May 12, 2013

An Encounter with My Past

Make peace with the past.  That was the focus of one of the workshops at a recent ladies retreat I attended. This was actually called an encounter, and it was 2 1/2 days packed full of intense teaching, designed to help us understand the full life God has planned for us and what may be standing in the way of us experiencing it.

From dawn to midnight (with short breaks for eating), different presenters shared their personal testimonies then instructed on forgiveness, intercessory prayer, health and healing, spiritual warfare--that sort of stuff.  The almost 80 attendees ranged from brand new believers who came to the Lord for the first time in the opening service, to women who had been serving God for decades.  But each teaching was applicable to every woman there in some way, making it a weekend of renewal and intimacy as we drew closer to the Lord.  No social hour, no pool time, no manicures--just intense soul searching.

Many of the things spoken about shed light on the problems Paraguayans face daily, from abuse to witchcraft to infidelity.  As the presenters shared the truth according to God's Word, you could literally see the light come on in the eyes of these women, many understanding for the first time that things they'd taken part in weren't okay.  At the end of each session, women were waiting up front for those who wanted to pray about what they'd just learned, talk or ask further questions, or just get a hug and cry a bit as they were being prayed over.  It was a powerful weekend.

One session in particular was about forgiveness, asking us to look back into our pasts and think of times we'd been wronged, times we have held onto and allowed to grow into an ugly bitter place inside us.  As always happens in these sorts of talks, I was amazed at what people have suffered and infinitely thankful for my upbringing.  I searched my mind for anything I was still holding against anyone, but rather than find something hidden, I found myself overwhelmed with thankfulness for parents who raised me well.

I thought we were poor growing up, I guess because I didn't wear the latest fads until they were going out of style and landed on the clearance rack.  My name brand clothes turned out to be reasonable facsimiles of the real thing, and I think I saw that as an indication that we lived in poverty.

Looking back with the eyes of an adult, I see now that we were frugal.  My parents worked hard and spent carefully.  We saved and bought things with cash rather than going into debt, and if we had a working TV when the latest model came out, we were fine with the one we already had.  Our cars weren't new but they ran and were well maintained.  Our house was improved little by little, mostly by work my parents did themselves.

I'm reaping the fruits of that education now, knowing how to pinch a penny into groceries for a week and trying to teach my girls to do the same.  They grew up in the latest fashions from yard sales and thrift stores, and both prefer to do their shopping the same way now.  Thanks, Momma.

Ken and I literally built our own house to avoid the debt of a big house payment, something that enabled us to go on the foreign mission field when God called, rather than have to wait around until we could pay down the debt or sell the house.  And I wasn't too shabby swinging that hammer.  Thanks, Daddy.

My brother, Dino, and I--way back when...
So while the women at the encounter shared about the horrible forms of abuse they'd suffered, I thought back to camping on the lake, long car rides to Iowa to visit my dad's side of the family, dressing up like clowns with makeup from my mom's Avon sampler kit, and going to church every time the doors were open (and sometimes unlocking those doors because we'd gotten there first).

Being raised in a Christian home didn't automatically exempt me from abuse, I've learned, but not because I've experienced it.  I just assumed everyone grew up like I did, nurtured and protected.  But I hear the horror stories of what happened behind the closed doors of the parsonage or the deacon's house, and again I'm thankful that the worst thing ever said to me using God's name as the reason, was when I got into a fight with my little brother and yelled, "I hate him," after my mom tried to correct me.  I remember very clearly the look on my dad's face when he said, "I'm sure that made Jesus very sad."  It crushed me.  I don't think I ever again used the word hate to describe how I felt against anyone.

Looking back on how mouthy I was as a teenager, I'm surprised I wasn't abused, and having two teen girls in the house now, I understand what a handful I must have been.  I remember as a young teen hearing my mom tell someone (probably someone who'd said, "I'd slap that girl in the mouth if I were you!") that I was strong willed from the get-go, and she asked God for help early on.  He told her to be careful not to break my will because I'd need it when I was older.  How right He was, and how blessed I was to have a mother who consulted with God about raising her children.

My most prevalent memories of her as we grew up are the papers tucked in every corner, where she'd been taking notes while studying the Bible.  She was usually at the kitchen table preparing to teach Sunday School, but these little slips of paper could also be found between the front seats of the car, where a thought would come to her while driving and she'd jot it down.  She has a way of turning everyday situations into a spiritual lesson, something I think I inherited, because I can't even watch a movie without finding Jesus in there somewhere.  Thank God we have smartphones these days that allow me to keep my notes all in one place.  ;)

Caroline, my mom, Camille, and yours truly. (2010)
So I listened with a heavy heart to the women pouring theirs out, having to make the decision to forgive their mothers or fathers for unimaginable abuses.  I hurt for them but I couldn't empathize this time.  I cried just as hard as they did, but in thankfulness for the things I missed, the things my husband missed because he also grew up in a wonderful home.  I cried for the joy of being able to pass on the heritage of a Godly home, although I make mistakes all the time.

Mother's Day in Paraguay falls a few days later than in the U.S., so this is almost like Mother's Week for us.  As we celebrate, I am again reminded of how much I missed growing up, and how very glad I am of it.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this and hope you have a great Mothers Day,,,,I love you...Dad..


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