Finally after much begging on my part I owned my very own pony. She was a beautiful jet black Welsh pony that stood about 13 hands high. She came with the name Stormy but I often called her Black Storm. She had a white blaze on her face and two white socks, and I loved her. I spent all my free time with her, grooming her, feeding her, riding her and loving her.
Maybe she wasn’t the fastest or even the most elegant but to me she was special. I took pride in her and each day together was an adventure. Each outing an opportunity to explore and to escape. Some days we helped with the herding of the cattle, or we had to watch the cattle while they grazed along our 1/2 mile driveway making sure they didn’t venture out onto the highway, and some days were just for pleasure riding.
I rode this little mare bareback and sometimes we would go into the vegetable garden and raid the carrot patch. I would grab enough carrots for us both and then head out to our favorite spot where we would just relax in the warm sunshine. Often I would lie down on her back while she grazed and I would munch on my carrots watching the clouds float by dreaming of a different life. Storm would sometimes turn her head and that was my clue to give her a bite of my carrot. She loved carrots.
Storm also loved running through the creek getting us both soaked.Time spent with Stormy was probably some of the happiest days of my childhood.
Except for one day, a day I’ve tried to forget so many times but a day that haunted me for years. A day when a lie formed in my mind. A lie I believed and lived, words spoken that shaped so many of my decisions and desires in the years to come.
I had just come in from a leisurely ride and had to go through the yard and pass by the house in order to get to the barn. I did what any normal child does- I looked to the house to see if there was anyone home. I didn’t look to see if anyone was necessarily watching me, I simply looked to see who was at home.
But just as I looked at the kitchen window my uncle looked outside too. We made brief eye contact. And the next thing I knew he was outside in a rage.To this day I can’t remember all the exact details but I can recall the hurtful, wounding words spoken. In an explosive rage once again he was in my face. Shouting and cursing. And what he said would be forever imbedded in my mind.
“Who do you think you are?”
After those six words that he shouted at me, I can’t recall exactly word for word all he said but he was basically saying I was a nobody, that nobody wants to watch me or see me ride by. Why did I have to look to see who was home? On and on he went until his rage was spent. And my heart once more shattered.
I led my pony to the barn, shoulders hunched, head down and tears once again silently streaming down my face. I groomed, watered and fed Stormy and I wept into her mane. As I stood there hugging her neck, my face nestled into her mane, she seemed to understand and stood quietly while I wept. Once in awhile she would give a soft whinny and turn her head towards me nuzzling me softly.
I made an agreement that day that I was a nobody. No one wanted me, let alone to ever look at me. I wasn’t worth being noticed, being seen.
It was better to be invisible. I was too much and yet so often not enough.Who did I think I was? I would spend much of my life hiding from people, never wanting to be noticed or recognized. Compliments were scary and threatening.
That day my uncle left me a powerful, shaming legacy- the belief that any attention to yourself is wrong or sinful.That’s why it took me so many years to risk looking back at my past….but I needed to in order to provide a context for change. We can’t be free if we don’t see it. My shame-bound self-concept affected me and my relationship with God and with others.
Years ago in counseling I asked God to give me “wisdom in the hidden parts” of my self-concept so that I could recognize the negative effects of believing that others were perfect and I wasn’t. The negative effects that had me believing I was worthless while everyone else was worthy.
I risked asking God to help me to learn to see myself as He sees me…..realizing that He does see…..that He desires to see me….that I am worth seeing…..He is different than my uncle who was a father figure to me….God longs to see me to see us.As His child He delights in me…..in who I am and what I do…..He does not shame me or tell me I am too much or not enough…..He does not question me asking me who do I think I am…..He knows who I am and loves me…..He loves me!
And He continues to teach me to live in the freedom of grace and truth…..breaking the bondage of my past, of the lies, and leads me into a future where I am increasingly released from shame.