We live in a timeline of illusions. Photoshop and other apps often help us give the appearance of faked perfection. Movies and tv shows take us to other times, places, worlds, universes, and realms of perception. Even Reality shows are not very “real”.
We are so caught up in a culture of perfection that the imperfect, as defined by popular societal opinion, is often thrown by the wayside.
We measure others by a set of standards we’ve been told everyone should just fit into, or else they are wrong.
Worse– we measure others by the standards we have set for ourselves, and that our parents or spouse have set for us.
If we are honest, we can admit: anyone who doesn’t conform is wrong and not worthy of our time.
In Christian circles, I see so much of this “Put your pretty face forward” junk. “Think Positive!” “Focus on the prosperity God wants to give to you!” “Be happy! The joy of the Lord is your strength!”
I’m caught in the middle of imperfection. I used to be able to fit into an appearance of perfection. Now I have way too many openly apparent flaws. I’m ok with that, but a lot of people are not. If some things were suddenly reversed, I’d have it made! Like, if being overweight were looked at as a trophy of having carried and cared for 4 children, for instance. I’d fit right in there!
My imperfections on the outside are right there for everyone to see.
My imperfections on the inside aren’t easy for anyone to see unless I draw attention to them. Like I’m about to do. But, it’s going to get ugly. Because some of my memories just can’t be prettified. They can’t be made into happy ones. There is no prosperity to be gained from them.
I have found it difficult over the years to find people who can, or want to take time to try to identify with me. My life has never been average, but I rarely invite anyone in to look at it.
These days we are drawn to dark things, but not the kind of dark that I have faced– the kind of dark that makes you beg for the Light.
It’s intense. That’s not my fault. I didn’t author my life.
I’ve just survived it.
I don’t know how anyone else would have lived through– survived– the kinds of things I have had no choice about. I suspect they might treat other imperfect people with more compassion and understanding.
I’m drawing this out because I don’t want to write about the dark memory that’s been on my mind.
When a bone is broken, there is something on the outside to make that apparent. Lots of pain. Bruising. Swelling. It can be x-rayed, set or fixed with surgery and put into a cast until it heals.
When something happens in our lives that causes us to be broken inside, there are no x-rays, no setting or fixing, no doctor that puts a cast on it until it heals.
Yes, God heals us. But, that’s not what this is about.
There is no bandage that is able to heal the memories of what I have seen and experienced as a child with an abusive, mentally ill parent. The legacy I have been left by my dad is painful memories. There is no amount of “Put on your pretty face and be happy because the joy of the Lord is your strength” that I can apply like a balm of Gilead.
Happy is not the same thing as joy.
I have an inner joy because Jesus Christ has given me eternal Salvation. I have an inner sadness because something has been stolen from me that has not and can not be replaced: my dad. Even while he was still alive, things could never be repaired into a normal, healthy relationship. Because he wasn’t normal or healthy.
He was broken.
No medicine could fix him. In fact, for years, it made things even worse.
Sure, talking with a counselor often helps with inner healing. But, let’s be honest: what’s been seen can not be unseen. And the darkest memory I have fits into that category. I don’t really think about it often. I remember that it happened but I don’t actually look at the memory.
Because it’s the crippling kind of painful.
I feel an anger and a sadness I don’t want to acknowledge. It makes me feel like crying, but the tears are stuck somewhere deep.
It’s the horrifying picture of when my dad tried to kill my mom on Mother’s Day of 1980. I witnessed it. I might have even helped stop it. But, what I remember is that nothing I said, or yelled in desperation seemed to have actually been heard by my dad. I heard my dad shouting early on that morning, and I opened my bedroom door to find my mom lying on her side, under our dining room table– under my dad– curled up in the fetal position. My dad was pounding his fist against the side of her head. She was crying, trying to get him to stop.
I nearly lost my mom that day.
When I stop to really think about what happened that day, Mother’s Day is not a happy day for me.
When I gloss over it and instead think about how I am now a mom of 4 amazing miracles, there is happiness.
So, is the answer to just gloss over it all the time, and never really remember? I don’t think it is.
I can’t change the fact that it happened. I can ignore it, but it’s going to pop up in other areas.
That deep anger creeps into my interactions and reactions.
The sadness tries to take over as depression, but I don’t usually let it.
There is a gratefulness that we didn’t lose my mom that day, to God and the family member that made my dad stop before it was too late.
I don’t think I’ve let myself think about the full impact of that.
My mom was almost taken from us in a horrifying way.
There is nothing to make that memory “pretty” or happy. That day impacted me deeply. It’s a thread sown into the tapestry of my life. I can’t remove it, or ignore it forever.
It caused something in me to break. No x-ray machine will show where the breaks are, or help anyone diagnose how to help it heal.
I can’t explain how it’s made me want someone to reach out to me. I can’t talk about it. The rare times I’ve tried to, people get put off because they don’t know how to react to it. It’s not the kind of thing that societal advice applies to, there is no Joel Osteen quick fix.
It’s not pretty. It’s not happy. It’s not the popular kind of “dark” or traumatic.
There is no box my life fits into comfortably, without trying to conform me to some unrealistic expectation.
I once asked a Pastor to counsel me, and she told me I didn’t need to be counseled. She finally agreed, but ended up she blaming me for reacting badly to things– like crying and irritating my dad when I was a baby. I was told I need to just “let go and let God.” I have done that, and I still hurt when I remember. I still feel angry.
I forgave my dad. I moved on.
But it still happened.
I appreciate my mom’s strength. She never divorced my dad because she made a covenant with God when she married him– For Better Or For Worse. Many marriages end with things less worse than what my mom endured. She stayed with my dad because if she had left him, he would have no one. She felt compassion for someone who behaved like a monster to her. In this day and age of impatience and perfection– who does that??
My mom is a brilliant example of loving someone unconditionally.
Am I advocating for someone to stay in a marriage they are not safe in? NO. Absolutely not! I can’t tell you how much I wished she would divorce him throughout my childhood.
God protected us all as she honored Him. I believe that. I’ve seen proof of that more than once.
Before my dad died 3 years ago, my oldest son wanted to make sure he was Saved. My dad said to tell my son that he loved Jesus. I’m sure he had to work out his Salvation with fear and trembling because there were still some ugly things that had a hold of my dad’s understanding.
But, isn’t it good that God has made Salvation so simple “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10 NASB) We like to make it more complicated.
Mother’s Day is coming up. This year it will be tough for me to not remember that day so many years ago.
I’ll try to acknowledge and embrace my inner devastated, heart-broken, frightened child as I also embrace my beautiful children who are like the sunlight lighting up that darkness.
I understand what I’ve survived God has used to make me stronger, but the scars will always remind me of the brokenness I’ve suffered and what God has brought me through.