I remember pretty well the feelings after the day in August 1973 when we stood beside that lonely grave in a Catholic cemetery in Mexico. There was a whole lot my 6-year-old mind didn't get yet. But somehow, I knew that when they lowered the casket of my baby sister into the ground, I wasn't going to get to see her again. My teenage brother Joseph, I missed less because of the disconnect in age between us. But when they lowered the casket of my mommy into that brick cavern, I knew something of me was slowly being choked into oblivion.
One of the vague things that came into focus in the days that followed was that no one really had time, energy, or cared that much about what I was feeling. No one checked behind my ears at bathtime to see if they were washed. No one cared much if my shirt buttons lined up with my zipper. I could get by with quite a lot if I were careful enough.
The memorial service in Kinross, IA, was more difficult. By this time, I was hurting quite a lot. I tried to be brave and stifle the tears... after all, I was a big boy now—rows of teary-eyed people filed by our family, sharing condolences. I became conscious of the women... the mommies. Surely, somewhere, there was one with a little bit of extra love to give me. Maybe just one would stoop down and hug me. God knows my heart needed one. One mommy stopped, stooped, then moved on. Almost.
And then it was over.
Life went on. My oldest sister lay in a hospital with a broken neck, screws in her head, and body in traction. Grandma moved in to take care of us. School started. Harvest came with its 24-hour-a-day business.
Then a decade.
I didn't think very often about the hole in my heart. I only became vaguely conscious that I was looking for something. It seemed like every woman had it, but they weren't too interested in passing it along. I hurt a lot in private and cried more than I wish to remember. It seemed so wrong that God would do something like this to me. It also seemed wrong that a thousand women would walk by me, who could simply reach out and touch me and make it better, but they wouldn't.
I remember the bitter tears in the car one night after a family visit to some of my parent's friends when I finally realized that no one cared how I felt, and no one ever would. Women could humiliate me and mock me. They could laugh at my mistakes, criticize and hurt me, and enjoy every minute of it, but they had no interest in healing me. In fact, they enjoyed my pain.
Women like when boys hurt.
I developed something of a sarcastic lashing out toward women.
Nearly a decade later, I found myself walking the aisle of a church in Oregon beside the most gorgeous girl I have ever seen. I cried when she looked at me that day and put her hand in mine. Now... finally, now, I would find healing.
What a woman. She poured into me all the love and affection a woman can give. Sometimes, it helped. Sometimes it almost hurt. But it did not heal.
Eight years later, she sat beside me on the couch in tears. "I tried," she said. In every way a woman can love, I have loved. Yet, you are as empty as the day I started. I very nearly screamed in agony that day.
And so, the search began. I needed healing. Desperately. The women in my life had all failed. Women were, actually, mean-spirited beings with a desire to wound and knife boy's hearts; I don't know why.
Several years passed before the light began to slowly dawn. I was angry at God. I was blaming women for my pain. My hurt was oozing and festering, and I blamed THEM. It wasn't their fault. It wasn't God's fault. I had been hurt... and in my pain, had bought into the infection of lies. The hurt could never heal because of the lies I believed.
One at a painful time, I began to drag the searing lies to the cross. It hurt like burning metal, but I wanted Truth more than anything. One day, some gentle woman 1000 miles from home pulled up one more lie, and something broke inside me. Healing flowed. I have never been the same. Our marriage changed. Struggles evaporated. Pain dissolved. Reactions faded. Some days, I wondered who I was.
I have since sat with hundreds of people while they walked through this process. Over and over... crying out to be heard, to be validated in their pain. I have wept so many tears, trying to empathize and yet listen closely enough to the stories to hear the lies. I write them down as they speak them. Then, one at a time, we begin the horrific scene of taking them to the cross, somehow despising the shame and emotion of the lies for the joy that I know will come when healing flows.
Don't hang onto the lies. They seem true. They seem to legitimize your pain and validate your rage. But they are only there to poison and destroy you. Let them go. I beg you, let them go.