Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Choosing Wisely

     While reading to Pene the “fairy tale” described in my prior Rest essay, I edited out details of the couple's difficult childhoods—hers with an abusive, distant father who developed mental illness and a mother who enabled his psychotic delusions, and his with parents who dumped him without warning or explanation at an abusive English boarding school on the opposite side of India where he spent his later formative years.
     I explained to Pene how sometimes it happens this way that a pair's attraction is based largely on shared miseries.
     Or, sometimes the opposite occurs, I told her, whereby both guy and girl have happy childhoods and this draws them together such as for childhood sweethearts Uncle Thomas and Auntie Susan who met at a Buddhist convention during high school.
     I continued to explain that for my parents, Grandma had a happy childhood growing up with her dad and five sisters, Auntie Bea raising them all. Whereas Grandpa had a difficult childhood. When Grandma first met Grandpa, he was so shy she had to draw him out of his shell. It worked and in our family, Grandma often was strong when Grandpa was weak.
     Mom and I are similar, I said. Mom had a challenging childhood and yet, she was able to forgive and move on with optimism—just like Grandpa. I admired her for that, knowing it was courageous and warm-hearted of her, so opposite my ex-girlfriend that I was engaged to—thank God she broke it off—that also had a difficult childhood, but who never forgave the men in her life so that she was forever bitter deep inside and felt she always had to be in control and could never trust men again.
     I paused and gathered my thoughts before continuing. For awhile, I said, I wanted a wife who was this, this, this, this, and this—all these things that she'd bless me with. Then, it was as if God said, “Tim, rather than looking for someone who will bless you the most, you should be looking for someone whom you can bless the most.”
     After that, my whole perspective changed. Not that I suddenly sought the neediest person around—I'm not equipped for that so that wouldn't be such a blessing for her, but someone who wasn't perfect, either. After all, I'm far from perfect—no one is. So someone whom I could bless without regard to how much she would bless me. For the greatest blessings come not from receiving but from what? I asked.
     Giving, she said.
     And one day you'll have the choice to marry a guy with a happy childhood and bless each other and others. Or, you could marry someone with a less fortunate family background and bless him with yours. It'll be your choice.
     What we have is rare, Pene. We stay home, eat dinner together every night, go to church as a family, say bedtime prayers, go for walks, take family vacations, talk all the time—that's rare. It's the only life you know, so you probably think that everyone has it. I used to think that. All my childhood friends had close families, too, so I assumed it was normal. But it's not. I learned in the college dorms that the so-called prototypical happy family life is anything but. Guys told me, “I haven't seen my father in years,” or “I don't get along with my dad.” A girl I dated had no parents—she'd been orphaned young. “I have a brother,” she said, “that I haven't seen in years. He's the 'dark sheep' in the family.” And I've had countless friends with divorced parents—like Uncle Grant. It's tough, really tough.

     Several days later, after remembering something I'd forgotten to share with Braden when lecturing him about lying (see my prior Lying essay for more, regarding), I called him outside and said, “One thing more about the need to always tell the truth. This is something Grandma once told me: 'Honesty is the basis for all trust. Without trust, there can be no love.'
     “It's a truism and I agree with it. I had a girlfriend once who always lied. Everything out of her mouth was a lie. She lied so much that I knew that the truth was always opposite what she said. But with that loss of trust, the love went, too. After awhile you just can't love someone you can't trust because it'll hurt too much—disappointment after disappointment after disappointment after disappointment.
     “There are people who live this way all the time—at home, at work, with friends, spouses, children and at church—everywhere nothing but lies! They live empty, wasted lives because they don't have love.” I shook my head. “What's the point? Love is a big part of what makes life worth living. It's your choice. Choose wisely.” I nodded and walked away.

     It had been emotional, moving subjects for me. Braden's eyes shone bright while listening, not unlike Pene's. But how they turn out only God knows. I pray every night they become a man and woman of God.
     Raising children—it's one of the greatest acts of faith there is, somewhat akin to trusting God, I sometimes believe. I told my friend Norm once, “I have an analogy I know you're going to hate—.”
     “You're right I hate it,” he said.
     Then I shared with him the above, saying who knows what's going to happen to their kids? They may grow up to chop our heads off in our sleep. 
     What I didn't get to say was, If we can trust our imperfect kids, why can't we trust God?

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.