I grew up in conditions that were…shall we say, “less than ideal?” There was alcoholism, abuse, and neglect. My parents were two very broken people who came together to form an extremely dysfunctional relationship and then brought forth children in a dilapidated house of hoarders. I grew up with lots of shouting, crying, threatening to leave, and blaming, followed by burying the whole mess under the rug until the next flare-up. There were some seriously bulky bumps under our “family rug,” which, I’ve come to believe, were the spiritual companion form of the physical hoarding. The grown-ups had no idea how to clean up the accumulating piles. It was, for a child, a painfully chaotic environment in which to grow up.
Healing Generational Wounds
Fortunately for me, I have experienced (through God’s grace) tremendous healing from my parents’ generational wounds. My healing has allowed me to look at the pain and struggles of my childhood through the eyes of love and mercy. Therefore, I can look back now on my childhood with mature and clearer vision. I see the brokenness, but I also see the joy. I have an adult perspective on the condition of my parents’ souls and psyches. I feel intense pity for them and have come to accept and understand. Hence, I have been able to forgive and move on…and up. I can look back now, and recall the good from my younger years. From the midst of those tumultuous times, beautiful memories have come back to me. Some of the best have to do with growing up in a rural area, with plenty of land, and having a bedroom-window view of the horizon. (And, to this day, horizon views always help me regain my bearings!)
The window of my dilapidated room faced due west, looking out over an expansive backyard, which bordered a field of corn. It was lovely. Wild animal sightings, approaching storms, and stunning sunset skies are just a sampling of the medicinal displays that I witnessed. I call them medicinal because they were the first hint of something (or someone) beyond myself, someone who was the essence of goodness, something beautiful and powerful that extended its offer of wholeness to my heart. I would lie in my bed at night and release my soul to fly to whatever it was, and the inner healing began quietly on those silent and solitary nights of long ago.
My favorite memories of those restorative therapies involve lightning bugs and heat lightning – my double lightning memoirs! I would lie in bed at night in the suffocating heat and humidity of a Midwest summer. The lack of air-conditioning made falling asleep a time-consuming chore. There was a small oscillating fan (the old-fashioned kind, that could chop of a child’s fingers in a heartbeat!), moving the hot air around and providing about the same relief as a big ol’ dog panting in my face. When it got miserable, in late July and August, the only thing to do was gather myself right up next to the open window and lay as still as I possibly could. The slightest breeze was like the breath of heaven. Shortly after the sunset, I would tune in to the show of the lightning bugs in the backyard. Twinkles here, twinkles there, faint lights high, faint lights low…in my mind, it was the dance of the night fairies, and it was truly magical. Sometimes, if my eyes stayed open long enough, the sparkling spectacle of the flitting fireflies would be topped-off by nature’s silent fireworks, heat lightning.
It was a tricky show to watch. I never knew exactly where or when the next burst might occur. When the cool of the night finally brought some modest relief from the heat, and my eyelids grew heavy, I would fall asleep to dreams of dancing lights in an unblemished fairyland. There was something about those natural phenomena that touched me deeply. They were like tiny sparks of the light of eternity that came to visit me and began to settle in my soul, bestowing upon me the hope of a better way, and guiding me ever so slowly to a new and brighter world. Over the years, that Light inside of me continued to grow, encouraging me to choose the brightest path.
That Light became the beacon illuminating the path of my life, upon which I travel day-by-day. Being the inquisitive, questioning (and often, stubborn) type, I would repeatedly wander a little further afield than was prudent for my safety and prosperity. The forbearing flame of my eternal Light never wavered, never left me behind, simply waited patiently for me to realize my error, and get in step once again.
Lead, Kindly Light
As a young adult, the Light artfully led me to the Catholic Church, and I realized in short order that this was the safe haven for my troubled soul. I could never have imagined the abundant bounty of restoration and refinement that I would receive from this spiritual edifice to which the Light had carried me. Ever so slowly and gently, emotional brokenness was healed, anger was transformed into forgiving, unconditional love, and dysfunction evolved into healthier relationships. I am convinced that, without the grace-filled sacraments of the Church, I never would have been able to forgive my parents, and especially my mother, who, by the way, was extremely angry, and downright nasty, about my conversion to the Catholic faith.
Ironically, it was this decision that allowed me to realize that I couldn’t change her; I could only strive to love her as she was, and boldly speak the harsh truth in love when needed. I was blessed to have my mother live with our family for one and a half years, shortly before her death. She knew, by then, that I had taken the right path, and we grew very close during that time, as I tenderly served her needs in love and sacrifice. If this had been the only healing I had ever known, it would’ve been more than I could ever dream of, but there have been gifts in abundance, and all because fireflies and lightning came to me as God’s messenger in those dark nights of long ago. What a wondrous and mysterious love, that hounds every wayward soul, searching always, and in particular, for the lost, lonely, and broken, and continually guiding us to the fullness of who we are called to be, if only we choose to follow.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)