One cruel insult delivered to my ears through a third person was all it took. I cowered in shame.
It happened during my first couple of years in college. I don't remember exactly when. But I do remember Kristy. She acted like my friend, but she'd lash out whenever she wanted to. She wasn't a very nice person unless she wanted to be.
But I was shy, scared, and lonely, and I needed all the friends I could get. And I thought Kristy was my friend … until the rumor of her cruel words hit me right in the stomach.
And at that moment, I stopped believing in my song.
Nevermind that I had been awarded a singing scholarship to college. Nevermind that I sang alto in an 8-voice a capella group in high school. Nevermind that I loved to play the piano and sing my soul song anytime, any day. Nevermind that I had taken voice lessons for years with well-known vocalists and even an opera singer, who had always been very supportive.
None of that mattered. When I heard of Kristy's words, I knew I couldn't sing. And shame covered me. From that moment on, for the last 15 years, I have never sung again without shame.
Oh, I still sang when I had to. I even joined the choir at my local church, many years later. But every time I sang, the thoughts in my head went something like this:
- “They're probably thinking I can't sing.”
- “They're probably making fun of me.”
- “Don't sing very loud so people won't hear me and won't know I can't sing.”
I sang to the Lord, but I was so ashamed for anyone to hear me or to know that I–Jamie Rohrbaugh, the girl Kristy said couldn't sing–was stupid enough to open my mouth and sing a note.
And then God made me begin to lead worship at our church's healing rooms.
Every time I led, the glory of God would sit down. There would be tears. There would be snot. (I always use snot as a pretty accurate measure of the anointing. More snot = more anointing.) 😉 The prophetic word would be released. The Holy Spirit would minister in power to and through our whole group of intercessors and worshippers.
But every night I led, horrible thoughts still filled my head. I was waiting for people to tell me to stop singing. I was waiting for people to mock me. I was waiting for people to ask me what on earth made me think I should be leading worship with a voice like that.
Those words never came, but I still cowered in shame. Every night. Every worship set. Every song.
And just last week, I got tired of it and finally realized this shame was not from the Lord… but I didn't know how to get rid of it.
I was headed to Chicago for the annual Redbud Writers Guild retreat. I had been asked to lead worship there twice–Friday night and Sunday morning. I was honored to be asked; the organizers did everything they could to let as many people as possible participate in the weekend festivities, but it was still a huge honor for me to lead these women I barely knew in worshipping our King. I was excited about it.
But I was also terrified:
- I was terrified that I really couldn't sing, and my writer-sisters would know it.
- I was terrified they would make fun of me.
- I was terrified I would humiliate myself.
And all I wanted to do was host the Presence of God and usher in His glory. All I wanted to do was transport tired, some hurting, some weary ladies into encounter with Jesus Christ, who alone is the Answer to everything–and in whose Presence is fullness of joy. All I wanted to do was bring Him the worship He deserves.
And one day last week, sitting in my cubicle at work, I couldn't take it anymore. I broke down and cried:
- I begged God to roll away the reproach from off of me.
- I begged God to remove my shame in singing.
- I cried out to Him and told Him that I only want to give Him a pure offering of my worship, and I asked Him to remove everything that would keep me from offering my worship to Him with joy.
That's when He showed me that Kristy's insult had kept me wrapped in shame all these years. That's when He reminded me that bondage is never from Him, so this shame of singing was not from Him either. That's when He showed me that the enemy has tried to keep me from offering my song to the Lord all this time.
And God began to set me free from this shame of singing.
I know I'm not walking in total freedom yet; because even as I write this, dear reader, I have to admit that I'm afraid of what you're thinking:
- I'm afraid you've heard me sing or lead worship and thought it was awful.
- I'm afraid you'll talk about me behind my back.
- I'm afraid you're laughing at me or mocking me as you read these, my deepest confessions.
But to be perfectly honest, dear reader–friend or foe–even if you are mocking me, I've decided to sing anyway.
You see, God has given me a gift to play and worship. He's given me a gift to lead others into His manifest Presence. I'm not saying this because I think it, but rather because I see it in action. Even when I think the most insecure thoughts–even when I'm most afraid–He still moves when I obey.
And this last weekend, at the Redbud retreat, He did it again. It wasn't just me; I had a couple of ladies help me. (Worship is always better with a team; don't forget that, although it's a different post for a different day.) But God sat down on us again. There were tears, and snot, and glory, and worshipful silence that nobody wanted to break.
It's not because I'm special; but anybody with a heart to worship Him is special to Him, and He will always respond to the genuine, heartfelt worship of His children. And I've accepted the shame the enemy has handed me for far too long. God's people are too important for me to cower in shame and not obey when the Father calls. We need powerful, life-changing ENCOUNTER with Jesus every time we go to worship. We need to hear the Father sing over us.
And if God can and will use me to bring others into that encounter with Himself, I'm going to obey. I'm going to let Him restore my song, and I'll keep asking Him to roll away the reproach and shame off of me so I can sing to Him with freedom.
What are you ashamed of? What has the enemy stolen from you? What do you need God to restore in your life?
Isaiah 49:23b says:
Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”
That's not a pie-in-the-sky promise. It's very literal. Honor is from the Lord; shame is NEVER from the Lord. Shame is a trick the enemy uses to steal from the people of God.
So what has the enemy stolen from you using this evil weapon of shame? Has he stolen…
- … your love for your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit?
- … your confidence in sharing your life story with others?
- … your ability to offer friendship to others, and actually believe that your friendship will be received and embraced?
Whatever it is, God is not the author of shame. When He brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He made them stop before they entered the Promised Land so He could roll away the shame and reproach off of them. And God wants to do the same for you.
Whatever you have been ashamed of, God wants to roll that shame off of you RIGHT NOW and clothe you with honor instead.
Would you pray this prayer with me? Pray it out loud:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I come before You in Jesus' name. Father, thank You for sending Jesus to bear my shame all the way to the cross. Thank You for forgiving my sins and adopting me as Your child. Thank You for making me a new person in Christ Jesus.
Father, Your Word says that, if I am in Christ Jesus, old things are passed away and all things are become new. Father, I confess I've been held by chains of shame all these years. I've been ashamed of ___________________________. Father, I know shame is not from You. These things I've been ashamed of are in the past. They are covered by the blood of Jesus, and I choose not to live with these things or with the shame that accompanies them any longer.
So Father, in the name of Jesus, I ask right now that You would roll away the reproach off of my life. Remove the shame of _______________________. Cover me with the blood of Jesus. I renounce shame in the name of Jesus. I refuse to accept shame anymore. I command the spirit of shame to leave me in Jesus' name. And in the name of Jesus, Father God, I ask You to fill me with the Holy Spirit where that shame was.
Father, I'm calling upon You, and Your Word says You will answer me; that You will be with me in trouble; that You will deliver me; and that You will HONOR me (Psalm 91:15). So Father, in the name of Jesus, I ask that You would be with me, deliver me, and honor me. Cover me with Your cloak of honor, and teach me to wear it well. Be my defense and my shield to protect me from ever receiving shame again, and let me live like a blood-bought child of Yours, a prince/princess of God, should.
Thank You, Heavenly Father. Thank You for loving me and hearing my prayer. Thank You for answering me. Thank You for rolling away the shame and reproach off of my life. I love You, Father, and I receive Your cleansing and honor by the blood of Jesus right now.
In Jesus' name. Amen!
Shame is not from the Lord. No matter what you're struggling with today that has brought shame into your life, I pray you would lay it at the feet of Jesus and let Him heal you and restore you. His grace is sufficient for you, and the blood of Jesus paid the price for you to be free from shame and clothed with honor forevermore.
Does this message speak to your heart? If so, please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!
Image courtesy of Michele Ursino on Flickr via Creative Commons license.