Exchanging isolation for companionship

If you didn't catch the first part of Tiffany's interview, you can read it here

Part 2 of an interview with Tiffany Bluhm,
Author of Never Alone

Walking through life without experiencing the pain and loneliness of betrayal, shame, guilt, loss, judgment, or rejection is impossible. These wounds can shape our views of ourselves, others, and God and even make us question if we are worthy of love and acceptance. Whether old or new, heartache can convince us no one understands or cares. Yet Jesus tells us a different story. In Never Alone: Exchanging Your Tender Hurts for God’s Healing Grace (Abingdon Press), Tiffany Bluhm offers hope and encouragement that as our plans, hearts, and lives change, God is there. What we might have mistaken for his absence was only our mind questioning his goodness and grace. She reveals the depth and healing power of Jesus’ unconditional love for us and how we will never escape his love.

Bluhm encourages women to:
  • Claim their value, worth, and role in the Kingdom.
  • Recognize they’re dearly loved and unconditionally accepted.
  • Find healing from rejection, disapproval, betrayal, abandonment, and other hurts.
  • See how the past affects our relationship with God and others.
  • Exchange shame and guilt for freedom.
  • Lean into desperate moments.
  • Gain a holy perspective through gratitude.
  • Find belonging through belief and courage.

Q: You write about six women from Biblical history and their stories of hurt. Who were they, and how do their stories affect ours?

The six women from the Gospels are the woman caught in adultery, the woman with the issue of blood, the woman at the well, the woman who anointed Jesus with oil, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, mother of Jesus. Each woman had an encounter with Jesus that radically redefined her value and role in society. Each of those encounters with Jesus pulls back the curtain on how God views women, how he values them in the Kingdom, and their innate worth. Jesus saw fit for women to serve as image bearers, receivers of restoration, speakers of truth, and valiant leaders for the cause of Christ. 

The women of the gospels felt the sting of rejection, shame, and fear. Like them, I’ve fought battles to claim my true identity defined not by the world, but by the death and resurrection of Jesus. In a world of do’s and don’ts, Jesus cut through the noise to speak value, love, and companionship to women. The same is true today. This is a noisy world, but Jesus isn’t white noise to be ignored. He’s the giver of the life we crave.

Q: How do feelings of fear, shame, and inequality steal a woman's role as indispensable in the Kingdom? 

Our fears and shame keep us from believing the truth of who we are and whose we are. We were built to be loved and live from a place of love, value, and power in Christ. Shame has kept far too many women from rising to play the role of peace giver, truth teller, and justice seeker. Our shame, like a veil that blurs our vision, keeps us from seeing the purposed role each woman was born to take.

Q: What are some of the things we do to protect ourselves from shame and rejection that in actuality make things worse?

We isolate to escape rejection, but in turn, we forfeit connection. We pass on the gracious love of Christ that is to be received and shared. Received by Christ himself and his people. Our isolation costs us love from others that could point us to the redeeming hand of Jesus.

We convince ourselves that in isolation, no one can hurt us. In isolation, we can be invincible. In isolation, we can be in control of what happens to us. While our attempt to survive is noble, it leaves us feeling even more rejected than we ever imagined.

At five years old, as soon as I understood the story of my birth and abandonment, it wasn’t long before I began to fantasize about what it would be like to meet my biological mother and visit the orphanage where I was left. I wanted to know every detail of my story, however broken and disjointed it may have been. I wanted what I believed everyone around me had. I wanted answers. I would visit friends and see baby pictures on the wall and baby footprints pressed into plaster. I wanted that. I wanted a story without gaping holes and unanswered questions, so I isolated myself from others because I did not have what they did. Isolation was the result of feeling inadequate, unworthy, and shameful.

Q: How did being adopted contribute to feelings of shame and loneliness throughout the years? Did adopting your son change how you viewed your own experience?

From my earliest memories, I remember feeling different. I knew straight away I was different. My family is white, and I am East Indian. My childhood was spent wishing my skin was brighter and my story didn’t involve a mama giving up her baby. However, that was my story. I’ve wrestled with shame and loneliness for being different, for being abandoned. No matter who you are, when the understanding of your origin story is understood, one that begun with abandonment, it messes with your understanding of worth.

I own just one baby picture of myself, taken at five months. I’m wearing a simple cloth diaper with my moppy black hair piled atop my head. My pursed lips appear to be permanently carved on my face. Every time I look at that picture my heart drops. Even at five months old I was scared and unsure of everything around me. Those overwhelming emotions of fear and uncertainty, my demons, were already there for me to fight, not only as a child, but also as an adolescent, and later still as an adult.

Shame never lets us rest. It reminds us how we feel about ourselves when we’d rather forget. It’s a mark of something deeper.  It evokes emotions that cause us to question why we wallow in them day after day. Yet, every shameful thought in us has a story, a birthplace deep in our core. It grows as we grow. Shame threads itself through our ideas, dreams, and hopes. It convinces us we aren’t good enough, strong enough, or worthy enough for anyone’s love and affection.

Adopting my son gave me an understanding of God’s extravagant love for the brokenness in all of us. It was as though he pulled back the curtain to reveal his deep love and willingness to restore all that has been broken and lost. Yet, at the same time, it’s wild and sometimes heartbreaking to see my son struggle with many of the issues I did as a child. To work through these issues with him has given me, as an adult, a double dose of compassion and a rock-solid belief that God can redeem each and every broken part of us.

Q: In addition to the book itself, what other resources are available to go along with Never Alone for further study?

In addition to the book, the companion Bible study is available for further study, which includes six half-hour video sessions that dive into six encounters Jesus had with women in the gospels, each revealing his beliefs about women and each revealing He, indeed, was the Messiah. Each woman found she was loved by Christ, and once she encountered Jesus, her life would never be the same.

There is a workbook, leader’s guide, leader’s kit, and DVD.

Keep up with Tiffany Bluhm and read her blog at www.TiffanyBluhm.com. She is also active on Facebook (TiffanyABluhm), Twitter (@tiffanybluhm), and Instagram (@tiffanybluhm).