I had planned to mindlessly decompress in front of the television. I sat watching as the actress told her mom that although she realizes it is unreasonable she wished that her life was as important as those her mother worked to save. I was quickly filled with that panicky feeling that sets in as you hear something that hits a little too close to home.
I have had that conversation with my youngest daughter and initiated it with my other two children. I spent much of their younger lives forgetting them at school because I was busy working with children at risk of abuse and neglect. As much as that was true for my own children, I can’t make up for my poor choices then. They know now that I was wrong and that they are important to me.
Yet today, that wasn’t where my heart sank too. It was deeper than that,. My heart went to my own feelings of rejection from childhood. Wishing that my parents had shown me that I was important to them. They weren’t off saving other children. My mother was in self protection mode, and couldn’t see her children needed her. My father was in passive mode, he screwed up and I am not really sure he recovered from that failure so he let me get away with whatever.
What I needed was a parent. I needed someone who was looking out for me. Someone who would put boundaries in place to protect me. Yes, we had boundaries in our home after my father came back from jail. But no one put boundaries on me to protect me from the world around me or from myself. No one was involved in my comings and goings or cared where I was in between. Well, I shouldn’t say no one. My oldest sister and cousin bailed me out of trouble (no, not jail) more times than they probably realized.
No one recognized the little girl circling the drain, crying silently, while her behaviors spiraled out of control. I had learned to be good at appearances, on the outside there was no physical change in my appearance or my grades. There were other things though. How does a parent not realize their child has missed 42 days of school in a semester? How does a parent miss the desperate cries for help? How do you work alongside your daughter and not see grown men providing the wrong kind of attention? How do you allow your thirteen year old child to come stumbling in the door at 2 a.m. knowing she better be there before mom gets home from work?
Yet almost thirty years later, I am just recognizing my own pleas from that time. As my path crosses those facing similar turmoil, I realize that my parents were not focused on anything being wrong with me, because their focus was what was wrong in their world. They have both passed away and can offer no solace in the random ponderings of my own past. They can not change where they were in that time. I can not change that I walked through it.
However, I realize that I can allow those hurts to heal. I can choose to grow from my experiences. I can open up those wounds and clean the toxic thoughts that were left for my teenage mind to try to create an explanation with back then. I can forgive my parents. I can forgive myself. I can forgive those who used me, those who abused me, and those who didn’t step in to help me. I can forgive the blind eyes and the deaf ears.
In growth, I can understand that it was intentional on God’s part that I would hear that comment on the television and that it would open up a part of me that I had no been able to recognize before. He did not cause my brokenness, but as I grow, He can use it. He knew I was ready to face that part of my past and the deep emotions that it would unsurface. God knew that I had grown enough in Him, that I was ready to start healing that area of my life. He knew I was in a place in my own life where I could see that my parents did not intentionally trying to hurt me. They didn’t mean to make me feel like I was not important. No one intentionally failed to protect me.
I would also be able to see, because of personal growth, that God’s hand was on me all along. I know where He brought me from, and I have seen where I could have ended up. I can see in my brokenness growth. I can see His hand as those feelings I couldn’t explain; they give me empathy, because I have literally been in the shoes as a child and as a parent. I can share insight into both perspectives from a place of growth, not of brokenness. I would see how God has used me to minister to others who are in that spot. I can see how God used me to minister to parents who are unintentionally causing their children to feel that exact same way. I can help give name to that feeling for children who don’t have the words to label their own pain. I can facilitate conversations so that they can start healing.
And then, I can make sure that I am intentional now with my children and grandchildren, and the other children that God has placed in my life. I can be present. I can hold them accountable. I can let them know they are loved. I can be available. I can be an example. I can listen and hear. I can open my eyes to see what I have wanted to look past. I can encourage. I can praise. I can treasure. I can help them see past any brokenness and show them growth is no only needed, it is possible.
This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel. I have been a little sidetracked is it is almost May, but I wanted to finish!