I always felt there was something different about me.
Like many families, mine experienced its share of dysfunction, but even as a young girl I recognized it. I would tell myself, this is what I will refuse to mirror. Though I was young, I rapidly grew in my understanding of what was behind the behaviors I witnessed in the adults in my life. I learned about “generational curses” and recognized the thread that wove through my parents and grandparents, one that was unhealthy and destructive.
I choose to believe my parents did the best they could as they raised me. I also believe the areas that were lacking or void are what pushed me forward, to satisfy my longing for love and stability within the love and stability offered by God.
I began to hunger and thirst for God at a very young age. My family was very active in church (in fact we practically ate, slept and breathed “church”) so the concept of God was introduced to me before my earliest memories. I learned quite a bit about the nature of God during those years, but as I began to mature and deepen my search I gained another perspective. I realized what it meant to know Him intimately and be in relationship with Him. I wasn’t satisfied with what I was told about God, I wanted to find out for myself. Even as a little girl, I realized the only way I was able to speak about and understand things the way I did was because God had given me discernment beyond my years. His love filled the voids that were in my life. It protected me from the pitfalls that could have, maybe should have, resulted from my upbringing. The love of God gave me a solid foundation on which I would be forced to stand in order to endure the whirlwinds that would swirl around me throughout my life.
When I was growing up, I often stayed at my grandparents’ house. I vividly remember an incident that could have taken my life when I was only three years old. My cousin and I thought our uncle’s medication was candy. We were playing around, popping those pills, and both passed out. I don’t know how long we lay unconscious, but we were discovered before it was too late and rushed to the emergency room where our stomachs were pumped in order to save our lives. I realize it is no coincidence that we were found in time. God's love was the reason we survived.
Around the age of eleven, I began going through some childhood changes, the beginnings of adolescence and the desire to experience more of life. Like most kids that age, I was convinced I knew everything. I struggled with peer pressure and rebellion, but even during that season of life I somehow held on to what I believed about God's love. I clung to the truth that, despite my failures, I was still loved and forgiven. Some of my behaviors were typical for my age, but not all of them. Even though I knew I was secure in my position as a child of God, the insecurities with which I lived fueled many bad decisions. I was human, after all–a product of my upbringing and the Fall just like everyone else. And, just like everyone else, I had to learn many things through experience and the resulting consequences. But there was that undercurrent, that thread of truth that helped me successfully emerge from those whirlwinds.
Then, when I was thirteen, I experienced my parents’ divorce. Not only did their divorce result in a huge transition for all of us, it also brought about terrible turmoil due to the way it was handled and the decisions that were made. I witnessed a lot of hurt all around me during this time. My grief was big and powerful, often overwhelming and threatening to cripple me with despair. Sadly, instead of being taught how to express myself in a healthy way, I was told to just “move on” or “move along.” But I needed an outlet for my emotions, and that early foundation God had given me was what enabled me to cope.
I looked around at my family, realizing that my position as the oldest child gave me the opportunity and privilege to help others around me work through their pain and hurt feelings. Because of what I had learned through my relationship with God and the faithfulness He had shown to me during the darkest seasons of my life, I chose to help carry the burden of their pain. I knew where they would find strength and I wanted to help them as much as I could. In another fierce whirlwind, the love of God was what held me in place, enabling me to not only stand, but help others do the same.
There is a song I have loved since I was a child by Luther Barnes. It describes my life, this often-rocky path with it’s whirlwinds and storms, perfectly. I'm still holding on.
“They said I wouldn't make it,
They said I wouldn't be here today.
They said I never amount to anything.
But I'm glad to say, that I'm on my way,
And I'm going more and more each day.
There were many that started out with me,
But now, they've gone astray.
But I'm still holding on.
I'm still holding on.
I'm still holding to his hand
You see when I was young, I gave God my hand,
And I told him to lead the way.
Though the road has been rough
And the going's been mighty tough, still
I ain't going nowhere, I'm right here to stay.
Though I've been talked about and, Oh, I've been criticized.
I had to wipe many tears from my eyes.
But I'm still holding on.
I'm still holding on.
I'm still holding on to his hand.”
(I'm Still Holding On lyrics © International Atlanta Music, Peermusic Iii Ltd)
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLV Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or
proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every