Mar. 22, 2017

The Long Way Home

It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I made it. My youth was very difficult for me. As for now, as an adult, I’m done being made to feel guilty for someone else’s mistakes. I was raised Seventh Day Adventist (SDA). There are some people in the church who are extremist. My sister Sharon and one of my brothers, Brian, certainly fit that bill.

My brother Karl, also SDA, told me when I was a little girl, “When you do something bad, it comes back to you in ten folds - when you do something good, it also comes back to you, according to the Scriptures.”

I held fast to that belief, even now. But, it raised a lot of questions when I was younger and my answer was, God just did not care about me. He couldn’t have. If what Karl said was true, then why, why Lord did you allow me to suffer the anguish I was forced to reckon with?

I’ve been through sexual abuse since I was a four year old toddler, physical abuse, even mental and emotional abuse. I was bullied and verbally abused quite frequently by different family members. What did I do for any of that to happen to me? I was a baby, for the love of God!

My brother Brian is such an extremist that he’d have these fights with God. He was so wishy-washy. He’d claim God hated him and go back to being a heathen, drinking and smoking. The next time he’d be “saved” again. We’d find his TV and stereo system (the Devil’s toys) out on the curb for trash pickup.

“Praise the Lord!” he’d shout, “God has blessed me!”

I have very vivid memories of Brian standing in the middle of the living room, shaking his fists and yelling at the ceiling, “Why have you forsaken me, Lord? After all the sacrifices I’ve made unto you!”

Silently, I was also screaming, “Yeah! Why did you forsake me, too?” I’d yell in agreement.

I was eleven at the time. I didn’t know what forsaken meant, but it sounded good to me. More importantly, it sounded right.

My sister, Sharon, the other extremist wasn’t nearly as wishy-washy as Brian. She has always remained loyal to the Lord. She’s a bit judgmental at times and believes you’re doomed to Hell if you don’t share her religious beliefs.

She used to read Bible stories at night before bedtime. Whenever I was privy to spend the night with her, I got to listen in. My favorite story was “Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors.” Little did I know that particular story would be the thing that brought me back to God.

Sharon had very little to do with me, often shunning me and pushing me away; especially after our mother became ill and could no longer care for me. I was ten and forced to go live with my father and his wife who systematically abused me.

My brother Terry was having his own life crisis and couldn’t help out. My brother Bruce resented my parents marrying (we had different fathers). He resented it to the point; he blamed me for their union. From the time I was a small child Bruce was quick to tell others, “She’s a piece of shit just like her father.”

My brother Karl resided with Bruce. They shared a house together. I think he was swayed by Bruce’s opinion a little because, he too, had very little to do with me. My brother Keith always tried to maintain a relationship, hoping he could influence me positively; but I wasn’t allowed to live with him either. I was unwanted wherever I turned.

Why, Lord? Why? I didn’t ask to be here.

My brother Brian drove me away from God. Seriously. He made all those sacrifices and where did it get him? Although, Christ has never, with emphasis on never, asked us to sacrifice anything to him so Brian’s attempts to sacrifice his way into Heaven are futile.

As I said, it was because of Brian that I turned from my faith for so long. He would let me stay with him a few months at a time. I felt it was to show the others that, at least, he made an effort. All the while, I was reminded that I was not wanted.

There were times he’d shake his fists at me and yell, “Why do you act up, Michelle? Why do you do these things? Can’t you see no one wants you?”

Mind you, I didn’t really do anything different from what other “normal” children did. I realize now, it was just his excuse to get rid of me again.

My father was a complete nightmare. His wife despised and resented my presence so much. I was completely miserable and always asking God, “Why? What did I do to make you abandon me?”

Then one day, I had an epiphany. I realized God did not forsake me. He was there, every step of the way. Like the footsteps in the sand, He was there. My experiences, no matter how soured they were, made me who I am. Even though I turned from my faith, I never stopped believing in God. I always believed Christ was the son of God. He was our savior; my savior!

I don’t question things anymore. Instead, I know that if anything had been different or changed, even the smallest of details, I would not have my husband or my children. I have truly been blessed and for that, I thank you, Lord. They are worth anything I’ve ever had to endure. And yes, I would go through every moment of it again because I would know, in the end, God will give me what I need, my own family to love.

I’ve learned that like Job, we all have these trials and tribulations in our lives. They will either make us or break us. Because of them, I am stronger. God knew what I needed in order to become strong and so I endured those terrible things in my childhood to be molded into who I am today.

Through Christ, I have forgiven all. I will never forget what happened. Ever. But I have learned to forgive. I’ve learned it is not my relationship with my siblings that will determine our salvation; it is our relationship with Christ that will be the deciding factor. Therefore, it is for myself that I must forgive.

I’ve had a few moments I’ve question. I went to my brother, Karl, who now preaches (I love to hear his sermons. They’re long winded but I listen to every word). He said, “Don’t let someone tell you how to be a Christian just because you don’t conform to their ideas. You follow Christ in your heart; he will tell you what he expects from you.”

My nephew Aaron and I were just talking not long ago about our beliefs. He said to me, “Just because I don’t believe the same as someone else, does not mean I’m going to Hell. As long as I have Christ in my heart and he‘s my savior, I’m going to Heaven.”

That is the undisputed truth: the promise given to us by God. God‘s word is Truth! When I was around seven, my sister Sharon taught me a Bible verse that I have committed to memory, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever shall believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I mentioned earlier that the story of Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors my sister Sharon had once read to me influenced me. Joseph faced his brothers, who had sold him into slavery and then lied to their father, Jacob, saying he was dead. The proof they offered was his coat of many colors, made and given to him by their father.

Joseph speaks to them: “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me: but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Genesis 50:19-20.

Amen!