Hiding the Past

Crawling under furniture and hiding became a regular habit when I was a little girl.  Car seats. Theater seats. Beds.  Tables. As I grew up, however, the physical hiding turned into emotional hiding. Anywhere that I could escape from fear of the unknown or angry voices or unacceptance.   I have a vivid memory of my father stopping the car on a frigid night in December to pick up a couple of teenagers he knew.  They were walking home with their St. Bernard from a concert at the school where he taught.    (Don’t ask me how the two connect.)  I leaned my five-year-old self over the back seat as the teens and the dog hopped into the backend of our old blue Rambler station wagon. That dog, who was probably 3 times my size,  met me nose to nose.  Terrified, I managed to crawl partially under the front seat of the car.  And then there was the time I attended a drama production that my older brother performed in, and the moment he walked out on stage, I stood up and promptly yelled, “Hi, Bruce!”  The laughter was so loud that I crawled under the theater seat to sequester myself from the embarrassment.

The emotional hiding began early.  When I was three, my beautiful mother began her lifelong struggle with mental illness, and I had people – both family members and friends of the family- tell me that her problems began when I was born.  In fact, what I heard over and over was this: “Your birth was really hard on your mom.  We think it had something to do with her problems.  She probably shouldn’t have had another baby.”  And then, at the age of three, I was shifted between relatives for a few months, while the rest of the family put on a brave and normal and prosperous front.

Being told I was the problem + being sent away equaled insecurity.  At a tender stage of life, the overwhelming desire to be loved and accepted took over.  I used to hide in the closet when signs of my mother’s mental illness surfaced, wondering when she would be leaving next. All I wanted was a constant, like the North Star, something so that I wouldn’t feel like the earth was shifting underneath me.

Don’t we all yearn for love, acceptance and a constant?

In the gospels, Jesus performed a miracle when He healed the 10 lepers.  But it was much more than a physical miracle.  Lepers might have been living, but to their families, they were declared dead.  Leprosy was looked upon as a spiritual disease, a mark of sin. In Leviticus 13:44, it is written: “he is a leprous man, he is unclean.  The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his infection is on his head.”  Lepers were cast out of a city, or a family, or a tent camp as long as they were diseased and instructed to declare themselves, “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever they went.  Yes, if you had leprosy, then God must surely be displeased with you.  I would have found a rock outside the city gates and crawled under it rather than endure the shame.

The fact is leprosy is a spiritual condition. We are all born with leprosy of the soul, sin, that eats away at our relationship with God Himself.  That’s why it was so significant that Jesus sent the lepers to the priest BEFORE He healed them.  During Jesus’ time, only the priests could speak “clean” or “unclean” over people.

The lepers were healed on their journey to the priest.  Make no mistake, Jesus sent another message.  That message?  He had power over the most dreaded disease of all.  He trumped the authority of the priests of the time.  He declared the unclean “clean” before the priest did. Because He could do that.  He was God in the flesh.

Nine lepers went running off and never came back.  Only one returned to fall at the feet of Jesus and thank Him.

Will you be the one?  The one to praise God?

Because Jesus turns the painful past of our yearning- for acceptance, love and healing, into a present journey of Joy with Him.


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