Released on the Celebration Table project. Words & Music by Steve Siler
In fall of 2018 I was invited to play all of the music for a conference in State College, PA entitled “Healing Trauma Through the Arts.” The hosting ministry was Oasis, a group focusing on healing those impacted by sexual abuse and sexual assault.
One of the conference organizers, Christian therapist Vicky Didato, has been using our work for years and is a big proponent of “right brain therapy.” A few months before the event she called me with an idea.
She wanted to have some colored stones laid out at the beginning of the conference. Each person would select a stone that represented him or her. Didato’s plan was then to have an artist take the stones and create a cross that would be unveiled at the closing ceremonies. “Can you write a song to go with that moment?” she asked.
It struck me that this would be a very important moment and I wanted to handle it responsibly and with great care. I told her I’d be honored but that I would first have to do some research and pray about it. I thought it might take quite some time.
Then I hung up the phone and wrote the song. Believe me I was as surprised as anybody. But I’ve been doing this songwriting thing long enough to recognize when the song is saying, “I’m being born now.”
My friend Vicky hadn’t said anything about shame during our conversation but as I sat with my eyes closed and pictured the colorful cross being unveiled the thought came to be instantly – this is a song about shame and how it died on the cross.
I’ve been working with therapists who counsel survivors on the issue of sexual abuse since 1990 and the theme of shame arises again and again. This is especially true with incest survivors who, as children, often think that somehow they caused the abuse.
But shame is not confined just to abuse. In almost twenty years with Music for the Soul I have found that shame is at the core of virtually every issue we write about.
Shame is the lie that the enemy uses to try and separate us from the love of God.
The scripture says ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.’ But somehow, whatever personal sin or mistake or – yes, even victimization – we carry, we manage to convince ourselves that ours is the one thing that God could never forgive. Somehow we are worse and more unlovable than anybody else.
Phrases replay on self-talk tape loops in our head.
“God could never love me because of…”
“It’s all my fault”
“Nobody has ever been as (fill in the blank) as me”
Unlike in Mission Impossible, these tapes do not self-destruct. We have to accept God’s forgiveness. We have to surrender our grip on the unhealthy, familiar coping patterns of the past in order to make room for the freedom Christ offers.
In less than an hour after hanging up the phone with Vicky I had a completed lyric on the pad in front of me. I hadn’t needed to do any research because the last twenty-eight years were the research. I hadn’t needed to spend hours or days in prayer because the last twenty-eight years were full of such prayers.
I just listened to what my heart already knew – to what my faith has taught me, to what the Spirit has shown me. When I sat down at the piano the music came easily, the whole process of creating the song being like a pouring out, staying in the flow.
Shame died upon the cross
Broken things became whole
Ashes became beauty
Death became life
When love arose
and shame died
I had the opportunity to debut the song at the unveiling of the cross in State College on
November 17th, 2018. They wound up using colored paper instead of stones so that survivors could write messages to themselves on the pieces of paper. It was a powerful, sacred moment.
Have you been carrying shame because of something in your past? You don’t have to carry that burden anymore. Lay it down at the cross. And in that surrender may you know in your heart that you are truly beloved.