As children, we don’t always have the perspective that enables us to understand that adult screaming, raging, ignoring, and abusing are abnormal. But, if we have this kind of rage or abuse in our past, there comes a time in our adult lives when we need to acknowledge where we’ve come from—an awakening of sorts. An awareness that leads to growth.
My friend Annie was in her 30s when she began to struggle with an eating disorder. Interestingly, during this same time she also began to acknowledge the fact that she had been sexually abused by her dad while growing up. This was a secret she had buried deep within, encasing it with bubble wrap, hoping no one would make it pop. When she daringly began to unravel the abuse, the eating disorder lost its power and subsided. It was in the acknowledging of her pain that she was able to break free from it. This is where healing begins.
I was a late bloomer when it came to acknowledging. I kept beating myself up, wondering what was wrong with me, before I finally accepted the fact that my mom’s struggle with alcohol and my dad’s paralysis left imprints in the deepest crevices of my spirit.
I remember one day when the principal of our elementary school, Sister Marilyn, pulled me and my siblings into her dark office for a chat. She bent down to eye level with the three of us as she said, “You kids are really going to have to try harder—especially you, Gari, since you’re the oldest. You come to school and your hair isn’t combed and your uniforms aren’t ironed, and some days you don’t have lunches packed.”
I sorrowfully offered an apology and promised we would try harder. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I got mad about that conversation. Sister Marilyn knew our home life was chaotic, yet she was scolding us about combed hair, ironed uniforms, and packed lunches . . . when it was a miracle we even got to school each day. Most days we walked several miles to get there, in all kinds of weather. Who cares what our hair looked like when we arrived! Never once did anyone from that church help our family.
Many years later, when I was able to acknowledge that things in my childhood were hard, I also began to accept that God used every year and event in my life to shape me into the woman I was meant to be. Even Sister Marilyn (whom I eventually was able to respect and love) played a part in the stitching of character that only God can sew in our lives.