HOLDING ONTO GOD
BY: SUNNY ORLY COFFMAN
OCTOBER 1, 2000
As I lay in my little Jenny Linn twin bed, I’m not only aware of the steady breathing of my mom across the room, but I can hear the first drops of rain as they begin to make their tap dancing sounds on the top of the “swamp cooler” hanging in our only bedroom window of this tiny one bedroom apartment – one side of a duplex my father purchased a few months ago so he could off-set the cost of providing a place for us to stay. It was an unspoken agreement that we would keep an eye on the place, keep the yard looking reasonably in order, collect the rent, and prepare the other side to rent, should it become vacant. In this fashion, we could help “earn” our right to stay there.
I couldn’t remember when it began, but for as long as I could remember, I had a dread of going to sleep without at least a sheet covering my back. I had always slept on my stomach. And at some time, I became convinced that if I were not protected by this sheet, someone would stab me in the back while asleep. Only a child could think that a sheet would be any protection against such an attack, but it was real to me and that simple cover brought me great peace of mind.
Why was I troubled tonight? Why couldn’t I fall asleep immediately as I did most nights? My mind wandered back to a telephone conversation my mom had earlier today with her sister that lived only a few blocks away. I could tell that my aunt was asking her usual prying questions in an attempt to find out just how mom and I were “managing” since mom didn’t work and yet we seemed to continue to exist somehow. My mother always refused to give my father any credit for our continued financial provision, but even to a child my young age, her answers to my aunts really didn’t make any sense either.
Mom always claimed to be keeping children, taking in sewing, etc. Just to make ends meet. Yet none of mom’s family ever saw any of the sewing she did or met any of the children that were entrusted into her care. It always troubled my young heart when I heard these lies being told. And yet my mom spoke of the “good Lord” often and always told me to tell the truth no matter what the circumstance. The double standard of saying one thing and teaching something else left me with many questions.
Lying wasn’t the only double standard I observed. Mom also smoked cigarettes and preached at the same time that I was never to touch a cigarette. She exhibited a vocabulary that was less than lady-like and yet encouraged me to use proper grammar and never to use any words that were not becoming to a young lady. I couldn’t really understand that mom just wanted a better life for me than she had – and was trying, in her own way, to give me the best she could. All I could see was dishonesty, a double-standard, and deception. Little did I realize that it was having a deep affect inside of me – causing me to build up a stronghold in my thinking that would adversely shape my future life.
My mom never had a kind word to say about men. She preached to me constantly that I would be better off if I never married because men all took advantage of women. In her perception, they would just use a woman, lie to her, cheat on her behind her back, and live a double-life. Mother had been married twice – once when she was in her early 20’s and again at age 35. In both cases, she claimed that each of these husbands had gone off and run around with other women behind her back and then finally left her to be with younger women. Again, this continued repetition of tales out of her own past concerning men and how unfairly they had treated her, only planted negative seeds of doubt and distrust in my mind concerning men, in general, and certainly any man that might show a personal interest in me.
We are all products of our own particular environment. And my environment had set me up for failure in the trust department. As a result of all these negative seeds being planted in the garden of my mind; and me not knowing enough to “weed my garden”, I allowed a bumper crop of distrust – perhaps even hatred of men to grow.
The obvious lies that I heard my mom speak to family members also added to my collection of reasons not to trust. Without realizing what was actually happening to me, I grew up not trusting anyone – not just confining my doubts to men only.
I went to work in the engineering department of a huge aircraft company as soon as I graduated from high school. I had a passionate drive to get further education. My own father had offered to pay for my college education, but I could see that he was struggling financially and had two younger children by his current marriage. I didn’t want to cheat them and I didn’t want to feel obligated. So my own pride and fear kept me from accepting his offer. Instead, I took this job and enrolled in night classes at a junior college… determined to open doors of opportunity for myself to have a better life than my mother ever had and to put myself in a place where I didn’t have to depend on anyone to help make a living for me.
My mother and father had divorced when I was only 18 months old. I had no memory of my father at home. He was always the person that came around pretty regularly, showed some outward affection toward my mom but was married to another woman. He gave my Mom barely enough money to buy us food, pay the utilities, and bus fare to go shopping once a week. I had a very distorted view of what home life was really like. My lack of trust of my own earthly father made it very difficult for me to put any faith and trust in a God I could not see –a God that claimed to be my heavenly father. And, yet he was the only thing – “person” – that I dared to trust. I talked to him constantly and saw him come through for me in hundreds of ways during my “growing up” years.
Once, in a time of real challenge, I asked the Lord why he allowed me to be born in the home of a broken marriage, double standards, deception, poverty, and all the other things that I saw as negative. His answer neutralized all of my resentment and doubt and caused me to cling to him in an even greater way. He said: “I allowed you to see how futile it is to place your trust in human beings. Your only hope had to be in me.”
God has been my only father – the one that has stood beside me through my entire life. He has never let me go hungry or without shelter. He has allowed some wonderful challenges into my life for growth experiences, but He has always been there with me – never deserted me, never failed to speak in the midst of a circumstance – never failed to warn me of an impending danger – never ceased to let me know that He loves me.
May you get a new revelation of the “whys” of your life and see God in all of those things that have seemed to bring you grief and dare to believe that God has allowed it all for His holy purpose because He loves you so much.
HOLDING ONTO GOD [Sunny Orly Coffman] 10-1-00 1