I did not have a happy childhood.
But I must also acknowledge that my childhood was not all bad.
It could have been much worse.
So even as I look back at the darkness and pain in my memories, I find gratitude in my heart.
The grace of God works backwards like CS Lewis says and I see my whole life filling up with glory.
There are words I might use to help describe my childhood: poverty, disorder, filth, neglect, violence, anger, abuse.
But if I had to sum up everything in one word it would be sin.
My parents' sin
Their parents' sin
And probably their parents' sin, but the stories in living memory only go back so far.
My parents' siblings' sin
And my parents' sin in response to their parents' and their siblings' sin
My siblings' sin
And my sin in response to my siblings' sin
And my sin in response to my parents' sin
And my own sin was there, is there still.
From all the testimonies and from my own memories, I see the problem of sin probably stretches back all the way to Eve and reaches so deep as to infect the whole earth.
The roots that cause disorder in my life are connected to the roots that cause the disorder in all of Creation.
But God has been gracious to me.
I came to Christ.
Or did Christ come to me?
I started following Him.
I left home.
He who is loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me.
By leaving home, I mean that God provided for me in nearly miraculous, but also very practical ways, and I found a way out of one lifestyle and into another way of life.
But I also mean that I "left home" and started walking out of the sins that held my family for generations.
But interestingly, the road to God, through it led away from my family in one sense, has also led me straight back to family in another.
God has never allowed me to severe relationship with the people who have hurt me the most, though there were times I was tempted to do so.
He's lead me back, through the chaos, right into it, with the burden of the disorder in my own hands and even, at times, on my own back.
I don't believe in Purgatory, but then again, I do, since I've been in it. The process of living in family has felt like Purgatory at times.
We recently took responsibility for my aging mother and bought her a condo to live in.
Honor thy father and mother.
God asked us to do what we say we believe.
But in this, our story is not unique, since we know many people are caring for their parents, just as many have done before.
We also helped her move out of her old place and into the new.
For me, personally, unpacking my Mom's boxes and organizing her stuff and getting her settled was like going through Hell, literally.
Almost every item represented a bitter-sweet, painfully acute, or even Hellish memory for me.
But I felt the presence of God holding me together as I unpacked her boxes.
And the most interesting thing happened as I submitted to that work.
The items were literally redeemed as they came up out of the boxes and they came together into a beautiful, eclectic mix that fills her dwelling place and is simply beautiful.
And seeing her in that beauty blesses me.
God uses us to do His work here on earth.
The wall of photos in the picture above is always a testimony to my soul as I walk through her front door.
Most of those frames were salvaged out of random boxes filled with random junk.
The frames were often purchased on impulse with money better spent on necessities we may have gone without.
Many of the frames were never even used, just hoarded like many other things were hoarded.
But when all the unpacking and organizing and purging was done, these frames had been collected into a pile, and it was time to decorate. These came together with old photos into this eclectic collection that adorns her wall.
God brings everything together like that.
He gives beauty for ashes.
He made something beautiful and unique out of all those poor choices, those seemingly unredeemable particularities.
Such is the grace of God for my particular family. His grace is beautiful and unique to us.
I just look at the whole thing in wonder and awe.
Even though God is using my hands to do the work, I often feel I am just a bystander.
Don't be afraid to follow God anywhere He leads, even if it is to confront your painful past and work to redeem it.
Submit to a relationship with God and be ready when you are in relationship with Him, for a relationship with the triune God may lead you to have to submit to various relationships with others.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
With God's help, do what is right by the people in your life even if they are undeserving.
Who is deserving of God's grace anyway?
I think of Christ in Gethsemane.
He did not deserve to suffer, but He chose relationship.
Even the best of us would be poor and desperate without Him.
On the other side of this process of relationship to God and others, He will have fashioned a diamond from the rough.
In the end, you, and perhaps your family, too, will be able to reflect facets of His glory in particular ways that no one else can.