A few days ago, Kerah, my eleven-year-old daughter, had an emotional breakdown. I didn’t wake up that morning and know that I was going to be dealing with that on top of everything else, but dealing with the unexpected is just part of our job descriptions as parents. We had just gotten back from a week vacation that we kind of rushed and planned the previous prior couple of weeks in anticipation that Ky would be having surgery to finally fix the plantar fasciitis she has been fighting for over a year. We get back on Sunday, and guess what? School started the very next day for the kids.
They would rather work around the farm than do school, but school still isn’t that bad. Now that we are homeschooling, they are doing all their classes completely online. But this year, they made some minor changes to how some of the classes worked and so on. Well needless to say, for a girl that typically breezes through it, she wasn’t real fond of the changes that they were making, and we heard about it for the next several days. Wednesday morning rolled around, and we were getting ready to take Ky up for surgery. I noticed Kerah sitting on the couch and I could tell that she had been crying. So, I sat down beside her and did the typical dad stuff, hoping it was something stupid like fighting with Eli, “Hey what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” And in the midst of the tears, I finally deciphered some real irrational reason behind it.
Yeah, I get it, something else is up, and it makes no sense to me. It can’t be that. So, is it school? Or is it mom? And after we had our prayer meeting that morning where we prayed for a successful surgery for Ky and thanked God for all His many, many blessings, she walked up to me, wrapped her arms around me, squeezed a little tighter than her normal hugs, and the flood gates were open again. Her uncle often jokes with her about being a dirty crier, meaning she holds nothing back, and doesn’t really care about what she looks like or who is around when it happens. And it was no different this morning. “Are you okay,” I ask. “Yeah, I’m fine,” she says. To which I responded, “Yeah, I know you’re FINE…you are Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.” You know how I know, because I grew up being just FINE!
The difference between Kerah and I, is when things bothered me and I couldn’t figure out why, or where it was coming from, I didn’t go to anyone for help. I didn’t trust anyone. When I expressed my emotions, it was much more troubling and embarrassing than crying. I was taught at a very young age not to cry. I saw my father cry maybe once or twice. Men don’t cry. Apparently, it was a sign of weakness, and being vulnerable is just not an option.
In fact, getting in trouble was even hard because if you didn’t cry a little, that means the punishment wasn’t hard enough. But if you cried too much, then you would get more for carrying on so much. Yet, another damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. This was just one of the many instances where I learned to compartmentalize and bottle up my emotions and feelings. I didn’t express them. That wouldn’t have turned out so good. But, by the time I became a teenager, it got harder and harder to deal with it all, hide it all, bury it all. Fear turned into frustration. Frustration turned to anger. Anger turned to pure rage. I was a good kid and did what I was taught. I kept behind closed doors what was to be kept behind closed doors. I even created new closed doors that I only had the key to, and I have never let anyone come close to opening them.
I learned to get by until I was by myself and either bury my head in the pillow and scream to the top of my lungs, or just start punching anything to feel better. I know it sounds so stupid, but I would use anything and everything as punching bags until my knuckles were swollen or bleeding. The physical pain was better than the emotional pain. The better it felt, the less I cared about what people saw and thought of me. Rage began to consume me. And afterwards, the guilt would settle in. I would promise myself I would change. Then I would tell myself I was fine, and I could get it under control. Yep, I was freaked out, not only insecure, but irrational, neurotic, and emotional.
For the past few years, I have been waging a war in my mind between what I feel and what I believe. There was a contradiction of God’s character that I needed resolved. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) The truth shall set me free? What is the truth? If this is freedom from doubt, fear, shame, unforgiveness, anger, rage, manipulation, and resentment, I want it. I need it.
You see, I struggled with the very common question: “Why does a good, loving God allow bad things to happen?” Well in my case, I struggle with so many things that happened TO me, not by my choosing. Things that I couldn’t control, but God could have. Things that hurt, but God didn’t stop. Things that were terribly terrifying that God didn’t take away. Things that were embarrassing and shameful that God allowed. For what reason? If Psalm 139 is true that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I sure didn’t feel like it much.
God, where were you when I was so compliant that instead of disappointing the coach and running to the bathroom, I took my position on the diamond and peed my pants during a baseball game? And when I went to the dugout, kids left me on the end of the bench by myself. God, where were you when I couldn’t even fight the bully at school, because I convinced myself I was a coward? God, where were you the day I was shoved under a bed to a kiss another little girl like we were some stupid Barbie dolls? God, where were you the night I thought my father was killing my mother? God, where were you when I would bury my head and cry myself to sleep at night and pray for You to stop it all? God, where were You?
Once again, this is obviously all my feelings being bottled up and put away under lock and key. But they still find their way out, and it wreaks havoc on my life. I know and believe that while everything I’ve said has happened, there is one major part that is untrue. God was there. God was there from the beginning. God was there when I didn’t know it. God was there when I didn’t feel it. God was there through it all. God was there at the park when a couple of guys tried to lure me into their car and kidnap me. God was there by giving me a grandmother that would take me to church every time I visited over the summer. God was there the day Pa visited my house and invited my family to church. God was there the day I finally stood up and said no more. God was there by giving me a sister that took me in and was fighting the same fight I was. God was there when He picked Ky for me to marry, begin a family with, and begin healing. God was there when He gave me a new family, all 18 of them. And God was there the other day when I held my daughter and told her that it will be okay. You know why? Because I know it will be okay.
I finally got an answer that made sense to me. I don’t believe all my pain was God’s original will for my life. Just as His original will wasn’t for man to fall in the garden from sin. I don’t believe God’s will for my father was to become an abusive, angry, alcoholic, who was shameful and demeaning to his family. I don’t believe God’s will for my mother was to become so drowned in her own victimhood of loss and abuse, that she couldn’t even pull out of it for her kids. We are all given the opportunity to choose God and His ways.
Guess what? My parents didn’t, and I suffered for it. Sins were committed against God, and I was on the receiving end of those sins a lot of times. I didn’t set out each day and try to agitate, irritate, or manipulate to get a response. And that was where the struggle began. If I didn’t ask for it or want it, or even old enough to understand it, then why did God do it? I realized that He didn’t! They did!
That changed everything. Just because all of that may not have been His original will for my life, doesn’t mean that now He is a God of chaos and happenstance. It’s not like anything surprised Him. I, without question, choose to believe Romans 8:28-31:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
It is also confirmed in Psalms 37:23-24:
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.”
Today, I gave you a little background on the how I became an insecure, raging, control freak. Next time, I’d like to discuss how we can move forward from the fallen, old man and become a new, redeemed creature through Christ by letting go of those things that hold us back and pressing on in those things that carry us forward. If God be for us, who can be against us?
— Written by Lee
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