Will vs. spirit

It seems like I’m always on a scavenger hunt for more time. I didn’t post the last two weeks because I’ve been busy with work and loving on two cute teenage boys. I’ve missed writing. I recognize that writing is such a big part of my healing and I appreciate so much that you read my humble scribblings!

As I continue my journey of growth and movement away from emotional pain and anxiety, I recognize that some of this “scum” that I am removing dates back to the 70’s when I was a child. I have so many stories but the one I’ve been thinking about recently is a friend of mine and me hiding in a big cement structure circa 1975. Picture a large concrete drainage pipe that you would see a construction crew burying underground. In the 70’s these were also known as playground equipment (LOL), and there was one in the schoolyard where I attended kindergarten. I’ve alluded to my childhood in previous posts, a really tough time in my life when my behavior was less than stellar. On this particular day I talked a friend of mine into staying behind on the playground after the class bell rang. We quietly pressed ourselves up against the inside of this cold, concrete hideaway and waited for a few minutes until the teacher came out and found us.

I had learned to be scrappy. My parents both worked growing up and daycare and preschool were not what they are today. I was bullied and threatened, both by fellow classmates and daycare providers. In kindergarten I found myself in a fight with a girl who was harassing me so I pinned her down and pressed my hands on her neck to hold her there. I felt like I was trying to survive in a dog-eat-dog world and realized that I could either be the victim or I could defend myself. I was tough and mean and rebellious. I still remember my teacher finding us in the tunnel. She asked why we were out there and I didn’t have a good reason.

Today I am still in touch with my teacher, Mrs. Abbott. She and her husband, Truman, are dear friends of my family’s and we have all been involved in each other’s lives over the years. Mrs. Abbott somehow saw potential in me 45 years ago and decided to shoot straight with my mom. She said that if my mom could break my will but leave my spirit intact, my heart would be soft toward the Lord. This was the truth and wisdom that my mom needed to hear and she started praying for me in this area.

The next year my first grade rebellion was centered around boys, in fact I was a little boy crazy. After recess we would have story time and a boy I will call “Cute” and I would hide out in the coat closet where everyone would drop their winter gear. When the stories started, that was our cue to start kissing. I remember them as passionate, long kisses but I’m thinking they were short pecks with laughter in between. There was another boy I was very interested in and one evening his parents invited my family over for dinner. We will call this boy “Very Cute” and he and I ended up kissing on his bed while my brother played on the floor in his bedroom. As we were driving off, he and I blew each other kisses to which my mom took note; she seemed surprised. I guess she didn’t know about my love for kissing at age 6.

She calmly sat me down that week and explained that it was not appropriate for a first-grader to behave the way I was behaving. She told me that I shouldn’t be kissing boys. I didn’t know that, no one had told me and I’m sure my mom hadn’t thought to have the birds and bees talk with me at such a young age.

I took her advice to heart. I immediately changed my ways and set appropriate limits with boys. In my later elementary years, she offered an after-school class for girls in my grade and offered a Christian perspective to sex-ed. I took in everything she had to say. She had spent years investing in me (she enrolled me in Bluebirds and Brownies which I loved), and helped me understand what it meant to be a lady. I really embraced this and was very careful with boundaries with guys in junior high, high school and college.

I watched how my mom (and eventually my dad) parented. They figured out the part about breaking my will without breaking my spirit. In my early elementary years I often got sent home from my friends’ houses for being mean and bullying my friends (how sad is that) and I always came back to a loving, compassionate home where I was corrected in love without making me feel bad about myself. That was the key—me learning to understand where I was off-base without tying that to WHO I was. I was made to believe that I was not a mean person, but I was behaving selfishly and hurting others before someone could hurt me and that had to change.

And so, as I was loved in this way, my heart began to soften. I began to respect myself and others as I started to understand God’s love for me through the way that my parents loved me. It was an unconditional, gracious and “room for error” love. It was years of lovingly and firmly correcting me while also encouraging me and reminding me who I was.

I saw my baby brother (who also struggled) go through a similar process and today he is truly one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

Because, you see, Mrs. Abbott was right. I had potential but things could have gone either way. And do you know what the secret ingredient was? My parents didn’t shame me. They lovingly corrected me as they extended grace, love and wisdom.

Shame is a killer of growth, potential and change. Shame keeps us from really experiencing all that God made us to be. Shame puts us in a box and makes sure the lid is sealed tight. I am so grateful that all those years ago a teacher took time to give my mom advice that helped shape me into who I am today. Discipline, guidance and loving correction help keep our wills in check but shame kills our spirits. God, help us to train up our children in the way they should go so that when they are older they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Thank you for your wisdom and grace and for helping us navigate through these parenting years.

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If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear. 

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