We were at a school meeting for parents and my daughter comes over to where I’m sitting and asks, “Mom, why don’t you talk to the other parents?” She was only 7 years old but she could pick up that something was amiss.
I said something like, “I will, sweet pea. You run along and play.” And she did.
Her question made my stomach churn. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to the other parents but they all seemed to be engaged in their conversations and the truth was in that in moment I was scared … scared of rejection. It was so much safer, to sit and watch and smile – pretend that I was happy to sit alone.
And for the rest of the evening, I didn’t have the courage to get up and try talk to any of the parents. Instead I was fighting the pressure in my head that began to feel like it was being pushed on all sides and the nauseous feeling of being overwhelmed and out of place.
For years, I used the excuse that I couldn’t speak Czech well enough to have a decent conversation with anyone and the other parents and teachers around must have assumed that too – because they seldom tried to talk to me.
I knew I had to change – that I had to overcome this fear of rejection – this shame that I felt, if only for my children’s sake.
I didn’t want to pass it on to them because already I was seeing traces of shame in their behavior as well.
For years I wondered — where did I get this idea, this belief that — there is something inherently wrong with me?
And the memory comes to mind of my aunt, my dad’s oldest sister, who had emigrated to the U.S. decades earlier in the 1950s as a young woman. We had just arrived to the U.S. and she sat us children down at the kitchen table and solemnly told us that we must never tell anyone where we were from — that if people knew our origin, they might treat us differently and look down on us.
As an 8 year old, I took the message to heart — there’s something wrong with who I am because there’s something wrong with our origin and it’s something to be ashamed of and hidden.
And so I shut the door to my identity as a Peruvian Indian. As I grew up, we hardly ever talked about our origin or the life we lived in the Peruvian Mountains. We integrated into the American way of life and within a few years we proudly became American citizens and from then on we were Peruvian Americans.
There were several times that I attempted to open that door, especially during my high school years when knowing who I was became of utmost importance. But I didn’t have the wisdom, the help or the courage to even begin to know how to do it.
I wish I knew then what I know now – that there is a balm, the balm of Gilead that heals to the innermost. The balm of Gilead is the Holy Spirit. And when He comes, there is an over-flowing flood of love that fills your heart and you know it’s safe to open those dark places of shame and hurt. And you know that He like no one understands and you realize that He was there at every painful and shameful moment.
He did not reject you then nor does he reject you now. Instead, His arms are open wide ready to receive you. And just as I did that first time I encountered His love, I run to Him and I know I’m accepted and loved.
Yes, I’m a Peruvian Indian but more importantly I’m a daughter of the King. I’m a child of God. And this is the identity I want to pass on to my children.
Oh gosh, this sounds so much like me, in some ways. I have difficulty connecting with new people in a new environment. I pray you have now been able to embrace your heritage. As someone who has several ethnic heritages in my background (Irish, Cherokee, Comanche, German, and French) I’ve always envied those who had a specific and unique heritage.