When Shame Holds Us Back

It isn’t possible to anticipate the journeys we will take in our lives. And still, the Word of God instructs us to give thanks in all things.

I look back and think, “I could never have imagined this.” God’s dreams for us were so much bigger, and truth be told, so much harder than I would have chosen. But in all the hard, he is working to make us more like him and more useful for his kingdom.

When we suffer, our compassion grows. Our ability to step into someone else’s story and feel their sorrow, regret, anger, fear, becomes possible because we know what it is to feel sorrow, regret, anger, and fear.

I want God to use me, yet sometimes I’m held back by fear and shame over my own story. I fear what people will think and frankly, that is the best way to keep me paralyzed – fill my head with voices that accuse and shame.

One antidote is simply to say – “No. I am not the person you say I am. I belong to a good Father who loves me and never leaves me. He knows my name and calls me his child. He is not disappointed in me and will never reject me.”

Our adoption journey has been so imperfect and so public. We live in a small-ish town and have a large-ish family. We go to a large-ish church. Not having a clue what I was doing way back in 2006, I began this blog to tell the story of our adoptions. I never imagined the story God would give me to tell.

My family is not perfect. We are messy and broken, but we press on loving each other fiercely.

One of my kids is fairly distant from me. This has become public in parts of our community. People have opinions based on small amounts of information, and places that once felt safe and warm for me don’t feel that way now.

My pastor once told me shame was holding me back from being who God wants me to be and doing what He wants me to do. There is truth in that.

As adoptive parents, I know we’re not alone in this struggle. I’m quite sure we’ve done many things wrong, but I am also quite sure that we’ve tried very hard.  Parents are human and we do our best.

Many of us are parenting children who came to us as strangers. Before we ever met them, before we saw a picture or knew their name, they lived through trauma, abuse, neglect – things most of us can hardly imagine.

Then they became ours and we grew to know our children and love them. We do our best to meet the deep needs of their hearts. We strive to heal wounded, traumatized minds. Ultimately, we cast ourselves on the good Father, the best healer of all. He alone can piece a broken heart back together – he may use us in the process, but he is the great healer.

And we get to do this under the watching eyes of the world. Some people will see our humanity and know we’re doing our best, others will judge, and others will assume they can do it better. In my worst moments, I want to say, “You adopt an older child who spent many years in an orphanage and then come tell me how to do what I’m trying to do.” How easy it is to judge when you haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes.

But let’s not go down the frustrated-to-the-point-of-tears road right now.

I give thanks for my family, for God calling us to walk this beautifully broken, messy road of adoption. We are not the family we used to be and I can say that I’m thankful.

There is joy in the journey. Our world is so much bigger and our hearts have expanded to love so many more people. Our eyes have been opened to issues of race, poverty, injustice, and marginalized people. God has surrounded us with amazing friends we consider family.  And what would I do without a boy who still wants to snuggle and read aloud with me?

If your family is broken, and you don’t want people to see your mess – come on out of hiding with me. Let light shine into your dark places.

If you have a child in prison, or residential treatment, or one who chooses not to live at home, or won’t join the family for holidays, or a child who is an addict, or has turned their back on God, you are not alone.  If you fear a curtain will be pulled back and you will be revealed to be a bad mother, that is a lie – let it go and be free.  Don’t hide in shame any longer.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect parents. He only asks that we do our best to love him with all our heart, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor (our children) as ourselves. That is a big enough task for all of us.

Lisa

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

18 Comments

  1. Julie
    November 20, 2017

    I REALLY, REALLY need to read this today. Thank you. While I will never give up and I know our God can do miracles, I am faced with the realization that it is very likely that we will have a child pull away from us as they get out on their own. It’s sad and overwhelming and can make you feel ALL the guilt and shame. But I just keep loving. A couple of years ago, God gave me the word “relentless” in conjunction with this child. And so that is what I will do. But it’s still messy, it still hurts and it’s exhausting.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 20, 2017

      Julie, I think “relentless” in the face of all of this is pretty darn amazing. I am so much more inclined to want to back away from the pain – if you can pursue and be relentless, I think you’re a hero.

      Reply
  2. Momma T
    November 20, 2017

    This brought tears to my eyes. I can relate with many of your experiences. Thank you for your encouragement to not let shame/failure/brokenness hold us back from doing what God calls us to do.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 20, 2017

      I’m right with you Momma T. Sending you love.

      Reply
  3. Laura
    November 20, 2017

    **Hugs**

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 20, 2017

      Love back to you.

      Reply
  4. Rhonda
    November 20, 2017

    Thank you so much for “shining your light!” I did not adopt… I am not a foster parent either. However, I can understand that it must be very hard/ rewarding when adopting an older child… a stranger at first… the things they may have witnessed/ endured… come to you broken/ scared and scarred. Then you do your best to help them become “whole again.” It seems to me a distant child would be somewhat normal depending on what they have gone through… should not be a topic of gossip… SIGH… I live in a smallish town too. I have a beautiful special needs daughter (+ smallish town)…. yeah I know where you are coming from … most definitely! I have a struggle with the whole guilt thing… working on it…but the struggle IS certainly REAL!
    MUCH <3 TO YOU AND YOURS!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 20, 2017

      Much love to you too, Rhonda. You are not alone.

      Reply
  5. Sarah Bramblett
    November 21, 2017

    A word of encouragement.
    Even biological children can often “distance” for a season. I saw it with my brother growing up, and so when it happened with a couple of ours, I just began to pray. And pray. And pray.
    Shamelessly asking God to change restore, renew, and reignite relationships.

    Things are healed now, but children often have to find
    Their way a bit to appreciate all they have had in a loving family. Especially if you openly deal with things in our family. Sometimes they need space to process their hurts with others.
    It actually transformed my prayer life and has increased my faith like nothing else. Nothing is wasted.
    We model God to them in these times, because we’ve all been distant from Abba at times and He kindly, patiently waits. And waits. And waits. Always receiving us back.
    I have more younger ones that may well go through the same thing, as they struggle to grow up and own their faith journey. We need our sister friends to love us and remind us in these seasons.
    Thank you Lisa. You are always a good “Faith Reminder”!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 21, 2017

      Good words, Sarah. Thank you for the reminder.

      Reply
  6. Christa Hiebert
    November 21, 2017

    Thank you Lisa. Your words are amazing and encouraging. We are adoptive parents in the trenches and our life is definitely messy. It is so easy to hide because of the brokenness instead of letting God use it for his glory. We work hard everyday to find gratitude in our journey. God’s gifts are always there, they are just so much harder to find in the dark. Thank you thank you for reminding us to return to the light!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 21, 2017

      Christa, I have an image in my mind of running from a dark place into the light where our Father stands with open arms. No shame. Only love.

      Reply
  7. Vivienne
    November 21, 2017

    I heard a pastor say once that shame and guilt are the devils territory and not where we are meant to live! So Thankful to Jesus for paying the price to set us free!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 21, 2017

      Amen.

      Reply
  8. Jennie
    November 28, 2017

    Thank you, Lisa

    Reply
  9. Kathy P
    November 28, 2017

    I so needed to hear this. I’m struggling right now, with not just kids, but family as well. I need to remember to focus on God and leave it in His control.

    Reply
  10. Jennifer P
    December 13, 2017

    Going through my emails and this one got by me. We have three estranged daughters who were adopted as older children. It hurts, I don’t understand, and I am sad and often feel like a bad mother. So much we didn’t know about trauma and life and having three teenage girls one year apart and how life would explode when they got to the age that they needed to figure out who they are in life. Thank you for saying, “don’t believe the lie and be free.” Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 13, 2017

      You’re welcome, Jennifer – it’s always good to know we are not alone.

      Reply

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