Friday, April 14, 2017

Falling Up 4: Revelation

I was bored out of my mind. Any 6yo would be, waiting in the doorway of the gas station garage while some work was being done on my mom's car.  She had a chair, but I was just standing, hopping around, and bored. So I started pretend races.

At that time races were a big deal at school, who was faster, and my friend Lila won almost all of them. I did not. In any race, I was most likely to trip and fall on my face. But in pretend races ...

I asked my mom to do the ready, set, go, and I raced across the space of the open garage door. I was racing against Lila, and I won! Except I didn't. My mom declared Lila the winner. Because my mom believed in telling the truth, and she knew the truth.

Years later, when I was going through the process of getting in touch with my emotions, I remembered this. Everything I couldn't feel at the time, the hurt and frustration and the deep desire to just have my mom believe in me, it all came up. Every last feeling, fresh in the heart of that little girl, and I cried until I was swollen and numb.

I don't want to make this a whiney account of all the ways I was made to feel less. I don't want to go on for pages about missing affection, the liberal use of switch and belt, and the because-I-said-so rules. These were all pretty standard for the times. 

What wasn't standard was the complete inconsistency. My mom wasn't cruel; just tired, distracted, and painfully practical. But my dad, I never knew. I would come home from school and he would be out on a job or asleep on the couch watching TV with a book open on his chest (no, I'm not kidding and don't dare change channels) or he would be cooking dinner while doing some frenzied project, or he would be angry and yelling about everything, or he would be (rarely) nice, laughing, singing, telling stories. We would eat in the living room, except when we ate around the table like a proper family. We would go visit relatives, then he would tell me how we were really better than them.  He would also sometimes tell me things about my friends parents, things a child didn't need to know about drunk driving charges or previous marriages.  

And his mood could change in a moment. I remember once when we were eating at the table. One moment he was teasing me about something, we were laughing. Then suddenly he was yelling that I was laughing at him and he was standing up and undoing his belt to whip me. I had no idea why or where it changed.

My had grown up in a very strict southern pentecostal religion, while my mom had been presbyterian. He did not believe that religion should be pushed on a child, but there was still a family and community standard based on convenient bits and pieces of the Bible, especially don't use God's name, don't lie, and obey your parents. 

Sometimes when I visited my Grandma I would go to Sunday school at her church.  One summer, the year I turned 10, I was going to go two weeks in a row, so I took on the task of memorizing the assigned verse. Grandma even gave me a little New Testament that I could keep. 

The verse was Colossians 3:17 in the King James Version. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." But I was a reader, so I kept reading:

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Yeah, yeah, obey your parents. Then the next verse, "21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." What? God has rules for Fathers, too? And he isn't supposed to be making me angry on purpose, like the way he would sometimes push me to argue and then either be proud or beat me?
Sometimes I get in discussions about the Bible. Some people think that it is no longer relevant, or valuable only as ancient literature. I have spent over 50 years now in perusing, studying and being taught about this book. I understand the criticisms, a discussion for another day. But one thing I can tell you about this document, it can sometimes provide the greatest truths just when they are most needed. Like that moment in my life.
That was the moment in my life when I began to think that maybe things weren't supposed to be this way. I began to think that maybe God knew how hard this was, how wrong this was. In that moment, on the basis of a Bible verse, the true seeds of rebellion were planted in my heart.

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