Growing up wasn’t easy for me, as a petite girl named Cheryl Small. My parents divorced when I was in first grade, and we came to my mother’s hometown to live with my grandmother. I was the oldest of three children, with a younger sister and brother to help raise as my mother negotiated the treacherous waters of single parenting and remarriage.
I always knew there was a God, though I wasn’t so sure how He felt about me. Raised in church, I felt very guilty when I heard the gospel message about God so loving the world that He sent His only son to die such a violently painful death. Trying to measure up to what I thought His expectations were, I felt exhausted and defeated. I didn’t understand His kind of love or grace or mercy at all.
Shame was my best friend and worst enemy. Sexually abused by my father on weekend visits, I began to split myself to deal with the horrific situation. At home with my mother, I tried to keep the peace and not make any waves, so the internal battle began between the good little girl and secretly bad girl. No one knew of my struggles, not even my own consciousness.
Eventually, the truth was revealed, visitations came to an abrupt halt, and my stepfather adopted us. Living with a violent, mean drunk replaced the other nightmare, but I was already masterful at self-deceit and acting as nothing was wrong. Terrified most of the time of my rescuer, I just did the best I could to stay below the radar.
Though I had walked the aisle, asked Jesus to be my Savior, and been baptized when I was in second grade, there was no connection between my life and the God I visited in church. I suppose I was just trying to keep Him from being mad at me, too, and I felt invisible to Him, as well.
But, I was known to God! I just didn’t recognize His hand at work. He was guiding me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He led me to join the band in middle school, which enabled me to meet my future husband in high school. Looking back, He had a plan of redemption, despite all the difficulties I faced as a result of the decisions of the adults in my life. I just had to come to the end of myself…
I married my first date in the fall following my high school graduation. Four years later, I graduated from college with a degree in accounting. Transferring to another job location, we moved about an hour away from our families and had two children in two years. My short career as an accountant came to an end with a newborn son and fourteen-month old daughter. The divine set up was in place…
My precious daughter began to display her strong-willed nature between the ages of three and four. Kids don’t come with owner’s manuals. We were at our wits end, and I really started losing it. All of my life, I had been able to manage things. You know, faking it ’til you make it. Being home all day with a bulldozer boy toddler and his dictator big sister took its toil on me. Nothing prepares you for motherhood, especially when you are used to operating on your own strength. I couldn’t handle my failure to keep my home under control. What was wrong with me?
I desperately needed a God Who would give me strength in every moment of my life. I didn’t need a get-out-of-hell-free card. I craved Someone Who could redeem my everyday momma life and bring joy to my home, despite the circumstances. My sweet husband was a huge help, but this was way past what a human being could possibly do for me. My turmoil wasn’t my children, it was the raging storm within me…my grasping at the illusion of perfection and failing miserably.
At the heart of peacekeeping is appeasement. That’s what I had done with every relationship I had ever known. Mom, Dad, God, and everyone else in my life. That’s not what God requires. He requires me to be honest about my son and believe He took it on Himself to pay for it once and for all. No more striving for approval. No more guilt and shame. No more pressure to be the perfect child, wife, mother, or any other role. I am forgiven, so I can forgive others and free myself from that prison of judgement.
God of All Comfort…that’s what He is to me. I wrote more about that in one of my posts, but this blog is from a recovering appeaser to others who may be addicted the the approval of others. I don’t have it all together, and that’s ok. God’s mercies are new every morning. Every. Single. Day. God has to remind me that He loves me just as I am but loves me enough not to leave me that way. Come with me on that journey with God as He makes all things work together for good, even our shortcomings.