When I was about eight years old, I had this hiding spot where I hid things that I found valuable, or that I did not want others to find. I would get off the bus where I was dropped off at my parent’s business in a small, sleepy town. I would then run to the business next door, where there was a missing brick in the wall, obscured behind a vending machine. I would put whatever it was I wanted to hide in the wall and go about my day.
Until one day, when I hopped off the bus and went to my secret spot only to find my trinkets and secrets on the ground, and the missing brick hole filled in with wet cement. I quickly sprinted to my parent’s business, grabbed a plastic cup, and ran back out to the wall to remove the wet cement so I could have my hiding spot back. As I was scooping out the cement, I turned around to find the next-door business owner angrily staring at me. He yelled at me and told me I had no business hiding things in his building. He made fun of the snail shells, rocks, notes, and other various things that I had felt the need to hide away. Terrified, I ran away, but I was too ashamed to run in and let either parent know that I had a hiding spot and the lengths I went to in order to continue hiding my secrets.
Eventually I felt I needed to tell my dad, despite how emotionally painful it might be. I told him, sobbing and shaking, still unsure if I was making the right decision to reveal something that I could so easily never mention. He gently grabbed me, hugged me, and reminded me that, although I probably should not have defaced the neighbors building, he still loved me.
Copyright: Kwanchai Chai-udom / 123RF
Despite learning this lesson of my parent’s endless love during my childhood, I’ve still grown up with this tendency to hide things and to feel ashamed, knowing that a friend’s love may not be as merciful and plentiful as my mom and dad’s. Anything that could possibly raise judgment or bring a disconcerting look, however innocent the decision might be, I would go to extreme lengths to make sure it was undisclosed. And I mean extreme lengths. Can I really let my roommate see me go to McDonalds again? Wouldn’t it be better to sneak around and go, or just skip lunch, than explain my actions? Honestly, even admitting that makes me cringe and want to delete the words off this page.
But here’s the thing that I all too often forget. God always sees me. I let this pattern of allowing shame to control my life drag into my relationship with Christ. My feelings of insecurity often drive me in one big way: rejection. I’m always hiding my flaws and embarrassments in order to make sure others accept and love me.
That’s what makes my relationship with God so different. No matter how many terrible, awful, disgusting decisions I make, he loves me. No matter when I want to get fast food, not work out, not take care of myself, he’s there. I do not earn his love. Which also means I cannot lose it.
The same thing happened when Adam and Eve clothed themselves because they felt ashamed at their nakedness. I remember growing up in the church and hearing the story in my childhood, and thinking to myself “How stupid. Of course God knows.” If they had just gone to God and let him guide them, things might have been different.
However painful it is, I’m learning that going to God naked and honest is all so important. And going to Him means being honest with others as well. It’s going to be uncomfortable sometimes, and as much as I would love to say I won’t lose any friends and that I will never feel guilty, that’s simply not true. But the moments where God has brought the most beauty and healing to my life are when I follow God’s guidance and leap out in the open where everyone can see.
So even though I’m still entirely prone to hide and stash away things that make me feel shame, I feel God pushing me to come to him, to open up and be transparent so he can be with me, guide me in the right direction, and most importantly, love and accept me.
Sarah has been going to The River since July 2018. Her husband, Eric, and she moved to the Bay Area in July 2017. As a new(ish) resident to the area, she loves to explore. She works as a nurse in a local hospital. When not working or socializing, you can find her curled up with her cat, Maggie.