Have you ever experienced shame so intense you felt like you could never come back from it? I have and I had to learn how to trust God’s goodness for me and my story. I wore shame like a mask for the majority of my teenage years and found my identity in my past, but now I am a product of Grace and get to share my story to bring hope to those trapped in shame.
As a young girl, I searched for my worth in things that I shouldn’t have and put my identity in my ability to keep those things. I grew up in a home where my parents slept in separate rooms on opposite sides of the house. I had a skewed view of what true, selfless, grace-giving love really looked like. My home life pushed me into a long road of guilt, shame, and brokenness that could only be cured and cared for by the Creator--- but I didn’t know that yet. I fell in love, or at least what my idea of love was, at the age of 14. I gave up my body and my innocence at the age of 15 to show my love for this boy. Our relationship became a back and forth of breaking up, getting back together, and many one-night stands. After a couple years of this destructive back-and forth, I read the dreaded plus sign on a plastic stick. I was sixteen years old. The reality sunk in that my secret shame was about to be known by everyone around me.
I was sure I’d hit the lowest of lows: Being the girl---that no one even knew was having sex--- who got pregnant in high school. Little did I know; a rude awakening was coming my way and a shame I never imagined would soon take its toll on my life. I ended up losing the baby at 5 months along, leaving me no choice except to have a stillbirth. In a matter of days, I went from being a mom, girlfriend, and friend to being a mother who just lost her child, a girl who just got dumped, and a person who everyone thought faked the whole thing. This sent me on a downward path too deep to share the details of.
I already felt dirty and disgusting and like I was the worst of the worst. Inside, I had held myself to much higher standards than my actions had shown and it broke my heart.
I was attending church at this time and had heard all these stories about this God who loved people, but I couldn’t understand how God could love me. I dated a Christian guy who took advantage of me and his excuse was that he heard it was “what I was used to,” I would sit through sermons about purity and cry because that wasn’t me. I didn’t think it could ever be me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how someone like me, who had already been so hurt by myself and others, could be loved by a God.
The cool thing is that God’s grace isn’t supposed to make sense. Grace doesn’t exist so that the human mind can try to understand it or replicate it. It’s an unexplained, life transforming, gift that reaches into the deepest of wounds and brings out joy, healing, and redemption.
I relate a lot to the woman caught in adultery. My story was out there and my mistakes were on full display. Yet in this story, even though the woman caught in adultery was full of shame, Jesus leans down to her level, meets her where she is and embraces her. This Jesus is the same Jesus we serve today. This is the same Jesus who wants to meet you where you are and embrace you too. Shame and guilt were never something we were intended to experience.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they brought in shame and were forced to live their lives bearing that shame--- but that was before Jesus died for our sins. When He died for our sins, He also died for the feelings that come along with them. God has called us to live in the freedom of grace and when we are walking in God’s grace, shame and guilt have no place.
Whether you’ve struggled with shame for ten minutes or ten years, you’ll have to remind yourself these things every day: You are worthy and you are free from shame. I got married last July and my honeymoon brought up so much shame I’d long convinced myself I had already dealt with, but obviously hadn’t. I struggled with being intimate with my spouse because 1. I didn’t see myself as deserving of being married 2. I had been told for so long that sex was wrong or sinful 3. I never truly embraced Godly intimacy and what that meant.
Since then, I have allowed God to speak truth into my marriage and have left shame in the past. We are still learning and growing, as most newlyweds are, together as well as a part. Marriage is nothing like I ever expected and it’s better than I could have imagined. It has been so freeing being fully known and fully loved by someone day in and day out. Now that we are one, whatever I have experienced, Brad carries as well. Being married has painted the most beautiful picture of the gospel and taught me even more about walking in grace. I’ve also learned the importance of surrounding myself with people to speak truth over my marriage. The best cure for getting rid of shame is to surround yourself with people who speak to your true identity and encourage you. And always remember to tell yourself “ I am worthy and I am free of shame” even in those moments where you don’t believe it.
Hey friends! My name is Courtney Heathcock, I am 23 years old. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas with my handsome husband, Brad. We will be celebrating our ONE-year anniversary next month! I work for an anti-human trafficking nonprofit, Rescue Her, as the Outreach Coordinator and Advocate. I’m often found obsessing over corgis, taking a nap, or blogging for my lifestyle blog, courtneynicoleheathcock.com. I love cheering people on, so come say hi over at @courtneynicoleheathcock.