During a recent call with one of my spiritual big sisters, we talked about generational curses and other negative things that were passed to us even before birth. She shared with me some things that she felt the Holy Spirit revealed to her about her spiritual lineage and it caused me to think about my own. There are some obvious patterns that even the average person can see, but what would I find if I dug a little deeper? I wanted to know what the atmosphere was like while my mother was carrying me. I wanted to know if she felt bonded with me, or if she was ambivalent. I wanted to know more about her during that time as much as I wanted to know about myself.
A couple of weeks later I took my aunt, my mother’s older sister, to lunch. As I was driving her home I asked, “How was my mom when she was pregnant with me? How did she act? Did she seem happy?” Before giving me any information about my mother, she immediately, without hesitation, said “Mama made her cover up her stomach with a towel when she sat down at the [dinner] table. She didn’t want anyone to know your mama was pregnant. She tried to hide it.” The “anyone” my aunt was referring to was my mom’s five other siblings. Later that same day, speaking to another aunt that is married into the family and mentioning this story to her, she told me that her husband, my uncle has said on occasions of discussing our family “I was the only one at school with a pregnant fifteen year old sister.”
The revelation that I got from these two simple stories was profound. As an adult who has made my fair share of mistakes and poor choices, I struggle with feelings of guilt and shame, sometimes to the point that they cripple me and hinder my happiness and ability to receive love and joy, even God’s love and joy. I recently realized how deeply my spirit is steeped in these inaccurate thoughts. These two brief conversations with two different aunts were truly eye opening. I came to the realization that I was born into shame. Being a writer, it was not lost on me that my grandmother covering my mother’s stomach with a towel was a metaphor for her literally covering me in shame. My conception wasn’t celebrated or welcomed. It was, I was, my mother was…seen…as an embarrassment. I left those conversations with a depth of understanding that shame literally followed me out of my mother’s womb. And this knowledge freed me!
After the initial jolt of sadness wore off from knowing my grandmother was so embarrassed by me, I laughed at the irony of how God made me. I was one of the most talkative, chatty, precocious children ever! One of my mom’s friends paid me one time to stop talking. (This really happened!) I started singing and entertaining my family, pretend mic and stage and all, at about 4 years of age. I excelled in school, in music, in extracurricular activities. I was outgoing and bubbly! I was a cheerleader, literally. One of my middle school teachers was a former classmate of my mother’s and I remember him saying to me once that I was nothing like her at that age. He seemed to look at me in a sort of bewilderment as he spoke. He told me that she was very shy and quiet and not involved in any activities. I was, in his words, her total opposite. I thought of all these characteristics, these God-given gifts of my personality that made up my spirit, and I saw how God never intended for me to be hidden. He did not want me to be ashamed. I know my grandmother didn’t know what she was doing, but God did. Everything about me from a very young age said “I’m here! Look at me! God made me and gave me these gifts! I’m His child! You will not hide me or shame me for existing! I was meant to be here! I have a purpose, even if that purpose is just to make people smile when they are around me!”
Other things started to make sense to me as well; it’s hard enough to shake emotions like shame and guilt when you realize the magnitude of your own mistakes, and how you’ve hurt or disappointed the people that you love, but it’s nearly impossible to do when those things were put on you without your permission, by no choice and no fault of your own, by simply being conceived. I began to understand why it was so difficult for me to forgive myself, or to even accept Christ’s love and forgiveness. These feelings were in my literal DNA.
God gave me a vision as I was lying in bed one morning dwelling on my past, the part that I wasn’t born with…the part that I created including all of my many mess ups and awful choices. I saw Jesus carrying His cross. (I actually recalled the scene from Passion of the Christ.) I remembered in that movie, how heavy the physical weight of this huge wooden cross was and how difficult it was for Jesus to bear its weight on His shoulders. He was in such agony. It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said “The cross, by itself, was so heavy already…how much heavier do you think it was with the weight of all of your sins on it? All the sins of the world…past, present, and future. Jesus did that for you. He carried, not just that cross, but all of your sins with Him, on His shoulders, on His back, so that you wouldn’t have to live in guilt or shame.” I don’t think I ever understood the purpose of the cross and Christ’s death so clearly before. In all my years of believing in Christ, in that moment, it dawned on me that I never truly accepted His forgiveness and I was living in a world where I continuously punished myself and negated what He did for me when He willingly laid down His life. By not accepting His forgiveness, I was likely hurting Him more.
I try to live each day now with this vision at the forefront of my mind. Any time those shameful feelings try to creep in, or those voices that say “you don’t deserve to be happy, look what you did back in 1996 or 2008 or yesterday.” I pray them away. I rebuke and renounce them. And I live each day to the fullest, trying to be better than the day before, forgiving myself, loving myself and those around me, seeking His wisdom, and relying on His grace and mercy. I am here. I will not be ashamed.