Life mangled me. I’m still coming to terms with how mangled I was. I like that word, ‘mangled’. It tells it like it is.
When you’ve had a topsy-turvy life with too much happening in it for a small brain to cope with, and when you’ve got into the habit of pretending that you’re not mangled, and that all is well, the patina you dazzle the world with is just one big fat porky pie. I know, I was that soldier.
It started with a bad childhood; mum died, three years lodging with relatives who didn’t want us, three years of abuse for both me and my brother, a diagnosis of ‘educationally subnormal’, an adolescence that was loveless, chucked out as soon as it was legal for my dad to do so, and by now my understanding of love and belonging was a mess. I didn’t know why my dad didn’t want me, but I knew that I was stupid and he valued brains, so maybe that was it? And my stepmother valued beauty and accomplishment, so maybe that was it ?
It’s no surprise that I fell for the first man who seemed to want me, and it’s no surprise at all that he had as many problems as me. Mangled. In the very first steps of life, mangled.
That first marriage was a disaster but I walked away from it. My childhood lessons had served me well. The experiences I’d gone through had taught me so much; how to read the mood of others, to seek out the undercurrents, to gauge the politics, recognise the subtext, stand back, watch, listen, keep quiet, walk on eggshells, guard the heart, trust no one. When I realised that the love we had was destructive, and I was repeating an old pattern, I walked away.
The human spirit is resilient, and girls just wanna have fun and life goes on… blah blah. Life became good. For some years life was good, a good second marriage, a loving husband, a fab daughter, and then writing success.
I had left the grim past behind. Good old Luce! What a star. See her soar. But my husband died suddenly when our daughter was 14, and we were rocked as we both mourned the man who was our anchor.
And then one day, some years later, visiting my stepmother and father, I had the biggest blow of my life, the one I thought I might never recover from, and for many years didn’t. My stepmother said, out of the blue, in an ordinary conversation about Christmas-past, “Did your uncle abuse you?”and I was so surprised and wrong-footed that I answered with no censorship, no self-protection “Yes, all the time.”
She was at the cooker stirring something and I was at the sink, peeling potatoes. Mundane. And then my stepmother said “Yes, your dad always thought so.” I remember looking out at her neat garden, asking, somehow, ‘He thought so? Even when it was happening?’ And she said, still stirring, something like “Oh, yes, but if he’d said anything it would have caused so much trouble.”
Now I understood that not only was I worthless, an object, to my Uncle and his friends, and to his wife who knew, and to a priest who knew, but I was also worthless to my dad. And I idolised my dad. My great shameful secret was no secret at all -It floored me. It was worse, worse, much much worse than the childhood had been. I had recovered from that, come to terms with it. This was a different matter. I couldn’t come to terms with this at all. Now I knew for certain sure I was worthless.
I built a wall around myself, I was successful and busy so I concentrated on getting even more successful and busy. I earned loads and gave it all away – everything was worthless, everything I achieved was worthless, the awards and plaudits, the cars and wine, the holidays. Everything. Rubbish. I tried to be the life and soul of the party, good for a laugh but the strain was too much and gradually I retreated into a shell, a carapace of hurt and anger. And deep deep shame. Worthless.
If that’s where you are, as you read this, let me tell you something from my heart. You are worth more than gold. You are treasure. You are so loved and so wanted, that a man died for you. To rescue you from this shame. A man who is God, died to free you from the past and from shame.
This afternoon I drove on the very very busy approach to London, the M4 , the M25, and then the North Circular. I sat in five lanes of traffic and remembered being on that same road ten years ago, twenty years ago, day after day. Then I was in a powerful luxury car, doors locked, rock music blaring, shaking the doors with the thump thump thump of the bass…. then I was solitary and angry and lost. Knowing myself to be worthless.
Today I sat in the traffic in a little old car, a very different person, no music, no anger, no shame. And I did shed a tear! I did! A tear of happiness that even after a mad bad life, God loves me completely, unconditionally, eternally. As He loves you, whatever your life has been. “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”
One day, if you’re very very good, I’ll tell you about what God has done to the house where my uncle lived, to the place he took me to, to the church where I told the priest what was happening. It’s my modern day miracle and I love telling it. It’s my proof that God was with me all through, in every day of my life. I will tell you how He rescued me and freed me. ‘It is for freedom we are freed.’ We haven’t been saved and freed to live the old way, lost and hurt, we’ve been given our freedom from hurt, from shame, from the past.
A final thought: don’t be sorry for me now, or for me then. It’s done. It only matters now because it reveals the great goodness of God and His healing love. It only matters because I can look at how far He’s brought me from those bad old days. It only matters if it helps those who are going through similar feelings of unworthiness and confusion and shame. Your future doesn’t have to be clouded by the past.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
This is by way of a warning …. I don’t know if I will leave this posting up. I may take it down if people misunderstand. I’m not sure if it has clarity. No sympathy, please, it’s not about me, it’s about what God has done. Geddit?