We have survived and thrived through passion,
compassion, humor and style.
– Maya Angelou
We each have a child inside of us. This is the seven year old version of me. It’s my favorite childhood picture because I was in second grade and that’s when all the letters finally came together to form words and I discovered I love to read.
Like little Red, I was a happy child skipping along the road of life. As I reached out to pick the flowers God gave me, I was eager to share the good things in life with others, but I often sensed a dark cloud hanging over my family.
This is the girl who wanted to read her stories in church until her father took the stories away and told her to listen to the sermon. I struggled to be quiet but my attention span was short. Suddenly, I felt the big strong arms that usually swung me around in love pick me up and carry me to the opposite end of the church. We went into the Primary room where I was belted until my legs were black and blue.
I didn’t understand the sermon that day, but I did get a message, “Whoever is bigger than you, will hurt you, if you don’t do what they want.” While I eventually forgave my earthly father, that’s the day I made a secret pact to never to trust my Heavenly Father–after all who is bigger and who has more power than God? It would take more than two decades to undo my fear of God.
I forgive my parents for my unorthodox childhood. For one thing they aren’t the same people they were decades ago and no parents are perfect. I love my parents and I believe they did the best they could with the limited tools they were given from their own parents. I also believe they were given a somewhat distorted picture of a legalistic God that was handed down to them through the generations.
But forgiving doesn’t mean I can ignore what happened. Those past events and that warped picture of God have shaped me into the woman I have become. And those events continue to affect my life and relationships today. Some of my family members think I am bitter to remember the past. No, I am not bitter, but I am better for it.
If people want to hang out with me, they’ll have to allow me to be myself. This self includes the little girl beaten, the teenager isolated and refused a high school education, the young woman who dropped out of college for lack of math and science background and the woman who spent years feeling responsible for her family. Now in midlife, I’ve discovered others can learn from my stories, so I share them freely, hoping someone else can avoid the pitfalls that tripped me up.
The best thing I have done is sit down and write out my entire life from the time I can remember. This brought healing and I began to feel whole and authentic for the first time in my life.
Like Little Red, I faced the truth and decided to set myself free. God never asks us to forget any portion of our lives. Jesus has been there with me through every moment of my life and that alone gives me hope. By taking responsibility for my spiritual, emotional and physical health, I’ve decided to live an entirely integrated life. It is because of God I share my stories. I can’t be quiet because He is the only one who has never let me down.
Meet me at the place of honor
Where past is not a dirty word
and memories–good and bad,
can both be heard.
Where truth we welcome and lies we shun.
With nothing between us, we can be one.