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A Hood of Shame

She wore a dark jacket with the hood pulled closely around her face, seeming remote and unreachable. Like so many young people in Central Asia, her identity had been damaged by abuse and neglect. Like so many, she kept her pain well hidden. Meryem wore her hood like an impenetrable cloak of shame.

During a youth retreat in this region, Multiply’s Lori Nickel had been watching Meryem closely. On the Saturday evening session, Lori felt God nudging her to invite the young women to come forward for prayer. Across the room, her husband Norm did the same with the young men. The Holy Spirit began to move in the room as nearly all the young adults came forward. Meryem, still hooded and silent, was among them. Lori knew it was a pivotal moment.

“Seeing her standing there,” said Lori, “I knew just what God wanted me to do.” Lori felt her faith strengthened as she recalled a dream from the previous night. “I had dreamed of a room full of hidden hurt and shame,” she said. “God wanted to bring healing, and choosing forgiveness was the key. It was time for Meryem to be set free from her shame.”

Lori pulled down the girl’s hood and fixed her with a loving gaze. “This is not who you are,” she told the girl firmly. “This is not how God sees you.” 
Meryem began to cry as others, including the pastors from her church, gathered around her to pray. Words from the prophet Zechariah were spoken over her, assuring her that God was removing the dirty garments of shame, and clothing her with his pure love. “Take off the filthy clothes…see, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (Zechariah 3:4).

Then, as Lori held her hands gently, she asked, “Can you forgive the ones who hurt you?”

Meryem’s pain was evident as she replied, “They have not even said they are sorry!”

“But God is sorry,” said Lori. “He is so, so sorry that these things were done to you, Meryem.” 

Meryem was clearly deeply moved but left that night still silent and withdrawn. The next day was the end of the retreat, and Lori was pensive as she watched Meryem leaving. Had she been set free or not? Then Lori suddenly realized that something very significant had happened. How did she know? 

“The hood stayed off.”

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