Change of Address
by Joy Bach
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Come with me to the dark, wind-swept land of my childhood. In that barren place, it was decreed that all Christians must be devoid of emotions. My church and my widowed mother were in agreement. To have feelings was to sin. My mother never touched me nor told me she loved me.
We lived in two rooms upstairs. From our window, I watched the neighborhood children in the yard below. My distance from them kept me safe from their sin as they laughed and played. Even at a young age, I understood I was to never dance around, yell and roll on the ground.
I moved through my days detached emotionally from life.
One day, as a teen, I came home from school and placed my books on the table with a thud. Instantly, Mother’s strident voice came from the other room. She said, “Lois, shame on you for being so upset. Get your emotions under control. On Sunday you can go to the altar and ask for forgiveness for what you just did.”
I didn’t argue or question. I knew the drill. Even though I hadn’t been upset, on Sunday I would be escorted to the altar at the front of the church, surrounded by other members of the congregation, to pray for my forgiveness.
I remained stoic when Mother told me whom I would be marrying and when. I was only 15 when plans were put in motion for my marriage before the completion of my senior year in high school. Just as I had no reaction to being led to the altar to repent of my sins, I registered no feelings as I walked down that same aisle during my wedding ceremony.
Pledging to love, honor and obey the man standing at the end of that aisle was no different than being told to love, honor and obey my mother. In either case, I was to do as I was told.
But deep under the crust of my obedience lurked a feeling…of love. When I held my firstborn, I struggled to put a cap on the emotion that came bubbling up from within me. It was now my job to be a role model for this little one…teaching her to keep all emotions under control, lest she sin.
Trying to teach a child to have no emotion is as effective as trying to nail Jell-o to the wall. With three daughters in five years, it was an impossible task. And I had feelings…conflicted feelings…about stifling their happiness. I reached deep into a reservoir I didn’t know was in me when I allowed my oldest to dance…yes, dance…in our living room, even though her dad was yelling at me to make her stop.
Life went on. Their dad left. I took two years to decide on the kind of mom I desired to be. One change I would make would be the removal of the ban on emotions. I seated my children on the couch and stood facing them. They stared at me wide-eyed as I made my declaration.
I said, “From now on I am going to be different. You will be hugged and kissed by me. Daily, I will tell you I love you. We will laugh and have fun. I will help you become who you were meant to be.”
The transition time was difficult. I worked at erasing old programming while I reached out to hug them. I would place my arms around them and feel their bodies become rigid in response. The act of touching was new to all of us, but they worked at accepting my efforts. Hugs that had been stiff and duty driven became warm and loving. The “I love you’s” sounded regularly as they headed out the door…and again before bedtime.
Feelings were now welcome in our home.
The barren land is a distant memory. My life is sun drenched…with gentle breezes and flowers…as hugs occur spontaneously. As we have gotten older, we don’t kiss as much when we get together. But the love comes through with hugs, smiles and laughter. I love you’s are placed at the end of communications by text, email and phone calls.
There is an added bonus in this beautiful land.
I have a husband who loves me…sits and talks with me…holds my hand as we walk…and hugs me daily.
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Joy, This is a great article. It displays how easy it is for religion to take us from God. How we can easily be deceived. Just about everyone I can think about in the Bible expressed emotions and feelings even Jesus. It must have been tough as a kid. I am so glad you listened to God talking through your children's actions as a mom. Loved it. Thanks for your honesty.