I have spent most of my life feeling alone. The harsh voices of childhood, long forgotten in their content, still hover like heavy fog. The few memories I do have, are of standing back, hoping to remain unseen. What I witnessed in the shadows left me fearful of being exposed. Being noticed was too risky. Hiding was how I felt safe.
As an adult, denial helped me justify the cruelty of my father and first husband. I made excuses for their behavior, told myself they really didn’t mean it, that they couldn’t help it. I was the problem. I believed what they said about me: I was too demanding, too stupid, too selfish, too sensitive.
Only after my heart was truly broken and on its’ knees, was I able to question my life story.
Was I really who they said I was?
Rachel N. Remen, MD the author of “Kitchen Table Wisdom” wrote:
“So many of us do not know our own story. A story about who we are, not what we have done. About what we have faced to build what we have built, what we have drawn upon and risked to do it. What we have felt, thought, feared and discovered through the events of our lives. The real story that belongs to us alone…we carry with us every story we have ever heard and every story we have ever lived.”
It was not until I understood that we are all broken, that I was able to interpret my story. And it wasn’t until I was willing to face them, that the stories and chapters of my life had meaning. I had pushed them away like so many old, dusty books on a shelf. I told myself I had already read them. But as the years gathered softly behind me, I was ready to pull out the stories I had been told were the truth of my life, and look again.
As Doctor Remen put so eloquently:
“Stories are someone’s experience of the events of their life; they are not the events themselves.”
In other words, we can each experience the same event very differently.
I came to understand my story once I was willing to enter the dark, unexplained recesses of my life. Trusting that God knew the unknown and would walk beside me, is where I finally found healing. My way could only work for so long.
As I surrendered, God took my hand and lead me through each story; He showed me that I didn’t need to fix anything, I simply needed to face it.
As I faced my past, I began to question the harsh voices and who they said I was. I left the questions open, willing to leave some unanswered and trusting God to fill the empty spaces. I asked Him to remind me who He had created me to be.
I am learning that the parts of ourselves we keep hidden, out of shame or fear, are seeds of promise. When we expose them to the light of God’s mercy and healing, we have the opportunity to grow compassion and understanding.
No experience is ever wasted. My heavenly Father knew that the very things that made me feel vulnerable, afraid and alone would someday become a source of strength and healing. The dark and scary things I witnessed as a child, God saw them too. He knew that by experiencing fear, I would some day be capable of courage, and that by knowing grief, I might better understand compassion.
I have come to know that we are never alone. God is always with us, patiently waiting for us to take his hand and lead us safely home.
“What a blessing it is to outlive your self-judgments and harvest your failures.” – Rachel Remen, MD