I am writing this post with a heart that has been bruised over many years. Certainly, my heart isn’t where it needs to be on this matter and a great deal of personal time, thought, and emotional energy have been exhausted in this regard. First of all, God is good! He is the same today as he was yesterday and he will be the same tomorrow as he is today. All of the trials we experience are for His perfect plan, IF we will permit ourselves to be used in His service.
It is sometimes difficult to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and I don’t particularly enjoy that sensation. However, most people I know struggle with their family: where they fit, how they feel, and how they relate within that group. So, I want to share these thoughts before Thanksgiving, because I am reminded that I have so much to be thankful for.
If one looked at my family tree, I’d suspect it would be an interesting tree. Not exactly pretty, but memorable. From a distance, it might look beautiful but a close inspection would illuminate all of it’s many flaws. As a child, my brother and I went to live with my grandmother. My father was completing professional training at the time and needed help with us. For reasons that were never apparent to me until decades later, my mother left the family. I recall seeing her once when I was five. From then on, we had no contact that I remember. A year or two after she left, he remarried and subsequently had a child with this wife when I was seven. They divorced when I was 18 or 19. My father was briefly married and rapidly divorced again. Ultimately, he married again to someone with many children of her own.
Relationships within my family are thorny. Confrontation of any sort is avoided at any cost. Being ‘nice’ and ‘peaceful’ is paramount, because as long as we pretend peace the contrast between what actually is and what ought to be can be successfully ignored. Problems are never directly dealt with; our approach is to hope that it goes away. If someone voices strong emotion or disillusionment, that person is labeled as the problem instead of acknowledgement that there is an ‘issue.’ Over the years, I’ve been the lightning rod of controversy in that I’ve been willing to say what I felt (and perhaps what others were thinking). I’ve been compared to others, and found lacking. Sometimes, I was convinced that nothing I did was ever good enough and, frankly, it wasn’t. There were years when my family felt like an ill fitting pair of jeans I was wearing backwards.
Family are those people who are ‘supposed’ to love you no matter what. Fathers and mothers represent our first inkling of who God is. Ideally, they love, provide, and sacrifice. God is continually referred to as our father in scripture. If one hasn’t had a ‘healthy’ or ‘safe’ experience with their parents, it can be very hard to see the truth of who God is because our seminal experience was so warped. I have had a lot of anger over the evolution of my family. With every regime, there have been those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out.’ I have often been the ‘out.’ Some of the situations I have experienced are so nuts that if I wrote it down, even I wouldn’t believe it!
There is a rather vulgar saying, “You can’t polish a turd.” (EWWWW–I know, I can’t believe I put that in writing!!!!) That is a very base way of a saying that man is not capable of taking something ignoble and elevating it to a noble status. For example, you can’t take tin foil and make a platinum ring. These many years later, I am finding how only God can redeem situations like these.
Guess what? Being THAT child allowed God to show me so many things that I never could have learned otherwise. He forged me into a person who could stand up to others but He also helped me to empathize with those who feel shunned. He taught me that even if I don’t feel a sense of belonging with others, I always belong with Him. He has shown me that I’ll always be His child even if my parents seem to forget me. (There is even a verse in the Old Testament that says, “Though your mother and father would disinherit you, I the Lord your God will not.”)
The truth is, we will all fail one another. Only God never fails. God has been so beautiful to me. Where I once felt like I should ‘pull myself up by my bootstraps,’ I am now painfully aware that I am incapable of doing so. Instead, I have learned to look to God for provision and He has been so faithful in supplying ALL my needs. He has brought the right people at the right time into my life. He has comforted me with his presence and with the presence of others who love me.
Human nature is such that each one of us wants to be fully known and deeply loved. I believe that God created us to be this way, because we are made in His image. I know the error that I’ve made is that I have expected other people to fill the void in my heart that only God can occupy. Jesus says, “Seek and you shall find me.” I have had to ask myself, “What is it that I am seeking? Who is it that I am seeking?” Sometimes, I haven’t found what and/or who I’ve needed, because I have been looking in the wrong place. Sure, people have failed me. Truthfully, I’ve failed them as well. But God is teaching me to let go of my expectations and find release in Him. This is a freedom that has been a long time coming and I am thankful!