Defeating the Shame Game

Praise the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion (Psalm 103:2-4).

When my first marriage ended in divorce, I thought the shame of dealing with drug addiction was a thing of the past. I never dreamed it would come back to haunt me.

My daughter Brittany was always so quiet and responsible, but after she graduated from high school things changed. My timid freckle-faced artist morphed into a loud and obnoxious druggie. I hated it when my friends asked how Brittany was doing. What was I supposed to say—she’s smoking crack and popping pills? Instead, I skirted the issue by giving vague details like, “She’s working at Quiznos,” or “She just got her own apartment.”

Of all people, she should know better—the first ten years of her life were filled with chaos due to her father’s drug habit. Even so, I couldn’t help but blame myself. I raised her in church, and even taught Bible studies and served in leadership. Now that Brittany was challenging my “train-up-a-child-promise” I felt I had messed up somewhere.

I envied my friends and couldn’t help but compare myself to them. Their daughters were still active in church, going to college, and getting married. What had I done wrong? Internal critiques harassed me daily but like a belt that was one notch too tight, I stuffed the shame.

After graduation, John and I wanted her to continue living at home so she could attend a local college, but Brit couldn’t wait to move out. She thought our rules were too restrictive. Her only trips home were to catch up on laundry. When I asked about her classes, she got defensive. Then during her second semester she announced, “I’m not going back. I’m flunking most of my classes anyway.”

I had suspicions earlier, but now it was hard to deny. Her constricted pupils and personality changes were all too familiar. I offered counseling for her, but she refused and met every confrontation with bitter scorn—until the phone call I got after she was picked up for drug possession.

“Mom, I’m in jail. Can you bail me out?”

Her request was as casual as if she were asking to borrow a pair of jeans. She seemed to delight in the shock value of her behavior.

How could she make choices like this? Especially after what drugs have done to our family?

By the time bail was arranged, Brittany was transferred to the county jail. When I arrived the next morning, she skipped to the car like I was picking her up from kindergarten. “Jail wasn’t so bad,” she boasted. “I even made some friends.”

I fumed inside. I shouldn’t have bailed her out! She needs to learn a lesson.

“Oh, and guess who transported me last night from the Warr Acres jail to county?”

I shrugged.

“Pastor Michael.”


Officer Anderson was on staff at our church for years. Of course, we still referred to him as Pastor Michael even though he now served on the Warr Acres police force.

“Yeah, I got the mini sermon-slash-lecture on the way, but hey, what else could I expect?”

I mused at the Lord’s providence. Of all the officers in the city, the Holy Spirit hand picked a divine escort, someone who happened to know Brittany and the Word of God. Brittany may have been the only person in Pastor Michael’s “mobile congregation” that day, but he delivered a sermon just the same.

“Brittany,” I said, “remember Psalm 139? Don’t you know there’s nowhere you can go that God can’t find you?”

Brit just rolled her eyes.

Brittany’s freedom came with a huge price after her drug bust: court costs, attorney fees and drug tests. I hated to see her endure so much but I prayed that she would learn from her mistakes and want to come back home. As difficult as her circumstances were, however, she loved freedom more than she hated depravation. Her apparent “avoid-home-at-all-costs” policy only intensified my feelings of failure. I kept hoping she would want to come back home.

One fall day while cooking dinner, I got a call from an unfamiliar number. “Hi Mom, it’s Brit. Just wanted to let you know where I’m staying. I met a great new friend. Her name is Brittany too.”

Her friend still lived at home with her parents. Tears smudged my recipe. Why would she prefer to live with another family rather than her own? I didn’t even feel like cooking. It wasn’t the same without Brittany at home.

God, please, send Your Word to her. Send someone to her that will encourage her with Your truth. I quoted scripture: “The seed of the righteous shall be delivered (Proverbs 11:21) and “No weapon formed against her shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17).

For several months, Brittany remained unemployed and stayed with her friend. I pleaded with the Lord. Please don’t let them continue to enable her. God heard my prayer.

Just before the spring semester of college, her friend’s mother laid down the law. She worked for an attorney and required her own children, as well as Brittany, to sign a “Family Life Contract.” The contract listed behavior required in exchange for free room and board. One requirement was full-time college attendance. When Brittany told me about the contract, I couldn’t help but laugh inside. After all, she collided right back into the very thing she was running from-rules. Along with these new boundaries, however, her friend’s mother also exercised compassion. She convinced the attorney she worked for to represent Brittany pro-bono on her drug charges.

I marveled at God’s answer my prayers. He sent influence and provision to Brittany even though she no longer lived at home. And at least this time, Brittany couldn’t get angry at me for making the rules.

Now that constant expectations weren’t coming from me, gradually our relationship began to improve. I prayed earnestly for Brittany, but for longer than I’d like to admit, God seemed more concerned about working patience and forgiveness in me. Finally another answer to prayer came: During her stay, Brittany recommitted her life to the Lord.

We still don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but through the changes God has made in me, I’m able to trust that He will finish the work He began in her. At least now we’re able to enjoy each other’s company again. On Saturday mornings we grab a cup of coffee and hunt down vintage items at local estate sales. Most of all, I enjoy her pesky sense of humor. No one can make me laugh like Brittany.

Her life still has ups and downs. After a recent DUI, I fell on my knees again and sobbed. She knows better. How can she be so rebellious?

I felt the Lord speak to my spirit. “If Brittany walked in obedience, would you take the credit?”

“Well, yes,” I stammered. “I trained her up with the Word.”

“Then you would be full of pride."

"What do you mean?"

"You would be taking credit for your daughter’s decisions. She has her own free will to make choices. I was the perfect parent and my children rebelled. That doesn’t make me any less righteous."

I had to admit. I had never thought about that before. God is perfection and how often had I rebelled? Even with my comparison and judgement.

"The best thing you can do for Brittany is to walk in forgiveness and be there for her when she is ready—ready to listen.”

A recess bell rang from the school down the street and startled me. I'm sure I'd heard it a hundred times before but for some reason, it was louder today. Maybe that's how Brittany will be. Someday, she'll hear the message loud and clear. I just have to wait until she's ready.

I’ve since learned the best way to influence my daughter is to let my own life speak. Beth Moore once said, “All we can do is live a life so appealing that they become jealous for our freedom.” I believe Brittany will eventually come back to the place where she wants my advice. But for now, I’m trusting that the Lord will send people to her that she will listen to. And so far, He’s doing a pretty good job.

Today when my friends ask how Brittany is doing I no longer lower my head in shame. My children are not a badge of honor. They are human too, and like some of us, sometimes they have to hit bottom before they’re willing to look up. So I’ve come up with a catch phrase to speak the truth in faith. Now when my friends ask how Brittany is doing, I simply say, “She’s on her way down to the top.”

Yes…the top—

that’s her destiny!

Prayer:  Father, I praise you and thank you that You love our children even more than we do. Please watch over them and even when they fall, lead them back to Your truth. I pray You would send people to minister love to them, that deceit and darkness would not overcome them, and that addiction and promiscuity will be far removed from their culture. May Your spirit hover over our children until they are firmly established in You. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Scriptures to Ponder:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23)

In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the Lord your Redeemer (Isaiah 54:8).

I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them (Hosea 11:4).

Questions to Ponder:

Read Psalm 139:7 above. When you think your children are running from God, how does this scripture encourage you?

Has God ever used someone else’s rebellion to work forgiveness and patience in you? How can applying 1 Peter 4:8 help someone turn from sin and repent?

The right words at the wrong time are still the wrong words. Have you ever spoken a truth in the wrong season? What happened? Was the strength of your witness compromised?

When we see our loved ones in the chains and pain of sin, how can we rest in Isaiah 54:8 and Hosea 11:4?

Share This:

14 Responses to Defeating the Shame Game

  1. Debbie Myers at #

    Oh Christy this is exactly why I love you. You are REAL. Sure we all want that bragging Christmas card about how perfect our family is…..but that is just not the case. Trust me, I always wished I could send one of those out. Perfection is Christ. My children have their own issues….perhaps I think they should be in church 24/7, etc. but God did give us our free will. It really got my attention when you said God asked you if would take credit if she walked in obedience, your response yes. Aren’t we all guilty of that. God is perfection and I need to remind myself of that each and everyday. Just like I need to continue to pray for my children each and everyday.
    Love you and keep writing… are touching lives.

  2. Crystal Heard at #

    Christy, thank you for being obedient to the will of God. Oftentimes, we want to keep our problems to ourselves. But as Revelation 12:11 says “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” and of course, John 8:32, “…the truth shall set you free.” GF, because you obeyed God, you are now free and you have overcome Satan with the power of your testimony! I am praying for you and thank you for being a blessing in my life! That was an awesome story!! That prayer will be one a pray over my children starting today! Be blessed!!

  3. Debbie Priest at #

    This was such a timely word for me, Christy! I just had lunch with a friend this morning, and we were talking about this very subject! Thanks for sharing!!! What a blessing you are to the Body of Christ!

  4. Anonymous at #

    Christy, my mother’s statement to all six of us was “right now you are in fool’s valley”. She never let up praying for all six of us. Now, we all know & understand just what she was telling us. It is all about just loving, forgiving, accepting & enjoying our children. As mothers, praying God’s covering over them as he leads them through & out of “fool’s valley”

    I remember this struggle with you & I am glad God is working it out.


  5. darla at #

    Love you Christy!

    I cherish and praise God for knowing you, for reaping the blessings of your hearfelt words and open heart, your beautiful expression of hope.
    We are SO not in this parenting life-long challenge by ourselves…we have the ultimate Father who tenderly feels our pain and struggles with our precious ones.
    I love His word that promises; “My children are taught of the Lord and GREAT is their peace!”
    Ultimately everything in Christ Jesus you taught your kiddos was GOOD SEED. Now is the hard part as we patiently continue to rain Jesus blood and word in prayer and yes hope into their lives as we wait upon our Saving God who is in the business of REDEEMING that which WAS lost!
    He who has begun a good thing in our children shall NOT complete it until the day of Christ Jesus! Phil. 1:6
    Love you Christy!

  6. Estelle at #

    What a blessing to pour out your heart in a testimony that will help many who are experiencing some difficulties in life. Our struggles as His children are varied, but He is sufficient for all of them. I am going through the heartbreak ofa wayward young teen right now, and the struggle almost has no answer for her right now. We are praying for Divine guidance in the next step to take as she wants her independence and has no understanding of the dangers lurking out in this darkened world. I hope I can send this message on to this precious friend to encourage her heart. Thanks. What a ministry! Estelle

  7. Judy Walker at #

    Christy what a blessing to read your blog and visit with you yesterday. I too especially liked your comment about taking credit thru pride when our kids do right…wow that’s a big PRIDE issue. We do the best we can and then continue to pray. I am at a point in life where I see children & grandchildren wanting to do their own thing and not valuing the experience of their parents & grandparents. Just as their parents can see the pitfalls kids are heading too, I see pitfalls ahead for the parents. Being led by the Holy Spirit …….confrontation without judging or being critical… the key. God bless you and keep sharing your insight as the Lord leads.

  8. Christy Johnson at #

    Confrontation without judgment…wow, that’s powerful.

  9. EVa at #

    I just got a chance to read this. And of course, it was God’s perfect timing! Thanks, Christy! I have many whom I love dearly in my life who are not where they “should be” yet I knowGod is at work.

    My daughter who is now a highly respected Cardiac nurse went through some horrible years. God used every one of them to mold her.

    Love your sis-in-Christ,

  10. Christy Johnson at #

    That’s very encouraging! If only we can fix our eyes on the hope of their certain future! I know God used every one of my horrible years, too. Why should Brittany be any different? I just wish she could learn without having to go through what I did!

  11. Brittany Ennis at #

    A recent repost on facebook brought me back to this entry. I ready this years ago, mildly painful, due to embarrassment, shame, or perhaps regret. The difficult events in my life were not blossomed from the dreams and aspirations I had as a child. A well known artist was my/is my dream. I stopped questioning why I ultimately chose to live my life as I have, obviously I would love to give myself and my family that proud feeling of accomplishment. I’ve grown from that mindset and can now say that my relationship with my mom is wonderful, even asking for advice 🙂 Nine years later after my mom picked me up from jail, I have received an expungment, clearing my record and giving me opportunities in life I will now treasure. With the help of friends and family, my life has been redirected to a path I love and enjoy. Thank you mom for being the woman you are, with patience beyond measure. I love you!

    • Tamara at #

      Hello, Other Brittany (O.B.) and Christy..has it trulybeen that long?
      WOW. So well written. I was pinching my nose with stinging tears, looking back on this time. And … I have no words to say, not words that do not sound trite. I am so glad we ran into you at the patio of”Starbuckles” next to Quiznos that dark night. Brittany (Bri, my Brittany), slid me that question about O.B. and I said yes– but only for a day or two! Famous last words! :)) Half a year skidded by like a cloud across a moon. Thank you, Christy, for sharing this.
      For…He has crowned us with love with compassion. -Tam

  12. Shelley Stevenson at #

    Brittany, this is so beautiful. It has been such an honor watching your life all these years and seeing you grow into the beautiful young woman that you are. I’ve watched you show strength to overcome the wrong choices and mistakes. I’ve also watched your sweet mom not give up on her purpose in loving and building up young women of which you were/are such a huge part. I believe you both have immeasurable things ahead for you….together and separately. Love you! — Shelley

    • Christy Johnson at #

      Amen Shelley. So great to have a witness to our lives and the lives of our children!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.