When Your Past Leaves You Feeling Unworthy and Ashamed
Do you deal with shame from your past? I completely understand! A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to be interviewed for a documentary about Christians who have struggled with pornography.
When I flew to Utah to be interviewed, so many feelings, emotions and thoughts were stirred up in me. The very fact that I was participating in this project in the first place amazed me, because it just fell together very easily.
I was met at the airport by Cassandra, a film student at the local community college. She was very sweet, and I immediately was put to ease concerning who was going to be transporting me to the hotel and set and then back to the airport the next morning. After lunch, I checked into my hotel room. I nervously reviewed the questions sent to me two weeks earlier that they might ask me. These were just a few:
“Tell me about the relationship that introduced you to using pornography…”
“Tell me about how you changed as you dove into the world of pornography…”
“How has this affected your marriage?”
“Tell me, what is the difference like in your life – from being Amy trapped in the addiction to now, being Amy in recovery.”
Reviewing the answers in my mind made me even more nervous, so I decided to iron my clothes and pray instead of looking at the questions one more time.
A short time later, Cassandra picked me up and took me to the set. Everyone greeted me with a warm welcome, and everything felt so surreal to me. I saw the producer and two of the other people I saw in the video trailer several weeks before, and it made me laugh to myself.
I kept thinking, “Is this real?” I don’t even like getting my picture taken for my driver’s license, let alone the thought of sitting in a chair surrounded by lights, cameras, microphones and several people watching me as I talk about what happened in my life once I dove into the world of pornography. 🙂
I was so nervous that I kept forgetting what I was saying during the interview, and I felt like I was talking in circles at times. There was so much I planned to say that I didn’t even think about until later. I’m so glad for editing! (I’m sure they are too!) I prayed for my words to be His words as I spoke, but there were times that my fear just paralyzed me, just like it used to.
I felt “frumpy” in the clothes I was wearing, and I felt like a mess. But, at the same time, I looked up and saw tears in the producer’s eyes at times when I spoke.
I knew that could only be God in the midst of my mess.
As I sat and answered the questions, I was feeling something that I had not expected…
There is a lot of shame surrounding this subject, and I actually found myself being really uncomfortable with being treated so well that weekend. It took me awhile to figure out why. Reviewing those questions in the days before my interview brought back so many feelings and memories I don’t really think about anymore.
Everyone on the set looked at me with such compassion and encouraged me with words of affirmation as they commented on how brave I was. I was in awe when I first discovered that someone was actually going to pay for a plane ticket for me to come down there, provide me enough money for meals, reserve me a nice hotel room and transportation to and from everything. To me, I was treated like a queen by people who didn’t even know me.
You’d think I’d be grateful (which I was!), but I found myself feeling more unworthy than anything. I realized on the plane ride home that I just didn’t feel like I deserved any of it. Surely they could have found a better speaker to participate in their film!
You see, I was much more familiar with the condemning thoughts of “Look what a mess you made of your life and marriage.”; “You ruined your brain forever.”; “You’re a failure and don’t deserve to forget what you did.” ; “No matter what, you’ll always be damaged goods.” running through my mind.
Yes, all lies…but lies that I had become familiar with. Times like that just make them louder.
That weekend showed me something very different, though. I was being treated with unmerited favor, and it felt so uncomfortable.
After my interview, I went back to my hotel and quickly broke out into tears. I told God I was sorry for not verbalizing what I wanted to about what He’s done in my life. I felt like I messed it all up and let Him down.
I felt like such a failure and wished I could just get something right for once. In all honesty, I rarely felt as though I had done anything well enough. I was just so nervous in front of those cameras. It was at that point that I heard a quiet voice in my heart saying,
“When will you realize that you’re not in control of anything?”
I knew this was God speaking to me, and it didn’t come across as harsh words at all (as they may look). I knew it was God gently telling me that all I can ever really do (all He wants me to do) is depend on Him for everything. I cannot control the turnout or results of anything. In other words, I felt like He was saying that all I can ever do is lean on Him, and He will do the rest.
- It’s not about getting everything right.
- It’s not about perfection.
- It’s not about everything turning out the way I think it should.
- It’s not about fear controlling me out of being afraid to fail.
- It’s not about all of the “what if’s”.
- It’s not about me at all!
It’s about learning to lean on Him completely and surrendering the end results to Him – concerning everything in my life.
As I contemplated this on the way home, it brought tears to my eyes again. I felt like God set that weekend up for me to feel special and to realize there is nothing I can do to earn His love. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or any less. Yet, He loves me more than anyone does. I am precious to Him, and I really felt that this past weekend.
The reason I wanted to participate in the film was for others to know they are not alone. That was so significant in my healing process, and I wanted to provide that for someone else.
God had something additional in mind, though. He wanted me to feel special and loved. He showed me unmerited favor and wanted me to realize that there is no room for shame in my life. No room for not feeling good enough. No room for feeling unworthy.
As His child, there’s no room for any of these things in my life. I am so thankful for Him showing me this. It’s another “notch” in the belt of healing in my life, and I will never forget that weekend. Thank you, Jesus, for the way You love me.
Update: The documentary is finished! (See below)
I just wanted to say, that you are special, and you are loved. And as nervous or jumbled as you may get, the words you have spoken out of your mouth are powerful, and helpful. Amy, you help so many people, all of the time, and I feel honored that I even get to know you personally, let alone be able to call you friend. You should feel special, everyday. You are wonderful!
Thank you for this update, Amy! I was reminded of the uncomfortableness and unworthiness I felt when I was 16 and went to a youth retreat and the leaders washed our feet at the entrance. I did NOT want that! I appreciated the sentiment but was not gung-ho about showing forth my sweaty feet and socks and gnarly hammer toes. (sorry) I think the enemy wants to cut us down, hold us down, keep us small and keep us from what all God has for us. I can so relate to what you shared about having words prepared but the it all goes differently. I just had Zechariah 4:6 on my heart this morning, and the apostle Paul also in one place says he didn’t come to his listeners with great human speech or wisdom but nothing but the power of the Spirit… I bet God directed the words that you did speak. You may have felt anxious and flustered but you did it afraid – the definition of courage (it’s not the absence of fear but doing stuff in its presence, in spite of it). Praise God!
This post really touched my heart. It’s really a big relief when we begin to realize we weren’t meant to carry everything, and control everything. That when we turn things over to God, we can trust him to take care of it all for us.
The times my heart has been so heavy (even very recently) and I know it’s because I’m trying to control the situations that are out of control around me, and the harder I try, the worse off I am because I am suppose to hand those things over to God, and rest in his peace. Let him take care of life situations.
Thanks for teaching us and reminding us of this! I am blessed to know you here.
“The reason I wanted to participate in the film was for others to know they are not alone.”
And that’s the very best reason you could have. The goodness of God truly does work EVERYTHING to the good of those who love Him–even our sins. I’m proud of you for taking the risk.
Amy you were worth every penny spent and every effort made on our part for you to feel encouraged and at ease was deserved. You may have worried and been nervous, but I assure you the tears in my eyes and others were real because you were honest, present, powerful, and your words will help to change lives. You will see in the “magic of editing” how powerful your words really are.
As the producer and director of this film, I grapple daily with feeling like I am “not enough” and that what I am doing will “fail”. But I have to remind myself that that is exactly how satan would have me feel, not God. I hope the film will show the world that we all struggle with something, but if we learn to rely in Him, than the struggle is all worth it in the end.
Thank you a ton for your interview and for this post!
Amy, I was able to hear some of your interview and it was breathtaking. Thank you so much for being willing to share your story.
I hope you don’t mind me reposting this to my blog. What an amazing person you are! Keep fighting, you are inspiring more than you can ever imagine!
Talking about hard things like this is amazing and difficult but so necessary. Shame hurts us all and strips us of healing. thanks for doing this. It means so much
I am so glad you wrote this. I was going to e-mail you and ask you how it went. One of the first questions I asked Jessica was “How was Amy?” I prayed for you, thought of you, worried about you 🙂
I totally know how you feel. On my flight home the whole thing felt so surreal and it was so humbling. The fact that God can somehow take that very thing the Devil would use to destroy us and instead make us useful is absolutely mindblowing. How He does it is completely beyond me. I am so glad that God used this experience not only to heal others (because it will) but also to heal you. You have been such a steady source of encouragement for me.
Thank you for being willing to be “broken and spilled out” for Him.
And this post? Breathtaking as well. I feel that God is working through you, and it is a wonder to witness and be blessed by.