The Night I Slayed Tradition

How’s that for a dramatic title? In case you’re wondering, the events I am about to recount were far less revolutionary than the title suggests. In fact, for the scores of people present when the following events occurred, they were most definitely bored out of their skulls.

In April/May of 1998, my friends and I were gearing up to graduate. One of the highlights for many of us was the annual band banquet where we celebrated the personal and collective successes of the year. This evening featured something special for the out-going band-nerds known as “Senior Wills”. Each senior was given the chance to write out somewhat of farewell speech to their friends. Most of these were filled with inside jokes, dollar store gag gifts, and teary-eyed recollections.

These wills were progessing nicely during the 1998 band banquet. We rolled through wills at a rate of 1 every 5 or 6 minutes…until it was my turn. That’s right, I’m “that” person. You know, the one who goes on and on with no end in sight…sometimes laughing or cyring incoherently. Urban band legend has it that I droned on for 45 minutes, but that seems a bit inflated. (At least, I hope it is.)

That was the last year they did senior wills at the band banquet. The directors decided they would let the seniors sort through their baggage in some other venue when there weren’t dozens of parents and grandparents held captive in a middle school cafetorium like walkers trapped in the Governor’s pits from the Walking Dead.

This massively embarrassing moment came to mind this morning as I was thinking about how easy it is to focus on the external while giving no consideration for what’s going on behind the scenes.

Why did I behave the way I did that night? Yes, I’m long-winded. Yes, I am random and get lost in the maze of ADD. But there was more going on than my natural pesonality flaws.

You see, my family was falling apart. I’ll try not to drag my family through the mud because forgiveness has covered those failures, but I grew up in a type of home that is becoming increasingly prevalent in our culture — one of public tranquility but private rage and abuse. My family was in the midst of disintegrating right before my eyes, and, just like the previous 3 years of the same chaos, I was squarely in the middle of trying to hold everyone and everything together. My nights were filled with the bi-polar tirades of family, swinging from inconsolable crying to murderous threats against anyone and everyone.

I was getting ready to say goodbye to my family as I knew it. I thought it was all going to finally crash down around me. All of that fear and dread spilled over into my senior will. The overflow of despair was unstoppable. Maybe it was because I was having to say goodbye to the most stable family I’d ever known. That’s right, high school band was the most stable thing I had known to that point. Maybe it was because I wanted to show my family the pain that I was choking down every day. Maybe I was just a big baby. I’m not totally sure.

What I am sure of is that the memory of that night reminds me that everyone has something going on. Everyone’s got baggage, and there are some that are at the end of their rope. Some are on the verge of making drastic choices based upon seemingly insurmountable sadness and pain. Some will never admit it, or it may take 15 years for them to realize what was going on.

Another part of the memory of that night is that there were people there who did know what was going on. There were people who loved me at great cost to themselves. One of them was one of the band directors. He never scolded me for taking so much time. He never poked fun at me. He just let me go….and go….and go. He, along with his family, loved me with his silence and presence.

Later that night, I slayed another tradition. You see, I went home and the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse began again because I didn’t say enough about the “right” people. With a wounded heart and a busted lip, I finally found footing on the unconditional love of Christ demonstrated so simply by some of his disciples. That night, the promise of Christ’s presence and mercy and power propelled me to break free from the baggage that others had piled on me. That night was the last night anyone ever laid a hand on me. That night, by the grace and power of God, I slayed the tradition of dysfunction and abuse that I seemed destined to repeat. That night, a new chapter began for me and my family.

If you find yourself drowning under similar circumstances, please know that you are not alone. There is hope and healing. There is freedom from fear and despair in God’s grace and love through Jesus Christ.

3 thoughts on “The Night I Slayed Tradition

  1. Bd Smith says:

    Wasn’t expecting to be blubbering by the end of this read…it was a pleasure and blessing to watch you blossom into the Man of God you are today. Please accept my apology for not recognizing and being more supportive. Love ya’ brother!


    1. brcates says:

      Bd, No apology necessary. I became quite adept at hiding stuff. It’s been a habit the Holy Spirit and I continue to wrestle over. Love you, friend, and make no mistake, you were part of my sanity as a teenager.

  2. Sarah Gail says:

    So many of the prayers that I prayed as a young adult for you have been answered. I didn’t fully know all that you were going through at the time but I did know some. I was so naive at the time. I am so proud of you friend. I am proud to see God’s work in your life. I know that through your experiences others will be helped. You are such a loving person. Continue to grow through God and be the best father and husband you can be. I am proud that you have broken that cycle of hurt that you lived. I have continued to pray for you over the years and I am so glad to see you get something encouraging and good from such a bad situation. You are an inspiration.


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