Recently I had a moment with my family that I can’t shake off. I can’t seem to get over. No matter how much I try to tell my self it doesn’t matter, I can’t help but feel it does.
My younger brother got married in January. It was a beautiful wedding. A wonderful night. The bride is a lovely person, inside and out and I’m thrilled to have her as a sister-in-law. I was so proud as I watched my brother see his bride for the first time. See his face light up and the emotion that went over it as she continued to walk towards him. My other brother was his best man, and I loved seeing the two of them, grown.
Fast forward to May. I was visiting with my parents as we always do on Mother’s Day and my two younger brothers wanted to show me their gift to our mother. It is a beautiful massive portrait of the family, well, minus my brother and I, our mother’s first two children. The portrait is of our mother, our father (I have only ever referred to him as my father and not step-father) my brother and his new bride and my youngest brother. The perfect family portrait. The ideal family they wish they could display.
The moment they unwrapped the portrait it felt like a sharp slap to the face. At the wedding, I tried to get my brother to have the photographer take a picture of the entire family (us first two kids included), and my brother frustratingly told me he didn’t want to, he was tired of taking photos, and he still had to do more with the bride’s family. He just wanted to get them over and done with. I was a bit hurt at the time, after all, you always do family portraits at weddings. Now, seeing the portrait and knowing he planned on giving one to our mother as a gift, it really hurts. Knowing he kept us out intentionally.
This is one of those moments where I feel utterly uninvited by my own family. Unwanted and unwelcome. I stood there staring at the portrait, trying to comprehend why they would think that I would be impressed or love it. I said something offhanded about the two of us that aren’t in it and was ignored. My father said something about us not having family portraits before and how he was happy to have one now. Happy to have one without two of us in it. The perfect family.
What hurts even more about this situation is that my mom didn’t even explain to my brother how it was inappropriate or rude. How it cannot be called a family portrait when family members are intentionally left out. She looked at it with pride. Her perfect family, without the blemishes. I felt like all the air was sucked out of me. How was it, that at 42 years old I could still feel so unwanted and unloved by my own family? I took care of my two younger brothers as though they were my own. I spent my teen years taking care of them rather than spending time with friends or going out. This was my reward? To be left out of the family portrait? Discarded as though I was nobody?
I’m frustrated on two levels. One that I am left out as if I am of no importance. That I was shown, I was left out with smiles and pride in what they did. Secondly, I am frustrated with myself that this still affects me. That after years of therapy, self-evaluation, and knowledge that the only love that should matter to me is God’s love, this still cut so deeply. As I stood there, I could feel me reverting to old habits of digging my nails into my palms. A habit I started so that I could feel in control of something I was feeling. I am frustrated with losing so much ground that I had made towards self-love and acceptance.
That loneliness of your own family, not wanting you cannot be explained in words. The pain of being left out by your own flesh and blood cuts so much deeper than being stabbed. The pain is breathtaking, heart-stopping and crushing. If your own family doesn’t want you, why would anyone else? If you aren’t any value to your own family, what value could you possibly hold for anyone else? If your own family doesn’t love you or respect you, why should you love and respect yourself?
These are the emotions I wrestle and deal with on a daily basis. These emotions make it difficult for me to go on job interviews. If my own family doesn’t want me, doesn’t choose me, why would this employer? These thoughts make it difficult to cultivate friendships. I begin a friendship and then start to wonder what they really would see in me. Eventually, they won’t want me either. Blood is thicker than water, isn’t it? If my blood doesn’t want me, why would this friend? I get severe anxiety just trying to make a phone call because I can’t fathom why the person on the other end would want to speak to me.
I thought I had done the work to overcome these feelings. I thought I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I thought I was close to emerging from the darkness, and just like that, see a portrait, being left out of the picture destroyed all the work I had completed on myself. I’m back to ground zero. I even asked God if He at least loved me.
God does love me though, this I do know. Deep down the knowledge of His love is rooted in me. I just have to begin nurturing that knowledge so it can grow and encompass me again. This emotional suffering is something He must need me to feel, in order to do His work and continue on the path He created for me.
Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into His grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-5