Day 15, Day 20 & 22
It was Panama City, FL and I can remember what the gate looked like. What the pool behind the gate looked like. I remember it was right next to the ocean. Part of the campground where we were camped for sabbatical summers. The sign excluded anyone under 11 without a parent from swimming alone. Today was the day, I would swim alone. I was 11. I remember my couple friends who I ran the campground with during the summers we would visit during my dad’s sabbaticals. I often wonder where they are now. What if we would’ve had FB back then?
The next big milestone during my second decade would be my graduation to attend the church youth group. THIS was everything. My dad was the Pastor and every year we would have interns live with us. The interns, who came from the suburbs or other states, to spend time ministering in the city, would run the youth group. Any every year I would have to witness the prep for the youth group activities in our home—but wasn’t old enough to participate. NOT this year, this year, I turned 13 and I was old enough.
The rest of my teenage years I really would rather not write or talk about. I actually delayed working on this just because I really don’t want to write about it. How do you write about or acknowledge the truth about a time you wish never existed? I know the truth. I know it was all a part of a plan. That doesn’t make it easy to write. For now….I will continue to think about it…..
The Light We Have to See By
At 15, my parents separated and shortly thereafter divorced. Despite my age, I understood, relationships can be complicated and sometimes they don’t work. To be honest, I probably should not have had this relational experience at this age–and regardless of that–I am grateful for this balanced and realistic perspective. I was never really sad about them getting divorced. More just sad because my mom was hurting. And what was happening to her didn’t appear to be fair. Extremely self-absorbed, I just wanted to be able to do what I wanted to do. Didn’t matter to me how it happened or how others needed to fit into that picture. Just please stay out of my way.
The bigger change happened within our church. My dad being the Pastor, this new reality and any perceived reality, obviously had a profound effect on the ministry. How people interpreted his behavior and the circumstances surrounding it still have lingering effects visible through some former church members–even to this day. What do you do when your Pastor leaves his wife–and at the time, it is perceived for another married woman within the church? And this Pastor happens to be your dad? What is the play there? Coping strategy? Am I responsible for everyone else’s anger, pain, disappointment that was rampant? I always tend to feel compassion and can emphasize with everyone. This leads to me needing to justify or protect my dad’s reputation –because I know who he is…deep down…past this chapter…I know his heart. No one understands him. No one know what he is dealing with. And for sure no one is going to bash my dad. Especially, if I am not. Meanwhile, still focused on me. Just please stay out of my way.
Totally left to my own way, I was literally making disastrous decisions that would prove to shape the next twenty years of my life. How blind we are. Not by love…at least that would be romantic or cute. We are just blind by stupidity and the arrogance of immaturity. By the blinders we apply to our own lives. I wish I could say “if I would’ve known better, I would’ve done better.” But this season wasn’t a product of ignorance –it was more a product of sheer will. I was determined to do and survive anything put in my path. My focus was on surviving and not on thriving or elevating. I didn’t really have anyone that took a special interest in my talents, or gifts. And definitely not in the direction I was headed. For me, I was high functioning; did well in school, always had multiple jobs, handled mine and everyone’s business. Looking back this provided everyone around me a false sense of security. And even if I ended up in a bad situation, I would figure a way out. And I always did.
This is not to say the product of this sheer will fest, my daughter, wasn’t a rose. A gem. She is a rose that grew from concrete. Just a constant example of how God’s divine plan is so much bigger than me and my little world. Despite the dysfunction, pain, abuse, poor decisions—God carries out what He has intended for us. He brings forth the rose from the concrete of our lives. The power, purpose and plan for my daughter is so much bigger than any personal hell I had created for myself. His plan will carry us when we can’t carry ourselves.
None of this is meant to shame me or anyone else. Whatever happens to a person in their childhood shapes them. It is this shape of who you are that you learn to work with as an adult. Whether things were right or wrong, it is the shape you are now.
Sometimes I think back to the 17 year old me, and I have so much advice. There are many things I could’ve done or been if the right person this… or the right person that. Truth is, the reason we can sit by now and spout advice from our tower is because of the wisdom and experience of life that we NOW possess.
The Light I have today will not be as bright as the Light I will see with tomorrow. “The path of the just gets brighter and brighter.” The Light my father made decisions by is not the same Light he functions by today. This holds true across all of our lives. It is always easier to look back and lend our trusty wisdom to how something should’ve been. It is easier to shine your Light behind you, go back in time, to try to illuminate and answer “whys” and “how comes”of yesterday. But it is a waste of the Light. The Light is meant to shine ahead of us. Illuminate our path in front of us. Brighter and brighter.
This means I can let it all go. And know we all did our best with the Light we had to see by.
“We all do the best we can based on the light we have to see by.” ~Julia Cameron