I recently discovered some new details about my parents’ marriage that explain so much about my family growing up. I’ve always viewed my childhood through a fog, a vague sadness that I couldn’t explain, but now I feel like I’m being brought back to the trauma of my childhood with a sharp clarity that’s smacking me in the face. I’m seeing my past, my story, in a way I’ve never seen it before.
I’m realizing that certain parts of who I am, of how I think and function in life, have been shaped by the pain of my childhood. My recurring fears, insecurities, and defenses have deep roots there, and I’m understanding the why behind many of my most frustrating behaviors. It feels like I’m seeing myself for who I really am, and I don’t like what I see. I don’t just have some bad habits; I have scars. It’s brutal. And I feel more broken now than I ever have since I first became a Christian.
Yet in the midst of it, I feel His grace. He’s with me, gently encouraging, “It’s time.”
A mentor of mine explained to me once that the most helpful step in finding healing from the past is to first move forward. For some of us, I believe God gives us a measure of grace early on in our faith that helps us do that. It’s like a veil, a gracious ignorance, where we’re somehow able to dissociate from certain crippling experiences, circumstances, habits, or scars we carry that we aren’t yet ready to confront. The brokenness sinks into the background and the problems miraculously disappear. God provides the peace we need to embrace our new identity and work on making our new life with Him. We learn, we grow, we mature, we develop new relationships, discover new purpose, and continue to build the beautiful future.
But eventually, in God’s time, the veil lifts. What we thought we’d never have to deal with again rears its ugly head. It’s frustrating because we thought we solved this and now it feels like we regressed, like we’re right back where we started, no better than what we used to be. But that’s not true. It’s only because we’ve moved forward that now we can go back. Because we’ve grown stronger and found the support we need to anchor us, it’s time to deal with our roots.
The book of Genesis tells a story about Jacob, who’s grown up to become a wealthy, successful man. One day he finds himself in a crisis, confronted by his brother Esau whom he had cheated a long time ago. Jacob is scared, and starts to pray. He spends the night wrestling with God, refusing to let Him go until he receives a blessing. Finally, God asks Jacob one thing: “What is your name?”
The last time Jacob sought a blessing, he had pretended to be someone he was not. He lied about who he was. When God asks Jacob for his name, Jacob returns to that time in his past. He remembers that he was born in second place, that his father didn’t love him, that his older brother was always the better hunter, that his mother was scheming and manipulative, and that the only way he would ever get his father’s blessing was to lie and say that he was Esau. This was what led him to become who he is—this is his story. He confesses, “My name is Jacob.”
And when Jacob faced who he was, God revealed who he would become: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.” As Jacob owned his past, he was gifted with his destiny.
If the truth about my parents’ marriage had hit me ten years ago, I don’t think I could have handled it. Rather than helping me understand who I am, it would have just dismantled me. I was too weak, my faith too shallow. But things are different now. I’m different. I can trust in God’s faithfulness in a way that I couldn’t before, because we’ve gone through so much together and He’s brought me so far. I can trust in His love for me, because He’s proved it a thousand times.
And so as He asks me to confront my past, I know that He’s leading me and always with me. I can lean on His goodness; I can stand in the storm. It’s hard, but feeling exposed, weak, and broken again is a price worth paying to finally accept who I am and embrace my true story.