As we continue to explore the theme, Freedom to Feel, just this last week I was struck with a thought that I need to share. Our ability to sit in our own feelings isn’t an easy thing. In fact, it is downright hard, scary and painful. But until we have the ability to challenge mindsets and “natural” or “I-was-born-this-way” behaviors we will truly never be free of the snares we have been caught in since the very beginning of our lives.
I need to share a story--it isn’t going to be easy, but it must be shared. Not only for my own continued healing, but I it also gives an example of how mindsets can form and be carried throughout our lifetimes.
Up until about the age of six, I remember a lot of happy times in our family. I remember how much I enjoyed our mom reading to us on their bed and cuddling together. I felt loved, nurtured, and life felt fun.
But then there was a change. Why? I am not sure, but it was such a big change that most of the memories of my dad are of a father that not many of us would be proud of. I got spanked...a lot. It seemed like I was always in trouble, “...but for what? Not cleaning up my room? Not putting enough ice in your drink? Or maybe it was I didn’t move fast enough when you told me to do something?” No matter what the reason, I remember thinking, “What have I done to make you so mad at me?”
One time when I got spanked I remember most vividly. I have had flashes of this moment most of my life. My dad told me to go get a belt, so he could spank me. I remember every detail of that closet, the clothes hanging from the rod, all the stuff on the floor and on the shelf above the closet. Oh. And the belts--the number of belts, the colors, the widths, every detail. Here I am, seven years old, struggling with “What did I do to deserve another spanking?” and trying to decide which belt would hurt the least. I also thought, what would happen if I didn’t bring him a belt at all?
About that time, I heard my dad yelling at me to hurry and bring him a belt. I guess he was in a big hurry to beat his little boy. At that, I just grabbed a belt and hurried to him.
I made two decisions that day that have followed me most of my life: The first one was “He is your dad and you must respect him. Even now, no matter what he asks, you must respect him.”
The second: “What does it matter?” And the word “whatever” became ingrained into my vocabulary, and remains so, even to this day.
What lessons did I learn standing in front of that closet?
I learned that it doesn’t matter what I choose--it will always be wrong and it will hurt.
I learned that respect is the most important thing. I must give and expect respect at all costs, it is the most important thing.
I learned that my parents didn’t love me. I tried most of my life to win their praise and approval, without success. No matter how hard I worked or what I did or didn’t do, it didn’t matter. I always, and, yes, I mean always, felt like the outsider, the black sheep, the one they chose not to love.
There were moments in my life that these things, at least in my mind, were confirmed over and over again. The thoughts were reinforced by the way I interpreted their actions and words. Even today, I cannot tell you for certain that I feel that my mom, or even my brothers, for that matter, love me.
God has invited me time and time again to pull these thoughts out into the light and expose them for what they are, but why would I do that, face that pain? I don’t think so.
Our God is persistent and He will bring you around that mountain time and time again until the old man has perished in the desert. Our God is full of grace and love. Love, true love, genuine love. He has called us out of our past, out of our years of bondage. He has freed us and has invited us into the promised land.
If this is true why can’t we enter into the promised land of freedom? The answer is actually fairly simple, we must first release the old slavery mindset and take on the mind of Christ.
Great... Now, how do we do that? Hmmm, that answer is not as simple. Or is it?
Over the next month, we will explore what Renewed Life Mentoring calls “Consciously Created Living,” where we will begin to share tools and strategies to make conscious choices to gain freedom from compulsive behaviors that we may use to hide or to avoid feeling, to relieve the stress in our lives, and to soothe and numb ourselves.
Please join us for a journey of discovery.
~ Michael Epperson