Mistakes, Trials, and Tragedies

So, last time I posted I was processing why I can’t stand to make a mistake.  Why being human seems so unacceptable to me.  I think it may have something to do with a very traumatic event in my childhood.  Before I tell you about that event, I want to put forth a disclaimer.  My parents did the best job they knew how to do raising me.  My grandmother loved me, but she was deeply wounded and often searched for a scapegoat to ease her own pain.  With that being said, I invite you to visit a Saturday in early May, 1974.

May 1974…I am ten years old.  My little sister is three.  Our mother is in the hospital dying of cancer.  Our home is in a state of chaos that cannot adequately be described. Our grandmother spends every night and most of her days at my mother’s bedside.  My father is working and trying to process the thought of being a widowed father to three little girls. Mostly, though, he is trying to avoid the irrational anger my grandmother is directing at him.  Our great aunt, my grandmother’s sister, is staying with us to help out with the housework and hospital vigils.  She also has a great deal of bitterness that she directs at whomever displeases her.  The air in our house is thick with anger, pain, and sadness.  I escape by watching television as much as possible.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, I have been told to watch my little sister.  I am not sure where my older sister, aged thirteen, was on that day.  I am guessing she had been given some chore to do since I was left in charge of the baby.  I remember we were on my dad’s bed watching the small tv in his room.  I do not know what we watched or how long we watched.  All I really remember  is looking up to see that my little sister had eaten an entire bottle of baby aspirin.  The next thing I remember is sitting in the rocking chair in my grandmother’s bedroom as three adults hurled angry accusations at me.  I remember hearing that if my sister died it would be all my fault.  How could I be so stupid?  How could I be so selfish?  Hadn’t our family been through enough?  What was wrong with me? I don’t remember all the words very clearly, but I remember the pain in my stomach, the searing shame in my heart.  The strong sense that I was the cause of all our troubles. Why could I not be good?  How could anyone ever love such a selfish little girl?  God would never forgive me.

As an adult, I realize that I was not at fault.  I was a child.  I was not mature enough to have been put in that unfortunate position.  I did not leave the aspirin where my sister could get it. I did not make the aspirin taste like candy. I did not cause all the anguish my adult relatives were feeling on that Saturday afternoon.  I was just a scapegoat for all the confusion, pain, and hurt taking place in our  home that day.  As an adult, I realize that God has forgiven me.  God loves me and understands why I come unglued when I make a mistake.  As an adult, I forgive my father and my grandmother for their hurtful, shaming words.

Yet, I still suffer from a great feeling of shame when I am not able to perform perfectly.  I am guessing that I am not alone in these feelings.  I am guessing that those of us who grew up in chaotic homes feel that we must be in control at all times and can never ever make a mistake.  The devil does a happy dance each and every time we fall victim to these false feelings.  Just as he danced for joy that Saturday afternoon when the adults who were supposed to protect me forgot that they were the parent in the room and let their wounded inner child have free reign in shaming me.

I wish I could tell you that I have conquered all my demons once and for all and that I am now able to laugh off my mistakes and love myself and others unconditionally.  I think that will only happen when I wake up in heaven.  For now, I hang on to God’s hand and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  I pray that I can learn to show myself and others a little grace when we are less than perfect.

For too long, I have refused to examine my life and do the work needed to become mature in Christ.  I am determined to look at my life and my mistakes with honesty and courage. Proverbs 10:11 states that the mouth of a good person is a deep, life-giving well, but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.  I want to speak beautiful life affirming messages even in the midst of mistakes, trials, and tragedies…don’t you?

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