Isaiah 9:2 International Children’s Bible (ICB)
2 Now those people live in darkness.
But they will see a great light.
They live in a place that is very dark.
But a light will shine on them.
It’s not surprising that I love writing. I have always lived inside my head and often the only thing that relieved the mental busyness was to release at least some of it onto paper.
I grew up in a broken home. Both my parents were alive and I had 3 siblings, but behind closed doors, we were broken.
My father was cruel, unapproachable and verbally and physically abusive. As I type this I am tempted to delete it because a part of me still thinks “abusive” is too strong a phrase- but then I remember how he hit my sister with a sjambok once, peeling the skin away. Other times he would make us hit each other with his belts and if we didn’t hit each other hard enough, he would hit us. Or, the times he made my oldest sister stand naked in front of a mirror while he hit her. Yes, he was an abuser. He provided for us and I have some good memories of him too which is always confusing, but I think more than anything he was hurt to such an extent that hurting others was normal.
My mother was afraid of him. She was quiet and withdrawn for most of my life. I guess she lived in her head too. She had to, because the secrets she had to keep were too great for any person to bear. Yet… I have the most amazing memories of childhood too. We were very close as siblings and often did things together- on birthdays we were the ones who prepared the table- set with the finest dinnerware, we were the ones who prepared a nativity when the whole family descended on the coast for Christmas and instead of birthday parties we would get dressed up as clowns etc. to bring some fun and normality to our home.
At school I was a good student. I was a year younger than my peers yet I performed above average. A false sense of pride started to creep in. If I could just be better than everyone else, I would get noticed – even my dad spoke about me with pride. I would find out years later that it was actually because I was his first-born and that my older sister was from my mom’s previous marriage. I made a few friends but they seldom came over to my house. Occasionally I was allowed to play at theirs and I always felt free.
For various reasons, shame, guilt and secrets became my reality before I was 5. This followed me throughout my life until my 20’s. At church and school I was the good girl, but I knew if they ever knew who I really was, they would be disgusted.
In the year I turned 12, I went to a revival meeting with my church youth group one evening. I really only went to get out of the house. I was sitting in my chair sort of listening near the back when the preacher made an altar call, asking anyone who wanted to accept Jesus as their Saviour to come to the front. For the first time, I felt the hand of the Holy Spirit on me that night. I burst into tears and felt a fire in my chest as it felt as if someone was gently pulling me up and out of my seat by my shirt.
I couldn’t speak. To this day I know that was the day I walked from death into life, from the darkness, into the light. I was in trouble the next day because my white P.E. shoes had mud on them from the night before, but I didn’t care. I still couldn’t get the smile off my face and I asked my Mom to meet me in the garden to tell her that I had “asked Jesus into my heart”. I still remember the joy on her face. Oh how she loved God!
A few months later, she passed away one Sunday evening while we were watching a movie. She was gone in 4 minutes and 32 seconds. It felt like a dream. It still does. I remember the day of her funeral being dressed by an aunt I did not know and feeling so vulnerable and embarrassed that she had to help me with my hair.
God was there. I noticed Him in so many the details and the ways He prepared my heart in the months before her death. But I was scared of Him because He knew my secret and I was convinced He could not love a dirty, broken girl like me…