“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” -James Baldwin
The first time I heard my daughter say “jonk”, I had to do a double take. Not because I did not understand what she was saying, but instead because I knew exactly what she was saying and where it came from, her dad. She was saying junk. After many years of science teachers and professors trying to get me to understand genetics…genotype…phenotype, adaptation, natural selection, all of that, that day a new neural pathway was opened up for me. I clearly saw first hand how what you could not see and what she had not been exposed to were clearly evident despite absence. Granted, she has several other quirks about her that I recognize from her dad, but that one was undeniable.
I remember all of the times I heard it explained in biology, saw it on tests, and regardless of the compelling argument, I always rejected it and would select environment. Maybe I always rejected it because I could not accept that I was influenced by people I did not know and who did not have access to me. Maybe subconsciously, I understood that the huge gaps in my past (unknown family and ancestors) contributed to who I am right now. If that is the case, how could I possibly combat what was unknown to me? Possibly more importantly how could I recognize the manifestations of that unknown past?
Think about it like this: Think of a time when you visited a new place or city. Initially, it takes you a little while to get acclimated, but after traveling the area for a while some things begin to look familiar. Then after even more time, you begin to find your way around without much help, right? I know when I first moved to Baton Rouge, I stuck to main routes and the directions of locals (this was pre-smartphone/GPS era) to get around. But after living here for a few years, I was able to find my way to most places without assistance, but this was only after having to interact with my surroundings and learning where roads would lead me. But without a doubt, in the beginning, it is hard to get directions if you do not know where you will be coming from because when you ask a person for directions the first thing they need to know is, where are you coming from. Knowing your starting location affects the needed directions (whether you get them from yourself or someone else).
After my grandmother passed away last year, I remember listening to my mom tell me stories of her childhood and stories she remembered of my grandmother’s childhood. Immediately I began to recognize similarities in my own life and initially, I was drove! I could not understand why these stories had been kept from me or why I had never heard them before. Yeah, I had a very irrational internal response which by the way I am working on, and no I did not blow up on my Momma (matter of fact I just listened). Anyway, after thinking about it I came to the very painful realization that it simply was not one of those topics that you just bring up, especially when it is the source of so much pain. Some of the stories my mom told me could have helped me overcome a few hurdles a whole lot sooner if I was mature enough to apply the correlations. In reality, I needed more intentional help to use the information wisely. I needed to understand where the wisdom was coming from so that I better understood my starting point.
I have come to realize that it is important to talk about what we have experienced in context, we often need to explain why we do things a certain way instead of just telling somebody what to do. You know the quote: Give a man a fish you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. These may seem like unconnected concepts because they have distance between them, but I assure you that the process of our forefathers is very important to the presence of our angst.
About a year ago I had lunch with my oldest 2 daughters to discuss family triggers. We talked about things that cause us to be afraid, things that discourage us, and things that we seem to face repeatedly. I came to a place where I realized patterns and I wanted our collective minds to explore it so that we had better insight on how to pray our way through the challenges we face. I do not believe it is a coincidence that we had that conversation last year, but it took my grandmother passing for me to connect the significance of having that conversation with my daughters. There is still a lot of work to do because sometimes I sit and think deeper into my family tree and wonder what else is there that I do not recognize to pray about. I have some blanket prayers, but how much more effective it could be if I knew details and specifics.
In short, this is not my typical post. It is layered with lessons I’m still growing through and concepts I do not fully understand, yet. However, I hope you walk away knowing that your past regardless of how painful it is, be it known or unknown it has the potential to affect all of those close to you. It is important to talk about the why’s and the processes that brought us to our current place. Talking about it may cause more pain and bad reactions, but mature discussions can bring healing and informed decision making. Only the enemy wants you to keep those things bottled up inside. Unearthing pain is not easy, but once you begin the work, the burden gets lighter. Pain is temporary. I am not certain why my community feels like they cannot discuss the pain that makes them want to ball up in a knot in the corner, or sit and cry when no one is looking. I am not certain why some feel like if they do not talk about it, somehow it does not exist…lies. Not talking about my families skeletons does not mean they magically disappear, instead, it means they keep adding bodies to the closet. It is time to clean out the closet. Ask the hard questions. Do the hard work. Experience freedom.