Welcome! I recently read a story, a story that made my heart just about burst out of my chest and I am so excited to share it with you...but before I go there, I want to tie up a loose end from last week’s podcast episode.
(I didn’t write a detailed post last week, I only released the podcast because….well, some stories are better “in person.”)
Last week my daughter Rachel shared her story and I loved it so much because she clearly demonstrated the transformative power of healing and how finding her real identity set her free.
I also want to share with you how much I love my daughter. We’ve kind of been pointing at pieces of her in high school, times when she was not very nice. But that’s just not who she is, especially now.
Rachel is an influencer. She is also a gatherer of people. So when she walks into a room, her heart wants to wrap everyone in that room together. And most of the time she does it. She creates unity within groups. She sees the best in others.
And yes, she is loud and happy and carefree.
One day Rachel and I were in the kitchen laughing and being kind of obnoxious. My dear husband, who likes predictability and quiet and routine walked into the kitchen and said, “Hey, I signed up for one Lori, not two.”
I am still smiling.
In many many ways, Rachel and I are the same person. Except she is so much further down the road than I was at the age of 23. I am so proud of that girl.
I know that we have REALLY showcased her negativity here and there and I wanted to be sure you knew her NOW.
If you have not had the chance to listen to episode seven, do it now. It was powerful.
In that podcast we showcased the power of healing that we, the parents, can give to our children when we see them in their sin and their yuck and we love them anyway.
And you, dear mother friend, may have had the sense that wow, Lori is perfect and I’ll never get there so I might was well curl up and die right now.
I know that’s how we can sometimes hear things as women. But there is another aspect to that story that is necessary for you, the mother to hear.
Okay….when I was with Rachel and when she shared her struggles with me, it was like the grace of God took over and enveloped us. We both felt it.
But later, after she left and went back to college, healed and happy, I felt like a sharp knife had been plunged into my heart.
I walked around with this bleeding ache in my heart, an ache that was really hard to describe. I tried sharing it with my husband and after a bit he said, “You need to talk with your therapists.”
So I called my two best friends, Marilee and Karla.
I shared with them what Rachel had gone through and I mostly shared the way my heart ached for all of the lies and the sin and the gross. I was mad at myself, at life, at hormones, at sin, at the devil, at the shitty, horrible, no good parts of life.
They took my feelings and my emotions and as good friends do, they helped me sift through it all. They helped me get back to me.
I share that “underside” of the story because I know that some of you needed to hear that. I know that because when I was a young mom an older mom was giving a presentation on raising children at our parish. I was so excited to go because I needed help. Being a mom was harder than I had anticipated. I was overwhelmed by my children and I needed another mom to share her path with me.
Well, I went and this mom shared the good. She shared the strong. By the time she ended her presentation we had enough info on her two perfect children to start the beatification process.
I left that presentation worse off than when I went. I felt like she was set apart.
I knew my family would never make it.
Later that week I ran into that mom and didn’t have the nicest thoughts running through my head about her happy little fam fam.
Then I thought to myself, surely she had struggles. Why not ask her? So I plunged ahead and told her that her presentation was good but I really wanted to know what to do in the hard parts.
When I asked, she gave me the gift.
She shared with me the struggle, the hard, the difficult.
As she shared that she occasionally wanted to walk out of her house and never go back, well, that gave me something, something that her perfect presentation did not deliver.
I asked her why she had not shared that DURING the presentation. She said she wanted to protect her children so she made the decision to only share the good.
Now, I get that. But if she would have just thrown in the occasional “And of course there are times when I want to bury my children alive in the backyard,” I would have more accepting of the REST of her message.
So many times presenters and bloggers and social media friends give us the Best Version of Their Story and they leave out how they had dry heaves and wanted to kill someone…
I think it’s not only okay, but actually essential to share the whole story.
Loving well doesn’t mean always loving how that feels.
It just means making the choice to love as God loves and then working through any residue emotions with those that can bear the weight of our entire story.
Okay. Now I feel better.
Now to Part Two of this blog post:
I love love love to read. At this exact moment I have 8 different books within about a six foot radius of me.
I love books that are a little off the beaten path, written by authors that have the guts to tell their story in ALL of its pain and agony...and that can show me how they experienced the redemptive power of love within that same story.
I meet Jesus in people like that. And I usually get startled into seeing how to love. Again. It’s a story I evidently need to hear a lot.
Today I am going to share with you the story of Larry Malaney. I found this story in the book, The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning.
I was intrigued by Brennan Manning’s writing style.
It is evident that he has experienced the grace of God in a profound way.
I was also startled to read that Brennan had been a priest but left the priesthood. (Not sure if he was asked to leave or left on his own accord.) He clearly said hex struggled with sexual sin as well as alcohol. My priest scandal radar went up at that time but I kept reading.
Brennan confessed that after trying to be Mother Teresa, after trying for years and years and year to earn grace, he found peace and acceptance in the embrace of His Real Father.
Yes. That. That’s the message that made me trust Brennan Manning.
Without further ado, I want to share the story of Larry Malaney and the transforming power of love:
In the 1960’s Brennan Manning was teaching at a university in Ohio where he met a student by the name of Larry Malaney.
According to Brennan, Larry was just about the ugliest human being he had ever run across.
He had extreme low self-esteem. In fact, Brennan states that he had never met another human being with such low self-esteem.
Not one person on campus wanted to be near Larry.
Larry was also a self-proclaimed agnostic; he had no belief in anything.
During Christmas break Larry went back home to visit his family in Rhode Island. His parents were staunch Irishmen; his dad wore a suit and tie to dinner every evening.
The break was spent with Larry, “smelling like a Billy goat,” quarreling off and on with his father, which was their typical family experience.
Towards the end of the break Larry told his dad that he was going back to university the next day. His dad replied that he would ride the bus for the first leg of the journey with.
The next morning father and son rode the bus together to the first stop.
They stepped off the bus near the textile factory where his father worked. Across the street were six men. Six men that worked with Larry’s father.
They started making fun of Larry, calling him a fat pig. They made oinking noises and yelled, “If that kid was mine, I’d hide him the basement, I’d be so embarrassed.”
The men were brutal.
Larry didn’t react, he had heard it all before. He knew who he was.
Then, right there at that bus stop, in front of those six jeering men, for the first time in Larry’s life, his father reached out, embraced him, kissed him on the lips and said,
“Larry, if your mother and I live to be two hundred years old, that wouldn’t be long enough to thank God for the gift He gave to us in you. I am so proud that you’re my son!”
Brennan Manning said that the radical transformation that occurred in Larry Malaney when he came back to university was hard to put into words.
Larry cleaned up. He started dating a girl. He not only joined a fraternity, he became the president of the fraternity. He graduated with a 4.2 GPA, the first student to ever do so. He was a brilliant scholar.
Larry went into (then Father) Brennan’s office and said, “Tell me about this man Jesus.” For six weeks, in half-hour increments, Fr. Brennan shared with Larry what the Holy Spirit had revealed to him about Jesus.
After those six weeks, Larry said, “Okay.”
On June 14, 1974, Larry Malaney was ordained a priest in the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island. He spent the next twenty years in a missionary in South America, totally “sold out to Jesus Christ.”
Why? Because of his father’s decision to bless. His father healed his son by his blessing.
“His father looked deeply into his son’s eyes, saw the good in Larry Malaney that Larry couldn’t see for himself, affirmed him with a furious love, and changed the whole direction of his son’s life.”
I love that so much. SO MUCH.
That story made me cry. It made me think. It made me think about my life, my mothering, my heart.
I have two questions for you.
First, how would this story have been different if Larry’s father would have, at that bus stop, just sighed a heavy sigh….a sigh of recognition for all that was failing within his son?
I can see myself sighing and telling my kid, “Okay, there’s your bus. See you later.”
How would Larry’s life been different if his father would have done that?
What do you think happened to Larry’s father’s heart while he stood on the bus stop with his son?
The father was not divine. He was human. He had clear expectations of his son and they were not being met.
Yet, amid the name-calling from his co-workers, he was able to look at his obese, ugly child...this leper...a leper oozing puss…..and he kissed him full on the mouth and bestowed a fatherly blessing upon him.
What happened within his heart? How did he overcome his human pride? He had desires for his son, and those were totally unmet. How did he overcome all of that humanity within himself?
The story doesn’t say, but I sort of think that God the Father had to have given him a moment of clarity, a gorgeous flash of insight, a “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED” kind of moment.
A moment when the father saw the real. The authentic. The pure. The good. The lovely. Within himself as well as within his Larry.
The understanding of who he really was set him free. His father accepted him as he was. The acceptance not was based on his behavior.
It was not If/Then: “If” you act a certain way, “Then” I will love you.
It was, “You are mine. Welcome.”
It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around a love like that, simply because I love If/Then. Without thinking. Because it seems so rational, so prudent. The behavior must be there first, right?
But that’s not how God the Father loves.
Next week I’ll share my conversion story with you, the story of how I learned to trust God the Father.
Mother, (and any fathers reading) never EVER underestimate the power of your blessing on your child. How we speak, how we smile, how we accept them...all of it matters.