would notice. When the bus dropped us off in front of the junior high, I slide-slide-rushed inside and immediately pulled off the boots. In my stocking feet, I raced through the dirty snow accumulating on the hallway floors, eager to stow the humiliating footwear in my locker.

All day long friends and teachers glanced at my wet socks and asked why I was walking around without shoes in the dead of winter. “My shoes are soaked,” I told them, which was true. I didn’t mention that they were at home, or that I’d worn the humiliating oversized boots that belonged to my dad.

My heart was imprisoned in shame that day at the age of 12. And the shame only multiplied with constant hunger pangs, my parent’s ongoing violent fights, and being left in charge of my four siblings more often than was wise.

As I stepped into young adulthood, shame followed closely. I tried to push it away with other things and tragically sought love and attention from men, believing their affections could somehow make up the deficit of dignity I felt.

On my own at 17, I was determined to earn my way, determined never to borrow from my neighbors, and determined to have a full pantry. I worked hard and bought lots of nice shoes to line my closet and heart. And I obsessively filled my cupboards with every food I had been denied much of my life.

No matter what I did, shame clung to my heart and tainted my perception. I believed others saw me as less-than because deep down, that’s how I felt about myself. I struggled to overcome the embarrassment from my childhood, but it refused to let me go. Though I was no longer in my shameful past, my shameful past was still in me.

And then I met Jesus, and He gently began working in my heart. Slowly, through praying for myself, He began a transforming work in me.

It wasn’t an easy or instant process. When I was afraid to believe He could make me whole, He said, “Anyone who believes in [me] will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:11 NIV). When the wardrobe of my heart felt stained and embarrassed, He said, “[You are] clothed with dignity” (Proverbs 31:25 NIV). When I felt condemned by my past sinful choices, He said, “Then neither do I condemn you … Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11 NIV).

As my relationship with Jesus grew, it struck me that He treated me with the dignity and honor my soul longed for. As I continued to pray for myself, His exquisite love covered my shameful past and made me feel beautiful. Cherished. Unashamed. Free.

The mortified young girl who wore her dad’s boots to school now walks unfettered with the One her soul loves. As I continue to pray for myself, He continues His transforming work. And now, instead of defining myself by shame and embarrassment, I cling to the truth that Jesus treasures, esteems, and beautifully clothes me.

Dear Lord, You know the shame and embarrassment of my past, both from what happened to me and through my own choices. Please bring the healing and transformation that only You can. Thank You that in Christ I am cherished, unashamed and free. In the Name of Jesus, amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

You are invited to begin the holy habit of praying for yourself! Join Julie Gillies’ online study of her book, Prayers for a Woman’s Soul, starting September 9th. It’s an opportunity to pray for and about topics relevant to you! For details and free resources, visit Julie’s blog.

Connect with Julie Gillies on her Facebook page, Prayers for a Woman’s Soul.

Reflect and Respond:
Is your heart imprisoned by shame, guilt, or fear? Pray, forgive your offender, and ask God to bring healing and freedom to you both.

Power Verse:
Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

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  1. Your words bring tears to my eyes. And such comfort too! Thank you for sharing this. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m the only one who’s ever felt this sort of shame, but it’s freeing to know I’m not the only one who’s been there.

    • It IS freeing, Elaina, to know that we aren’t the only ones, but even more so that Jesus can bring the deep healing we need. Praying you feel His touch today in a very real way.

    • You are not alone Elaina. I thank you and Julie today because both of you have shown me that I, too, am not alone.

  2. Thank you for this devotional. It truly hit close to home for me. Praising God He brought me from the shame to glory!!

  3. This story and the two comments have touched my heart and soul deeply. I know there will be others who have went through times such as this and have hurts in others ways, we all have, and yet it still hurts. Can I just wrap my arms around you all and also have you hug me back? No, I have not went through times as this, just some sorrows in life that HURT! I want to say I am so sorry for the pain you have gone through and I care deeply. I loved this article and the way it was completed at the last. YES to it all. God is our refuge and strength and He IS the GREAT I AM. He is there and always will be with you, and with ways such as this to talk about hurts, joys and sorrow, we can comfort each other! Praise HIS Wonderful name, JESUS! The healer of All hurts. God bless you each one sweet ladies. Let us continue to lift each other up in Prayer and Care! I love you!

  4. Thank you.

  5. I am at this very moment going through a process of healing tho very painful, I am comforted by your words. Thank you for reminding me that Jesus’s love is much greater and more powerful than any shameful experience I’ve been through in my life. This means so much to me Thank you again for this.

    • Danisha, can I pray for you?
      Father, Though the healing process can be healing, please strengthen and comfort Danisha as only You can. Bring joy and grace as she walks through her healing, and glorify Yourself in and through Danisha. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.

  6. Wonderful post. Very raw and honest and a wonderful testimony for others.

  7. Beautiful. Thank you. 🙂

  8. This is a powerful post. I am so sorry you had to go through life with shame and also hunger (not just for physical food) but for the love of parents and the provision of parents. I too battle with shame. I’ve been healed from my abusive past (incest, beatings, attempts on my life). I’ve forgiven my abusers. Recently God told me I needed to forgive myself. Those who are abused tend to blame themselves for their abuse – it makes the pain more manageable. I had to forgive myself. But there are areas where shame still lingers – and some early words spoken over me that still need healing. The one that is the strongest is when my father first started abusing me sexually he told me I was so stupid, dumb, and ugly no one would ever want to marry me so he was going to teach me to put out. Well I lived those words out to my shame (putting out). I’m happily married 26 years but still at times carry the labels of stupid, dumb, and ugly. I know it is not true – yet the words linger. Fortunately God is in the healing business and He brings things to mind when we are ready to face them. He’s bringing these new things to my mind. Thanks for a great post.

    • Heather,
      I’m so sorry for all you endured, and along with you am so grateful that Jesus is stronger than our shame, our past, the abuse we endured. May the Lord continue to remove every trace of residue that attempts to cling to us, and may He bring complete and permanent heart healing to us ALL.
      Blessings to you, Heather!

  9. Thank you. I grew up with lots of shame. From my decisions and from my abusers. It is hard to move past and continue to grew with Christ. My main abuser was my stepfather, who was a preacher. I believed for many years that God allowed the hurt and pain he caused and that I would never be saved. After years of poor choices, justification for my actions, I realized I couldn’t do this alone. My abuser died and I felt that I could follow God. For when he was alive, I didn’t want him to get the glory (or that was my justification) Three years into this new journey with Christ, I am learning to love myself. Sometimes it’s very hard, sometimes I play myself a victim and go back into my shell but God is placing so many people in my life to help me with the truth. Your message today was inspiring and motivational. Through Christ all things are possible and I know that He has plans for me, even at my age. Thank you!

    • Amy,
      My heart goes out to you, and I pray that You will sense the Lord’s very real touch. May I pray for you?
      Father, bring deep, complete, and permanent healing to Amy as only You can. Go to the deep places where lies were spoken and whisper Your words of love and truth and bring freedom and release. Draw Amy gently to you and enable her to understand how great Your love is for her. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.

  10. Julie, this was powerful to me because it crossed that line to the very deep recesses of my heart. You used the words “prayed for myself” a few times throughout this devotional and it was a jolt to my spiritual system. We often pray so much for others and neglect to ask God to continue the gracious transforming work within ourselves. I needed to read this. I needed to be reminded that there are many who have shameful aspects of their past – but that it does not define who we are. It is not the way our God sees us. Thank you!

  11. I had a step father who criticized me about everything. Now it is so difficult to think that I am “good enough”. I read these devotions every morning and they help me to know that others have overcome the same feeling with God’s word. I am in my sixties and still fighting this battle. I guess these things that occur in childhood just are imprinted on us. I appreciate your devotion as it reminds me of the way I felt all through school. Thank you.

  12. Julie, thank you so much for sharing! I could see you slogging through the snow and feel the heat of your shame in my mind. I have lived such times as this as well–and know that only the love of Jesus can redeem them! So praise God for the testimony He has given you–and praise God even more that He has lifted you and I from that miry clay as new creations in His very image!

  13. Cynthia Swenson says:

    Wow! Powerful testimonies here! I’m in my 50s & God is taking me back to many past memories as my daughter struggles through the same type of “mental illness” that my mother went through. (Yes, I know that shame well!) Just the past few days, I believe God has “told” me not to ask why but rather to ask how HE WILL GLORIFY HIMSELF even through our sufferings (past, present,& future). Somehow, I am able to just simply TRUST in His goodness with all my heart. It is ENOUGH. There is pure JOY in Him. I love you Ladies! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

  14. Julie,
    This is something I could’ve written as well. It’s amazing how our “shameful” past can still be so close to the surface as an adult. As children, we can’t control our environment, but it’s so hard to realize that & understand it. I became a christian as an adolescent, but really didn’t understand & truely follow Christ til well into adulthood. Like you, I had a lot of things to deal with that He is still showing me & growing me today. Thanks for helping us all to see that we’re not alone.
    Shine on-

  15. I am in my 60s and although I have been a Christian for many years still suffer from happenings in my childhood. Shame, fear and embarrassment were constant companions. They still affect my relationships somewhat whenever I feel insecure. Like others who posted I neglect to pray for my issues specifically. Thanks for the reminder. I know God loves me but I think this keeps me from feeling His unconditional love. I pray that each one of us will experience God’s healing power today. Thanks for a great devotional.

    • May I pray for you, Ramie?
      I lift Ramie to you and ask you to touch her heart in a very real way. Bring deep healing and enable her to experience Your unfailing love for herself. Replace shame, fear, and embarrassment with honor, courage, and confidence in Christ. Jesus move as only You can, and glorify yourself in and through Ramie, Amen.

  16. Thank you. I didn’t realize I was so caught up in the past shame until you brought it to light! Wow! I always forget to pray for myself! The first thing Imshould do,after a good morning to my Creator. To immerse myself in prayer for myself has not been a high priority – not feeling worthy and all! But as a daughter of the King, I am righteous in His love!,

  17. Thank you for posting this! I needed to read this!

  18. Ladies, I rush to Proverbs 31 each morning with such delight. I wish we could all be sitting in a huge circle and give a great big hug. I grew up in “Beaver Cleaver Land.” Mom changed nightly from her housecoat to something nice for dinner. She was there every lunchtime with my cream cheese and jelly sandwiches. Dad came home for dinner nightly at the same time and we all ate together. I said Grace. “God bless our daily food, Amen”. That was the extent of our spirituality in our home. There was peace and security. The only time I was spanked that I remember was when I bleached my hair with hydrogen peroxide in college. It was “sort of” a joke but I felt the sting. He was disappointed . Your stories gripped my heart and I want you all to know I love every tear you have shed. They have made you the awesome understanding women you are today. I pray you are using this shame in understanding other women, perhaps in seeing it in children in your child’ school or in a women’s abuse centers. Blessings and hugs to each of you. I love you and Jesus does, too.

  19. janet white says:

    What a blessing to read your story. I was deeply moved. Keep writing!

  20. Consi Bailey says:

    Your post touched my heart this morning. My childhood was blessed and I have often realized how much that has colored my thinking and my life. I am very thankful for the wonderful childhood memories and I am sending prayers to all who have experienced shame and suffering. Thank you for your testimony.

  21. This really broke me this morning. I grew up much like this, and it grew into a full-blown addiction. Praise the Lord, in his goodness and mercy, that I found Jesus’ love for me. His absolute adoration for us is the only ‘cleaner’ that can wash away the stains left by shame.

  22. Your stories are amazing…where would we all be without the LORD??? We are knit together, abuse, dysfunction, and all!

  23. Thank you for writing the truth of my life through the sharing of yours, bringing light to a place that I hadn’t yet accepted was still in the dark. Praise God.

  24. So much of what you shared today resonated with me…deep down. The things I have rarely shared with anyone. Thank you…

  25. Meggie Burke says:

    This devotion hit home to me more than any other devotion I have read these last few years. Thank you for sharing your heart and the truth of The Lord who turns our shame into a vessel of honor for His glory.

  26. “Unfettered” speaks loud and clear of how we sit in God’s sight. We are free to live without condemnation. I too have a story, as many ladies here have, but I am so thankful for all the He has done and is doing to show me His grace and loving mercy. Thank you Julie, you are loved indeed!

  27. “Dear Lord, You know the shame and embarrassment of my past, both from what happened to me and through my own choices. Please bring the healing and transformation that only You can. Thank You that in Christ I am cherished, unashamed and free. In the Name of Jesus, amen.”

    I am taking this prayer as my own today! I am letting go of the shame, embarrassment and the FEAR that has had a hold on me for too many years because of the things of my past. I take the Promises He gives in His word in 2Timothy 1:7. I need this in my life and He knows all of my needs.

    I was led to your site and the online Bible/Book study you are doing this morning. I have been struggling so much the last few weeks with old thoughts and old behaviors of being critical, and perfectionism. I also struggle with physical limitation that I have been letting control my mind as well as my body. I am grateful for the friend who suggested this study to me this morning. It was the first thing I opened on my computer, and rather than skim through it and go on to the next thing, I followed it all the way through to doing the reading for the week and praying and sharing it with others so they can do the same. I know there are many women who have prayed for me recently and I am delighted that their prayers led me here! Thank you so much for this opportunity to pray for myself and to be healed of old hurts.

    • Oh Debbie, I’m so glad God led you this morning through your friend. My prayer for you and for ALL the women who read this and also for those who participate in the online study is for deeper healing and freedom, and that God will be glorified in and through each precious woman.

      Blessings to you!

  28. Thanks for your words of sharing, comfort and encouragement,Julie. Just yesterday I wrote in my journal: Sometimes we may feel that we’re not important, that we don’t matter or that we don’t make a difference. But what matters most is that we matter to God. He loves us and delights in us. Isaiah 43: 4 says The Lord says, “You are precious and honored in My sight….” We have the seal of approval from the Almighty God. How awesome is that!!!

    • By the way Julie, I wanted to also compliment you on your hair. I hope you don’t mind me stealing your style. I think it will compliment my gray also. Maybe I’ll change my color of eyeglasses too. It’s really working for you my sister. I love it!

      • Haha, Joycelyn! You can absolutely steal my style.

        And you are so right–we have the seal of approval from Almighty God! My prayer is that more and more women will know this, deep down, for themselves!

  29. Praise God when the hurt and The Healer collide!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have felt deep personal shame as well, and I remember the glorious day that The Healer came to me and rescued me! We must always remember Psalm 139:14 “fearfully and wonderfully made” for His purpose!

  30. Thank you for this devotional. I’ve been struggling about my past. Even though it is way behind me it has been haunting me lately and giving me shame. Thank you for the reminder that God loves me and does not hold on to my past! I’m looking forward to the transformation which will happen!

  31. “No shame or condemnation in Christ.” I proclaimed that daily during my healing process. Every time the enemy tried to remind me of my past I responded with that statement of FACT!

  32. So my shame began as a child, also. I was a so neurotic and afraid of everything, the only comfort I found was in sucking my thumb. I was the object of ridicule, the butt of jokes, and torment from even my parents. I had low self-esteem, and became a total introvert. I cowered from people especially adults, and this carried well into my twenties. So pray, for myself? Never! I did not feel worthy to ask anything of God for me. I did not believe God could or would love ME, the total loser….. but one day, in my thirties, mind you, all that changed…………..

  33. Julie, my heart was both heavy and filled with joy as I read your devotion today and the comments. I am blessed to have been raised by parents that were firmly planted in their faith! Every day and still to this day my mom says “god is good!” Those three words have been repeated by my brothers and I to our children over the years. That said, it does not stand to reason that I am shameless! My life was filled with searching for something or someone that couldfill the void iI felt still in my heart, even with all that love…and finding my way back to my Jesus was a journey. I am still journeying, but for the past 25 years it has been a walk of faith with the One who saved me, my Lord and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ! God has blessed me with many blessings of struggles and joys! May we all find peace with Him in our hearts! Can’t wait to begin the study as quick as I can get to that email! Praying for all!

  34. God spoke to my heart thru your story. I will take on your prayer as my own, I need it so. I will also now ask Him how He will use me for His glory.

  35. My heart has been full of shame and full of fear. I have to remember that God is there and he forgives and watching over me. I should accept and continue to grow as I have learn to let go of fear and shame. I am glad to read and hear the thoughts that should be filling my heart. Positive attitude and prayer is now a ongoing process for me. It took time but I am glad that the devotion reveals that I am a child of God. I do believe and pray for more and lots of new guidance. I am not a superwoman but I have done a lot of good to be thankful for. And glad I was healthly enough to continue the task to walk in my shoes on a daily basis.

  36. My heart is so broken, so deep within….as of this moment, I cannot get the words to come that I need, but God knows….Please, please, women of God. Please pray for me, for my son, Braxton, my daughter, Savannah and for the rest of my family.
    Thank you all so much in advance. Julie, this article, this testimony is so beautiful. Thank you for your honest and God loving heart. And may I say, all of the other comments and testimonies are as well. O how we need HIM and each other.
    Love, Heather

    • Father, I lift up Heather and her son Braxton and daughter Savannah and the rest of her family. Lord, please move in this precious family as only You can. God, bring healing and deliverance and freedom and cause each family member to experience Your love for themselves, and to intimately know how much You love them. Establish Your will and plan and purpose in Heather, Braxton, Savannah, and the entire family. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen!

  37. Wow! Couldn’t locate this Site for weeks. I was beginning to wonder why that was happening and God led me back. Thank You Jesus! I don’t know why, but this is the second time this same message has come to me and on different platforms too. Whatever the case, I am sooooo sure that God is set to blow my mind… So I wait patiently Lord.. Silently seeking Your face.. I missed this family by the way… Missed You all so much. I Love U all.

  38. I just found this post, but wanted to thank you as well. I also have sexual abuse in my past, and am struggling severely lately. God remains patient with me, reminding me of his love and my value in his eyes, but it is hard to see.

  39. I am the international director for an addiction recovery program. I am seeking permission to use this blog in a publication that were you doing on the subject of shame. We would use it in its entire ready and give you full credit by name if you so desire. Would it be possible for us to include this in the devotional section of my book to encourage others to overcome this thing called shame.

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