As a Native American, I have always struggled with feelings of blame, shame, and guilt.
I have fought, and still daily fight, against these overwhelming feelings that cover my life in a seemingly endless darkness.
Sometimes, when these feelings start to overwhelm me, God sends a gentle nudge to tell me I need to let go of past hurts. Other times, when I think I know best and forget to listen, it's the trials of daily life that send me running back to Him.
When I first became a Christian, the feelings and memories I had hidden during my time addicted to drugs came flooding back into my life. These feelings, reborn after years of drug-induced numbness, were uncomfortable and strange. I had turned to drugs because I didn't want to feel the sadness, loss, fear, anger, and anxiety. And now, here they were again, threatening to throw me back into the dark.
Instead of addressing it, I threw myself into all of the things "good Christians" are supposed to do. I attended church every Sunday, and often times during the week; I went to every Bible study I could find; I immersed myself in the Bible. There is nothing wrong with these actions, but I was simply filling my schedule to avoid my past pains. I was unaware, at that time, that I could not fully heal because I was still hiding from the blame, shame, and guilt of my past.
No matter how hard I tried to hide, tried to act normal, and tried to put on my clean Christian life, I couldn't escape.
I tried my best to not be Native because, in my mind, being Native was bad.
Lutheran Indian Ministries helped me to finally come out of hiding and out of the darkness that had covered me since childhood.
I opened myself up to see the world again through the eyes of a child.
I was in awe, but I was also terrified. I carried around these fears from when I was a child, holding on to the mean things people told me about being Native, about who I was at the very core of my existence. I was told that I would never become anything, and I would live in poverty, dependent on the government. I was told there was no way I would ever leave the reservation. These are things that I truly believed and shaped the actions I took as an adult. These were the lies that created the man who turned to drugs to hide.
Blame, guilt, and shame have two effects upon a person. First and foremost, they wreak havoc on our self-esteem. We begin to look down on ourselves and despise ourselves. Then, once we're broken, they make us feel a powerful urge to punish ourselves because "we deserve it."
This is the darkness that has overtaken so many Native people. Without intending to, we set up punishments for ourselves. It is not that we want more pain, but this new pain takes away from our old pain. We are really seeking a release of the pain by choosing, what seems to us to be, a lesser pain.
As a people, many of us grow up immersed in the shame of broken families, sexual abuse, and alcoholism. We accept the blame for the problems of our families and the generations that have passed. It often feels as though we cannot break free of the blame, shame, and guilt we were simply born into.
But, I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and the hope that comes from my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Lutheran Indian Ministries helped me, as they help so many other Native people who were struggling with shame, blame, and guilt.
I finally heard: You are not alone. We have been where you are. We have lived through this struggle. You can be Native and love Jesus. You can open your eyes and rejoice because you have been offered freedom from the prison of your secrets. We need you. We believe in you. Jesus loves you. You are forgiven.
God has used Lutheran Indian Ministries to open my eyes to the beauty of the cross and its resurrecting power. They helped me to look closely at the brokenness of humanity and the lies the devil had been feeding me and my Native people, and cling to the truths given to us from Jesus. They helped me to forgive those who hurt me in the past and forgive myself by teaching me of the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. They started me on a healing journey that has led me to places I would never have imagined.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
So, I join Lutheran Indian Ministries in becoming a shameless, broken, Jesus-loving, truth teller.
We do not condemn, but instead, we help them to find healing through the work of the Holy Spirit. We walk alongside them as they regain their voice to tell their stories and finally see that they are loved children of God.
We help them step out of the darkness into His glorious light!
(Written by Bob Prue)