This weekend I’ve been examining various choices made throughout my life, starting with my 1st marriage. As I started digging through the rubble of my past, I started going a little further back and started looking at where it all started.
In the house where I grew up, my dad was a very stern disciplinarian who considered any show of mercy a sign of weakness. His rigid exterior, however, could not hide a man at the edge of a major breaking point. We all tip-toed around as if attempting not to crush egg shells and broken glass. I remember a couple of times I really wanted to call my dad out on the injustices he was inflicting on us…what stopped me was an even deeper sense that there was such a fragility there, such a low reserve, that he could not withstand the blow of being confronted. It would have been the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to hit him with it. I didn’t know back then that the truth would not kill.
There was a very traumatic shift in our relationship when I was somewhere around 6 or 7 years of age. I have mulled over what might have motivated my father’s choices, pretty much my entire adult life. I love my dad, fiercely, but even with all the searching I’ve done to try and understand what may have led him to do some of the things he did I cannot defend the choices he made with me and with our family. I have learned to separate the man from his actions. As much as I love him, and as much as I’ve been gifted with some insights into what may have been driving him, none of that will never mean that his choices were okay. Forgiving my dad is where I learned that forgiving does not mean excusing bad behavior. As for the emotional abandonment, I have come to understand that something very profoundly traumatic in his own life led to it, but whatever that was, he went to his grave without ever having said a word to anyone. One day, we were best buds, the next, I was locked out in a very traumatic event and was never let back in. Love became a carrot being dangled in front of me, and it wasn’t until the day before the surgery that inevitably killed him that his love and approval once again became achievable without having to jump through hoops. He stayed in the home, physically, as a very imposing figurehead. In my early teens, I thought his sole purpose for living was to make all of our lives miserable, and I was perplexed and frustrated with my mom for not divorcing him…but, again, that fragility, that blasted underlying fragility that we all sensed…My prison pretty much started with my dad, who was the cell, the bars, the guard, and the warden, all wrapped up into one very complex package. My 1st marriage was merely a transfer of prison facilities (I was married at age 22 and divorced at 24).
My dad was a very cunning manipulator and set the pattern for the kind of men I would attract throughout my life: that sort of love/hate relationship pattern – but usually leaning more toward the hate – with that always present unidentifiable something more to it that I wanted desperately to resolve. Until finding my current husband, the only man in my history whose M.O. didn’t include yanking my chain in some way or another was the man who ended up being my child’s biological father. Of all the things he was or wasn’t to me, the thing that was so huge was the fact that he wasn’t trying to work an angle of some kind. As a result, he was the 2nd longest relationship in my life, prior to falling in love with the man who is now my husband. When I was choosing a couple for my child to be adopted by, the primary deciding factor was the father. I had not known what it was to have a man fully invested in maintaining a healthy relationship, and when I was pregnant, that was one of the main ways I felt stuck. More than wanting him to have the mother I feared I couldn’t be, I wanted my baby to have a dad who was present, emotionally available, and fully engaged in having a good relationship with him. That was just huge to me.
I continued to flounder in relationships in the 2 years following my son’s birth then lost interest in relationships for a couple of years or so when I first became committed to following the Lord. Once that part of my interest became reawakened, it was the same battle over and over. At least the power of God gave me some ammo and equalized the battlefield. Every man I seemed attracted to and/or seemed to attract proved to be yet another snare to break free from – until my now beautiful husband. He is my reward for persevering.
With Jesus, there came the ability to see through the pretty words cloaking hidden agendas and power to choose whether I wanted to participate. There were times I ignored the instincts given me because I wanted to, but I still discerned that which had been concealed before. Before the game was changed, I was a trampled doormat that kept on getting trampled repeatedly. The only thing that changed from incident-to-incident was the footprints, and I was powerless against it. I lived my life completely like an inanimate object in pretty much all my relationships. Not even something as powerful and life-changing as having a child could break that pattern. I hated it, but I didn’t have a clue what to do about it before being awakened by a power greater than myself.
I remember now: that powerlessness was what I was most afraid of. It was one thing to be a victim myself….it was quite another to bring my child into it. My biggest motivation for giving him up was breaking a really sick cycle that I didn’t know how to break in my own life. I wish I’d have been able to see it was possible to both raise my son and break that pattern. Getting free cost me more than it should ever have had to.