I don’t have a conscious memory of my childhood where I didn’t know what shame was. Shame was like the air I breathed. Shame was woven into the very fabric of my being.

I grew up in a very staunch Greek Orthodox culture. If I did anything wrong, people would say, “Shame on you. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I also grew up as a daughter of Greek immigrants in Australia, at a time when we were very marginalised in the country because of our ethnicity. I was called racial slurs every day, all the way through kindergarten, primary school and high school.

I was also marginalised because of my gender. I grew up in a culture that did not esteem women, and in no way encouraged women to do anything in life. And for most of my childhood, I was sexually abused at the hands of four men.

My immediate family members are all great people. They allowed people whom they should have been able to trust into our home, but these people had proven to be extremely untrustworthy.

Shame was the cloak that I constantly wore.

Shame is different from guilt. Guilt is when you do something wrong and you say, “I have done something wrong”. You feel guilty.

But shame says that “I am wrong. There is something wrong with me.”

And I grew up most of my life thinking I was abused because there was something wrong with me. I grew up thinking that I was not worthy of any value or any dignity.

I was so full of anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. I was an angry young woman because of what had happened to me. Shame was put on me from a very young age.

Yet, in Genesis 2, right before the fall of mankind, the Bible says that “they felt no shame”.

Of the human emotions and feelings that we could have, the Bible chose to say that they knew no shame. I think that is so intentional because God created us not to know what shame feels like.

If I was the enemy and I wanted to destroy something that was created in the image of God, all I have to do is to put shame on them. I just need to make them bear this weight of shame that they were never created to bear.

Shame is not from God. And we are not meant to bear shame.

When I was 33, I received a phone call from my elder brother. He told me that he received a letter from the government and it said that he was adopted.

I told him that it must’ve been a mistake and he should call the government to tell them that they sent the letter to the wrong person.

But ten minutes later, he called me back and told me that it was true. They could tell him the names of his biological parents. They had an entire file on his life.

My brother went to confront my mother with that letter that day. I drove to my mother’s house too because I was afraid that things could blow up.

When my mother saw the letter, she just started weeping. She told my brother, “I’m sorry. Back then, all the adoptions in Australia were closed adoptions so we thought that you would never find out. We tore up all the paperwork and threw them all away. I even told your dad that I would never tell you just before he died.”

My brother was crying and freaking out. But my mother came to me and said, “Christine, since we are telling the truth today…”

Two weeks after my 33rd birthday, I was told that I was adopted.

I was stunned. I was absolutely shocked. At 33, I was told that I was not who I thought I was.

But after a while, I said to my mother, “Mum, before I was formed in my mother’s womb – whosever womb that was — God knew me.

“He knitted together my inmost parts. He fashioned all of my days before there was one. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

That day, every fact that I thought to be true about my life changed. What my name was, what my history was…

And till today, I still don’t know the facts surrounding my conception. I could be a result of a one-night stand, an ongoing adulterous affair — or even a rape.

But there is a force that is much higher than the facts, and it’s called the truth of the Word of God. The Word does not tell me that I am a workmanship of humans or an event.

It says that I am God’s workmanship, and that I’ve been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that I should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

The word “abuse” means to use an object for a purpose for which it was never designed. And for a decade, I was used for a purpose for which God never designed. The devil tried to steal, kill and destroy my life.

But God has a purpose and a destiny for me, and for every person in this room today. That’s why He sent Jesus to die on the cross and rise again from the dead, so that all of us can not only have forgiveness for our past but also a brand new life and a hope for our future.

I want you to know that the most potent force on this planet is the blood of Jesus Christ – because it sets people free! And on that cross, He took not only my sin but also my shame. And He gave me a life beyond my past.

“Number 2508. Unnamed.”

At the age of 33, I received my birth certificate.

It read, “Number 2508. Unnamed.” That was like a knife stabbing into my heart. It told me that my biological mother didn’t even give me a name. I was just a number.

I also received a document of an assessment that a social worker did on my biological mother. It says, “She does not seem to be too emotionally involved with the child. She seems to want to get it all over and done with, and get back to work as soon as possible.”

All it was telling me was that I was unwanted.

“…where you put your faith in this moment will determine the outcome of your life.”

I also have a letter from a university in Australia as I started working on A21.

The experts said, “If your career ambition is to remain in the area of youth services for a longer term, I would strongly urge you to take time out to study for basic social work, welfare work or other relevant professional welfare.” Basically, they were telling me that I was unqualified.

So here, I have the facts telling me that I was unnamed, unwanted and unqualified. And I’m not ignorant. I’m looking at them, black and white, ink on paper.

But the only issue is that I have another black and white, ink on paper — and it’s called the truth of the Word of God. And this truth is so much stronger than all these facts about my life.

25 years ago, when I was weeping over the birth certificate that called me “unnamed”, I felt the Holy Spirit asking me to turn to Isaiah 49:1: “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.”

I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Christine, it’s gonna take you as much faith to put your faith in that document, as it is to put your faith in this truth. And where you put your faith in this moment will determine the outcome of your life.”

And because I chose to place my faith in the truth at that moment, by the grace of God I am where I am today doing what I’m doing today. Because if we abide in God’s Word, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32).

And wouldn’t it be just like God, to take an unnamed, unwanted, abused and adopted child, and say, “I’m not only going to rescue you, but I’m gonna use you to open the prison doors for those that are still bound and rescue them?”

It would be just like God, to take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good!

The thing that you think has disqualified you can be the very thing that God uses to qualify you.

Where the devil has said “shame on you”, Jesus came to take that shame off us — we can be catapulted into our God-given purpose and destiny.

We have a choice. We can choose to allow shame to paralyse us, or we can allow the blood of Jesus to wash us free.

Victimised or victorious?

At a time in our world where there is a badge of honour around victimhood, you have to learn to make what Jesus did for you bigger than what anyone else did to you.

Jesus came to set us free. And we can be set free. The issue is that sometimes we sit on it, wallow in it, vent about it and do anything but to get free from it.

But Galatians 5:1 tells us that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free”. Even if we are living in a time where everyone is telling us that we can’t, I’m telling you that because of the redemptive work of Christ, we can be set free. We can be free indeed (John 8:36).

At a time in our world where there is a badge of honour around victimhood, you have to learn to make what Jesus did for you bigger than what anyone else did to you.

The first question in the entire Bible was asked by the serpent in Genesis 3, is “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1)

This is the same question that every generation has to contend with for themselves. And that is definitely still the case in 2024, all over the earth.

Many of us struggle with so much confusion about things in our society because of this question. “Did God really say that I am a boy? Did God really say that marriage is between a man and a woman? Did God really say that there is only one way to God?”

The whole generation is deconstructing their faith because they doubt. Did God really say? Every generation will have to contend with this question.

If we don’t know what God really said, we will believe what the enemy says.

We will believe whatever TikTok influencers say. Most of them have probably never read the Bible, but we are allowing them to influence our understanding of theology, identity, values and purpose.

If I didn’t know what God said — 25 years ago when the facts hit me — I would have unravelled. But because I knew what God really said, I could counteract the facts with the truth of the Word of God.

And that’s why our faith operates. It’s the truth, not the facts, that is actually more powerful.

But what is God’s response to the fall of mankind? It is the second question in the Bible: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

God wasn’t asking that because He didn’t know where they were. He is God and He knows everything.

But He was asking them to find themselves. “Where are you? Where is the you that I created? What happened that you went into hiding? What happened that made you so ashamed? Where is the personality that I created, the gift, the talent and the purpose that I put in you?

“You’re still here, but you’re hidden.”

Whose voice did you elevate above the voice of God?

And there we find the first recorded conversation between God and men (Genesis 3:10) – full of fear, shame, and hiding.

And then comes the third and to me, the saddest question: “Who told you that?

Whose voice did you elevate above the voice of God?

So many of us don’t step into God’s purpose for us because of something that someone said to us.

I wish you were never born. You’re just a mistake. You’re so dumb. But who told you that?

If you don’t know what the Father says, you will believe in the lies that are out there. But if you abide in God’s Word, you will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.

This generation needs the presence, the power and the Word of God. We need to be renewed by the truth of His Word. We need to know the powerful presence of God so that He can walk into the garden of our lives and our mess.

And where the devil has put shame on us — Jesus takes shame off us!

Whose voice would you allow to dictate the rest of your life?

Nothing will be more attractive in this generation than a group of believers who know who they are in Christ.

When you know the Word of God, you can walk in victory and you can shine like a light in the midst of darkness. You can bring hope to your friends because you know where your identity sits.

But it all boils down to the same question: “Who told you that?”

We all have a choice to make. Whose voice would you allow to dictate the rest of your life?