On Saturday I attended the funeral services for my uncle and I saw him for the last time (interestingly enough, it really was in that order… but that’s another story). About 10 minutes before I found out about my uncle’s death, I was driving my mother home from Communion and Baptismal service (the same one where my niece had been baptized) and, following a related/unrelated conversation, I thought to myself, “I still wouldn’t attend a funeral for any of mommy’s brothers.” I know, that is very harsh and very unminister-like… sorry! So imagine my surprise to get home, park my car, and see the texts from my brother and another one of my uncles. To explain (as much as a mean comment can be explained) here’s the background on that statement that originated in my youth.
My maternal grandmother died on December 18, 1996 after being in a coma for about a week. She had been found unconscious and unresponsive in her home and was rushed to the hospital. I remember visiting her in the hospital… and then I remember being at the foot of my staircase at home when we got the call that she had passed. I wasn’t very close to her, nor was my mother, but it was still my mother’s mother, so we cried together. I was 10 years old at the time- too young to really comprehend anything and too deep in PTSD to really remember anything that I could comprehend. All I knew was that my only surviving grandparent had just died, and I was soon headed to my first funeral. My grandmother was polite to me; she treated me like the nice kid on the block that you give gifts to on special occasions, but not the granddaughter that you visit or support with your presence with any level of frequency. We were cordial, at best. As I grew up, I understood more- my grandmother had three favorite children… and my mother was not one of those three. My grandmother had a favorite set of grandchildren… and me and my siblings were not a part of that set. Yet when she passed, my tears made no distinction between favorites and non-favorites, my heart mourned the loss of possibilities and potential. I cried unending tears with my mother, never understanding then why she cried so heavily, but knowing that my mother was hurting, I had to support her.
Christmas that year was a blur at best; literally, I remember nothing about that year’s festivities. However, for Thanksgiving of the following year, my mother’s family decided to come together and have a great big ol’ celebration. We gathered at the home of my mother’s oldest brother and attempted to break bread together for the first time. Now keep in mind that I was two, maybe three years removed from admitting that my brother had been raping me for two years. This also means that I was two years into my emotional eating and my mother’s guilt, which continued to
spoil– umm, supply- me with unnecessary earthly things…like more food. I was overweight, dare I say I was obese at that time… but I was still a broken and very damaged child. Emphasis on the word CHILD. Two of my uncles (two of the three favorite children), made fun of my weight. The wife of one even said, “you must eat the whole refrigerator,” in her heavy Jamaican accent. She laughed, my uncles laughed, my sister popped off on them all. Happy Thanksgiving to us!
I was 11 years old.
I was deep, DEEP in the throes of depression.
I was only 11 years old.
There are just some things that you just don’t say to a child.
That was the day that I cut off those two brothers and anyone immediately associated with them. But this particular uncle, Vere, who just passed earlier this month, I didn’t cut him off until many years later when I could no longer stand to hear him bash Americans with every breath in his body.
I get it; they were all born in Jamaica…but this was America… did they have to insult EVERY American that they met? Did he and his brothers have to constantly insult me and my father because we were Americans?
Again, some things you just don’t say to a child.
Despite what should or should not have been said to a child, my mother’s brothers- the favorite three- continued to speak their minds about my weight, my nationality, and how my mother was raising me. They continued to make me and my mother feel worthless over the years, so I kindly wrote them off like a bad debt. I wanted nothing more to do with them and I vowed never to even darken the corner of the church holding their funeral service. Yet decades later, there I sat on the second row of the church, preparing to read a poem that I had written, honoring the life of my mother’s brother.
What had happened? What had changed? Why did I decide to attend and speak at this funeral?
God happened to me.
In the past two years since recommitting my life to Christ, He has peeled back- like an onion- the layers of my life. Little by little, He has continued to reveal new layers of previous hurt that He needs me to heal from at that particular moment. So imagine my surprise when my women’s bible study class began reading about restoring ancient family ruins (healing family hurt and breaking generational curses) and then my uncle dies two days later. It’s like God climbed to peak of Mount Everest and shouted, “Michelle- this is for you! It is time for you to begin repairing the ruins of your family!” And I’ll be honest, for about five whole seconds I did think, “Jesus, You got the wrong number…” But I digress.
Beloved, the message that I want to share with you is two-fold:
1. When we ask God to help us heal from one thing, He will heal us from all things. In our humanity, we cannot see how everything is connected to one another, but in His Sovereignty, God knows all things are related. I asked God to help me heal from rape but He had to help me heal from all the pain of my past and my family’s past that led some to believe that rape and molestation were appropriate ways to react to their own pain. (And just to be clear, rape/molestation/violence are NOT appropriate ways to handle your own internal pain.)
2. Forgiveness is for you, not the other person. I briefly touched upon this in my first book, but I need to share it again- forgiveness does not change the past, nor does it remove the stain of the offense, but it does set you free.
a. From the biblical standpoint, the bible says we must forgive others so that we may be forgiven by God. To God, a sin is a sin; there are no levels to sin. As hard as this may be for some to read and understand, my brother’s act of raping me is no more sinful than me cheating on tests in my 12th grade math class. A sin is a sin. And the bible says in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
b. From a healing standpoint, when we don’t forgive a person, we continue to carry the weight of their offense around on us and we can never be set free. As I wrote in my book, imagine that when someone sins against us, it adds five pounds to our weight. If you keep that visual in your mind, you may be more likely to forgive others because you don’t want to carry the weight of their offense with you daily. If that doesn’t help you, go back to my previous point.
Beloved, I want you to be set free so badly that I write weekly blogs, praying that one of them will be the one that God uses to tug at your heart string. I promise you that we cannot survive, much less thrive in this world if we continue to hold on to the pains of our past. I share (or maybe overshare) my life with you because I want all to see that if God can love and use someone like me, then He can do the same with you. Even as I type this Monday Message, I am letting go of the pain that my past held over me. The 22 years that I spent living in pain and bondage was enough and I refuse to live another second bound by the tricks of the enemy. He wants me to be bound, never fulling accessing the limitless love and potential available to me through my Heavenly Father. And being the ever-rebellious Michelle that I am, I refuse to let him win… especially when my God has already won every battle that I could ever fight. We- you, me, and the friend that you share this blog with- are more than conquerors through Christ. That means that not only has God already fought and won the battle for us, but He’s made it so that we completely obliterate the enemy just by calling on the name of Jesus.
That’s my kind of fight!
Come on, beloved, let’s heal heal.