At 42, looking all grown up, I enter into all sorts of gatherings, appearing as one of many like myself. Yet, deep down, I carry with me the knowing of all that has been. It’s true of us all, at least to some degree. No one wears their life stories written upon a sleeve and much of each life is not shared. I realize that, yet I am forever reminded, too, of how untraditional my timeline has been.
The oddness of it all comes to the surface quite often as I mention my precious little grandson only to find dropped jaws and wide eyes looking with questioning stares. “You have a GRANDCHILD,” I’m asked, as if that is the strangest thing I could have said. He is one of three of the greatest delights of my life and his name rolls off my tongue frequently as joy must be shared and he, indeed, is the source of wonderful to me…
Each time this occurs I am reminded of the deep waters that flow underneath the bridge of the years I’ve lived. Married at barely fifteen, embarking on a journey for which I was pathetically ill prepared; becoming a teenage mother when still in desperate need of mothering; the shame involved from the years of never fitting in or finding a place to flourish and the resulting decision to drop out of school in 9th grade…the list seems endless, sad, and old. I cannot look back without seeing the desperate girl that once was me, feeling grown because of so much pain endured, yet knowing now how very young and small I truly was…
I remind myself of the many hours, long days and late nights of studying, working hard and giving my all to meet the challenges of raising a child while going back to get an education, the attempt to right the wrongs, to conquer and overcome the long list of failures I had accumulated over time and having too little energy left over to process all that had occurred and was still underway and hoping, just hoping, someday the dust would settle, I would find my place in the world, and the past with all its pain could be put away. I did not know there were gifts to be mined from those depths, that understanding was yet to be discovered.
It’s strange, really, how I can simultaneously be so grateful and proud, yet still have the lingering pain and even, I hate to say it’s true, shame…You see, I understand the narrative of my life so well after the passing of much time and the intense, honest reflection I’ve given to the many choices I’ve made, but there is no need, nor would it be appropriate, to share with others what that narrative entails. Understanding how the minds of most devise their own stories to fit the bits and pieces they learn of other’s lives is what troubles me and allows old feelings of shame to stir. Regardless, this life, my life, my journey, deeply personal and complicated, is beautiful, really, in its own way, because God can take something so unraveled and weave it into something rich with color, detail, and design. He has done that with the many broken and scattered threads of my choices, and my sweet grandson is an integral part of the beauty of God’s handiwork that now richly adorns my life.
Had I been blessed to earn an education without the struggle that came before, would I have appreciated and cherished it as I do? Would I have chosen the same course of study or become emboldened to speak with passion the messages I share year after year with bright, eager, young students had I not learned the lessons that only this path could have taught me? No…I could not. Would I take the necessary time to spend listening with an open and prayerful heart to students when they come to share their struggles? Would I understand as I do, would my heart be sensitive as it is? Not likely, at least not in the particular and very personal ways that it is. I recognize the void one feels when relationships are empty and hopes are waning, when hurts have been too many and disappointments are what one has come to expect. I’m sensitive to those who feel like misfits, they are the mirror’s reflection of myself what seems only a few years back…it helps to understand personally the feelings others have in order to know what to say, and more importantly, what not to say.
Scripture refreshes my soul just as breath gives life to my body. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart devises his way: but the Lord directs his steps.” All struggle through life. We grapple with the unknown, we try to figure out what to do, when to do it, and we try to see what lies ahead. We are inclined that way, but scripture clarifies for us the need to trust God’s timing, His ways, and His great love. If only I had done that more. If only my circumstances had aided such faith, yet in spite of all hardships, difficulties and gross errors of my own, God’s Hand of grace was at work sculpting my heart, preparing my mind, directing my steps to this place, this time, His purpose. He goes with me into the murky waters of uncomfortable conversations. He fills the space that I choose not to fill with words of explanation. His reassuring words and the presence of acceptance from Him that inhabits my heart by His Spirit makes my days comfortable as a sense of home goes with me wherever I go. Loneliness that once engulfed me no longer exists since the Lord Himself has become my Lord. I recently had the thought, “many want a savior, few want a Lord.” For many years, I was one of the many and it wasn’t until I became one of the few, one who wanted to serve a Master worthy of my all, did I find the companionship necessary to drive away the loneliness of soul that had been with me since I was a small child. This is why I long to share what I know to be the best.
The only thing of concern regarding the past that matters is how it has shaped who we have become. What matters is where we are now and where we are going. We cannot erase the past nor should we. God uses our struggles, our failures, our heartaches and our hurts to teach us what we need to know for our own good and for the good of others. Genesis 50:20 reminds us even what is meant for evil God can use for good, to save many people. Romans 8:28 “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”
For every time I looked into the face of a patient I had been called to see when working in crisis mental health, I was thankful that I understood suffering. For every student who finds their way into my classroom or office and finds acceptance and love when they are feeling alone, I am thankful that I understand loneliness. Most of all, though, I’m thankful I can say there is a remedy, there is hope, and His Name is Jesus. He is the giver, the sustainer, and the redeemer of lives and His love is unfailing and true. I can say with assurance to all, there is reason to hope and to smile.
Thanks for taking the time to read my words. Blogging for me is simply an endeavor of the heart. It is a way of recording my journey in hopes of encouraging others as I reveal the truth of my experiences from day to day.