As with most birthdays, I've become a little reflective this week. You know, pondering things like,"What have I accomplished?", "What have I done?", "Where is my future headed?" In these times of thoughtfulness, I realize that each decade has brought its own transforming moment. And with those moments have come certain lessons that, I hope, I'm passing on to my children.
My childhood was one of, let's just say, transition. Mom and Dad divorced. He pretty much disappeared from our lives, and then remarried quickly thereafter. I plunged into an uncontrollable depression at age 7, where I couldn't stop crying. Mom tried everything from counseling to bribes to getting me a puppy. Nothing could stave off the deep well of depression I found myself in. I hated everything about everything. It was terrifying.
The problem persisted to the point where I was convinced people were watching me through the vent in the bathroom. I was so terrified of water that I would make my mother sit with her hand on the bath tub faucet so I would be certain it wouldn't overflow. Then, I would get into the bathtub fully dressed (we're talking socks and all) to avoid the people in the vent, and take a super quick bath.
Eventually, I did overcome these phobias. But it was a time of darkness I will never forget.
The Lesson: Don't be ruled by your fears. If there are people in the vent, give them an eye full.
I guess you can say the crazy stretched into my teenage years, when I plunged into my "grunge period." During my father's first second marriage (he ended up remarrying, like four or five times; I've lost count) my step brother began molesting me on my weekend visits. This is not something I'm ashamed to talk about today, but at the time, I was terrified of my abuser, and didn't share my secret until I was 13 years old, many years after my Dad divorced my step-mother. Because of the way I felt about myself and because of this secret, I wore black clothes, ripped jeans and a pretty sour expression most of the time.
Interestingly enough, it wasn't until after my secret was out that I began to feel the freedom to be pretty again. I started showing an interest in colors besides black (much to my mother's relief), and yearned to rejoin humanity. Pretty soon, friends I had been keeping at a distance re-entered my life, and my teen years were filled with parties, boyfriends and activities. I also started writing again, which earned me the opportunity to lay the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C. I was no longer afraid to explore who I was without the shackles of guilt and pain associated with molestation.
I ceased being a victim and became a survivor.
The Lesson(s): 1) Secrets can only thrive in the dark; shining a light on them leads to freedom from bondage. 2) Don't allow others to determine your worth. 3) Black may be slimming, but it can also be depressing.
My Young Adulthood:
By age 18, I had become a pretty jaded person. A series of toxic relationships, including the one between me and my father, had soured me on life. I was not a very pleasant person. Instead, I was snarky (I mean even more so than I am today), and scornful of pretty much everything in my path. In short, I was a cynic.
I don't care who you are, 18 is too young to be cynical. There's too much to explore, to experience. You should at least wait until your, I don't know, 40 to be cynical. But I digress. Without going into too much detail, I agreed to attend a worship service on my college campus, where I was introduced to a true relationship with Christ. At first, I thought all these people were a bunch of kooks. But, eventually, I came to realize what I thought was kooky was, in truth, joy. They were happy. And I couldn't identify with that.
I recommitted my life to Christ alone in my dorm room later that year. And the next day everything looked, smelled and felt different. I was truly changed. That one decision altered everything about my future, from the career path I chose, to moving to Texas to marrying my husband. Looking back, it all hinged on that one moment in my dorm room. It even led to my eventually forgiving my father and my abuser. The scales fell away. I was healed.
The Lesson: Christ changes everything.
Well, this passage could go on for pages, but I'll try to keep it short. I feel like the most growth I have known has come since becoming a wife and mother. I've had to learn what it means to separate self from service. Because, loving someone requires sacrifice and compromise. It requires placing their needs above your own, and trusting they will do the same for you.
I was born a pretty selfish, vain person. So, this was a huge transformation for me. This period in my life has seen me go from a career-minded journalist living alone with her pomeranian to a work-at-home mom whose primary goal is to see her husband and children thrive. It has seen me go from thoughts of "me" and "mine" to "us" and "ours." I've grown in patience (at least a little), compassion, prayer and even domesticity (shocker of shockers). It's seen me grow as a person, friend, daughter and woman. And all in the context of change, which I was never really comfortable with in the first place.
The Lesson: Change, though scary, is the catalyst for all things beautiful.
I'm approaching 40, yes. And at one time that would have bothered me. A lot. But not so much any more. As I look back over my life, each decade has brought forth colors in me I never knew were there. Each laugh line is a swift brush stroke on the Lord's canvas. And I'm eager to see just what God paints next in this masterpiece called life.