YHVH Rapha

He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” ex 15.26

The Glass Castle

A friend recommended that I read this book.  So I borrowed it from the public library and it sat on the table for two weeks.  When I finally picked the book up and sat to read it, I devoured it in three days.  I had to force myself to put it down and even then the shock and horror of what I read stayed with me all day.  Language wise, it is an easy reading book.  But if you consider the implications of what Jeannette Walls has written, it was very difficult to read.

It is the story of her childhood.  She talks about her father, who spent the family’s money on alcohol, disappeared for days, and yet taught his children science and complex math.  She talks about her mother, who preferred painting to cooking, accumulated books and glass bottles and painting supplies, and didn’t bother with structure or schedules ; and yet, when three-year-old Jeannette burned herself cooking hot dogs, her mother was there in a moment to help her.

Jeannette talks about being hungry and having no food in the house, being shunned by other kids because of her body odor and dirty clothing.  She and her siblings relied on themselves and stuck together.  They were self-sufficient and resourceful.  They ate whatever they could find in the woods or even in garbage cans.  They worked hard to earn extra money not for food or nicer clothes, but to move to New York City where they thought they could live easier.

True, there were two very distinct periods in her childhood.  First were the early days of nomadic living, of sleeping in the car, making do with whatever they could find, and picking up in the middle of the night to move on.  The family worked together and they were happy. The later years of being stuck in a small West Virginia mining community were much more difficult.  By then Jeannette had grown up enough to see her parents’ faults.   And yet, she writes about them so lovingly.  And she and her siblings grew up and thrived in their lives.

I am constantly comparing myself to others and this book throws me way off.  On the one hand, I would say that my childhood was nowhere near as bad. We always had food to eat and clothes to wear.  And yet my struggles with self esteem, with who I am, and how I relate to others, the difficulties that I have . . . she does not have these.  So who really grew up abused?  And what constitutes abuse?  Is a parent who fails to provide for a child’s physical needs, yet attends to their emotional needs really abusing their children?  Once again I am left with the conclusion that emotional abuse is worse than physical neglect.

I found a you tube video about this book.  Jeannette Walls talks briefly about her childhood and the book.  I think that her last statement is very profound:

You could look at the glass castle as another one of my father’s drunken promises, or as hope for the future.   It is whatever you choose to make of it.

So maybe I need to re-think my childhood.  What things do I see as negative? Where is the benefit in them?

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