I discovered around age six that I have a sister. I remember sitting on the bright red carpet of my great-aunt's living room floor. Since she lived next door, I was over almost every single day to watch The Price Is Right with her and my uncle, and eat candy as she watched The Young and the Restless. But this day was slightly different. I found out she had company over, as I watched the feet belonging to a young woman make their way down the stairs. She smiled at me on her way to the kitchen. That was the day I met my sister. And my brother. And my other brother. And found out I had another sister, though I didn't meet her (until February of this past year). For a six-year-old who thought he was an only child, suddenly having siblings drop out of the sky one day is a weird experience. And these siblings weren't going to be racing me on the monkey bars either--they were old (old in the relative sense--to a munchkin, anyone over 20 is over the hill). Six-year-olds are pretty flexible, and for the few days they were in town I quickly came to embrace these siblings. Actually, half-siblings, to be correct. Oh, this was also the day I found out my dad had been married before.
The implications of my dad's previous marriage didn't strike me at first--I was just glad to have brothers and sisters. As time passed, as I grew older and more mature, I noticed that my mom became really tense when talk of my siblings came up. Eventually my dad told me that it'd be a good idea not to really bring them up around her. I also started to be more aware of the content accompanying my pastor's podium-slapping tirades (my pastor and his methods are a story for another post...or book), which included dark and dangerous divorce. One of the verses he would use to articulate his point was from Jesus' sermon on the mount:
"But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."
In case I or anyone else in attendance couldn't pick up on the sin by ourselves, our pastor liked to break out his sin-sonic megaphone to make sure the idea was thoroughly wedged into our psyches. He'd say "adultery" by emphasizing the "d" hard and heavy, with saliva flying for good measure.
I eventually figured out what "adultery" meant. And I eventually began to connect some dots...my dad divorced his wife, then married my mom...and committed adultery. Oh no, that can't be good. For my pastor, apparently adultery is not the same kind of sin as not coming to church every Sunday or saying, "yes, please," when the waiter at Olive Garden asks if you'd like a sample of wine. Adultery has lasting ramifications, like placing yourself under a curse. And these curses are generational. I remember the weight of his words.
The heavy hammer.
The echoing hiss.
I was still relatively young when I first came to believe that I, the product of adultery, the excrement of contaminated love, was under a curse.
I can't completely describe the tug-of-war that I felt inside for years. It's similar to the battle that many people face who have been born out of wedlock, or to criminal parents, or who have been abandoned as babies. We want to believe that life has something better planned for us than what we've come from, but we can't seem to shake this feeling that we've been doomed from the beginning.
We are Ishmael, the failed attempt to fulfill a promise. We are Bathsheba's son, struck down because of David's folly. We are the sons paying the debts of their fathers.
People in these situations have all had to ask some questions..."If I was born out of someone's sin, what does that mean for me? If I was an accident, what is my worth? What does all this say about me? My future? My destiny?" I'd be lying if I said that I still don't ask myself these questions to this day. I've long carried the fear of that curse with me. No matter how much grace I am shown, no matter how many affirming and encouraging words I receive about me or my future, the echoes of a curse keep me looking back over my shoulder.
I've often found comfort in Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
But on nights when sleep doesn't come immediately to rescue me, in the twilight where hope meets despair, I can't help but wonder...is that verse for everyone? Is that God really talking to me?
To tell you the truth, I don't know if it does or not. But if anything, I know that God would want me, and anyone else, to put all our chips on this:
Almost three years ago, as I wrestled with where my life was headed, I wrote a simple line in my journal:
I'm a boy dancing between destiny and choice
I may never have control of the ultimate destiny God has planned for me. The choice I have is to hope.