In my humble opinion, George Washington Carver was one of the greatest men to ever grace this continent. I admire his strength of character, his conviction to choose what he felt was right over what was of a greater financial or social benefit. I am in awe of his obvious love for and sense of obligation to other people.
I truly love how evident Providence was throughout his life. But, most of all, I love that he was so aware of that, he was able to just go where it took him.
It’s easy now 150 years later to look back on this great man’s life and say how perfect it all worked out. If he hadn’t had whooping cough as an infant and been a sickly child, he would have been out working the fields with his brother. Instead, he stayed inside and learned to cook, clean, and read, learning principles he would need later on. If he had been accepted to college fresh out of high school, he wouldn’t have staked a claim and farmed, again learning what he needed to know for what he was about to do.
That is a theme echoed throughout his life: apparent hardship and suffering were a setup or classroom for where God was leading him. He was merely learning necessary information for the great places God was taking him. In other words, he needed to be sick and he needed to suffer the horrors of racism in order to learn his required life lessons for the perfect path God had chosen for him in order to help so many.
It’s easy to think that because of his loving spirit he didn’t mourn the could have been’s and the should have been’s. Not the way we average human beings do anyway. He somehow seems above that. But, I doubt it. I think a closer study of the man’s life would reveal the private pain and disappointment common to us all.
Thinking about George, it strikes me. Just like he needed to be sickly, I think I needed to marry R. I think I needed to suffer at his hand.
The horrors of my childhood did more than torment me. I was denied basic instruction in the ways of human interaction. I didn’t understand what love was, how it acted. I didn’t know what it meant to honor someone. I had been taught, brainwashed, to believe that I was born inferior and evil without hope of redemption or change.
As we entered the book display yesterday, we passed a woman with an infant and four or five young children. My precious four year old daughter joyfully exclaimed, “Wow! She has a lot of children!” I responded, “Yes, she is blessed, isn’t she? How many children are you going to have?” Thus began a lengthy dream sequence detailing her future children and her husband and the beautiful family life they’ll someday have.
As we walked and she talked, I wandered mentally back to my own preschool years. I was told repeatedly that no man would ever want me. Not a good one anyway. (Can you see why I settled for R?) No one would put up with me for long. From the moment I was born, my mother could see that I was a little bitch, and she frequently told me so.
I listen intently to D and inspire her to keep dreaming. My little girl dreams were met with ridicule and scorn.
And, beyond that, the harsh reality that my own mother hated me from birth and the constant repetitive mantra, “No man will ever want you!” drove me to self-loathing. When, as a teenager, I suffered the heartaches so common to that age, I wasn’t able to recover. I was devastated because they proved my mother right.
If my own mother hated me, and I couldn’t blame her because I hated me, too, then surely a righteous God couldn’t love me either. If I was beyond hope, born rotten, I could not be redeemed by His holiness. I could not stand before Him.
When R took his turn berating me and beating me it only further proved Mommy Dearest right. Though I’d been “saved,” I knew that I was somehow getting in to Heaven only by the skin of my teeth. Perhaps not. Why else would God allow me and my poor, innocent children to suffer like this? I was being punished for my innate rottenness, and my children were being punished for no other reason than being my offspring.
I didn’t doubt God’s goodness. I just didn’t think it was for me. I’d been told it wasn’t. And, I hadn’t been able to see it and taste it and touch it in my life. I’d certainly seen it in the lives of others, so I knew it was real. Just not for me.
R took me to the same depths of pain and degradation my mother fed me on. It was like spiraling down the same hole over and over again. And, I had to admit those same questions remained. I couldn’t stuff it and stand in church and pretend. I couldn’t raise my hands in worship to a God I believed didn’t love me as much as he did the former drug addict in the front row or the perfect mother of ten in the row in front of me, all ten children lined up quietly in matching homemade outfits.
I needed to lose everything. I needed to face the loss of my health and possibly my very life. I needed to lose my parents and R all at the same time. I needed to stand naked and destitute for all to see my shame. Because it was only in that state of complete emptiness and need that God could swoop down with the arms of others, here in my hometown and strangers I’ve never met, and express His great love for me.
If I had been full and content, happily married to a wonderful man who loved me and treated me kindly, I would not have faced the demons of my past. I would not have dealt with that corner of doubt. I would have always worried that this imaginary man would come to know the real me and leave at any given time. I would have never realized how much my Savior does indeed love even me.
Just like my hero, I needed certain experiences in order to learn my required life lessons for the perfect path God has chosen for me. R was a cruel schoolmaster, but he taught a required course.