Some trips down memory lane are more painful than others. We recently went into the first house we ever bought. When we purchased it all three of our children were pre-school and we lived there until they were teenagers. We were so young and full of hope, so confident that we had the answers to life’s problems, so sure of ourselves…. And, so wrong about so many things.
Memories came flooding back, some happy and some less than happy, some memories so painful I could hardly breathe.
We weren’t great parents, I’ve admitted that; I’ve apologized for that, I have cried and beaten myself up for it. We were legalistic, we were so afraid of God we had little to no concept of grace. My husband worked hard to provide for his family. I stayed home and greeted my kids after school every day. I kept up their laundry, fixed lunches and had dinner on the table every night. We encouraged friendships and got them a dog. We saw to it that they had cars–used, not great looking cars, but transportation nonetheless and we paid the insurance. We did the best we knew how to do with the resources we had at the time. However, our mistakes were devastating. Our children look back and see a volatile depressed mother and an unpredictable distant father.
To set the stage: both Jack’s parents and mine were legalistic and my family didn’t even go to church! All I knew of God growing up was that He was out to get me and looking for an opportunity to send me to hell–whatever that awful place was. Jack’s family attended a small church directly across the street from where they lived, a church that, in retrospect, was more like a cult than a Christiian place of learning and worship.
It’s so difficult to recognize that you can truly be doing what you know to do and have those beliefs be so wrong. All my life I had been taught that it was a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God,” and, apparently God was angry. As nearly as I could figure out there was only one way to please Him and that was to be perfect, which I knew I wasn’t. So, what do you do when you’re imperfect but believe that you must be perfect or go to hell? You fake it; you pretend, you hide. What happens when as a parent you hide as you raise your children? They never really know you and what they don’t know they fear… So, we feared God our Father and instilled into our children a fear of us as well as a fear of God.
We learned that our oldest son was gay back in the 80’s. It was a blow beyond anything we had ever imagined. I had never known anyone that was gay, and I didn’t want to; however, this was my son and I wanted more than anything to know him. In the process, I got to know myself some of which was scary, scary. I thought I’d be learning about my son, but I learned more about me than I did about him. One positive thing I learned was that in spite of the fact that my family of origin and my husband spent a lot of energy to trying to convince me that I was imagining the problems I saw in our family, I learned that I wasn’t the one who was wrong. My husband wanted to keep our son in the closet so we could continue to pretend to be the perfect family. I knew that if we did that we’d lose our family altogether. So, at my insistence, we went to counseling. Yikes. I hated learning how dysfunctional we were, but still, I wanted to know. It was extremely painful to see our family through the eyes of our children. And, still, I wanted to know. It’s been a long, long journey and I continue to make discoveries about myself and who I am and who God is. We are still struggling as a family, but we are still a family.
The most important and critical and wonderful thing I’ve learned is that it is a wonderful thing to fall into the hands of a loving God. That’s where the peace is, the wonder that is life when we are honest with ourselves and who God created us to be. When we can fully own our mistakes and fully trust that God isn’t out to get us, but is doing His best to fill us with His mind and His love.
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