Two notes from Anne:
(1) Only two days left where you can sign up for the gift book, Mourning Has Broken, a great book about surviving breast cancer by Jan Hasak.
(2) I would love to have more stories to put on "My Story" Tuesdays. Do you have a story about yourself and God? Send me an e-mail at AnneB1944@aol.com.
On that day, I was not happy with the pastor. If truth be told, my anger was with God. Belligerent questions burned through my heart, and it was all I could do to keep it inside: “Why didn’t You give me a heritage like that one, Lord? Why didn’t You give me two loving, sane parents to guide me and to teach me?” As soon as those envious thoughts seared my heart, the anger left. I sat straighter, my gaze set on the cross on the wall behind the pastor’s head. The questions I’d asked allowed a flood of truth to fill my soul.
I was born to a pistachio and a cashew—two nuts of very different variety. They didn’t stay together too long, separating before I turned two. Mom was a driven woman. I don’t know what drove her, whether it was fear or love or both. They didn’t have a name for it back then, but to say she was obsessive compulsive doesn’t give meaning to the term. Add a ton of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and you get the picture. On the other hand, my father was an irresponsible genius. Obligation slid off him like eggs fried in a Teflon pan. Dad skipped town when I was very young, and we had no relationship until I was an adult.
Some would say that an obsessive, stressed mother and an irresponsible father are good reasons that a very young girl would grow afraid of the dark, afraid she’d die in the dark, afraid people would think her dead, and bury her in the dark where she would wake and never be able to get out. Every night without ceasing those thoughts came to mind, and I tossed and turned.
Some of my earliest memories are of reading a Bible. I never got past the book of Genesis as a kid, but I read over and over again the wonderful stories of Abraham and Isaac, Noah and the Ark, and Moses and the burning bush. I went to church with my aunt and cousins, and somehow I knew Jesus could turn back the darkness. I understood the Bible had the answers I needed, but when I was young, I never asked the right questions. I had faith Jesus could keep me from what I feared the most—unending darkness—I just didn’t know how.
On the eve of my sixth birthday, three men robbed the convenience store where Mom worked. She was shot—in the face. Even after her recovery, she continued to work for the same company until eight years later when the man was released from prison and sought her out to finish the job. He showed up at our house, and even though he didn’t get in, and he was eventually caught and sent back to jail, his appearance had its consequences. Mom’s fears came out in abundance. She couldn’t work, and at fourteen, I had to work—mowing lawns, anything I could do to bring in a little money. Mom was in and out of the mental hospitals during my teenage years. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother Fay. She owed a vacation home on the river not far from the city where we lived, and I spent countless weekends with her there. God has used that river time and time again to bring a feeling of peace to my heart.
Away from my mother, the fears of darkness would hide away in a corner, and I believe God gave me a look at what it was like to be a normal child. I met kids that lived around my grandmother’s weekend house, and we rode the bus to the First Baptist Church of Merritt Island, where Adrian Rogers preached at that time.
I can’t tell you the message Pastor Rogers preached on the most important day of my life, but I can still feel the relief and the overwhelming sense I had that God was about to banish the fear of darkness and death from my life. I left the pew and scooted out of the balcony. About the only two things I remember were that I met Christ who took away my fear of the darkness. And I remember that my friend, Conrad, met Jesus that day as well. God was making provision even on that day for the peace I hold today.
In high school, God sent a special person into my life. Her name was Susan, and Susan invited me to church. Attending with her family, I realized I needed to follow our Lord in obedience and to be baptized. Because I was still a teenager, the preacher wanted to make sure my mother understood, and well—to make a long story short—my mother saw her need for Christ, and we were baptized on the same day.
If salvation made you perfect, that would be the end of my story. No, I was nowhere close to perfect. In all truthfulness, I didn’t know I was supposed to try. I left home when I was eighteen thinking I was smarter than I actually was. I got married and had two sons. Then I divorced.
During that time, on his eighteen birthday, my friend, Conrad—the one who’d accepted Christ on the same day I had—was killed in an automobile accident. I’d also lost the woman I loved more than anyone in the world—my Grandma Fay, and I lived with the knowledge that during the last years of her life, I let her down tremendously. My father—well, he came to town for his mother’s funeral, but he didn’t stick around.
My fears of death and darkness returned, growing with each step I took away from Christ. My hurt and grief compounded. Instead of running to the One who wanted to carry my burden, I ran from Him. My life shattered when I found myself a hapless mother to two wonderful children with nowhere to turn.
One weekend, my boys were with their father. I don’t know what I intended to do. The darkness that cloaked me was so strong, that it’s quite possible I might have taken my life. I drove up and down the highway screaming at God. “I hate you. I don’t want anything to do with you. Leave me alone.” Tears coursed down my face as I pulled along the shores of the Indian River.
I don’t know how long I sat there staring out at the lapping waters which lulled me to a place where I could accept the fact that I was hanging off a deep, craggy cliff. All I could see was the hem of Jesus’ garment, and a single thread. Logic told me the thread wouldn’t hold me if I reached out. Faith told me it would. The angry prayers I’d heaved upward to God became soft sobs as I prayed for his forgiveness. “I’m so alone. I need a friend. I have no one.” And when I reached for the hem of Jesus’ robe, He pulled me from the cliffs of despair.
I may have endured plenty: my zany parents, the heartache, the loss, the good times, and the bad. There’s something to say for endurance. When we persevere it is solely because God has made provision. At times, I felt like a daughter holding up a broken doll to the perfect Father. I’ve learned there isn’t anything our Father God can’t fix, including a broken and hurting heart.
God is always in the details. Despite my mistakes, God raised me up to be the individual He wanted me to become. I’d lived with a hardworking mother who sacrificed her safety to raise me. From her, I learned a positive work ethic and how not to handle countless situations. From my absentee, carefree father, I learned to laugh and not to take life so seriously—well not as seriously as my mother. I’d like to think God gave me just enough sanity and insanity from both my parents to make me interesting.
So, when the pastor smiled down at me as I set in the pew in the third seat in the middle row, I smiled back, and my heart lifted with praise. Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord, for making me whole.