And a lot of that shame stems from the majority of the men being abusive drunks, gamblers and thieves. I’m sad that I was abused as a child up until my teenage years by the hands of each of my family members, but I’m sadder still that now, my family is a broken, distant, unloving one. Quite simply put it, my relationship with the men in my family is very much hostile. We are like strangers living under the same roof.
Everyone has a dysfunctional family. Everyone can say that their family is weird in their own wonderful way. But even so, at the end of the day, families have an unshakable bond and love for each other that surpasses any mountain they may face. I am jealous of that, I really am. I have a dysfunctional, messed up family and it makes me angry that I was born and raised in a family that don’t know how to apologize or forgive each other; that we steal from each other, physically abuse each other and lie to each other; that I don’t know a father or brother’s love and never truly will; and that I have to spend the rest of my life knowing that I am a part of a family I am ashamed to call my flesh and blood.
With society’s emphasis on the ‘family is everything,’ mantra, it’s difficult for me to differentiate myself from my family. When you are part of a people who represent everything you are against, when you share their DNA, how can you run away from that? It’s been something I’ve been on the run on for a long time. But when you try to run away from something, eventually it catches up to you. Being brought up in a damaged family meant I had low self-esteem, unresolved anger and a shame that I always carried with me. I think, “If my family are like this, I must be like them too. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? I won’t amount to anything.” Just because I shared their blood, I believed that I shared their sins. I believed the lie that I am defined by my family.
I can’t tell you how hard it has been for me to not to become a bitter person because of this. It has been the fight of my life and has taken every ounce of my strength to pull myself up out of a bog of depression, shame and unworthiness. It’s unbelievable to me that I am here today, full of dreams and hopes. But more that anything, it speaks of a redeeming God, a God who turns ashes of grief into something beautiful.
But there are times, of course, when I would question God, wonder why he placed me in this family and not one that could love or take care of me. I know though, if anything, that just because you are one in a line of sinners does not mean that it needs to determine who you are or what your life will become. Jesus was the best example of this. He did not have a perfect family by any means. The genealogy of his family includes murderers, prostitutes and adulterers. He also came from the small town of Nazareth, considered isolated and unimportant. Where this man came from – the man who single-handedly changed the world – was irrelevant compared to who he was and who he became. His family and his town teaches us the amazing lesson that although you may come from a messed up family, from a nothing-kind-of-town, you are still capable of achieving your wildest hopes and dreams. You can still achieve greatness.
It’s easy to allow shame and anger to overcome you. It’s easy to get caught up in where you came from, your failures and the mistakes of your past. So remember: you are not your father. You are not your brother. You are not your mother. You are not your sister. You are not defined by the people who could not love you, and you are certainly not defined by the people who share your same blood. Remove the bondage you have with them, and liberate yourself. You are not defined by your family. You are your own person, and only you can determine where your life will go.
You are not your past, you are not your mistakes and you are not your failures. Breathe. You are not defined by anything other than what God has called forth in you. No matter what you did in the past, regardless of your regrets and the times you feel like you failed or weren’t good enough, God’s grace has carried all of that upon Himself. The amazing thing about His love is that it covers your past, your present and your future, uplifting you and telling you you are enough, and always will be.
This life is not about where you came from – it is about the journey to where you’re going. Know that God has called forth in you to be His daughter, and walk with the confidence that God has meant you for amazing things.