About three and a half years ago my eldest sister and niece came to Frederick from Florida to visit and they stayed with me and my mother. I’ve written a couple blogs about their visit (click here, here, and here to read) and how tumultuous that turned out to be. As a Christian, I pushed past everything that was warring inside of me and forgave them for the utterly evil and despicable things that were said about me by my own sister and my then 11 year old niece. To be honest, their words hurt like hell and for some reason I keep a screenshot of the message in my phone… but I’ll come back to that later.
Flash forward to August 2020. Covid is sticking around like that uninvited cockroach that just won’t die and cooler weather is coming in like a flood. I was chatting with my mother and told her that I felt led to send her to Florida to be with that sister and niece combo for a bit. My mom had sprained her ankle at work and was still off so I figured the trip would do her some good. To my surprise, she countered by saying that my sister wanted to come to Frederick. It is here that I will stop and update you all on my family dynamics. By my mother, I have two sisters and two brothers. One sister lives in FL, one brother lives in another part of Md, one sister lives 10 mins away, and the other brother was deported back to Jamaica. When this HUGE fight with me and my older sister happened in 2017, that sister and the brother in Md cut off all communication with me, my mother, and my sister who lives here in Frederick. For about one year, we heard from none of them. After that, in my family’s typical unhealthy form, communication resumed with no apologies or acknowledgements issued. The matter was swept under the rug where we hide rape, brokenness, bitterness, distrust, and generational issues. Ps- that rug is getting pretty thick! But I digress…
So I offer to send my mom to FL and she says that my sister wants to come here. Considering the fact that my sister and I have never made amends, I figured this visit would be 2-3 weeks max… lo and behold, it’s a 6 week visit. When they arrived from the hard hit Covid cesspool, I found a different place to stay for 2 weeks while they “quarantined” at my house with my mother. During the days leading up to their visit and since my return home last Sunday, anxiety and depression have been my constant companions. You see, I forgave them years ago, but I have never forgotten what was said to me. And that, dear friend, is what led to this blog today- my unwelcome houseguests: bitterness and pain.
When God first placed this title on my heart, I just KNEW He was saying my sister and niece were the unwelcome houseguests because I [truthfully] did not want them here. Like many other people from my past, I have forgiven them for the hurt they caused, but I have chosen to distance myself from them for the same reason. And, let’s be honest here, if ANYONE else in the world had repeatedly hurt me the way this sister has, NO ONE would even think twice about telling me to rekindle a relationship. Yet because we share DNA, the push is there for reconciliation. Title and faith aside, that’s not fair or healthy. I do not believe that toxic relationships should be “restored” because there is a familial obligation. That, friends, ended with the generation before me. We would never tell a domestic violence victim to return home to his/her abuser or a rape victim to his/her abuser, so why do we tell people who have been emotionally abused to return back to the very person who abused him/her? Nah, baby, that’s not how I roll.
Reception of this post will go one of two ways: either you will LOVE it or you will HATE it. There is no in between. At this point in our electronic relationship, you should know that with me, I don’t know how to hold my tongue or not speak my heart. It is wholly unfair for us to force relationships and reunions between two people just because they are family. And to be honest, I learned that in 1994 when I was cuddled in my mother’s lap, watching my rapist (my brother) being brought into the courtroom for his trial and sentencing. That, Beloved, was the day I learned forgiveness is possible, but forgetting and reuniting were not.
Anyway, back to my houseguests….
As I sit on my couch, massaging this here keyboard with my raging thoughts, I have to pause to acknowledge my feelings. Earlier I mentioned that I kept a screenshot of the message that my niece had sent me years ago and I am so sure that your first comment/question was, “why?” Truth is, I kept it because it hurt so much. I don’t glance back at it (although I did read it to my therapist before they arrived) but I kept it because it symbolizes the last day that I allowed my family to break my heart. That summer of 2017, I had moved back home with my mother after a break up with my boyfriend, a really bad car accident, and having been fired from my high-paying job. I was seven months vegan (because of another health scare) and barely one year loc’d. I was still losing the tremendous amount of weight that I had gained from my isolative depression the year before; I was completely fragile and wholly leaning on God to put my broken pieces together again. I needed love and support. Yet a dream before their arrival that year warned me that something bad was headed my way. I processed the dream and its meaning, but still did not emotionally plan or spiritually ground myself before they came. Beloved, I hang onto that screenshot because I need to remember to never be hurt like that again.
Or at least, that’s what I thought I was doing. Turns out, by holding onto that picture, I am holding the door wide open for my unwelcome houseguests to come into my home and heart.
Jesus, I don’t want to forget what they did to me! It hurt like HELL and I never want them to hurt me again!!!!
Friend, can I be real with you? If I had it my way, these people (and all of the people who have ever hurt me) would never be allowed in my space- physically or emotionally- again. I would ship them off to this emotional island, take all boats and paddles, and leave them stranded there forever and ever (amen). They would never be able to get close enough to hurt me again AND I would never have to think about them anymore. That is what I want, but… that’s not what God wants. Honesty? I had to close my eyes as I typed that last sentence because I did not want to see that truth. Growing up, my mom always told me to be the bigger person. I hated hearing that because I was overweight and thought that she, too, was insulting me. Today, this 34 year old sees what that 30 year old woman could not see in June 2017- I cannot heal if I hold onto that bitterness and pain.
What kind of minister am I? What kind of motivational speaker can I be? What type of mentor am I?… if I can’t forgive and heal? You see, I am DONE with forgiving and forgetting. (Yeah, I’m NOT about that life.) But as I walk with God, I learn that He is not calling me to forget, He is calling me to heal. Jesus. In Luke 17:4 Jesus tells the disciples that we must forgive those who sin against us every single time that they repent. In my pettiness, I mean, humanness, I want to ask, “Well, what about when they don’t repent?” but I can see Jesus tapping His foot at me and shaking His head, as if to say, “Chelle, you know what I mean.” Yeah, I do, Jesus.
At this point in my walk with Jesus, I cannot be expected to forget every hurt that I have incurred. Scars are formed on our bodies for a reason- to indicate that healing has occurred. My God! Holding onto this screenshot is the emotional equivalent of me continuing to pick at a scab and not allow it to heal. No, I will never forget what was done, but God can heal that bludgeoning wound like no one else can.
Beloved, this post is not finished because my healing is not finished. I still have a lot of healing to go through and until the day that He calls me home, He will continue to heal me and continue to add to this post. But since I can barely see the screen anymore through my heavily flowing tears, I will end with this: forgive and heal, Beloved; do not allow bitterness and pain to enter your heart and become unwelcome houseguests.
Pray for me, please.