I cried over my milk last night. Not because I’d spilled it, but actually because of a much more important issue: there wasn’t enough milk in my cereal.
I was sick of partially-submerged cereal. I’d been a milk martyr for far too long.
When my servant-hearted husband brought me the cereal in the first place and I realized it didn’t have enough milk for my preference, I felt crushed. Didn’t he know? Didn’t he know how much milk I needed after fifteen years together? My first feeling was one of sadness and resignation—I felt I should just be thankful and eat what was given to me. My next feeling actually came as a spark of anger—This was unjust! I was wronged!
This flip-flopping of emotions was exhausting and launched me next into feelings of self-accusation and condemnation. Just get over it. What’s wrong with you? I was tempted to stuff the pain and ignore it because I was also tired. But the Holy Spirit nudged me gently into a different direction:
“Pay attention to this. Pay attention to what your heart is saying.”
So I took a minute and just sat with the feeling. I tried to probe deeper into my emotions. What was going on? Why this extreme reaction to a very minimal event in my day? It was just a bowl of cereal for goodness’ sake—not some massive family crisis. But I knew enough by now to know that an extreme reaction like this was usually masking something much deeper. What was it?
And then BOOM!—there it was. It hit me like the BRIGHTEST freight train ever:
I’d NEVER had enough of what I needed.
The quiet introspection had paid off. I finally saw the root of an issue that had plagued me for years but I could never quite figure out. Like a newly-receded tooth, I felt like the root issue was totally obvious now.
How did I not see this before?
After discovering this emotional root, various memories began to scroll before my eyes like a movie reel. I remembered how much neglect had played a part in my early childhood years. Both parents always gone. Childcare provided by a mushpot of nannies, dysfunctional family members and sexual predators.
I remembered the emotional starvation—how often I was forced by authorities to accept less than what I really needed. Crucial emotional ingredients like attentiveness, active listening, emotional connection, healthy physical touch, and even safety were few and far between. Inconsistency had been my biggest childhood companion.
I realized that neglect had taught me not to expect too much from others or even life itself. I learned that what I needed didn’t matter. I learned that “What you get is what you get—and you don’t get upset.”
I also remembered the abuse—times when authorities actively pushed against my own boundaries and needs. Like being forced to eat oysters as a young child and almost puking. Like being forced to swim down powerful river rapids that almost drowned me. Like having a parent chase me and barge into my room when I just needed space and privacy. Like all the years of hidden sexual abuse that continued on unnoticed by the people who were supposed to be protecting and keeping me safe.
I realized that the abuse and disrespect of my boundaries had taught me that authorities got to make all the decisions. I learned that I did NOT get a choice. I learned submission, victimization, and powerlessness.
I realized that I had learned a lot of things but I had NEVER learned how to get my needs met.
And now here I was: a married woman with four children who didn’t know how to ask for more milk—who didn’t think that she even DESERVED more milk.
So I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I went downstairs and added some more milk into my bowl. I FLOODED that cereal. And then I sat in my favorite chair, ate my cereal and cried. And I invited God into that space to clean out the pain and heal me.
It felt wonderfully reconciling. I was finally grieving. It was a new experience for me but it felt so timely and God-orchestrated. The backlog of suppressed pain was finally finding its channel to be released.
These grieving tears felt so much different than self-pity tears. Self-pity tears never resolved anything. They were always an endless revolving-door of pain.
Grieving tears made me feel lighter. They were tears of release and self-acceptance. I was releasing the pain. I was accepting myself and reconciling to the story of my past. I could own the truth of my story now: so much of my childhood had majorly sucked. I didn’t need to lie to myself anymore. I didn’t need to accept the script any longer that others had fed to me over the years. I finally believed myself.
And as I cried, a lot of the pain got out. It was like I could feel God wiping away my tears. I didn’t need to wait for Heaven—He wanted to do it now.
A bowl of cereal. Who knew? God will use anything to bring healing.
Trusting in the Great Redeemer,
Kristin (newly-redeemed milk martyr)