If this was a personal conversation I’d take a deep breath and warn you that I’m about to relate something that’s initially distressing. Its the story of my journey from a dark place to a place of light and colour, of new understandings, of hope and transformation.
By sharing some of my story I hope to encourage anyone who’s struggling. You’re not alone and please don’t give up hope.
When you’ve struggled with some quite momentous things in life you can’t adequately describe them in a simple post. There are psychological aspects that you can’t get to grips with, confusing contradictions in behaviour of yourself and others, you start off in black-and-white and move into many shades of grey. You try to form some kind of understanding but its like jelly slipping through your fingers.
The family tragedy happened a few years before I was born. My parents had gone out and left their four children at home. There were two teenage boys and two little sisters about 4 and 7 years old. As a result of what happened that evening by the time I was born there were no sisters and my eldest brother was in a mental institution. My dad on his return had been fortunate to survive uninjured.
Life Goes On
My mum believed she’d have another daughter and I came along when she was 42. Mum was a warm, loving, kind lady and I guess she was the reason that our family stayed together. My eldest brother re-entered society when I was still little and my parents and I attended his wedding when I was 6 or 7. Both of my brothers married and had children. They were good to me and I stayed with them sometimes in the school holidays.
My parents were christian and my dad was very active in church life. He had very strict expectations and a complex personality. Outwardly confident, hugely practical and an engaging public speaker, he was also surprisingly sensitive and easily hurt. He was the head of the house and a “I’m your father and you’ll do as I say” type. On the other hand he loved his family and helped all of us in various ways and was generous. The tension between his kind, loving side and the strict disciplinarian side was psychologically difficult to handle and he infuriated and frustrated me many times. When I visited my brothers I found they had similar issues, things relating to the past and ongoing disappointments as well. At home I occasionally saw that Dad had his own hurts. The family usually had Christmas together and shared other visits so family ties stayed intact.
One thing my parents got right was that they never hid from me what had happened. I’m thankful for this. I knew about it from the time I was a little kid. For the most part I could relegate it to the past and not think about it too much. I felt under enormous pressure to be well-behaved and not upset my parents, and in my teenage years found it difficult to control my anger at my father’s unnecessary level of strictness. I understood that he loved me though, and I loved my dad.
A Bolt From The Blue
Things can happen out of the blue and knock you for six. A few years ago after the deaths of my parents my eldest brother wrote a book about what happened. An old friend who’d read the book contacted me asking me about my father as she’d thought he was a nice man. I assured her that although strict he was a loving father. She recommended that I read the book but I haven’t. I didn’t feel strong enough to cope with that.
For a few years after that I couldn’t escape the dark cloud. I didn’t know how to get rid of it. The past seemed to have caught up with me and I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t figure out what I really thought about dad. I couldn’t figure out what I thought about christianity. Nothing would seem to resolve itself. A naturally quiet and reserved person, I withdrew into myself even more.
Understanding And Forgiveness
The change happened after I started blogging just over a year ago. Damien’s message that I shared in yesterday’s post gave me hope. I met Bishop Jake Owensby who I eventually confided in after reading a lot of the lessons on his blog. Soon after that I had a couple of personal experiences that changed the way I saw things. In one experience I saw for the first time, that for years I’d been carrying the pain of myself and my brothers as well as that of my father (whom I loved despite some resentments). Soon after, I had another experience where I understood that my father genuinely loved God, following Him as best he could, and that he’s forgiven even as I’m forgiven for my failings. As these things became clear to me I was able to discuss them with Bishop Jake and the dark cloud was rapidly disappearing.
Finding My Voice
At his blog Bishop Jake Owensby has posted at times about the importance of stories. I was interested but didn’t apply it to myself until just the other day when I suddenly realised that all my life I’ve been a nobody in the sense that I didn’t feel free to share my story. Now that my parents have passed away and my brother’s written a book it made me think – well, what’s to stop me telling my story? My talk about Colour was coming up so I decided to publicly share just a little about my background. That was a very big step for me but it dealt a final blow to the dark cloud (which in the face of such defiance seems to have vanished).
For me Understanding, Love and Forgiveness were key to Banishing the Dark Cloud
Looking for God in Messy Places | Bishop Jake Owensby’s blog
Text by Liz; Photo: Sunrise at Papatowai taken by Nigel; Exploring Colour (2018)