A mother who lost her short-term memory when I was 8, bullied at school, my Mum becoming depressed and alcoholic and constantly fighting with my Dad before they eventually they broke up. Losing Mum at the age of 23 and then seeing my Dad suffer with Parkinson’s and a second broken marriage.
It’s been painful. Ironically though it was all of this that pushed me closer to the God I was brought up to know, and who I have given my life to.
My pain has made me who I am. (Tweet that here)
Have you ever found that?
What experiences have shaped you the most?
For a lot of my life – even now, at times, I have been angry with God.
I see my peers – most of whom haven’t been through what I have – achieving success in their careers, having had the happy, stable, secure upbringing I didn’t have, and finding the loves of their lives. Living, in part, the story I want to be living.
So far, despite my genuine and best efforts, the doors don’t seem to open in quite the same way – which can fuel a real sense of injustice, like I’ve been treated unfairly.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know in comparison to most, I’m very very fortunate.
I am living in one of the richest countries in the world. I have a job, a home, great friends and family, people who care about me, freedom to express my faith, opportunities and gifts others would love to have and material possessions beyond many people’s dreams.
I’m thankful for all of that.
But when I’m angry, I’m blind to this. Anger does that to us, doesn’t it? It blinds us to the truth.
But even now this anger has lessened considerably, I have occasionally felt bitter, wanted to know why all the things that happened happened.
That’s often the question we ask when we suffer.
C.S.Lewis talked of suffering as a gift. Saying God makes us the gift of suffering because He loves us. I’m not sure whether God necessarily wants us to suffer, or that He causes it.
But I have begun to see my own small suffering (because in comparison to a lot of people it is small) as a gift.
Whilst my suffering has had a lot of negative consequences for me, it has also been a tremendous blessing.
Yes, I said that.
Hurt has given me perspective. It has shown me the realities of life. That it isn’t all idealisitic, romantic, easy and simple – as both our consumer society and even (or at times especially) the church can paint it out to be.
All of my experiences – both good and bad – have shaped me. All of them can be used for the good of others.
I can use the experiences of grief, alcoholism, bullying and living in a broken home – as well as my other experiences and lessons – to serve, bless and support others going through similar circumstances. It has given me – and my family – a healthier perspective on life, so I don’t take it, or myself, so seriously.
Above all, I’ve realised that I would never have reached the level of intimacy I have with God, had I not gone through this journey.
Including the hurt.
This has been my journey so far, and God has used it to shape me. (Tweet this here)
Being bullied and living in a broken home growing up pushed me into a relationship with God, and into finding a way to pray which whilst often rocky, is honest and fresh, and I love.
Losing my Mum pushed me into becoming more independent, finding my own identity, and ultimately becoming the man she always knew I was underneath.
I would never change any of that.
Some people say if they could turn the clock back they would get rid of all their suffering.
I’m not so sure I would.
There is a song which encapsulates this perfectly. ‘Hurt’, performed by Johnny Cash. Have a listen:
The last line sums it up doesn’t it?
“If I could start again…I would keep myself. I would find a way”. (Tweet this here)
I’m not entirely sure whether I’d love to live all of this again, or if I would choose it. But I wouldn’t want to change who I am now – because for all the pain I have been through, there has also been tremendous blessing.
Have another listen, and reflect on your own story.
Would you change anything?
Or has your story made you who you are?