Deceived by Shame, Desired by Godby Cynthia Spell Humbert, Cynthia Spell
Step out of Shame and into Glory. Rape, incest, alcoholism, addiction, divorce, bitterness, gossip, abortion. The list could go on and on with ways sin poisons our lives. And whether the sin is self-imposed or committed by someone else, it always has the potential to cause us a deep-seated sense of shame. This toxic emotion often convinces us we are irreparably damaged at our very core. And, sadly, the hurt doesn't end there. All too often, shame brings about additional self-destructive behavior, and the never-ending cycle of sin and shame continues, leading us even further from a relationship with God. The enemy wants you to believe the lie that there is something terribly, and permanently, wrong with you. But God, your Father-the magnificent Creator of the universe-is shouting out the life-giving truth that there is nothing about you or your past that cannot be redeemed. Learn how the healing love of God can bring good out of your darkest, most shameful secrets. Let Him pull up your hidden roots of shame and replace them with His unconditional love for you. Are you ready to trade darkness for light?
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Deceived by Shame, Desired by GodIncludes a Twelve-Week Bible Study Women of Wisdom Series
By Cynthia Spell Humbert
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2001 Cynthia Spell Humbert
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Greatest Deception: Enough Shame to Cover Everyone
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Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3
"I have ruined everything!" Catherine shouted through her tears. "Just look at my child! I don't even know who her father is! How will I ever explain that to her? God could never forgive me for being such a failure!" The forlorn twenty-two-year-old woman clutched her newborn baby and rocked back and forth on the sofa, inconsolable.
Mothers usually don't bring their children along to counseling sessions. So it surprised me when Catherine introduced herself in the waiting room earlier that morning with her infant in tow. The moment we met, she began apologizing profusely, explaining that she couldn't find a sitter and had no family in town to help her with emergency child care.
It turns out that this new client felt apologetic about a whole lot more than that. Through many emotionally charged sessions, I began understanding the vast stores of hurt, anger, and damage she had tucked away in her heart-the specific reasons why she felt regretful and depressed so much of the time.
First of all, she had grown up as a pastor's daughter and felt like she lived in a fish bowl. Somehow people only saw a perfect family behind the glass-not the one terrorized by a controlling, manipulative man who batted her and her brother around if their rooms fell out of perfect order. Other times, her father needed no excuse to shove them into the walls or hit them with his fist or his belt in places where others couldn't see the marks. When her mother tried to protect the children from his wrath, he would turn on her too.
After discussing the troubled relationship with her father session after session, I finally encouraged her to discuss how her mother treated her. "Tenderly," she had softly answered. And as an adult, it saddened Catherine to realize how dependent and fearful her mother must have been of this tyrant.
"My mother was the only calming factor in my early life," Catherine sniffled. "She held us a lot and prayed with us. I remember her encouraging me to put my faith and trust in God. So, I viewed my relationship with God as my life raft in the sea of pain and confusion caused by my father. I found a sweet security knowing that God loved me uniquely and cared about my feelings." The distraught young woman paused a moment and then sobbed so energetically that it choked the rest of her words for several minutes.
Though Catherine continued maturing in her faith as a teen by reading the Bible daily and devouring as many books regarding Christianity as she could get her hands on, her past caught up with her in college. At that point, she fell into a severe depression from so many years of stuffing her feelings.
Why would God allow her father to continually taunt and abuse her and the rest of the family while he claimed to be a godly man? Her anger and confusion mounted the more she thought about his hidden alter ego. His on-the-job life of preaching on Sundays and faithfully ministering to the congregation throughout the week made a perfect foil to his at-home behavior. There, he only mentioned God to manipulate her. If, for instance, she did not do things perfectly and obey his demands, he threatened that God would no longer love her.
Instead of seeking therapy at that point, she began numbing her pain with alcohol and casual sexual relationships.
"But I sobered up pretty quickly when I missed my period," she explained as tears streamed down her cheeks. "I had been with two different men that month, and I don't know which one is the father. It doesn't really matter. They aren't the kind of guys who would care about helping with a baby. I mentioned the pregnancy to one of them, and he laughed and told me it probably wasn't his, and that since I was such a slut, I should go to the nearest abortion clinic. At least I didn't have an abortion. I knew two wrongs couldn't make one right, and that I had to keep the baby."
Looking down at her sleeping daughter, she wondered aloud if God could ever love her again. Would anyone want to marry someone like her? And why, oh why, did she walk away from God and make such bad choices?
Consequences of Sin
Unfortunately, Catherine's not the only one to lament like this. In a split-second of disobedience, Adam and Eve suffered immediate negative consequences, and they and everyone else have been suffering ever since. The brokenness I see every day stems from this original sin. In Adam and Eve's case, the consequences of sin caused them to:
* Feel ashamed of their nakedness and try to cover up.
* Open the world to sin and death, destroying paradise.
* Sever their formerly unhampered connection to God and to eternal life.
* Fear God and hide from Him.
* Reject God's attempt at restoring fellowship because they doubted His ability to forgive them for their disobedience.
* Prompt God to set into motion a plan of grace and redemption.
In The Gift to All People, Max Lucado reflects on the consequences of original sin: "The moment the forbidden fruit touched the lips of Eve, the shadow of a cross appeared on the horizon. And between that moment and the moment the man with the mallet placed the spike against the wrist of God, a master plan was fulfilled."
It's important to understand that sin always involves a choice. And no matter what sin you choose, it will be like every other sin across the span of human history in that it involves disobeying God.
Willingness to Willfulness
Never allow anyone to fool you with the idea that the "New Age Movement" is somehow "new." The very premise of this false religion is that we are all connected to a universal power, and eventually-with enough "self-awareness"-we can seize power and become our own god. But you don't have to read many chapters in Genesis to see that "seizing power" is the original deception Satan used to score in the Garden.
In those early days of Eden, Adam and Eve had a willingness to obey God and to trust Him with their whole hearts. This produced a tender relationship with the Creator God, one filled with love, security, joy, and peace. Open, honest, and safe communication defined this perfect relationship. They understood and accepted the gift of eternal life, knowing that it meant endless communion with the Father-God who loved to laugh and play with them, who delighted in watching His dear children enjoy His creation.
Then came that horrible day when man made a choice to willfully disobey. As certainly as slitting one's own throat separates a person from the flow of life, so original sin severed our relationship with God and introduced sin and spiritual death. Ever since, we have felt ashamed, out of control, alone, isolated, and afraid of abandonment.
At the very depth of our soul, we have felt a longing for restored relationship, but the lie says we can never be good enough, never work hard enough to earn and regain the love of God. But thanks be to God that by His immeasurable grace (and other riches we do not deserve and could never earn), He leads us on a journey of restoration, back into a place of willingness to rest in His love and allow Him to be in control.
In Homesick for Eden, Gary Moon asserts, "Few would argue against the notion that the most important choice humans are faced with is the choice between willingness and willfulness-between surrender to a reality greater than oneself and self-sufficiency."
Just Call Me Eve
When I experience the moodiness and cramping associated with PMS or the slow final months of pregnancy when every day seems to last a week, I joke with friends about Eve. Since this is all her fault, I plan to be the first one in heaven to line up and slap her cross-eyed for the curse that her disobedience brought on all women.
Other times, in humility, I admit that my name might as well be Eve. If I had been in the Garden of Eden, I would have gotten to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil much faster than she did. I would have raced there as fast as I could just to look at the forbidden fruit, just to touch it for a moment... just to hold it in my hand. Then, I would have probably wanted a tiny bite-just a small taste of what God forbids. But you don't have to be in the Garden to realize that seemingly small sins can create huge chasms between you and God.
Today, God still draws a line in the sand for us and then tells us to avoid crossing the line in order to avoid getting hurt. But, like rebellious children, we pace back and forth parallel to the line-each time walking a little bit closer trying to see how close we can get without crossing it. Finally, in defiance, we put a big toe over the line. We wishfully think that we can cross over just a little and nothing bad will happen. But, as far as God's concerned, one big toe over the line might as well be a full body flop over it. Why? Partial disobedience is total disobedience.
Like Eve, people who cross over God's line by sinning often see the gulf between themselves and God get as wide as the Grand Canyon. Eventually, the person who sinned may feel alone and hopeless-completely aware that there's no way to reconnect or reestablish a relationship with God without confessing, repenting, and accepting forgiveness.
Some consequences, such as being arrested for driving while intoxicated, being picked up for shoplifting, admitting to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, gaining weight due to compulsive overeating, or going through a divorce due to an adulterous affair, are experienced with a shameful awareness of public and external consequences. But the consequences of sin are not always external or visible to others. For instance, it's relatively easy to hide sins like sexual promiscuity, an abortion, bulimia or anorexia, hatred, and bitterness.
But both types of sin cause separation from God and can produce the same amount of shame. This shame causes loneliness, fear, and a profound emptiness. Often, a shame-filled person knows that she somehow needs to find a way back home, but many choose the wrong paths for the journey-roads that lead away from God and deeper into self-abusive behaviors, which only make feelings of shame more pronounced.
Shame is a paralyzing emotion in which the afflicted person believes irreparable damage has been done to the deepest part of her soul. Shame may not necessarily originate from a behavior perceived as shameful. Rather, sufferers describe this feeling as an internal wound so painful and heavy that it makes them feel flawed for even existing.
Before Adam and Eve disobeyed God, "they were naked and not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25). In this case, Adam and Eve's unabashed nakedness conveyed their sense of being totally open and exposed before God. Nakedness symbolized their authentic and true selves. They lived a life of complete honesty with each other and with God. There was nothing to hide-they easily accepted themselves and felt no shame.
However, immediately after they sinned, they ran to hide from God because they knew they were now naked and exposed. They immediately felt a deep sense of shame. Shame is a lie from Satan because it involves a deeply felt perception of permanent unacceptability-to God, to others, and to self. That explains why shame pushes people to hide their true selves. They fear that if you see the real them, you will be appalled and reject them.
Consequently, those struggling with shame spend lots of time and energy creating a "cover-up" to hide it from God and others. They hope that in this way their sin and brokenness will go unnoticed. But shame is like an internal weed with far reaching roots that strangle healthy thinking, emotions, and actions.
In Healing the Shame That Binds You, John Bradshaw explores different levels of shame including the most serious, toxic, life-destroying shame. Toxic shame involves an excruciatingly internal experience of unexpected and unwanted exposure. It is a deep cut felt primarily from the inside. It divides you from yourself and from others. Why? In this case, you disown yourself, and this disowning demands a cover-up. Toxic shame loves darkness and secretiveness.
Shame always produces shame. If parents or caregivers are filled with it, they will pass some degree of it along to the next generation. For instance, you may learn to feel shame about who you are when a parent or caregiver neglects or abuses you-emotionally, verbally, spiritually, physically, or sexually. Furthermore, caregivers who are actively trapped in addictions have no emotional inheritance to offer their children except a legacy of hopelessness and shame. But you can feel shamed by relatives, your peer group, society, and even your church as well.
No wonder shame makes people afraid of intimate relationships. There is a deep fear that if you find out how messed up I really am, you will abandon me. Those struggling with shame often view others as "normal," acceptable, and lovable. Yet, they see themselves as flawed, damaged, and different. It becomes as natural as breathing for them to shame themselves with critical self-talk.
Ultimately, shame creates a feeling of being lost and confused, not knowing what you feel or how to communicate with others. It is impossible to let someone else know you if you don't even know yourself. So, the shame-driven person uses even more energy to cover up and keep secrets by assuming a role-that of the false self. It takes so much energy to keep hiding that there's scarcely energy left for anything else. Too often, this hiding from yourself and others causes great loneliness and suffering.
Walking Through Shame
Lisa could hardly remember a time when she did not feel ashamed. In fact, one of her earliest memories was of her first grade teacher pulling her aside and telling her not to come back to class "in those same filthy clothes." Humiliated and crushed, Lisa pretended that no one overheard in order to cope with the comment. But at age six, she already knew the shame and desperation of her situation-she didn't need the teacher's reminder. Her parents were divorced, and her mother was a raging alcoholic who had no time for her children.
Excerpted from Deceived by Shame, Desired by God by Cynthia Spell Humbert Copyright © 2001 by Cynthia Spell Humbert. Excerpted by permission.
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Many thanks to Cynthia Spell Humbert for writing a book that has been much needed in the church. Working with women in ministry over the past 12 years, I have found that there is a deserate need among women to understand who they really are in Christ and how much they are desired by God. 'Deceived by Shame, Desired by God' is the book I've been waiting for. Cynthia brings to the table a wealth of wisdom gleaned through years of counseling in a clinical setting, but more importantly, she brings the wisdom gained from dealing with the issues of her own heart. Cynthia helps us understand our human condition and then takes us to the cross of Christ to find the power to break through to the life God wants for us. Cynthia pulls no punches as she explains how the enemy can decieve our hearts, choking out the love from God that we so desperately need. Thankfully she doesn't leave us there, but takes us straight to the truth that will indeed set us free. We are desired by God!! The real life stories will intrigue you, the truth of God's Word will liberate you, and your heart will be drawn to the God who desires to lavish his love on you.
Cynthia Humbert has written a manual of hope for anyone traped in the cycle of bitterness and shame. Not only does she help us understand how this happens, she shows us how to break free and experience the healing of God's unconditional love and grace. This is a book I am using in my personal life and one I will give to anyone struggling with their past. The Scriptures are excellent. I highly recommend this book.
One night a few weeks ago I woke between 2:00 A.M. and 4:00 A.M. and was having what I call a ¿shame attack.¿ Anyone knowing that mental state recognizes what an awful complex of emotional paralysis develops. I spent years working on this subject and learning the skills to deal with just this sort of thing. Still shame is a menace at times, and I am greatly comforted to have Cynthia¿s person and years of practice minister to me. I had recently read Cynthia¿s book and got it out that morning, reviewing a particular part, then others. I read over a page listing tendencies among people with abuse in the background, and then I re-read some additional chapters. An hour later I felt calm and went back to bed. To anyone else who experiences this phenomenon any time of the day or night you know that is a marvelous thing to achieve. I did not understand shame, its symptoms or it origins until fairly recently in my middle aged life. I was a victim of a silent and deadly phantom-shame. Men rarely talk about this subject, especially as it might relate to abuse, and even more to sexual abuse-a common cause. I recommend this book to any man or woman who experiences toxic shame, knows people who find it problematic or want to understand an underlying cause of much emotional paralysis. Cynthia covers the subject with a marvelous mix of clinical understanding and personal connection. Anyone who knows trauma of any kind (which usually produces shame) will be touched with knowledge, wisdom and understanding on a difficult but compelling piece of life.
Finally a book that looks honestly at the 'secret' sins many people have committed or are struggling with. Cynthia's book offers compassion and hope to those silently carrying their hurts and failures, so filled with shame that they feel unworthy of God's love. We are reminded that throughout the Bible, God chose to use 'broken, weak and sinful people to serve him and fulfill his plans'. Pointing us to the absolute truth, God's Word, this book shows us that our Heavenly Father is waiting with open arms to embrace us with his unconditional love and forgiveness, wiping our slates clean forever. Quoting her favorite verse, 'You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free', (from the bondage of sin and regret) it is clear that physical and emotional recovery is not only obtainable, but in fact the very thing God longs for his children to experience. Cynthia's challenge to the church to be more 'authentic' so that people feel welcomed and accepted no matter what they have done, is a battle cry I pray will not be ignored. Read this book and begin believing you are precious and dearly loved by God and watch as he begins to transform your life and set you free.