There I was, a knotty kneed third grade boy, with scuffed elbows and an Alfalfa cowlick, trying to solve a problem miles above my pay grade. My mom insisted that if I wanted to talk to her, I needed to ask for Genevieve.
There was only one problem: my mom’s name was Nancy. I had no clue who this Genevieve person was.
My mom had a long history of mental illness. Her heart’s desire was to be crowned the best mother in the world, yet when her father passed away, her grasp on reality loosened. Only later was she diagnosed with an extreme case of bipolar disorder.
I hated Genevieve. She was an impostor who stole my mom from me. I couldn’t have known she was a character of my mother’s making. All I knew is that I wanted my mom back, and Genevieve stood defiantly between my mother, her sanity, and myself.
Like all mothers, sometimes she needed a break. But when my mom took a break, it would last for days, often locking herself in her closet. My 10-year-old sister would leave messily made peanut butter sandwiches at the door before taking care of the rest of us kids.
One time, as we were pleading for her to come out, I asked my older sister a question I loathed: “Should we ask for Genevieve?” I was so desperate for my mom to be safe, I was driven to deal with the devil – Genevieve. It didn’t work. Mom stayed in the closet. But I still remember the compromise I made that day, and how it made me feel. I would never deal with Genevieve again.
As I grew from a boy into a man, I learned the power of forgiveness, mercy, and love. The early years of my walk with Jesus focused almost solely on forgiving my mother for her flaws. I understood God had forgiven me, and I needed to forgive as well. My relationship with my mother was healed, but I still harboured a special kind of hate for Genevieve.
As an adult, I still felt my stomach turn every time I heard that name. Genevieve still reigned over me with a terrorizing authority. Somehow, those three syllables launched me into a time machine and transported me back to when I knew something wasn’t right, and yet was powerless. Impotent. Back to when I was unable to piece my mom’s jigsaw puzzle of reality back together for her.
God’s plans are perfect and altogether lovely. When we have wounds, He’ll never be content until they are healed. For me, that name was a wound. The years went by, and to be totally honest, the name Genevieve didn’t play much of a role in my life. I was happy. Fulfilled, even. I was loving God, my wife, and the Denver Broncos. But beneath it all, there was still a wound that needed to be taken care of, once and for all.
Then my wife and I met a young couple. We felt an immediate chemistry with them, and knew they would be friends that stuck around for the long haul.
They were pregnant with their first baby. The sonogram proclaimed they had a little girl on the way. And her name would be Genevieve.
As I watched my young friends go through the process of caring and nurturing this baby, my heart was captured. Not only was this child completely innocent, she was also beautiful. (Some people believe all babies are beautiful, and good for them. But most of the babies I see eerily resemble aliens.)
But Genevieve, sweet circumspect Genevieve, was truly beautiful. Not only did her almond eyes look into my very soul, as she toddled through the first few years of her existence, her sensitive heart became as evident as a snow blanket covering a muddy pit. This Genevieve is tender, compassionate, and kind. She is miles removed from the cruel and chaotic Genevieve I used to know.
One day I realized that I loved the name of Genevieve. When I heard it, I thought of my little friend and her adorably kind voice. I thought of the way she loves to play outside, how she once squatted in front a flower, fascinated by the splendor set before her.
With no effort on my part whatsoever, what was once painful now produced warm joy. Genevieve had been redeemed. New memories, new realities, and the healing balm of love did the impossible.
The old Genevieve is long gone. I can’t say that I’ve forgiven her – because she never really existed in the first place. But I’ve been set free. God makes all things new. He heals. Even the deepest of wounds.
Photo by (Flickr CC): TempusVolat