This blog was first published by The Mentoring Project in March of 2015.
I was sixteen weeks old when my parents split up.
I’d been breathing in the best air quality inner-city Chicago had to offer for a total of four months before they decided to close the curtain on their five-year marriage. So much for my grand entrance. If that doesn’t bruise the ego, I don’t know what does.
I’m thirty years old now and I’m still not completely sure of the reason my mom and dad decided to end their relationship. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve asked many times over the years and have gotten pieces of what I believe to be the truth. But I still haven’t received the answer I’ve been looking for. Maybe I never will.
I’ve asked my mom and my dad individually (who were obviously too close to the story to be objective). I’ve asked my brother (who was a few years older than me at the time of the divorce, granting him a string of memories of my parent’s relationship that I lack and envy). I’ve even asked many other family members and close family friends. And, interestingly enough, each of these people had their own version of the sequence of events leading up to the dissolution of our little family. Who was I supposed to believe?
Growing up, I never really talked to anyone outside of our family structure about how my parent’s divorce affected me. I never shared my questions, my confusion, my insecurities or my fears.
As a kid, I never asked anyone on the outside to peer into the window of my soul and tell me what he or she saw. I never asked because that person simply wasn’t there. Or maybe that person was there; they just didn’t make a grand enough entrance for me to notice.
This lack of clarity about my parents’ divorce led me to come up with my own reasons. My reasons were born out of a series of unfortunate events passed down to me by family and my own personal laundry list of shortcomings – sort of this dangerous, mutant hybrid.
In short, I started believing lies.
And these lies began to shape my identity – who I was and who I was becoming. I guess I was a kid who wasn’t worth fighting for. A kid whose birth into the world wasn’t as much of a highly anticipated season premiere as much as it was the abrupt series finale of a relationship everyone saw coming. Everyone except me, of course.
I remember when I was nine-years-old, I was sent home from school because I had head lice. These little black bugs made a grand, unwelcome entrance into my thick, Mexi-Rican, medium-sized afro.
I still remember my teacher’s dreadful stare. Who could blame her…it was disgusting. I had no idea where I’d gotten these critters. All I knew is I was being sent home for my mom to deal with them. I remember her sitting me down with a large white bottle of RID® shampoo. Who remembers that stuff? It’s got this big red accusatory octagon on the front as if to say, “STOP! You have lice” as you lower your insect-ridden head in shame.
I still remember my mom’s rough hands fiercely scrubbing through my thick hair as the little black bugs drowned in the white foam dripping slowly down both sides of my face.
As I think back to that time in my life, I probably had as many lies deeply embedded into my head as I did lice. Each one eating away at me and causing me to scratch my head in confusion. Causing others to stare and wonder what was the matter with me. These lies would bury themselves deep into my brain, gently whispering:
- “You’re not smart.”
- “You’re not good at sports.”
- “You don’t matter.”
- “You’re actually a lot more like a girl than a boy.”
- “You’re not cute. Jennifer Dones said you were the ugliest boy in the world so…”
- “You weren’t even good enough for your dad to stick around.”
What I needed was something or someone to wash these lies away for good. I needed the human equivalent of RID®! I needed a mentor.
Someone to make a grand entrance.
Someone to take the time to pick away at the lies one by one until they were drowning in white-hot truth, my head washed completely clean of them.
Someone to care, to tell me I mattered, to remind me that I was good at some things, to tell me I was worth it.
John Sowers writes, “It is in relationships where the fatherless generation has been wounded the most deeply. Thus, it is in relationships where reconciliation must begin.”
For those who know me best, obviously much has changed since then. I now have a much healthier perspective of my identity because of my relationship with Jesus (and a healthier scalp, I might add). No one can really prepare you for the kind of grand entrance Christ makes in your life and the seeds of joy, forgiveness, and hope He begins to sow. And although I’m still a work in progress, what I can at least be certain of now is that my life does matter.
It was important that I was born. My entrance was grand because God said it was.
Even more, not too long after meeting Jesus suddenly came a handful of people, mentors*, willing to step into the thickness of my life, wrestle with the lies one by one and remind me of the truth of who I really was.
- A child of God.
- Free from condemnation.
And just as of three years ago, my dad even stepped back into my life. And, believe it or not, we have an awesome relationship.
Here’s my point. Kids (and adults for that matter) left to their own devices, are capable of believing the most terrifying lies about themselves.
You can read all the books in the world and DVR every episode of the latest self-help guru’s talk show, but nothing beats a real, live person making a grand entrance into your world and pulling you out of the muck and mire.
It’s as if God knew just how powerful it would be for Him to put on flesh and become someone people could see and have their voices heard. Someone who would say, “There is room for you at this table. You have a place and a purpose here.”
And through His example, I believe mentors have the opportunity to make themselves available to those who so desperately want to be seen. To be known and given a place to belong.
If I’ve learned anything to be true, it is that our lives have been changed so we can change lives. We experience incarnation so we can then express incarnation.
Although my mentor figures made their grand entrances in my life much later than I would have liked, I’m still so grateful that they did. It took time, patience, and courage. Because, let’s be honest…I’m a mess. And because I know what it was like to miss out as a child, I am now responsible for ensuring grand entrances are made in the lives of kids who need them most.
Sometimes I’m the mentor. Sometimes I’m the mentee. Most of the time I’m simply encouraging and equipping new and existing mentors at my church (I call them small group leaders).
Regardless of the role I’m playing and regardless of decisions that were made for me at 4 months old, I was born to do this.
Who made a grand entrance in your life? Who do you know in your life that might need someone to show up for them?
P.S. Jennifer Dones has since apologized and grew up to become a stellar woman and mom. Thanks, Facebook.
*Dedicated to Josh Olson, Eli Gautreaux, Lad & Joan Garner and Dwight Nash