Family Ties – Getrude’s Story
Growing up I never really understood the value of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day. When I asked my friends why they celebrated these occasions, their answers always related to wanting to honour their family.
But what if you don’t feel like your family is worth celebrating?
My two siblings and I grew up in a home that was defined by abuse; abuse of alcohol, drugs, trust and responsibility. Both of my parents spent much of their time partying and drinking. The drinking would lead to arguments and the arguments would lead to physical fighting and eventually violence. They didn’t seem to care where they were or who was watching. We lived in a small town but our neighbours never intervened. They just watched it all unfold and then gossiped about my family the next day. I was so embarrassed.
I spent my weekends cleaning up broken glasses, washing blood off the floor and cleaning the wounds my parents inflicted upon each other during their fights. I hoped and prayed that things would change but they didn’t. Every weekend brought more drinking and more fighting. Every weekend another piece of my heart broke. I longed to feel loved and to experience normal family life.
My siblings and I were pawns in the toxic games that my parents played with each other. If my mother did not get her way with my father she would direct her anger towards me. If my father couldn’t handle my mothers moods, he would hide behind me. My mother seemed to make it her life’s mission to belittle me. I felt like dirt under her shoe. She constantly compared me to others, calling me stupid and hopeless.
She filled my head with negativity to the point that I began to believe the words that she spoke over me. I had dreams for my future, but over time those dreams faded away. I felt worthless.
After I finished high school my parents made it clear that they would not support me in any further studies. My mother forced me to work as a cleaner at her workplace so I could bring in extra income for the family. I longed to be a daughter that my mother would be proud of but no matter what I did it was never good enough for her. I hated my life and dreamed of escaping. I felt so alone. I lived with a burden of pain and sadness that was so great I thought it would crush me.
Many times I felt abandoned by God but one day, out of the blue, I met a group of church ladies who were much older than me and they became my spiritual mothers and grandmothers. One of them in particular seemed to know just the right time to call and say ‘Hi’. Whenever I talked to her she would tell me that she loved me. I wonder if she knew how much that meant to me. She was interested in the real me and asked me about my dreams and hopes and fears. Sadly, she passed away a few months after we met but her unconditional love and encouragement had helped me to start dreaming again. She reminded me that God was at work in my life and that there was more of life for me to experience and enjoy.
I made the decision to travel and work overseas. It was during this time that God revealed himself to me in a way that I had never experienced Him before. I had the opportunity to work in church ministry for three years. Surrounded by new friends I experienced the love and acceptance of the family of God. I began to see the love of God expressed in small but meaningful ways every day. One of the women from my church made a special point of telling me I was beautiful whenever she saw me, another took an interest in my goals and dreams and helped me prepare a resume for job applications. Yet another older woman walked along side me as I experienced healing from the wounds of my past.
She showed me what it meant to love without agenda, to forgive even when there is no obvious justice.
In each of these interactions and relationships I began to see that God was revealing His love and character to me. In 2015 I returned home to South Africa and started working as a financial administrator at a University. I am also enrolled in a Diploma of Management at no cost to me. My dreams are beginning to be realised.
Now that I have experienced the love and acceptance of God I no longer look for those things from my mother. I have allowed God to fill the empty places in my heart and I am so grateful to Him for showing me what real love looks like. My relationship with my family is still a work in progress but the physical abuse has stopped and the fights and drinking are nowhere near as frequent. I have learned what real love is and experienced family life that is positive and safe. As I walk in love I have been able to show my parents what love looks like and feels like. This year we celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We now join together for a meal at Christmas. God is restoring my family, one day at a time.
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love;
let’s practice real love.
This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly,
living in God’s reality.
1 John 3:18-20 (MSG)