I felt the shame rising from deep inside, coloring my cheeks as I thought about the upcoming event.
I’m not going. No way.
How often do we allow shame to shackle our decisions?
“I can’t go and face everyone after I’ve lost my job. I can’t go and answer the thousands questions they will all ask about why I dropped out of school. I can’t go and bear the looks of everyone when they find out my mistake. I can’t waltz in there knowing they all heard the fight between my spouse and me. I can’t…I can’t…I can’t…”
I’m sure you can easily think of something that causes you to hide. Goodness, we all have those places of shame. Do you have it in mind now? I invite you to go ahead and allow that “something” a place in your head as you read the rest of this post. As for me, my place of shame was something that might sound very familiar to you…
I can’t go when I obviously have gained back some weight.
After losing 70 pounds on a ketogenic lifestyle, I thrilled to buy new a new wardrobe, loving what my body became, the outside finally matching the inside. I stopped minding my pictures being taken. I walked with a new-found confidence…until COVID. The powerlessness in the lack of social engagement of COVID rather affected me. I allowed myself to get sloppy in my eating decisions. I reaped the consequences with 15-pound weight gain. After a few months, I figured I had paid my dues in losing the weight once by being uncomfortable then, so I could just lose these 15 pounds I had gained back relatively easy AND still be comfortable.
It didn’t quite work that way. Comfort took first-place in my life. I began to eat as many keto-approved snacks as I wanted - when I wanted. I stopped paying any attention to the basics that allowed me to lose weight in the first place. I stopped exercising. I basically stopped doing what I knew to do and thought the same results would ride me through once again.
Hoping to motivate myself into serious action, I made a paper chain representing all of the pounds I wanted to lose.
Fifteen navy paper links, signifying the joy and peace I once felt, now hung on my bedroom wall. The first week after being more vigilant, I happily removed three links. The second week I should have added on four links. Sigh. Already, I was feeling defeated. Worse yet, instead of feeling motivation, the paper chain did the opposite as I tried to help myself. I started to avoid looking at it. It just condemned me. I stopped caring about my goal, slightly giving up inside. When I couldn’t help looking at it, it taunted that ZERO links had been taken off.
I sat alone, feeling the opposite of my earlier intention.
The chain didn’t motivate me. It condemned.
In your motivation to “help” yourself, do you ever feel you are in a worse place than when you started? Yep. Me, too. And then the stain of shame seeps into the cracks, coloring every decision and interaction. It robs moments. Steals peace. Kills joy.
Just as if a literal chain would keep one from freedom, my paper chain became as death to me, ushering in captivity. Its mere paper bound just as effectively as a genuine chain.
A realization hit me - I think I have a mere paper chain up in my bedroom, but it’s really an actual chain of bondage. I think it is made from paper but it’s really like steel. I am tied to this big ‘old heavy steel chain that I can’t even see.
For me, it doesn’t look like a big deal, but actually it is. It became bondage.
We live out of what we think.
If I think I am bound, I become as one bound.
Then condemnation sets in because I know that I’m going against what the Spirit tells me inside while I eat in patterns that led to this initial weight in the first place. I’m secret eating, a big sign of relapse. I’m eating things that I know are not the optimum fuel for my body. I’m eating anytime I feel like it, whether my body needs it or not. The condemnation strengthens that chain, securing it all the more tightly around me.
And here I thought I was going to motivate myself with this chain?
How in the world did I get to this place of being so shackled in this area of my life?
Smoke and mirrors. Artful deception. Sleight of hand. Blinky lights.
Usher in the illusion of temporary desire meant to turn out heads at fleshly desire. “Hey, look over here.”
And thus, the blinky lights have our attention, one look at a time, until our focus is totally upon the things that morph into bondage for us.
“Look at those few pounds you have. Look at your arms compared to hers. Look at the fact that you had more berries than you should and now you’ll be craving more. Look at the fact that you shouldn’t even speak of keto with these extra pounds. Look at her looking at you in comparison. Look at the links that still sit there waiting for you to get your act together once again.”
Enemy jargon. You loser. You worthless person. You disappointment.
I didn’t make that paper chain when I bought the navy paper to match my bedroom décor, cutting each link to proper size, stapling it into a large chain. No, not really.
I constructed that paper chain, link by link in my mind, as I took an attitude of not caring - just this time.
This time here. This time there. One “this time” becomes a string of many links of a chain. I need these berries and cream. And a chain link is added. I don’t feel like exercising. Clink. I’ll eat a snack with them because I want to. Clink. I’ll eat this because no one is looking. Clink.
There’s a lot that created that chain; it wasn’t a big thing but instead a ton of little things.
I’m allowing myself to be enslaved by my choices.
Might there be little things to which you allow yourself to be enslaved?
I don’t think we would have let the enemy come and clamp a big chain around our necks and tie us to the wall. But the enemy is shifty and sneaky. “Here’s a link. Make another loop.” It was so subtle I didn’t even realize it was happening. That paper chain might have been literally real for all of the strength it had to tether me to its slavery.
Chains represents everything opposed to freedom because the role of a chain is to bind, keeping us stuck to one place.
Chains tether. That’s what a chain does. A dog on a chain is stuck right there. It runs around in circles, without freedom to move outside of its confines - and I can’t either. That’s been a picture of what’s been keeping me stuck these past few months. I can’t get outside of that chain. I’m only running in circles, looking at blinky lights of distraction, and never losing the weight.
I’m stuck by my own doing.
Sin management is sneaky like that. It binds when promising freedom.
Lying is what the enemy is and what he does. He’s prods his dangled carrot out in front of us. “I’m helping you out a little. Here’s a beautiful paper link. Use it. Motivate yourself.” All the while running to chase motivation, the enemy clubs us from behind with regret and condemnation. We run in circles, never going anyway, the pain and shame increasing exponentially by the moment.
It is simply enemy flesh management to help myself by focusing on the problem rather than the Solution Giver himself.
Every glance, every look, and every focus upon the paper chain becomes a way to shame myself into weight loss. The blinky lights flash and garner attention as bright as any Vegas lights.
And it works.
We look. We blink at the glare of the blinky lights. We succumb to the lure. Over and over, we add links to our chains. We find ourselves jailed, tethered, and bound. Link by link, the blinky lights meant to seize our attention have us looking away from truth. The truth is that Jesus Christ, stronger than ANY tactic of the enemy, died so that the captives would be set free, not bound to paper chains.
When caught up in the smoke and mirrors of sin management, we can’t see the freedom we already possess.
Paul and Silas sat in jail. Captured. Bound. Tethered. Arms and feet restrained, yet they sang and prayed, not placing their focus not on the blinky lights of bondage, but on the truth of the freedom of Jesus Christ. They were freer in the physical bondage of steel chains than I was in my paper chains of “motivation.”
Yet something curious happened. Sitting in prison, praising the Lord, their chains simply fell off. “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundation of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” (Acts 16:26)
Peter and Silas realized that captivity could be either physical or emotional. They also knew that the two were not remotely equal. One can be free of physical bondage yet be totally bound up in an atmosphere of emotional bondage. Conversely, one can be in physical bondage yet totally free in Christ. They knew that Christ had already come to set the captives free. If Father made them free, then they were even free here in these circumstances, despite the discouraging appearances.
This is why they could praise God in the middle of trying circumstances.
We wonder, how can our spirits be lifted up in praise if our hands are weighted down in self-made bondage? Seems impossible, doesn’t it? Yet, the truth is we CAN put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, lifting up our voices in praise. Paul and Silas knew this. They had physical metal chains but emotionally free hands. I had flimsy paper chains and emotionally bound hands.
Real freedom is not dependent upon physical freedom.
Why does this even matter? It’s matters because we can get in a mindset where we believe we can’t lift up your hands and praise Father when emotionally shackled to iron bands of choices we make in our life. How can we? The world is all black instead. All motivation is gone. All gratefulness disappears. Life is bleak, dark, and hopeless. Condemnation sets in and pretty soon we’re sitting in a chair not wanting to go anywhere, see anybody, or do anything.
I speak from experience.
The past three days I’ve had this spirit of heaviness and sadness that I couldn’t attribute to anything in particular. Self-made bondage begins linking hands with our choices, feelings and circumstances, creating additional links from other areas of life. An argument with a friend? A circumstance that just won’t change and seems hopeless? A fear and anxiety over confusing days? More links.
No wonder I felt my praising hands were waited down.
Link by the link, the emotional chain grows as we look away from Christ towards managing our own situations, weighing ourselves down with self-made chains.
This captivity allows deep-seated shame to grow teeth, biting at self-worth.
To wear my size 6’s again = I’m good enough. Do whatever you can to garner self-worth.
Listen to what your own personal flavor of shame spits toward you, too.
Recognize that in this backwash of captivity floats a lie. We must recognize the lie in both our situations.
I’m not falling for the lie that I have to reach some standard to be acceptable.
I hope you don’t either.
Why is this important? Because this is how chains are born. We “motivate” ourselves with carrots and clubs, hoping to reverse the lie believed.
The sin management of “do whatever you can to avoid being unacceptable keeps me away from truth. Father has divine appointments for me to walk into today. Tethered, I can’t walk into the good works that Father had created for me because of my limited two-foot radius the chain affords. I can’t move into daily opportunities Father provides because I become so focused on the lack of joy in this place. It’s as though I can see something outside but can’t get there shackled. I do not want to miss my divine appointments tethered to this chain of shame. I don’t want to be bound to “I just can’t go”. Deep down I recognize the opposite desire in the spirit of Jesus Christ who lives inside me. I crave to look at the face of Love, himself, rather than the blinky lights of distraction.
The truth is that I don’t have to. “So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) If I’m free, do I then have the authority to get out of these chains?
“Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:8) I know that was prophesied to the Jews in captivity but there’s still truth in it for me - I am free. It was for freedom that Christ set me free.
I do need to voice the question that I pondered for a few weeks. Didn’t Paul and Silas’ chains simply fall off? But then why does this contrasting passage from Isaiah seem say to “loose yourselves”? Because on this side of the cross, the work of loosening the hold upon us has already been done. Remember Paul and Silas had physical chains that God allowed to fall off. My ticket out of bondage has already been paid for and the chain is simply hanging loose upon me, ready for me to shake off entirely what I allowed to be put on.
But how? How do we shake it off?
What if I were to ask how difficult it is to remove a chain that has already been completely loosened? You would look at me funny with a look that says, “All you do is step out, Silly.” What if I were to realize it’s this effortless to remove that which binds me? Father has already come to set me free, but I am living as though it were not true. All I need to do is to shake off the chain and shimmy out, because in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the chain has already been lost its grasp.
We slip off chains of bondage by remembering who has done the work. Father has done the heavy lifting. It is our job to simply trust in that and move in a manner fitting with truth.
Then, once again back in the freedom that had always been mine, I stand firm and do not allow myself to be subject again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)
Slavery is no picnic. I only jail myself through watching the blinky lights and giving into the moment of fleshly desire regarding my eating. Instead, I turn my focus onto Christ. It is there, in the depth of my spirit, that I can hear Him.
Hey Aleisha...that chain... Take it off, Girl. Take it off the wall. I had nothing to do with this. You sit in a jail with an open door and loose shackles. You have the authority to just go and destroy that chain yourself. I died for this so you wouldn’t have to be enslaved any longer. Nobody is holding you there except yourself. Take it off! Shake off that chain.
Father’s words stir real motivation in me. His leading. That’s proper motivation. I realize how powerful it will be to destroy this chain. It’s not going to be cutting up mere paper, but rather steel bands. There’s something huge in this. I had thought that I had gotten over caring about scale numbers, but I had fallen prey to sin management and condemnation all over again.
I lost my liberty in Christ by allowing myself to be enslaved to the yoke of the law. In my case, it wasn’t the particulars of eating healthy, but the attitude of motivating myself into action by feeling shame when the weight loss stopped or even when more pounds bred.
I was using a system of rewards and punishments to improve my behavior rather than trusting that I’ve already been set free. Now I just get to walk it out.
I am about ready to experience some freedom. Father is going to help me not care about scale numbers and he’s going to help me look exactly like he’s created me to look. My job is to solely keep my trust in Him.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh. (Gal 5:13)
God, my desire is to trust you in my food choices. Period. I now remember from where I have fallen – I took my eyes off of grace and focused them instead onto the system of flesh management and bondage. I recognize I am not walking in what I actually have. I repent, Father. I have a change of mind that results in a change of behavior. I desire to do the deeds I did at first. (Rev 2:5) I do not want to turn my freedom into opportunities to eat in a way that allows a chain to be linked together.
He whispers back, “Oh my delightful daughter, you nourish your body and I will sculpt it.
Now looking truth again squarely in the face, I am reminding myself that my worth, my value, and my significance is not tied up in a scale number. I will go today to my event and keep my eyes on truth. If there is a look of comparison on someone’s face, I will realize my Father is not doing the same. He is cheering me on as I walk in grace.
Do you rather wonder what I did with my chain? Simple. I slipped off what was already loose and naturally walked out. After taking a few pictures of my paper chain of motivational bondage, I walked it to the trash and defiled it with dish soap and water. I would have burned it but it was already too warm in the house. This would have to do.
I will stop drawing motivation with paper chains of sin management.
I will instead find my motivation in the finished work of Jesus Christ. I will look to Him alone!
Period. Dead stop. Exclamation mark.
Thank God I’ve come to my senses and escaped from the snare of the devil as 2 Timothy 2:26 says. If I want to reward myself for losing the weight, I will skip the chain and instead I do what I once did - reward my changing body with harder workouts. That’s a win-win motivation. It celebrates strength. It celebrates truth. It celebrates freedom.
It doesn’t bind with paper chains of steel.
Thank God, I was set free from that! And you have been, too. Hey, I wonder - do you still have your “something” in mind? Remember that whatever is emotionally binding you this minute is already loosened by the finished work of Jesus Christ. Will you recognize that all you need to do is believe and then simply slip out of those bands. You’ve been given that authority.
Friend... shake off those chains and walk out.
You are free.
Let’s both walk in that freedom together!
p.s. Thank you to my awesome keto coach and friend, Jessyca Reynolds, for this beautifully raw and inspiring conversation that reminded me I don’t walk in bondage any longer. I don’t have to live in a place for which I am no longer made.