Sooner or later we each learn that we have been born into an imperfect world, a world where not all our needs will be met and even some of our most basic needs may be thoroughly and permanently blown to smithereens. A world in which we ask for bread and may be given stones, seek fish and receive snakes, look for eggs and are met by scorpions.
For nine-year old C.S. “Jack” Lewis it was the night he had toothache and wanted his mother. He cried for her to come but she didn’t come.
She had died.
For a friend of mine named Jen it was not the loss of a mother but her indifference and neglect. When I didn’t know her very well, Jen and another friend and I attended a two-day conference on Dissociation Identity Disorder (DID) and Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). The three of us shared a room overnight.
There were two queen-sized beds. The second friend settled on one of them, turned her back to us and went right to sleep. So Jen and I took the other bed. She talked about early memories the conference was stirring up. Eventually we both fell asleep–or I thought we did.
But Jen slept restlessly, mumbling and thrashing, and at some point I realized she was regressing into infancy. She was reliving something scary and painful, and my presence was all she had to accompany her into the darkness. Dr. Tom Hawkins and his wife Diane, the couple running the conference, the experts in this sort of thing, were asleep somewhere else. All Jen had now was me.
I sat up to be more present to her. I held her hand and stroked her hair and asked Jesus to heal the memory. She was sobbing, “No dope in my bottle! No dope in ba-ba!” Later, shaking, she cried out, “It hurts! It hurts!” But most of her words were unintelligible. I prayed desperately that I would be able to understand enough to comfort her.
I remember asking God to extend mercy and spare her having to relive every painful memory. I felt so helpless and I was sorry I could do so little for her.
In the morning Jen woke up released and grateful. She had imprinted on me as a mother surrogate. “First I remembered being in my crib, being doped to sleep,” she confided. “At five, my mother sent me to school unwashed, unkempt, wearing clothes that didn’t fit anymore, with milk that had spoiled. There were times she left me all alone. And worse times, when she left me alone with her boyfriends.”
God had met her in her memories and removed their sting.
Like Jen, we were all born into an imperfect world. I am beginning to wonder if our whole lives aren’t a constant adjusting to that reality as they are to the reality of gravity. We are always either denying, excusing, accommodating, challenging, resisting, exploiting, exacerbating, covering up, succumbing to, compensating or apologizing for, trying to fix, punish, or overcome this imperfect world and our imperfect selves.