Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Love Never Ends
"But do you strengthen yourself for battle; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day, who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land. . They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord." -[Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19].
In my childhood home of cruel dysfunction, I gradually shut down, over a period of years.
My mother would admonish me about my brother's taunts, and his hitting of me. She told me, "If you do not react, he will not do those things. You are too sensitive." So, I concluded, this abuse was all my fault.
He would singsong ugly names at me. I would get angry or cry. Since my mother did not stop him, his abuse expanded. He would get physical - he would hit me. I would go to school with black eyes. My mother would tell me, Do not get any more black eyes, you embarrass me.
I tried to stop his abuse. First, I practiced showing no emotion. His abuse continued. Maybe he could "see my emotions" inside of me?
Next, I practiced feeling no emotion. His abuse continued. Maybe it was my fault because I spoke to him? I stopped speaking altogether.
My family had means. We were not poor. My mother fed me four-day old left-overs. I gagged on it. I largely stopped eating.
My family sent me to school in fancy dresses, fancier than most of the school girls. But I had black eyes and rarely spoke.
I stayed awake at night, until all in the house were asleep. I thought it was safer not to sleep when they were still up and prowling about.
I did not believe in the money they threw at me to try to control my behavior. My life was scripted - what colors to wear, what school to attend, what to study, with whom to be friends, where to work, what department to work in. If I did not do as they said, they would withdraw money and threaten abandonment.
When I began dating, they would hiss at me if they disapproved: "This is not how we raised you." All because I was a different denomination of Christian than my beau.
So, I could not believe in their blackmail, or their money, or their materialism, or their superiority over others, or their deeply cold hearts.
What could I believe in?
Years later, my father died abruptly one early spring day- here one moment, gone the next. Suddenly, I was free. A long-time friend said I looked ten years younger.
I ran to speak with my pastor. How could I begin anew? My pastor told me he was amazed at how I had turned out.
I told him, "I believed in Love."
When a lifetime of crushing memories came down on me like a sudden downpour, a lifetime of trauma hitting like a tsunami, I had to find a way to strengthen myself for battle all over again. Trauma visits in spiraling rounds of grief and fear- the first experience is the real life one, the next experiences come in flashbacks and nightmares.
One day, I sat in a church pew and opened the Missal. The page fell to Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you." I read on about the fortified city, the pillar of iron, the wall of brass. Tears fell on the page. I didn't have to be their daughter, I was God's child.
I memorized these words, I recited them to myself each time I felt weak from the horrible memories.
Since that day, I have studied the Bible. I know the meaning of what St. Paul says in Corinthians about Love: "If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have Love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. If I comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have faith so as to move mountains, but do not have Love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have Love, I gain nothing."
For all their educated lectures, all their worldly assets, their weekly trips to church, their standing in the community, their self-satisfied belief in their own abilities - without Love to give, or Love in their hearts, my parents were sad, clashing, self-important cymbals, signifying nothing.
During my childhood, I walked away from their abuse, I displayed Love where they showed Hate, I gave grace and patience where they gave jealousy and bitterness.
All that they had, their beautiful home, their respect in the community, their lovely material things - were temporary.
But, Love? Love never ends.
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