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Below is a potential excerpt of my memoir-in-progress. My present title is Labor Pains: Breaking Generational Patterns by Healing Maternal Wounds.

Scene set up: At the time that this occurred I was about four years into my service as solo pastor of my former congregation. We had entered into a church revitalization process to which we were committed for two years. As the pastor, I was the leader of the small group of volunteers who comprised the revitalization team. The first step of the process was engaging in a weekend retreat called Purposeful Living. During that retreat, God moved and spoke to me in a mighty, and most unexpected way.

I am most open to your comments, suggestions, and edits. Thanks in advance!

When my turn came to share revelations garnered from the retreat exercise with my small group, the truth thrust out of my buried awareness like Old Faithful spewing, an uncontained occurrence of nature. I began apprehending and linking things in real-time, and I could contain the internal storms no longer. The water came gushing out of my eyes, and the internal violent winds reduced me to a fetal position in the company of the members of my small group. My thoughts were an erratic stream of realization.

“I’m gonna have to leave this congregation…I’m meant for something bigger…I thought this had died, never to return…I can’t abandon y’all, what would y’all think of me?…I’d never abandon anyone…My mother did the same thing to me…I can’t do this…I can’t. abandon. my. babies!” (There went my stay-in-control-and-lead plan.)

Uh, what?

What did I just say? Was that out loud? Nothing resembling the last part of my utterance had ever crossed my mind, much less exited my mouth. I knew not of what I was speaking. Yet I instinctively trusted the Mystery present in the moment and I followed, out-of-body-experience like. A long-repressed memory came flashing into the forefront of my mind.

All of a sudden, I was seven-years-old, standing in the courtyard of an entrance to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio that was familiar to me. My mother, at the age of 40, had begun medical school there, and my father was employed in the registrar’s office. The occasion for this campus visit was a photo shoot.

Some type of media was being produced, and a medical student with a spouse and a young child dressed in a dance recital costume were required. It just so happened that my family fit the bill. Voila! We landed the roles.

Although it was many years ago, I can picture as plain as day the photographer directing us, telling who to stand where and what to do with our faces and bodies, and bending down to my level to explain to me what needed to be expressed in each shot. Thankfully, she had storyboarded all of the shots. Perhaps I am a visual learner, for the images proved to be quite helpful for me. Beyond this, the drawings must have been seared into my brain that day, as I recollect them still.

Photo credit: Aisling Keenan, “I Better Watch What I Say”, February 23, 2010

The series of shots depicted the medical student (in our case, the mother) regretfully breaking it to her child that she would be unable to attend her dance recital due to being on call. In one shot my mother was told to kneel on one knee, place her hands on my shoulders, feign a look of sadness, and mimic telling her child the bad news. In another, I was to pretend to cry as Mother sought to explain things to me. We took additional shots of these same poses. Sometimes the camera was zoomed out to show my father in the frame, waiting for me by the car. Additionally, despite the fact that the frames were so meticulously planned, I tried to add yet another shot. This one, I pitched, should be of my mother walking away, towards the building, and me chasing after her, distraught, as if to plead that she not to do this. The photographer merely explained that this was not part of the design.

I cannot recall the reason the production was commissioned. But, significantly, I do remember it having something to do with the emotional cost of a medical career. As far as I’m aware, my family never saw the finished product. However, as I was discovering that retreat day at my church, beholding the outcome wasn’t necessary for even 7-year-old me to catch the drift.

If the perspective of the production was that of the medical student, then the project addressed sacrifice. If, on the other hand, the perspective was that of the family, the message, as far as my young mind and heart could tell, was that the spouse and child(ren) get the short end of the stick when such a huge career decision is made.

It is truly ironic how life often imitates art.

Somehow I came to understand that my mother had chosen her career over me. I didn’t comprehend why, but I knew that it hurt.