Shannon's Story

I’m Debbie’s daughter, the youngest of her three girls. My mom has always loved the Lord. When I was growing up, she was the worship leader at our church, so we were there every time the doors were open. We were always there early, and we always stayed late. Most of my best childhood memories were from the church and my neighborhood where I grew up. My parents were both good people who worked hard and simply wanted to provide for their family. Neither one of them had any issues with drugs or alcohol or anything like that, and they were married until I was an adult, so I didn’t grow up in a broken home. But my parents weren’t happy together, and there was often tension in our home. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, they both had deep emotional injuries from their childhood.

I was a very flamboyant child. I had a personality that might be best described as effervescent, always bubbly and full of wonder. My mom says I was the original Fancy Nancy. A lady from our church once said that she drove by our house one day and saw me outside roller skating. I had on a party dress with a full petticoat, red and white striped tights, leg warmers, a feather boa, and a helmet. I thought less was less, and more was more—and the more the better! I loved playing dress-up. I had lots of costumes in my play room, but I also got into my dress clothes real often. My mom finally got tired of me changing clothes all day long, so one day she shoved my dresser into my walk-in closet and put a lock on the whole thing.

As a child, like any little girl, I longed for the affection and attention of my daddy. Often, when he came home from work, I would parade around in front of him, tossing my hair and pretending not to notice him in the hopes that he would seek after me. But he never did, and I finally gave up trying to get his attention. As I grew into my pre-teen years, I entered into a terribly awkward phase. My teeth were too big for my mouth with a large gap right in the center. I had a bunch of curly red hair that I had no idea how to manage. And my body developed into a soft, very womanly figure that was downright unsightly on a thirteen-year-old girl. Emotionally and physically, I was not comfortable in my body.

I had some good friends in my church, and in my neighborhood too. But I always had trouble making friends at school. I never seemed to fit in. I wanted to be a part of everything, but I didn’t have any confidence. I couldn’t think of a reason why anyone would want to be friends with me. To make matters worse, my two older sisters were the picture of grace. One brunette and one blonde, they were both cheerleaders—slender and popular, and had their choice of friends and boyfriends.

I always felt like I was different. I felt like something was wrong with me. Even at home I sometimes felt like I didn’t fit in. I never seemed to get the help that I needed. Having two older sisters who were well into their teen years, my mother had her hands full. She seemed to consider their needs more urgent than mine, and no one noticed I was in desperate need of some help. My father’s only notice of me was to make critical remarks about my weight, not only to me but also to the rest of the family. Even when he wasn’t criticizing me with words, I felt that he eyed me with a certain level of disdain. At some point along the way I began to withdraw into myself. I was no longer the silly, flamboyant, delightful little girl I used to be, and I soon forgot who I was. I unconsciously built thick protective walls around my heart to keep the hurt out—and in the process of doing that, I put a gag on my personality so that my personality couldn’t get out. It was as though my personality was paralyzed, and after a while I forgot what my true personality even was.

By the time I was in my teens my parents were fighting a lot. It was usually not done in quiet, either. My father’s job was high-stress, so he was prone to outbursts over little things. When he was home, my sisters and I tended to walk on eggshells so as not to disturb the peace. There were very few things in my life that brought me real joy, and even then, I knew there was some- thing on the inside that just didn’t feel right. I felt like I was different from everyone else.

I met my first serious boyfriend when I was sixteen. He was a great guy who treated me well, and we dated for two-and-a-half years. During that time it seemed my life was on the right track. I was enrolled in a community college with a four-point grade average. I had a good first job at a local law firm, bought my first car, and got my first credit card. I thought I had my life together. I had begun to grow into myself somewhat and I lost the awkwardness. The ugly duckling began to transform into a swan, and for once in my life I saw myself as beautiful.

But although I had changed on the outside, I was still broken on the inside. My personality was locked up inside me, and I could not be the real me. My lack of confidence acted as a wedge in my relationships with people, and it became a wedge with my boyfriend. I couldn’t be myself around him or truly let him in. It was as though my heart was locked. We talked about getting married and spending our lives together, but eventually I found him slowly drifting away from me. It had never occurred to me that we might break up. The harder I clung, the more he resisted until he finally broke it off. I did not handle the break up very well. At some point a month or so later, he made the statement that he’d rather be with someone with half a personality than be with someone who was nothing more than a collection of nice body parts. Even though my head knew he didn’t mean it, the words lodged themselves into my heart and followed me around for the next ten years.

Heartbroken, I began to neglect my responsibilities. I dropped out of school, got fired from my job, and lost my car. I started partying a lot, finding temporary relief from my pain by throwing myself into the arms of any guy that got my attention. I tried so hard to win the affection and approval from some man, somewhere. I formed relationship habits that were damaging and detrimental to my self-esteem, even as I willingly gave away everything I had in the effort to prove my worth. I was trying to outrun the rejection. I needed to know that I was lovable. After a few months, I found myself unmarried, broke, and pregnant at nineteen by some guy who cared nothing about me and even less about the child I carried. Added to the fuel was the contempt I had now developed for my own father, who I declared I would never forgive for the way he had treated me as a child. Burdened with guilt, burdened with shame, burdened with hate. I felt like I was ruined.

The next couple of years were tough. I was stuck at home with a new baby, no car, no job, and no way of getting one. My dad was home a lot in the evenings when my mom was working, so I often cooked dinner for the two of us. Through those solitary times, I felt my heart began to soften toward my dad. One day I told my mom, “I forgive him. He’s not a bad guy.”

God was working on me. Soon I was blessed with a vehicle (it was a lemon, but it was free), and I got a job. Over the next few years, I focused on raising my son and pulling my life back together. I rededicated my life to the Lord and began to attend church on a regular basis. I chose to stay away from men for a while, and that helped me stay grounded. As long as I didn’t have to deal with the rejection from men, I felt healthy and whole, and I began to believe I was experiencing inner healing.

It was around this time that my mom began to share with me about something that had been happening in her own life. She told me that she had just recently attained emotional freedom, and that God had freed her from what she called a heart bondage. She explained to me what a heart bondage was, that it was caused from things that happened in her childhood. Listening to her, I didn’t think I had a heart bondage. I mean, I hadn’t had a very bad childhood. I hadn’t been physically or sexually abused. I had always been loved and provided for. I even grew up knowing God! So I couldn’t have a heart bondage…right?

But then I began to take interest in men again. As soon as I was back in the dating game, the old patterns began to emerge. Over and over again I experienced rejection and disappointment. I was desperate to prove that I was lovable. Even after my relationship with my father was mended, I still felt the same inside. The next several years I was hit with another two major heartbreaks as I found myself being rejected time and again from men who should have been begging for the opportunity to go out with me. I could not make my relationships with men work. My pain increased as I asked myself the question, “Why?” so many times, it became a constant thought in my mind. I asked myself what was wrong with me. I made a list in my mind of all the things I had to offer. I wasn’t perfect, but my head knew that I was the total package. It didn’t make sense. There was something wrong with me.

Once again, I resigned myself to believe that it had to be my personality. I was boring, or not funny enough, or not cool enough. I began to emulate some personality traits that I thought might capture male attention, trying a different one on each new guy I dated. One time I’d be sassy, the next time nerdy, and the next time bubbly and happy. Nothing worked. They all failed, and I realized I had nothing to offer. Once I came to that conclusion, I decided my sensuality was all I had to attract men. I knew it was shameful, but I thought maybe if I could keep the men around long enough, surely one of them would come to love me. The more I was rejected, the more I sought that affection and approval. I kept telling myself that I just needed to improve myself. I thought if I could lose enough weight or make enough money or become educated, I would finally be good enough. I felt stuck in this place of worthlessness and unlovability.

All this time my mom kept talking about her Freedom Class. It had been nearly ten years since she had been set free. I had seen such positive changes in her. I watched her hold classes and lead other people to freedom, so I knew her process worked. But still, I wasn’t sure it would work for me. But I was about to find out.

When I thirty-one years old, the pain became almost unbearable. I felt a sense of isolation come over me, like God was pulling me away from everyone else. My phone went quiet. I felt there was a barrier between me and the rest of the world, even my family, a disconnect. One day, after that last heartbreak, I came to my mom in tears and expressed to her that I was tired of being in pain all the time. I was sobbing. She began to minister to me, and that day I realized that I did actually have a heart bondage. I committed to stop the dating game and began the Freedom Class right away. I began reading at least one chapter a day, sometimes more. Almost immediately I felt things stirring in my heart.

Especially in the first three steps, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Every time I picked up the material and started reading, fresh waves of God’s grace would sweep over me. God began working in me and changing my perspective. But when I was about two-thirds of the way through the class, I got distracted…by the last guy, the one who had just recently broken my heart. We started seeing each other again. I thought maybe he had changed and that I could continue toward freedom while I dated him. But of course, neither of those things were true. I lost sight of my freedom temporarily as I submerged myself in this hopeless relationship that ultimately ended the same way it had the first time: my heart broken, with more rejection and more pain. I didn’t immediately jump back into the Freedom Class though, even after it was over. I felt ashamed that I had made it so far toward my freedom, and had allowed some guy to distract me. I thought God would be disappointed in me or that I didn’t deserve freedom because I had chosen something else over it.

I sank into a deep depression. I could hardly get out of bed, binging on sweets for hours at a time. My emotions were all over the place, even to the point that I worried about my mental health. Finally, after some not-so-gentle encouragement from my mother, I started back toward freedom. I began the Freedom Class again, picking up where I had left off. Amazingly, I could tell that I hadn’t lost any of the progress I had made earlier, before I got distracted. The previous changes that had occurred in me had stuck, and I hadn’t lost any ground.

So here I was, continuing through the Freedom Class. I didn’t feel much growth happening this time, until I got to Step #5: TRUST. My mom said that was the “big one.” I was reading through Trust, but I wasn’t ready to make that declaration to trust God. I wasn’t excited about it. I just didn’t feel ready to let go and turn my whole life over to God. One Sunday morning not long after, I was sitting in church, and during the sermon I suddenly felt this tug around my middle section, and simultaneously there was a feeling like an electric shock. It didn’t hurt, more like a small jolt, and it was quick, just a half-second. But right afterward I felt God say, “It’s time.” I knew what He meant. So right then and there I silently whispered, “Okay, I trust You.” I still didn’t feel it. I wasn’t excited about it. And for a couple of weeks after, I wasn’t sure I had done it right because nothing seemed to be happening. I decided to move on and start reading the next step, Hope.

After just a few pages into Hope, things started connecting for me. I began to realize God had been showing me things over the past couple of weeks, and they all began to fall into place like pieces of a puzzle. He had been giving me glimpses of my future and showing me what my purpose is on this Earth, and I hadn’t even known it at the time. I was amazed that after struggling to find my purpose for probably twelve years, it was revealed to me just two weeks after committing to trust God with my life. Even once I knew I had a heart bondage, it had never occurred to me that my struggle to find my purpose might be affected by the heart bondage, too. 

God corrected my thought patterns through the entire process. Even early on, I became conscious of things I’d been doing to seek attention and approval from men. Some of these things were activities I’d not been aware I was doing. I just didn’t see it. But when my eyes opened to the truth, I knew I had to stop. Even more amazing, I wanted to stop. I lost my desire to subjugate myself for male attention and approval. I stopped doing anything at all that would bring attention from men. I simply didn’t want to attract any male attention, and that alone is a miracle. Another mental clean-up occurred when I was led to deal with another bad habit: that of demanding attention from random guys. As my eyes were opened more and more, I realized that I had been watching every decent man’s expression to see if he responded favorably to me. It didn’t matter if it was at the gym or in the grocery store, they’d better notice. I stopped doing that, too.

The changes in me were amazing. About the time I finished the Freedom Class, I was still waiting on the big, dramatic moment when I would feel my heart bondage fall off. I had heard my mom describe her freedom experience, and I wanted that too. But it wasn’t forthcoming. So I began to start thanking God for my freedom, and I would claim it during my prayer time. Then one day I realized that I was thinking like a free person. I felt like a free person. And it dawned on me, I was free! I felt such a joy that, for the first time, was completely independent of anything happening around me. I no longer needed or craved that approval or affection from men that had once driven me. I saw myself differently.

After several weeks, I kept waiting on the joy to subside, or to “come down off of the high,” but it stayed just as strong as ever. My mom noticed that I was happier and smiling more. My personality started coming back out. I was acting sillier. She even said she felt like I was acting the way I had when I was a child…like the real me. Because I’m free. It’s crazy how everything around me is the same. Nothing has changed. But yet everything looks different to me. Because EVERYTHING has changed!

I heard Mom talking about the Freedom Class for years before I did it myself. Some people might assume that I knew what it was all about and what to expect from the class, simply because I’m Debbie’s daughter. But I didn’t know what to expect! No one can know what to expect until they do it. It’s an intensely personal experience that’s gotta be different for everybody. I didn’t think it would work for me, but it did work, and it was easy. If you don’t think it’ll work for you, just start reading or watching the videos. Just start. You’ll be convinced!


with Debbie Wallace

Where Lives Are Changed