Looking back I now realize I’d spent half a lifetime searching for what God had already given.
I envied others’ talents, longed for their family dynamics, and wasted years believing I had not been gifted or equipped for anything.
After all, I reasoned, if my own mother didn’t like me, how could the heavenly Father? But I was listening to the wrong voice.
My secret getaway from her abuse was to climb through my upstairs window to the rooftop of the house. There, a pillow, notepad, and pen were therapists to a lonely teen writing suicide poems and letters to God begging for escape.
The poor-me missives only increased the depression, until I wondered aloud to a friend at school if God even cared. Loreen assured me He did, and asked if I’d read the Bible – letters from God to me.
God had written to me? Instantly the image came to me of a little white, zippered Bible on a shelf in the dining room. It was from my mother’s childhood. I hurried home from school and quickly found it. I hesitated, knowing our family’s faith forbade any but church leaders to read the Bible. Mother turned and sharply challenged what I’d slipped under my schoolbooks.
Her eyes grew wide in surprise and fear when I revealed it. Sternly threatening, “If anyone finds out, you will be punished.” She turned back to the kitchen, removing herself from any responsibility, and I ran to hide the treasure in my room.
My true heritage unfolded in that little white-covered Bible. I’d believed the lies that I was a bad seed and that my heritage began and ended with this house, this family, and my physical history. Psalm 139 told me differently. I eagerly shared the revelation with Loreen, and she told me I was also in I Peter because every one has received a special gift.
God’s Word became my new mirror then, and confirmed I was called to write, but first, I was shown hard things, like honor your parents. I thought honor meant love. I loved my daddy who told me he married for better or worse, but Mom? She beat me, often until I passed out. I prayed for weeks, wondering if I said it often enough, if it would become true. The next time she was beating me I cried out, “I love you!” at each strike, but it infuriated her. I kept quiet after that, and escaped through reading, praying and writing and speaking in school.
I left home the day after graduation, married, accepted Christ, thinking I was finally free to continue writing, but God was not finished with my past. Mother’s outbursts defined her and created fear and distrust among her extended family and entire community. I cried the day I got the call to be her guardian. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew what scripture said: Honor your mother.
I quoted that verse and shared my testimony before judges, health representatives and city and state police, when they queried why I would be guardian when no one else would. I left amazed to see a glimmer of purpose to the pain. How else could I ever have had that opportunity?
Monthly reports became chapters of a 6-year battle of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Officials welcomed my use of story to relate her care and our journey, and some told how watching God remove my bitterness had also changed their lives.
When I had to remove Mom from her home to clean it, I expected usual violence, but after explaining it would be like a vacation “to honor you as my mother,” she wept and came quietly. God was working!
One attitude change affects many. Relatives began visiting Mom. A home-health person Mom had treated horribly came back. My younger sister reconciled with mom (after 30 years) and led her to Christ. Mom’s 70-year-old son heard I love you, for the first time.
Her 93rd birthday party featured a book of positive memories and when residents cheered a video of her tap-dancing and singing for seniors, Mom announced, “See, I did something good.” I realized she too had scars you couldn’t see.
Mom is with the Lord now, and I’m thankful that God took what I looked on as a time of torture and transformed it into a time of healing and training for a ministry of reconciliation – and to see evidence of grace —in my own mirror.
Make a list of things God has done for you and your family,
then go look in the mirror. You will see it too.
Your story needs to be a bestseller. It’s so incredibly beautiful and full of lessons we all could learn.
What a sweet thing to say, Mary. You can bet I didn’t feel that way at the beginning! But – it is beyond good to look back and see God’s hand in it, and to know my journey had purpose and can help others. D
I forwarded this article to a friend who’s mother is a challenge to have a relationship with. I gave her your book “Be the Miracle” and she replied it was just the right timing to read it. God continues to use your painful past for future good, even our connection was because of your mother’s needs. His ways are not our ways, only He can make something good out of our hopeless times and the way he weaves lives together is miraculous. Denise (retired RN)
Denise thank you for the encouragement. You brought refreshment to a thirsty sister, and I am grateful. Please tell your friend to feel free to contact me here or by email should she wish to have someone to talk to who has ‘been there.’ Delores