“You are more than just a product of your history.” – Stephen Kellogg
I love those words. I live by them. In fact, a few years ago when I heard it for the first time, I blogged about them. Trust me, there have been so many times those words run thru my mind…repeated like a mantra.
It’s taken me 40-something years to really, really believe that I’m more than my history. In fact, it’s a constant battle to keep this truth REAL. I am constantly fighting off those ugly, sticky parts of my history that entangle me. But one thing I have embraced in the past 3 or 4 years is this:
I do NOT need to hide my past in a cloud of shame…but I don’t need to CAMP there either.
A few years ago Brent and i decided to tell our kiddos about my dad. My hero. I’d spent so many years trying not to talk about him very much in a lame attempt to avoid Qs by inquisitive children. I put him on a tall shelf (literally and figuratively) just out of reach. My most precious teacher-counselor-friend helped me see that I was rewriting history…rewriting my dad’s legacy. I was defining his entire life by one dark moment. I had chosen to judge/convict my dad for the moment he lost his grip and let suicide end his journey in this life. My dad was more than that one moment. And so am I.
And so, when the time was right, I dropped the prideful veneer of shame that I had painted over his story. I told them our kids about their Grandpa John.
I told them about how he was a man of God. I have his Bible with hand-written notes as a treasured souvenir of his deep faith.
I told them about all the times I had the honor of seeing him in prayer.
I told them about how he was the FUNNIEST man ever.
I told them about his quest to bring Young Life to our lil town. I reminded them of the heritage of faith YL has planted in my life and their dad’s (to name only a few).
I told them about how he loved me more than words. I shared how he never let a day go by without a “I love you Krissa.”
I told them about his turnaround jumper at the top of the key and his old school hook shot.
I told them how he married my mom at 19 and wanted kids right away. He wanted a new story…a legacy.
And, I told them about the day—the one moment in this beautiful life well-lived—he succumbed to the pain/confusion and ended his own life…too early.
It continues to be an ongoing conversation with both of my kiddos…a beautiful, painful, messy, imperfect conversation. Lately I’ve been talking to both of them about shame. Shame–that flavor of pride that we often cover ourselves in as we convince ourselves it’s actually selfless and righteous.
If we allow our histories to be shadowed with shame, then what good was it? I mean, I HAVE to believe in purpose. I must. And, if I put my history on the shelf of shame—up SO high it cant even be seen—then I’m stealing an opportunity from God. That’s why I tell people my story. I choose not to hide my story because it’s my way of trusting God to use it, even when it aches, even when it exposes.
Recently, I received a gift I wasnt expecting. Brent and our sweet girl, Maya, had some daddy/daughter time and ended up at a cupcake place. Yummmm. As they were waiting for the teenager at the cash register to ring them up, she noticed Maya’s school uniform and said, “Hey…I went to that school.” Brent asked her about her experience there, expecting a rhetorical response sounding something like “Fine.” Her honesty startled Brent and had him glancing over to 11-year old Maya to see how she was processing it. The cupcake girl started telling a familiar story to Brent: she shared that her father had succumbed to suicide during high school She told the ugly tale of judgmental, graceless adults and kids who treated her like a contagion. Her eyes welled up as she spoke through her still-fresh brokenness.
And then, my history became Maya’s history…
As Brent grappled for words to share with the checkout girl, sweet Maya spoke up:
“My mom’s dad killed himself when she was in high school, too. My dad was with her when it happened.”
So simple. So direct.
Maya used our history to rain down compassion, understanding, and HOPE on the checkout girl. The teen looked to Brent and he shared our past. Her eyes streamed tears and her only words to him here, “And you stayed?” Such a weighty question. The ones who stay are fewer than you might imagine.
When they arrived home, I wept tears of thanks when Maya excitedly retold the story. I glanced over her head at a shocked and proud daddy. I hugged my girl. Maya owned our history. She used it. She found purpose in it.
My history IS my kids’ history. God can use it. God can heal thru it. God can outshine dark, ugly stuff. Our history became hope for the cupcake-girl’s future.