There was a time when I was certain that HE could never really care for ME. I am so glad to know now that I was wrong. This is not something brought about by any merit of my own. Rather, it is a testament to His steadfast love that would not let me go.
It is easy to imagine that a person filled with joy is a person that cannot understand or comprehend the difficulties you’ve seen. ‘How dare that person rejoice?! Don’t they know there are people hurting?! How cruel to smile while others weep! What a flippant thing to suggest that FAITH alone could solve THIS!’
At one time, I believed joyful people were happy because they had never known pain. I assumed they were immune to the depth of hurt I had known.
That was before I came to understand what Solomon wrote: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.
There really is NOTHING new under the sun – not even the kind of pain I’ve known. My history isn’t really all that unique. For what it’s worth, here’s a small portion of where He brought me from:
Dealing with emotionally broken people is not enjoyable for me. It isn't because I don't know how to handle myself. Rather, it's because these situations have a cold familiarity. I know too well what it is like to be at the mercy of those that love explosive conflict, drama, faultfinding and gossip.
Much of my childhood was a bewildering adventure where I tried to reconcile actual events to the interpretations of adults that were convinced every difference must mean war.
I felt more secure at school, but even there I often heard young teachers swapping stories and laughing about other students, their parents, and each other. So, though I was thankful for the predictability of graded approval, it was a relative security.
I learned it was in my interest to NOT cause adults embarrassment by revealing the truth I knew. There were MANY topics we weren't allowed to mention, lots of secrets. It became a matter of survival to learn how to read the faces of the adults in my world. I was always searching for the meaning behind the words, because in my world, words hid coded messages.
I only recall once or twice when I attempted to describe these things to a trusted adult. The people in my day-too-day circle weren't interested in what a child thought, and fewer wanted to hear it. My uncertain efforts met with well-meaning lectures on how I should try harder to be a good girl that didn't disappoint.
Much of my time was spent trying to figure out how to best position myself to stay out of trouble. I often wore a look of concentrated puzzlement. My facial expression meant that photographers were always a little frustrated that I had to be told to smile. I met that frustration with a quizzical stare, wondering why I would smile when I wasn’t happy. I don’t know of any childhood pictures where I wear an un-posed smile.
One day, quite by accident, I discovered a valuable key to navigating this confusing time. I was watching my mother and another woman go through a bag of clothes that were not appealing to me. The colors were faded earth tones, and the reds looked orangey-rusty. There weren't any play clothes in the bunch. For a small girl that liked to climb trees, there wasn’t much there to like.
The women were ooohing and aaahing over all of it as though these items were lovely. Taking a cue, I ventured, “That’s a pretty dress.” Honestly, I did not like the color or the fact that it was a dress, but the cut was nice and it had a ruffle around the hem that made it tolerable.
The change in the room was electric. Suddenly, I was drawn into their circle. They began to include me in the conversation. Their faces lit up, and they asked my opinion on many items. I saw that they only held up things THEY liked and were only looking for an appreciative audience. So, for my mother and her friend, I became a reflection of what they wanted. I offered them encouragement, and it actually tipped things in my favor. It’s still a vivid memory to me -- the day I complimented an ugly dress and FINALLY received approval.
It was a valuable lesson to learn. It served me well, but it made me somewhat cynical of individual motives. I still have to occasionally remind myself that spotlight seekers aren’t always oblivious to the needs of those around them. I’ve often been brought to the place where I had to choose to offer grace to those who enjoy sniping and backbiting – even when my instincts tell me to use the skills I learned surviving treatment by those who were MUCH more intimidating. Yes, HE is a very patient Teacher to His children.
Thankfully, these things are my history. They haven’t robbed me of the present or my future.
My parents have actually turned into ideal grandparents. I love them dearly. Forgiveness brought healing, and I came to understand that their own childhoods were the things of nightmares. I learned that the world isn't such a frightening place when you are held by the hands of the ONE that spoke creation into existence.
Managing associations and friendships with people one on one and in large numbers has been largely uneventful. Knowing God has helped me to re-focus my thinking to what pleases Him and how He sees me rather than what ugly human imaginations can dream up. However, few people ever get very close to me. I don’t have much appreciation for feigned familiarity.
There are, a few friends that are happy exceptions to this. Along the way, I have been blessed with friends that DO value me as a person. These same friends trust my fidelity and goodwill. They rejoice when good comes my way and weep with me when I grieve. These are friends that pray for me regularly even when I’m not aware of it -- whether or not I ask for it. These are friends I may not see for years at a time, but it’s like we’ve never been apart when we come together. I call them my heart-friends.
When my heart-friends ask my opinion they are genuinely interested in an honest response. They want to know how I see the world, and they delight in and value my perspective – whether or not they agree with it. They aren't so self-absorbed or insecure as to think opinions and points of view must always line up perfectly. They don't assume that my words have hidden meaning or are born of manipulations. They don't demand that I hide myself in order to make them feel better about themselves. When you know who you are in Christ, you don't NEED to hold others hostage to your emotions. You are free to just enjoy each other -- differences and all.
. . . . And, if you ask me today what I think about THAT . . . I’ll smile a wide smile that makes the corners of my eyes crinkle and tell you from the depths of my soul that I think that’s just BEAUTIFUL!!