I wrote a blog post about a year ago about declaring my independence from the mental illness in my family. I had decided to write a book, and I did start it. It was a horrible experience. I started having nightmares. The kind where you shout out in your sleep and wake up crying. I decided that the way to get through my past was not to relive it. I had survived and I wasn’t going to ruin all the hard work I had done in my life to write a book. I put the book writing away and stopped writing altogether.
I really didn’t know how I was going to share my story without going into a deep depression. Then, something wonderful happened. I have been thinking for months on how to express my experience without getting preachy. Please stick with me on this one, even if you are not a person of faith.
I joined Bible Study Fellowship in January 2020. We haven’t been “church going” Christians for sometime, but I missed studying the bible and the fellowship at church. BSF was the perfect solution for me. We met on Wednesday mornings, had a small group session followed by a small sermon with the whole group. I enjoyed being with other Christian women and sharing our faith. BSF has very strict rules on not disclosing what denomination you are, we are just there to study the Bible and support each other with prayer. I loved it! Well, you know what happened in 2020. We ended our study year on ZOOM in May with hopes of being able to meet in person in September.
September came around and, of course, we had to do the study by ZOOM again. We were assigned the same groups, so I felt very comfortable being back with the women I had come to care so much for. My only concern was that we were going to be studying Genesis. I was afraid it was going to be all history and not much spiritual. Boy, was I wrong. This Genesis study gave me exactly what I had been looking for, a way to forgive my mother once and for all.
Now, I know when most people think of Genesis, you think of controversy. Creationism v. Evolution. Did Noah really build that big of an ark? I am not going to focus on those issues. What changed my life was the story of Abraham and his family.
God chose Abraham to be the “Father of a Great Nation”. The three most prominent religions can trace their roots directly to Abraham. Jews are direct descendants of Abraham. Muslims claim Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Hagar, as a prophet. And Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, is a descendant of Judah, Abraham’s great grandson through Isaac and Jacob. This is considered fact by all three religions. What is fascination is HOW these three world religions came to be.
Abraham is considered a great prophet, but he had major flaws. The first being that he didn’t trust God to give him a son with his elderly wife Sarah, so he slept with Hagar and had Ismael. When Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the chosen one, Ismael and his mother were outcasts. Yet God provided for them. When Judah and his brothers sold Joseph into slavery, God protected Joseph and allowed him to save his family when famine struck the country. God chose Judah to be the connection between Christians and Abraham, since he was Jacob’s oldest son. The whole book of Genesis is about how badly humans messed up, but God in his wisdom, used human failure to His glory.
Now, as I am studying how God chose these messed up people to be HIS people, it got me thinking about my past. Yes, I was emotionally abused by my mother and ignored most of my childhood and adolescence by both my parents. However, I have a wonderful life! I have a marriage of 34 years to a man I love and a daughter who is my best friend. I have a beautiful retirement home in the town of my dreams. Could it just be possible that God used the bad things done to me to His glory? For my glory? It took weeks of study, but God softened my heart and made me realize that my faith had gotten me through the hard times (even as a child) and God had granted me this wonderful life as my reward. How could I not forgive my mother when I have this wonderful life! Gradually, the burden started to lift from my shoulders and I was able to forgive. I realized that reliving the past is not the way to forgiveness. The way to forgiveness is allowing God to work in your heart and take your burden from you.
Now, I know, to some people I sound like a crazy lunatic. Being a person of faith has gotten me through so many rough times, that I have learned to listen to God’s guidance. This was the hardest spiritual growth I have ever gone through. But if God can forgive, so can I. This doesn’t change my past, but it gives me a way to accept it and not be bitter. I still can’t help and wonder what my life would have been like had my parents been different. If they had taken an interest in my life. If my mother had told me I was beautiful (my dad always did). If my parents had raised my sister, brother and I to be a family and not competitors for their affection. If I hadn’t been so lonely growing up, would I still have had the OCD and anxiety I had as an adolescent. What if my mother wasn’t such a narcissist and made our whole family about pleasing her? What if I had been told I was special and could be anyone I wanted in the world? Maybe I wouldn’t suffer clinical depression? What if my mother hadn’t been so good at Gaslighting that she had my father believing things that weren’t true? What if my mother had been able to FORGIVE? Maybe I wouldn’t have had such a hard time forgiving her.
I miss my father everyday, but when my mother died I was just happy that she was no longer in pain; both physically and emotionally. I actually had a dream last night where my mother had died and I was going through her jewelry box and I could smell her perfume. I woke up and knew I had reached a milestone in my forgiveness journey. I was sad she was gone and the smell of her perfume made me remember the good times, the loving times.
So where do I go from here? I keep living my life faithfully and I continue to “explore” my past through the present. That is where this blog is going. It fits the “No Map Necessary” title to a tee, because I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that the past no longer weighs me down. For this, I will be eternally grateful.
What a beautiful testimony! Maybe you should still write that book using faith as your new narrative. You are a really good writer!
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Thanks Liz! Going to keep blogging for now. Book is in the back of my mind if I can figure out a format!