When I was fourteen, my mother changed her identity and left me. Then after being shuffled around from my grandparents’ home to an aunt and uncle in another city, I called my father to ask if I could come live with him. He said he had “a new family now” (referring to his three-month-old baby with my stepmother), and asked if I could just stay where I was.
My own parents didn’t want me and my aunt and uncle thought of me as a burden. How could anyone else want me? I would lie in bed and say to myself, Just how awful am I? Even murderers and rapists have their mothers visit them in prison. My mother left me. How awful must I really be? I would ponder over and over what I had done that could have been so bad, blaming myself for her decision. My self-esteem plummeted, and insecurities reared their ugly heads with a vengeance. This was just the beginning in my battle with abandonment—a war that consumed my life for decades. And though my mother would briefly resurface eighteen years later, the damage was done. I became a shell of the person I used to be.
Unable to process the loss, I began to build my own life without her. When I didn’t find value and worth at home, I thought I could find it in excelling in school, and then in business. Still, every achievement and every milestone in my life carried the dark cloud of knowing that my mother wasn’t there to witness it. My high school graduation, my wedding, even the births of my children were tainted by the absence that had become more like an abscess in my heart. When my youngest son Carson was born, I cried—not tears of joy from his arrival, but of despair because I wished my mother was there with me.
Abandonment is ugly like that. The people around me weren’t able to understand or relate to the deep, deep pain I carried. On the outside, I looked perfectly fine. On the inside, I was crying out for help. The belief that no one understood what I was going through left me feeling isolated and alone, even in a room filled with people. Regardless of my success, accolades, money, and material possessions, I still couldn’t find or replace what was missing.
One night, like so many others, I found myself crying inconsolably to my husband about the injustices and hurts from my childhood and the pain of my parents abandoning me, while our own children played in the next room. When I realized what I was doing, I felt convicted. I was ashamed. I was crying about the past while my loving husband, our adorable children, and I were safe and healthy in our beautiful home. Here I was, not enjoying what the Lord had blessed me with. I was letting life pass me by while I should have been busy enjoying all that He had given me.
That night, everything came to a head and I was forced to face my past. I finally realized that the reason my pain wouldn’t heal was because I had not forgiven them. I was still carrying the weight because I had not let go. I had to confront the pain in order for healing to happen. And most importantly, I began to understand that God was with me at all times and that He was not going to leave me like my parents had. That beautiful truth was the first step in my healing. He would walk with me, every tearful painful step of the way, if I would just believe what He said about me and be obedient to the gentle tugging at my heart to let go and forgive.
Now, holidays and birthdays are joyful. There isn’t any anxiety about the upcoming holiday or celebration without my parents. Instead, I spend the holidays enjoying family and good food while thanking God that we are together, happy, and healthy. Our home is filled with love, laughter, and joy. And I’ve become a better parent because of it all.
Bank accounts will go up and down. Jobs will come and go. People will disappoint you over and over again. But if you are able to forgive and have hope that today, tomorrow, and everyday thereafter your best days are still to come, you have everything you need. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). That includes forgiveness.