“The darkness of my past is great…but the light of Jesus made it as day. My sin was great….but Jesus’ mercy is greater, His love has made me whole”. And this is my love letter to Him. Without Jesus I am nothing, without His mercy I am damned, without His blood shed for my sins I have no hope for anything beyond this temporary life. To Jesus I owe my life, everything that I can give, I gladly give. This is my personal record of His unfailing love, of a rescue from terrifying darkness and most of all from absolute hopelessness. This is a record of God’s great love and mercy, undeserved, unmerited. This is my testimony.
My pleading turned to begging, just as it always had. “Please God, please find a way. If it is true….if you can love me…if you want me…Please…find a way to tell me”. I did my best to hide my tears as I sat in the pew of our small church each weekend. It was the same prayer each week. I looked around enviously at the rest of the congregation. “They have no idea how fortunate they are” I thought silently. “They have God’s love…His acceptance…His assurance that they are His”. I wanted nothing more than what they already had, I would have gladly taken the smallest portion of what they had…the crumbs of what they were given would have been my greatest treasure. I wanted it desperately. My greatest fear was that it could never be mine. God’s love and acceptance was for others, not me.
There were “extenuating circumstances”. It was the ‘nice’ way to put it. The secrets of my childhood separated me from ‘normal’ society, they weren’t to be shared…not with anyone…not even my pastor. The sins of my adolescence only served to separate me further from the group of folks that God could love. I was on my own.
For all intents and purposes my family seemed normal enough to the folks outside of the walls of our home. We went to church each week faithfully, my mother was a homemaker and we lived in a beautiful home in one of the most respectable neighborhoods. But my home life was anything but ‘normal’. The sights, sounds and experiences in my childhood home were terrifying at best. Night time was the worst. I was surprised as a teenager to recognize some of the scenes in the Exorcist and other horror movies. They were very familiar. You see, my father had decided to give satan a chance to explain his side of the story as to how he had become the fallen one. He welcomed satan into our home for ‘conversations’ and used the power that satan offered, in return for my father’s loyalty, inside and outside of our home. My accounts are too intense, too horrendous for most audiences so I keep my silence. My father’s physical and emotional abuse and violent temper only added to the wide menagerie of horrors that I learned to navigate from a young age.
My teen years were spent running away from home and seeking solace in juvenile detention centers as new horrors of the night had presented themselves, now that my younger sister and I were maturing physically. Telling anyone what my father was doing was out of the question. Secrets. They were piling up higher and higher…escape was the only way out. I only felt safe behind bars where my father could not reach me. But his reach extended far beyond even the barred windows and doors of the institutions that would become my home over the next 3 years. I was told that if I revealed family secrets he would kill my mother first and then each of my siblings…after which he would come for me. My father assured me that the authorities would never find the bodies. He worked within government offices and then later the local police force, I believed him without a doubt. Just to make sure that we understood his sincerity and ability to carry out his threats my father lined us up; my sister and I and my brothers on one unexpected evening after dinner. He stood our mother in front of us and held a loaded gun to her head. Smiling, he asked whether or not he should pull the trigger. We were terrified, frozen, each afraid to make a sound. I attempted suicide at 14.
My mother eventually divorced my father due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ and did her best to support the family on her own. It was then that I came home. I took up a job at 15 and delivered my first child, a beautiful daughter at 16. I told myself that everything would be ok now. My father would want nothing to do with me now that I had disgraced him. I was right. Life continued on and I married having 3 more children, 3 beautiful sons. My father was out of the picture but I contended with nightmares on a regular basis.
My history was one of my best kept secrets. I wanted…needed…relief and assurance from my past. As much as I wanted to seek out relief from the emotional and spiritual pain, I couldn’t. “No one would believe me” was always the first thought. The others that followed were the ones that sealed my lips very tightly, “what if I did tell someone and I was proclaimed insane…what if they put me away”? Who would ever believe the things that happened to me spiritually? Who would care for my children?
I was a freak.
My father was still alive. “What if I trust a pastor or a counselor and mine and my sister’s secret was brought to the attention of authorities?” My family’s lives and mine remained in danger. I needed to remain silent.
Worse, the sins of my father with the enemy (satan) surely disqualified me from any promises of love and acceptance…from salvation. I and my family were a disgrace to God… a stain to be blotted out and forgotten…the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the 3rd and 4th generations…the Bible was clear. I could only hope that God would have mercy on my beloved children.
I sat in church with my head bowed, reasoning. “If God wants me…if He can love me and accept me…He will have to find a way to tell me”. With God all things are possible. Hadn’t I heard that several times? My very life depended on it. I put all of my faith in God’s ability to reach me somehow…and I waited…almost too afraid to hope for the answer.
“Great…It’s another ‘love sermon’.” Those were always meant for everyone else but me, the pain in my heart and my gut grew deeper. I prayed for a miracle.
It had been 3 months since I dared to begin to believe that the message of God’s grace, salvation and forgiveness were for me, not just everyone else. It was going on 2 months since I had dared to ask God to find a way to reach me.
My youngest son was 2 at the time and that day was no different than any other. He had managed to find every mud puddle within 50 ft. This called for some serious bathing measures, so off to the shower we went. I stood close, rubbing his hair as he allowed the warm water to rinse out the dirt and mud from his outdoor adventure. He looked at me smiling. A question came to mind seemingly out of nowhere; “Does it make you angry when your son gets dirty?” The question was so non-intrusive that I answered easily without hesitating. “Oh no, he is just a little boy.” The second question came quickly. “Does it make you angry to wash your son when he gets dirty”? I answered just as quickly. “No, of course not, I love him so much, it’s my job as his parent to wash him, I love caring for him, it doesn’t… “
I stopped mid-sentence, aware for the first time that I wasn’t alone in the room with my son. This was a conversation, but not with myself.
The third question came. “Are you a better parent than I”? “What makes you think that I despise making you clean?”” I am the only one that can.” “I love making my children clean just as you do. “
Instantly I became aware of all of the love that God held for me as His child. There was no condemnation, none of the hatred and contempt that I had so long imagined that He held for me was there, only an understanding that He longs for His children to come to Him and trust Him to wash away the things that bring them pain and shame. A peace began washing over my mind and my spirit as tears streamed down my face.
He did it.
He really did it! There was joy unspeakable. God had found a way to reach me…and HE LOVED ME. That was the best thing of ALL. He really loved ME. I couldn’t believe it…all of those sermons of caring, mercy and forgiveness, they were for me too! I wanted to remember every one of them all at once, to take them in and treasure every word, to shout to anyone who would listen “I am loved and forgiven, HE LOVES ME!!!” It may as well have been me in that shower at that very moment. I felt all of the years of pain, loneliness, fear and anxiety begin to wash away. It was the beginning of a love walk with my heavenly Father and my Jesus that I will never get tired of knowing and never take for granted.
It was and will always be the best day of my life.
I will be the first to admit that God’s way of reaching me was rather unconventional, but desperate conditions such as mine called for desperate measures. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done. The circumstances of your childhood or who your parents are or were, your past or your present…YOU are loved. You are accepted. Mercy, grace and forgiveness are yours just for the asking.
The only thing that remains is for you to reach out in faith and grasp a hold of it. It’s all yours.
We all are living on borrowed time, none of us knows the minutes or the hours that yet belong to us here on earth. There is no time to lose and no time like the present. Jesus is already reaching out to you ready and willing to cleanse you from every sin, every fear and every shame. He is the only one that can. Don’t waste another minute. He stands, waiting to welcome you into His arms…He loves you more than you know…so much more than you know.