Sunday, April 15, 2007

the legacy

I've been thinking quite a bit about legacies lately. Not legacies in a money sense, but more the legacy of life that I've been given. I'm talking about my childhood. What is the legacy I have been left by the environment I grew up in?

It's a little bit like culture I suppose. I grew up in Australia, generally oblivious to all the values and beliefs that make us culturally unique. Sure I knew meat pies could almost be considered our national dish and tall poppy syndrome remains as a lasting relic from our convict past, but I couldn't have elucidated much more than that if asked what made us Australian. Only when I went and lived in a different culture did I become aware of our willingness to embrace anything new, our casual attitude to life, our persistence in the face of adversity. Once exposed to a culture that clung to old ways of doing things, and approached life very seriously I began to recognise my uniquely Australian view of the world.

Similarly, since Frank and I established our own home last year I've become acutely aware of the way of life in my childhood home. As we seek to establish a culture of respect within our own four walls I can recognise how little my family was characterised by respect. It hasn't been a particularly pleasant awakening.

Frank must be the sweetest man on earth. He is generous, patient, and kind. He offers me unconditional love and acceptance. I am forever amazed by his willingness to forgive my continual failings. (Most of the time!) Despite growing up in a broken home that wounded him deeply, he made a choice to look for the value in people and respect them. In Frank there is a depth and beauty of character that touches my heart in its simplicity. (He unfortunately begs to differ over my glowing report)

And me? Well I am the most curmudgeonly, selfish person on earth. I pounce on anything that does not align with my idealistic picture of how things should be. I hone in on the tiniest annoyance and tear the perpetrator to shreds. (Slight exaggeration for literary effect) Unconditional love? Only when you meet my conditions! Acceptance? After you've become just what I want you to be! Generosity? If you give me something I might return the favour!

Marriage has highlighted the worst in me. With a husband who is nigh on perfect I can hardly ignore my failings.

What is more troubling to me than my acerbic wit or cutting tongue is the way my behaviour goes against what I rationally believe. I believe in the value of people. I hold generosity, patience and kindness close to my heart. I want to pour out unconditional love as a soothing balm on wounds of the soul. I love my husband and want to cherish him dearly.

So why is my behaviour so abominable? Why do I lash out at a moments notice over the most trivial offence? Why don't I turn a blind eye to the every day irritations of life with another?

It is here that I return to my legacy. My childhood held little of respect. I was never good enough. My words and actions were critiqued or worse, criticised. There was scant generosity or helpfulness. Patience was in short supply.

I'm wary of blaming my sinfulness on my childhood - I know I have choices about the way I behave in the here and now. But somewhere deep inside, my soul has been seared by the harshness. My desire to be kind and gracious is too often short circuited by the past. Before I know it, I've followed the time worn path of meanness, and venom spills from my mouth just as it did all those years ago.

Oh what a legacy. I shall battle it all my life. (And if I'm not battling that I'll be battling downright sin!) But beat it I will.

One day I will find healing. One day I will be beautiful, generous and kind. One day I will encourage and build up the people in my life. One day I will cherish and nurture those around me. One day I will pour out love on wounds of the soul. One day I will have a family and leave them a legacy of love. This is my dream.

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At 7:14 am, April 16, 2007, Anonymous Leah said...

I totally identify. I grew up in a very critical household and have been frustrated with my reactions to things....with all the criticism I grew up with, shouldn't I be MORE generous, patient, etc? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Therapy has helped me so much - realizing that just wanting to change isn't enough - that it takes hard work to make the changes. I think of (here in the US), the wagon ruts made on the Oregon trail. They are deep and easy, familiar. To work hard to get out of those ruts is hard work indeed. We have very similar pathways in our brains.

It is hard but rewarding work to train ourselves to think and behave differently. It's a much more difficult process than I envisioned. And it became even harder when I had children, but also even more worth the difficult effort.

I thank God for his abundant love and grace! I have come a long way, but still have so far to go.

At 8:18 am, April 16, 2007, Blogger robynbore said...

Cecily, you were very kind and generous to me when I didn't expect you to be. A letter you wrote me was very comforting at the time and I will always remember it. I have always wanted to say thank you - thank you!

At 9:18 am, April 16, 2007, Blogger Cherie said...

I've got tears in my eyes, Cecily. I've always felt isolated, because I grew up in a home just as you described and I've never known anyone else who has. I could have written your words (though not as eloquently). I've had the same struggles as you.

I am older than you, and I have kids. Marriage and kids has brought the worst out in me, but also some of the best.

You'll find, as you grow older and wiser, that you are changing now, and the changes will start to show soon (they probably already are and you are being modest.;-). I'm certainly not there - oh, no no no - but I am better than I thought I would be at this stage of the game.

The fact that you recognize the bad behavior- and hate it-means you are changing already.

Have courage. Never give up. And know that you are not alone in the very struggle you fight against.

One day you and I will swap stories in heaven about how God took the gunk away, replacing it with the goodness we so craved!

Thank you ever so much, Cecily, for writing this post! You'll never know how much I appreciate it.

At 4:13 pm, April 16, 2007, Blogger Robyn said...

Oooh you're very harsh on yourself :( I'm assuming that there's a large amount of exaggeration for literary effect and that you have a more balanced view of both yourself and Frank (otherwise its a loooong way to fall from his pedestal!).
I'm with you on wanting to make a better legacy. I'e got my own nastiness that I'm trying to turn over to God each day. Won't it be amazing in Heaven?!

At 8:53 pm, April 16, 2007, Blogger Cecily said...

Thankyou all for your encouragement in the journey! It sucks we're all in similar boats but I love that I'm not the only one struggling to become more like Jesus.

Robyn B I had no idea about the letter - glad it ministered to you.

Of course Frank is not as good as I've painted him, nor am I as bad as I've painted myself, but after an incident I was ashamed of yesterday morning (in church, in front of others no less!) it sure felt like that! :) Thanks Robyn for the reminder to be more realistic in my evaluations. I'll try. ;)

At 3:12 pm, April 17, 2007, Blogger Deanna said...

Thanks, Cecily, for being honest and real.


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