Family is everything to me. But, the family I grew up in was just a tad screwed up. Okay, a lot.
My dad was a man of fewer than a few words. He rarely got involved in my life and preferred to be left alone. Completely. Don’t talk, don’t cause a ruckus, just sit and be quiet . . . in another room, or better yet, in another house.
My mom was stuck in the twilight zone of her abusive childhood and jerked me in there with her. She yelled a lot, picked her fingers till they bled, and consumed me with her fears and anxieties and worries and sorrow and pain. I was not the perpetrator of her abuse, yet I felt responsible and powerless to fix it. So I sacrificed my stubborn will on the altar of compliance to calm the raging beast within her. But, the inner, strong-willed child refused to die. Thus began a never-ending battle of the wills, a constant fight against her power and control over every corner of my life.
Two of my brothers escaped the madness through substance abuse, the youngest of which spent the majority of his life either in prison or homeless and living on the streets. He traded his wife and kids for the thrills and chills of crime. When his kids grew up, they walked down the same wayward path.
My older brother, whom I never met, suffered severe brain damage caused by encephalitis and was institutionalized when he was three. And my oldest brother drifted here and there, searching for his special place in this world. He was the oldest son of my mother’s first marriage. When my mom married my dad, he didn’t want a snotty-nosed five-year-old so they left him crying under his grandmother’s bed and moved to another state nine-hundred miles away. Till the day he died, he was searching for love in all the wrong places.
My sister ran away from home when she was fifteen, got pregnant, then got married at the ripe old age of sixteen. When her husband died at the age of forty-one, she found solace in the bottle. After finally admitting she had a serious problem, she went to rehab, joined AA, and turned her life around. Sadly, she died of breast cancer at the age of fifty-seven.
Me? I didn’t do drugs or alcohol. I was picky about who I dated and was squeaky clean when I got married. I was nineteen. Still wet behind the ears. Naive as a kitten. I believed in God. Went to church, and tried to live a good, clean Christian life in spite of my short-lived, abusive marriage. In spite of being a single mom at the age of twenty-one and barely making ends meet. In spite of sickness and hospital stays. Even in spite of my X-husband’s constant slurs and put-downs and his lack of parenting skills and child support.
I was sugar and spice, and everything nice, a pillar of strength and unshakable faith . . . as happy as a circus clown. That’s what I pretended to be on the outside because that’s what everyone wanted me to be and heaven forbid I be anything less. And no one cared what I really felt anyway, so it was easier to live a lie than to let people see the ugly, naked truth.
And the ugly, naked truth is, on the inside, I was an erupting volcano of hurt and anger and boiling rage. A prisoner, bound in chains and living among the tombs of fear and hopelessness, striking out against God and the world and my parents and my siblings and everyone who should have been there for me but never were. On the inside, I was a river of knowledge of how I was supposed to live but as dry as a desert about how to do it.
Then one day, I snapped and I fell to my knees before God. That’s when I saw Him clearly for the first time; when I felt His love and mercy and forgiveness as He washed my sinful heart clean. He changed my wayward direction and put me on the heavenly path leading to my eternal home in heaven where I will be completely free at last.
When you allow God into your life, He blesses and restores it. He makes it better than you can ever imagine. Although my immediate family relationships never improved, and all but one sibling is dead, God has blessed me through my second marriage and his family. And He continues blessing me through my son and his beautiful, growing family. We have each other’s backs. We love and encourage one another. We allow each other the freedom to be our crazy selves without judgment and ridicule. We don’t bicker and fight. We laugh and have fun. We talk and we listen. We are the family I always wanted growing up. The family I needed to help me grow strong and healthy and to be what God created me to be.
Family is important to God, too. That’s why Satan works so hard to rip it to shreds, beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden. Weaken the family and we weaken the world. Stir up anger and resentment in the family and we stir up anger and resentment in the world. Someone has to stop the insanity, the deadly sinful disease from spreading from generation to generation. Someone has to stand up and say, “Enough!”
The majority of the world has never had a healthy family life. But we can all create one by loving our kids and doing everything within our power to make them feel loved and protected and safe from a world gone mad. We can teach them to spread their wings and fly. We can encourage their dreams rather than crushing them in our hands. We can teach them about God the right way rather than the twisted way we once perceived Him.
I loved my family. As messed up as it was, it wasn’t all bad. My parents were good people, they just didn’t know how to be good parents. They didn’t know how to teach their brood to fly so they broke their wings instead. Hopefully, though, as we get older we can forgive and move on with our lives. None of us are perfect parents. We just have to keep moving past our own junk and be the best parents and grandparents and great-grandparents we can be.
I’m in this parenting thing for the long haul, learning and growing as I go.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.