Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Parental Wounds - Part 2 (Day 29)

My mother’s health continually got worse. To deal with the pain, she had to have a morphine pump surgically positioned in her body. Her drug abuse also spiraled out of control and climaxed on Christmas morning of my sixth grade year. We were living with my loving aunt and her family. My aunt made me feel very comfortable and very accepted. Everything was starting to feel kind of “normal” again. And for once I was actually looking forward to something- to Christmas! It was going to be Big this year and all my extended family was going to be there. Everyone was so excited to open presents that morning. Everyone was excited -until they saw my mother. Apparently she overdosed the night before. Christmas was ruined- with an audience watching seizures and an emergency room trip. I don’t remember opening my presents that day but I do remember crying in bed once again asking God, “Why? Why this? Why on Christmas?” After many of these episodes, my aunt finally decided to kick my mother out in response to her “festive” behavior. As a child I had to make a choice that no child should make. To leave with my mother and be homeless or to stay where I had shelter, love and a chance to be normal. Hesitantly, I chose to stay living with my aunt and it broke my mother’s heart. I felt so guilty- I understood that my mother could not take care of me but I longed for the days before her accident. Some of my earliest memories were of car rides to school, she wouldn’t let me listen to the radio, instead we sang corny praise and worship songs. My mother taught me all about Jesus and the Bible. She read the Bible to me all throughout my childhood, sparking in me a love for theology. She prayed with me and over me constantly. She never made me go to“children’s” church, but let me stay and learn with the adults. When I was a young child, she would give me anything I asked for, because she took joy in making me happy-and it was that year, that I felt like I was turning my back on her.
From that time on, I lived with my aunt. Most of the time, I slept on the couch and had no real place to put my possessions. She offered me what she had, but it was still far from "status quo". In high school, I put on a facade and appeared to be a normal kid. For once, I got to do normal kid things like sports, sleepovers, and even go on dates. My first date was with a girl named Annie. Annie and I went on our first date about 15 years ago. It still just seems like yesterday-I was super nervous! We went to Casa Ole and then we went to the movies to see Super Star. The biggest memory I have from the whole entire night was the feeling of extreme butterflies in the pit of my stomach. Annie always made me feel ok to be me. Finally, I had found someone who I could be honest with. Someone I could finally tell my secrets to, and for once I decided to take the mask off. One weekend, at a restaurant, I told Annie everything about my life. Things that I had never uttered to a soul, soon rushed out of my lips and filled the stucco booth in which we were sitting. My gushing emotions took Annie by surprise and her look of shock sent me retreating to the men’s room. I threw myself on the toilet and began to sob hysterically. I knew for sure that I had run off the one person that made me feel so good about myself. As I sat there I noticed hot pink toenail polish in front of me under the stall. To my surprise Annie had come after me and held me in the men’s room. That day I found out what love really looked like- hot pink toenail polish. 

Looking back, I know that what I had mistaken for butterflies were in fact just caterpillars and it has been a sacred gift to be able to watch this 15 year metamorphosis which turned those caterpillars into beautiful meaningful butterflies. Everything was perfect about Annie except- SHE WAS A CATHOLIC!
Yes a CATHOLIC! My mother taught me ALL about Catholics. How they prayed to statues, how they worshiped Mary, how they were doomed to hell. I was brought up Baptist and you could also say “anti-catholic.” I remember visiting a Catholic Church for the first time. I went home thinking, “Dang those people act like drones.” I mean gosh they didn’t even bring their Bibles to church, and to make matters worse, it was boring! I made a long list of complaints withina week. I was for certain that the Catholic Church was off-kilter in its teachings, and I certainly wanted to prove it to Annie. I finally started talking to Annie's father, about my objections to the Church’s teachings. He answered a lot of my questions, but more importantly taught me a valuable lesson. “How can I judge something I do not understand?” So my new mission was to find information. Only with knowledge can people make up their own opinions. I started out very determined to prove the Catholic Church wrong. But as it turns out, all the answers I found went against my original opinions. For example, I perceived that the Catholic was unbiblical, but through study I realized that the Mass is soaked in Scripture, and Scripture is soaked with the Mass. If someone were to go to every Sunday Mass, for three years, he or she would have read the Bible almost in its entirety. So I plea to you, whether you are Catholic or Protestant do not make judgments—instead find information. The Great Bishop Fulton Sheen said this, "There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is of course, quite a different thing." I found myself to be among the millions of uneducated and that most of the “Church’s problems” were really“Cody’s problems” through unawareness. Converting to Catholicism was not a walk in the park though; it was by far not an easy process. I remember one night of study specifically. I was lying in bed reading a book about the Catholic Church. The truth was overwhelming, and turning each page was heavy. Tears began to roll down my cheek and I asked God, “Why? Why have you let me believe these other doctrines for all these years? And now You’re going to turn my life upside down by revealing that all I have known about You was not the FULL truth?”

I was confirmed later that year. My confirmation is a blur in my mind, but I do remember one specific action, reciting the Our Father. Specifically “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” As I proclaimed those words I began to finally understand God’s will in my life. Things were immediately clear from the words of that petition, I knew God had a will with and for me and it must become the measure of my willing and being.  The key to the fulfillment of the petition “Thy kingdom come” is the fulfillment of the next one, “Thy will be done.” The way for God’s kingdom to come is the easiest thing in the world to understand and the hardest thing in the world to accomplish: simply turning over all our will to God. We can begin to do this, even if we do not do it completely. To choose to begin is our “fundamental option”, our most absolute choice.  As C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’; and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” Sin means that my will is in rebellion against God. By saying (and meaning) “Thy will be done,” I declare my will to end this rebellion and make peace with God by submitting my will to his, by willing what he wills done. All those times that I had painfully asked, “Why God? Why are you doing this to me? Why is this happening to me? Why are you hurting me?” melted away. I realized that God wasn’t out to get me, but on the contrary like it says in 1Cor. 10:13, “God is faithful and will not allow you to go through things beyond your strength, but will provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.”   Blaming God is always our first reaction when something bad happens but it’s not God’s fault.  To be honest we have no real clue what is going on. We are like toddlers being taken to get our immunizations shots. From our point of view the needles hurt and don’t seem profitable. We kick and scream and cry because we don’t understand what is going on. We feel betrayed by our parents who brought us here to get  held down and tortured. We cannot see as children how these small pains and pricks will prevent the larger pains of disease.  In the same way, as children of God we cannot see how the pains of life will prevent us from greater pain in the end. We forget so easily that Jesus experienced all the same pains, trials, and temptations that we face today. Jesus’ career as a carpenter was intense and physically demanding. He suffered poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, and betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the police, and even execution by torture. He knows what we are going though. He’s experienced it. The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like his.
My Mother passed away on May 12, 2008. For the first time, when something bad happened in my life, I didn’t ask why. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5. As much as it hurt, I just accepted it. These words were lying beside my mother’s body and evidently she wrote them concerning her last thoughts:

"What your works are at the time of your death, for you can fall from grace but at your time of death will you be living doing as you where taught even till your last b­­­____."
I 'm not exactly sure what the last word is but I still understand what she is trying to say. Her words assure me that today’s tears, will be dried with tomorrows laughter. Today’s doubts will be trampled by tomorrow’s assurances. Today’s lonesomeness will be swallowed up by tomorrow’s embraces. Today’s grief will be blown away with tomorrow’s hope. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for your woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope” (Jer 29:11).
Thus far, my life has been bitter-sweet. Truly a life to remember, but also a life to forget. People say“time flies,” but I do not. My life has arrogantly crept at its own pace. People ask, “Where did the time go?” but I do not . I can almost account for each second. My life has been littered with heartbreak, humiliation, death, guilt, and uncertainty. My life has violently shaken and uprooted the thing referred to as “faith.” Faith in anything: relationships, aptitudes, finances, God, and even one’s own heartbeat. My life has been a slow death. A death to self-identity. A death to worldly ideals. A death to childhood views concerning love. A death to being in control. “Amen, amen, I say to you , unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life” (Jn 12:24-25). My life’s deaths have produces much fruit: new friendships, self-rediscovery, new talents, family reunions and an awakening to Christ’s love. Let us be thankful for yesterdays struggles and let us pray that we are strong enough to do God’s will today.

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