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Powerless Over the Past

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Part of surrender is acknowledging those things of the past in which we had no control over. For me, I didn't always deal with those things in the most mature manner at the time that they took place; however, over the years, those moments of powerlessness have helped to shape me to be who I am today.

To me, powerless means "beyond my ability to control." Sure, I reacted and the lesson I've learned over the years is that I can be reactive or proactive. But, wisdom doesn't always come in the moment of crisis.

There are some things of which I'm not going to discuss. Personal moments of powerlessness that I've had to make peace with over the years. In fact, some things from my childhood, I've just let go of less than 5 years ago. They are best left buried.

I am a perfectionist.......a good portion of that has been due to having to meet expectations. I can be controlling but have learned to loosen the reigns where possible and to allow others to make their mistakes. I've had to come to realize that there are more than one way to reach a solution and as long as the same results are obtained, I have to allow others to find their own path to reach them. Therefore, admitting being powerless isn't an easy task.

With this assignment, I think of life changing moments of powerlessness. Sometimes when I look back I wonder how they could've been part of God's plans but as I reflect, I know I wouldn't be where I am today if they hadn't taken place. No matter how painful the circumstances were.

I won't dwell on childhood other than the fact that my mother had mental illness relating to a severe nervous breakdown she had suffered as a teenager. Therefore, my mom was in and out of hospitals a seemed like she was in more than she was at home. I used to be very angry about this, because I felt that she chose to be away. I got in trouble from a teacher in the 6th grade because I missed school every Fri. Fridays were visiting hours at the institution my mother was in and my dad set that teacher straight. I blamed my mother for a long time but as I matured (not that overly long ago), I realized she was a victim and that she herself was powerless over herself.

My stepdad had a massive heart attack when I was 16 and was in a coma for a week before he died. Can you imagine being 16 and it was up to me whether he lived or if we pulled the plug? You see, when the heart attack happened, my mom couldn't handle it and she ended back up in the hospital. So, I had to really pray about what to do. My brother had taken off and the entire decision was up to me. I was working as a janitor in our church at the time so I took my key and went to the church and poured myself on the altar. I cried to the Lord......I felt so powerless over everything that was happening. I had prayed at one time for my dad to die because he was a very abusive individual and here as he was dying I was immature and I thought I was causing it. It was later that I realized I didn't have the power to bring about death. During prayer, I received a call that my dad had begun to breathe on his own so they were able to remove the ventilator. But then, sometime during the night, he quit breathing. I later learned if he had survived he would've been a vegetable. Then, it was up to me to go to the other hospital to let my mother know that her husband was gone.

To me, it felt as though I had lost my entire family in that one night. Yes, I understand what it feels like to be powerless. My entire life changed that night. By law, I wasn't allowed to live alone and again I had no power in my fate. My pastor stepped in and took me in to her home. If it hadn't been for her, I would've been sent to a group home or foster care until I was of age. Ironically, it had been earlier this same year that I had attended a youth conference and had felt God's calling on my life to enter the ministry. Things didn't work out in the pastor's home and when I turned 17, I moved in with a friend who had just moved out of her house and I finished my jr and sr year, going to school during the day and holding down a job at night. Looking back, I can see how even though the circumstances were painful, they were necessary in order for me to be where I am today. I can't speculate if my dad had lived because he didn't....I can't guess how it would be different if my mom didn't have mental illness because she did/does.

My mom has gone through shock treatments, numerous medications, has resided in halfway houses, mental institutions, nursing homes.....she was left for years with the inability to speak or engage in any way. In seminary, I tried to call her once but she didn't know who I was so she wouldn't come to the phone....I visited once and she sat by me for 5 minutes and then got up and walked away....visits or even attempts to call became too painful and it was better for me to just pretend she was dead. Until, my brother, who resurfaced many years later, asked me to lie to his daughter. She was doing a school project and my brother needed dates filled in of when our grandpa had died, of when our dad and mom had died....and it was like a wake up call. I told him, he would have to live his own lie but that I would not be a part of it.

I have visited her twice since then. The first time was about 3 years ago and it was the first time in over 10 years that she was able to communicate. She was able to answer simple questions. Here I was 44 yrs old and I learned my mom liked chocolate pudding and pizza hut pizza. Things so many people take for granted.....knowing what their children and parent's likes are. Last year, I drove the's a long drive and I was only able to sit beside her for a few minutes. She recognized me but she was no longer mobile....bed bound in fact. Some people might think it was a waste to drive so far for so little time. But the look of recognition and the hug I gave her before I left and I told her "you know I love you, right?" And the whispered "I love you too" was well worth that drive.

It has freed me to see that my mom is powerless over her own past and she has no control over her present. I may be powerless over the events of my past and I'm sure there will be many times that I will be powerless in my future, but I have learned valuable lessons from life's experiences.

Love those you've been entrusted with for one day they will only be memories in your heart.

Don't take others for granted but live by the Golden Rule.

You can be reactive or proactive. Make the best of the hand life deals you.

Your life may seem like the pits but it's up to you whether you stay in the pit or if you climb out of it.

Observe the things you don't agree with and live your life absent of those qualities in your own life.

Seek to change other's lives for the better.

Pay it forward.

Remember that as you have been powerless, there are many individuals who haven't learned the lessons that you have. You might just be the one voice of reason that they will listen to.

"Preach the gospel and when necessary use words". St Francis of Assissi
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  • MARYBETH4884
    Thank you, many people need to understand for themselves what you have learned. Who we are is only definable by the experiences of our life. God does have a plan for each of us. Thank you for your honest! Good luck on your journey in ministry!
    1682 days ago
    Saying that this blog is POWERFUL does not even come close to the truth. You have met your challenges head on and it appears that you have your life in control.

    I found a book years ago written by the Rev. Schuler. It is titled, "Tough times never last, tough people do." I re-read it occasionally as I find it very helpful to me.

    St Francis of Assisi is also my baptismal Patron saint.

    Thank you for a very touching story.
    1682 days ago
    We all go through things as a result of this fallen world. But once we come to Christ, He can redeem even those horrible things for our good and His glory. I, too, have had my share - but I choose to go forward in Christ. The joy of the Lord is our strength. You're doing all right, sis! God bless you!
    1682 days ago
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