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Susan McGeown

Author, Speaker, & Teacher



Me, God, & Transformation

Posted by Susan McGeown on 23 December, 2017 at 21:00

My childhood memories are riddled with worry, sewn together with panic, and painted with dread: about school, about gettingt things wrong, about getting in trouble, about being alone … None of my fears were rationale in case you were wondering. I was raised in a loving, middle-class family that included close extended family. My mom stayed home with the kids, my dad went off to work every day, and if the weather was good all the neighborhood kids played kickball in the street every day after school. With slight variations I had a very similar up bringing to those typical television families we all remember: Donna Reed could have been my mom, Andy Griffith my dad, I lived in a house like the one in My Three Sons, and I even had a friend like Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver (although her name was Janet and she was a girl).


I was a“nervous, shy” child and my mother still jokes (I’m almost sixty now) about the permanent wrinkle marks in the hem of her dress from me clinging desperately to her wherever we went. I hated birthday parties and sunny days because they required me to leave the safety and security of my life. Aside from being home with mom, there were very, very few places where I wanted to be.


I always had the most fun playing at home in my house. Friend’s houses had scary big brothers or sisters, terrifying food (surprise, surprise I was also a picky eater), and unfamiliar rules. I refused to take swim lessons so I never learned to swim, I quit Brownies after only one painful year, I never joined a sports team or a school club, and when encouraged to learn an instrument chose the solitary piano.


My first memories of kindergarten were of big hands holding my shoulders while my mother left through the door and I screamed. I threw up before class trips terrified to be traveling farther away from home than school had already required me to be. This continued right through high school. (I cried every night before the first day of school up and through sixth grade.) You’d think that I would have enjoyed weekends and vacations but they were shadowed by dreary clouds of misery due to the inevitable, eventual required return to school on Monday.


Church wasn’t much better. Although I was forced to attend Sunday school, I eschewed attending as many youth oriented activities as possible; happy to sit quietly and contentedly next to mom in the big pew throughout the sermon. My terrors grew to include being up in front of people which eliminated playing piano on talent Sunday and participating in children’s choir. I vividly remember my mother offering me a whole dollar (big money back in 1967) if I’d participate in the church’s children’s choir and sing the song I had rehearsed. As much as I wanted that dollar, I refused.


There was nothing that could induce me to leave home. Ever.


Amazingly, God was at work in my life early on, even in the midst of my anxieties. Prayers brought me security in the deep dark night as I huddled in bed fearing the end of the world, the monster in theattic, or the death of my parents. (Yes,those were some of many things I stressed over.) I clung desperately to the Bible stories I was taught about Joseph being separated from his family and sold into slavery only to triumph, David who faced a giant with only five small stones and a sling and succeeded, and Daniel who faced a den of lions and lived to tell about it. Surely if God helped these faithful young men He would help me, too. My belief was rooted not only in the essence of who God is but in the deeds I knew He had done and would continue to do.


At the age of eight I made a public profession of faith stunning everyone not the least my parents. I walked to the front of the large congregation - by myself - and asked the Lord to come into my heart and take over my life. To this day, after almost sixty years of living, my memory of that day is vivid. For weeks I had felt as if someone was literally pushing me out of the pew and urging me to go forward. I certainly didn’t want to go. But the urge became so all-consuming that it finally could not be ignored. I remember everyone towering over me, the choir in their robes, the smiling faces of the congregation and Pastor Griffith’s shock of red hair and kindly voice. But what is the most powerful aspect of that memory is the fact that I remember the three of us standing in front of the smiling congregation. That third presence, invisible to all and yet fully felt by me, was strong enough to make me do something totally outside of my confidence or ability with no memory of fear . That memory is as powerful to me today as it was then and that push out into the church aisle was the first of many steps of faith for me that continue to this day. Timid little, frightened little, shy little me went on to meet and be questioned - on my own - with the Board of Deacons (oh,okay, Daddy was a deacon but I didn’t even get to sit next to him). On my own I responded to questions about my profession of faith and my desire to be baptized. When I participated in full immersion baptism it was at a point in my life when I still refused to put my face under water in the shower. Talk about transformation through Christ!


My life is not a happily-ever-after story from then on. But neither is it a tragedy. Through His great love He has allowed me to flourish rather than fade. His strong presence helps me stay focused on what is right and produces a blaring siren on what is wrong. And when I fail or flounder, His stunning grace encourages me to dust myself off and start again. I have learned to link my ever present anxiety to my faith. I try daily to take my every step with prayer and I keep a daily journal about what worries me and what delights me. If I feel a peace about a choice I’m about to make or a direction I’m about to take then I know that God is walking right beside me. If anxiety becomes all-consuming then I stop, and wait, and pray, and listen for His still small voice (or loud thundering shout) to redirect me.


As much as I hated school (up and through college) I also, passionately, wanted to become a teacher. In a tough economy when teaching was a dead-end career I secured a job in a thriving community and taught happily and successfully for over thirteen years. Despite endless poor choices in relationships He guided me to meet the perfect man at the perfect time in my life allowing me to have the always dreamed of wish of a husband and children.


Yet,adulthood brought to light another issue that needed to be dealt with in my life: depression. Anxiety regularly chips away at self-confidence, as does daily life. Simple disasters and numerous failures (large and small) are hard to ignore and even harder to forget no matter what you are told. Marriage and children brought about endless challenges that I so desperately wanted (needed?) to get right - an impossibility for anyone. In a strange,odd way my faith masked my depression; I had no fear of death, in fact I quite looked forward to my promised next life. At the worst of times, my skewed reality knew for a fact that my husband and children would be so much better off without the over-emotional, incompetent, worthless wreck that I was.


Medication and therapy help. I thank God every day for the wonders of modern science and the skill and caring of well-trained therapists. I still, passionately, look forward to my next life that promises no tears, no worry, and no hurt. But I know that we are each given a purpose and I was called very early to do mine. Even at my saddest times, I cannot forget that presence that was so palpably beside me when I was eight years old. I also cannot ignore the numerous, never-ending blessings that fill my life.


Just in case you’re wondering, my favorite place in the whole world is still my home. Isn’t God wonderful that He’s allowed me to become a writer? Just in case you’re curious, I still prefer to have friends come to me. Isn’t it incredible that God has given me numerous opportunities to open my home and use my teaching skills to conduct Bible studies? And just in case you haven’t noticed, God’s still pushing me out of my comfort zone. I’m standing in front of you conducting this seminar, aren’t I?


My faith has transformed me. The struggles that make up my life and the multitude of failures in my past that could easily be a bag of awful rocks around my neck are now precious gems I gladly display. Look what God has done in my life! Look what God has blessed me with! Look what God thinks I am capable of and has called me to do! I feel God’s patient,persistent, hand gently pushing me out of my comfort zone almost every single day. I have chosen to continue to belike the trusting eight year old I was so many years ago and follow that unforgettable presence.


Categories: Empowerment, Depression & Anxiety

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