“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalm 30: 11-12
When I read that verse, I’m reminded of Minnie Pearl’s trademark statement (yes, I’m that old). Her declaration: “Howdy! I’m just so glad to be here!” made everyone laugh. Well, maybe it was really the price tag hanging from her hat she always wore, but as a child I heard her say that more times that I can remember- Grand Ol’ Opry was a staple in the house. When she would arrive on stage and make that statement her eyes would sparkle and she had a sweet, mischievous look on her face. I don’t remember any of her routines but I loved watching her. There was real, deep joy in her face and it was contagious.
If you read a my previous post, The Overwhelming, you realize that I referred to not having much joy in my life. My life has not been traumatic by most measurements but repeated events with my grandmother/mother contributed to chipping away what joy I had.
She was- different.
She could turn on the charm to get a doc to give her the med of the moment and she could turn on me for an imagined wrong that she had been steaming over all day while I was at school. Her mind could dish up stuff that folks would never believe unless they actually heard it from her mouth. I lived with her manipulations, unpredictability and instability my entire adult life.
As a child, I became invisible with my nose in a book in the corner of the room- out of the way of the fray of the day. As adolescence approached, her focus turned on me with a vengeance. I had become a woman; inconceivably, I became competition, and other unprintable adjectives as her mind conjured up situations that did not exist. I was 12 when I was blindsided by it the first time. When I married, I was the one who abandoned her; she always declared that when I came to my senses and came home and everything would be ok again. She knew the time to pick for her most vicious accusations- when we were alone and there was no one to hear the insane ramblings but me. For years, I would steel myself in prayer before being in the same room with her, hoping that just this once she would open her eyes and see.
I know what being overwhelmed looks like. Me.
God allowed me to be overwhelmed more times than I can remember with her. After almost every encounter, I would find myself in a smoldering heap of garbage inside. I plodded through life with her; angry that I had to hear the insinuations and the manipulations that I refused to play along with, sad that I did not have the mother I thought I needed or wanted.
When it was really bad, the Overwhelming would spill out of me and onto my husband and children; it was hard to keep it bundled up. Angry isn’t pretty-especially on me. Think nuclear waste dump. When I slept it was with a clenched jaw and my fingers curled into my palms til they made dents in my skin. I never knew when the phone would ring in the small hours of the morning with another issue demanding my attention.
As I matured in life and in faith, living in this overwhelming refining, I finally understood that this was life with her; she would not or could not change. And this was when I learned
Joy doesn’t find itself at home much when forced to share with anger.
When she died, I had been in the battle for so long, I was numb and had forgotten Joy. But God, (don’t you love those two words?) But God gave me a little verse hidden in the midst of one of David’s Psalms and gave me the gift that restored Joy to its rightful residence in my heart.
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
I cling to that verse today- it was the catalyst for the scales to fall from my eyes so that I can see the overwhelming refining for what it was and is the prayer I have prayed since. And I’m beginning to sing again and wonder what being clothed with Joy will look like on me. Maybe, just maybe it will look like Minnie Pearl’s face…
Are you still in the Overwhelming? Or have you begun to dance and sing in a new outfit called Joy? Tell me about it?
P.S. I’m not sure that there is a logical, medical or spiritual explanation for her behavior- some would say borderline personality disorder, some would say oppression by the ultimate liar, me- I just called it functionally insane. She was very much in the present and knew who, how, what, where and when up to her death. There was just this part of her brain that worked wrong. I stayed in her life because she was the only mother I had- and for so long kept hoping she would see “me”. Then, because there was no one else, I was there, unwilling, but knew that God wanted me there. He was in control then and He is in control now.