Thanksgiving Day 1970 was not a good one in the Lynch home. Dad and I were not in a good place. By 17, I had developed into a fast talking, rebellious punk, with a sharp, clever and sarcastic vocabulary and attitude. I was usually angry, flippant or indifferent at home. People outside my family thought I was wonderful, winsome and charming. The people living in my home did not share that particular sentiment. It all came to a head that drizzly, cold morning, about an hour before the Thanksgiving meal. I can’t even remember what it was about. But dad and I got into a shouting match…and for the first time ever, I was in his face, inches apart from each other. He said something more and…I pushed him. I had never, ever thought of doing that before. But this Thanksgiving I was now several inches taller than him and clearly in better shape. It was time to let him know that I was no longer a kid he could just intimidate with loudness.
Except I hadn’t factored in “old man strength.” Old man strength is a momentary, supernatural power I think God gives to men in their late 40s often all the way into their 70s, for just such rare occasions. It’s like the adrenaline-strength people have who are suddenly needed to help lift a car off someone. Well, in that moment, dad had it. He grabbed my arm, jerked it behind my back, flipped me around and spun me to the ground, all in one devastating move. Then he held me down for a few seconds, snarling something about “never trying something stupid like that again.” I was totally undone, embarrassed, angry, hurt, and impressed all in one emotion. I immediately got up and ran out of the house, not knowing what else to do. I was several blocks away before I could even register what was going on. The rain had strengthened and it was growing colder by the minute. I had no jacket, and I couldn’t risk sneaking back into the house. So I started walking…and walking…and walking…I walked from about 1 in the afternoon until after dark.
Somewhere around four o’clock the anger went away and was replaced…with deep, lonely sadness and a sense of despair I’d never experienced before. In that darkening several hours, I felt unknown by anyone; unloved and unlovable. I fully understood something was deeply wrong with me and I didn’t have the vaguest idea what to do about it. It wasn’t a repentant sorrow, only a devastating discovery without any hope of resolve. Every step I took it got worse. Sometime after four in the afternoon, on Thanksgiving Day 1970, I was hit with the full effect of my shame and that horrible sense that I was not just behaving poorly but that something was deeply wrong with me.
That afternoon sent me into ten years of lost wandering, trying to find myself, trying to figure out why I felt alone, even though I was popular and well liked everywhere I went. It took me into a maze of drugs, wrong relationships with women and dozens of drives across the country, trying to find something that would answer or take away this darkness.
That answer would come nine years and a month later, on December 23rd, 1979, when I quit running long enough to ask Jesus Christ to forgive me and take me as His. For the first time ever, I felt known and truly loved. It undid me. I was finally home. It would take years more to discover that I didn’t have to carry and be identified by that shame from my past. But somewhere in the following years, even after seminary, and afterpreaching for quite awhile, I slowly began to trust His love, His power, His new identity enough to start to reframe and reinterpret my self-story.
I still now can go there, into that dark place. Isn’t that crazy sounding? But I can. It doesn’t actually take much. I don’t expect it will fully go away in this lifetime. But I spend much, much less time there. An odd residue of that season is that I have never much enjoyed Thanksgiving. I have always associated it with great sadness and inadequacy in me. That too is beginning to change. God has been continually faithful to keep repainting my landscape and redeeming my past. The last several years I have been almost enjoying the day. Four years ago I created this game for my kids and I to play. I never thought of the beautiful irony of it until typing this sentence. We go out and walk the streets…for hours. Either after or before our Thanksgiving meal…But we carry fruit from neighborhood trees and have several hour contests through the neighborhoods to see who can roll the grapefruit or orange closest to predetermined targets. This year it will be the “4thAnnual Lynch Citrus Roll Invitational.” We walk many of the same streets I did that day, 38 years ago. I hadn’t even thought of that fact until right this moment. Wow, thank you God!
And so it goes with all of us. We are all fragile, broken, shattered from the results of the Fall. And in magic that can only be seen in retrospect, the precious, loving Friend of our souls-He is repainting our stories with richer, deeper colors. And they are in some way I cannot yet understand, even more beautiful than they could be, if the ugliness of the past had never happened.
Happy Thanksgiving friends!
From John, Bruce, Bill and all of us at TrueFaced-to all of you daring to trust the love, grace and identity that Jesus brings.