By: Ginny Luedeman
December 22, 2003
CS Sentinel

At Christmas the year Dad left us, I was 15. My mother had no income, no savings, and three children. For years, Dad’s alcoholism had kept the family moving from place to place in search of work, depleting any hope we might have had for financial stability.
When Dad left, I was glad to know the abuse was over. But I did love him, and I felt despair over his leaving. I searched for ways to make my pain go away, but I didn’t always go in good directions.
That Christmas some of my friends exchanged presents. Not wanting them to know how poor we were, I stole gifts for them from a department store. The fear and guilt I felt as I hid the presents under my bed made a deep impression. I was never caught—but being caught up in thinking of myself as a thief was a long-lasting punishment.
When I used to get into trouble, Mother would ask me, “Ginny, who do you think you are?” Frankly, I thought I was the child of an alcoholic, a victim of abuse, a young girl separated from her dad and helpless to do anything about it. And the small amount of religious training I had received confirmed that God had made me a sinner and that I would be eternally punished.
That was long ago. I’m a grandmother now. But I carried the memory of that theft all these years, and felt so sorry for what I’d done.
It wasn’t until last night that I finally forgave myself.
Sometimes in my work as a Christian Science practitioner, I’m asked to pray for people about things that have been stolen from them. Among other things, I pray that the “thief” cannot be robbed of her or his integrity by acting in ways foreign to the child of God and that God provides for both the “thief” and the “victim.”
Over the years, as I’ve studied the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, I’ve come to know myself spiritually. Sometimes when I read the description of generic man on page 475, I put my name in: “Man (Ginny) is idea, the image, of Love; he is (I am) not physique. He is (I am) the compound idea of God, including all right ideas…” and so on. This has helped me understand my spiritual nature, and see that even though my dad left, the spiritual presence of Fatherhood I perceive to be God had never left me, but had always loved and cared for me. When I had thought I needed gifts for my friends, I already had the gifts of kindness and joy to give them.
Last night as I prayed, the word thou in the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” stood out to me. I’m not the thief, I realized. I am that “thou.” And the real me—the one God made—was and is incapable of stealing. I felt certain that the Christmas theft had been a case of mistaken identity, which has long since been corrected. I can let it fall into the trash bin of sins forgiven and forgotten, and enjoy this Christmas more freely than I’d ever imagined. What a gift!

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Ginny Luedeman


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