I sometimes shrink from the memories of my childhood, especially my adolescence and teenage years. My father drank heavily. My mother was continually depressed, and often non-communicative. We moved from place to place, just often enough to reinforce the feeling that I would always be a stranger.
I could not take comfort in the structure nor the security of my family, because there was none. I went to a religious school where compassion was limited, and accusations and judgment were the order of the day. One would think that attending a religious school would light a fire within me, reflecting the warmth of the God who made me. Sadly, I received more of dogma than of faith, and I often found myself confused about God’s influence in my life.
Surely God, if there was a God, would come and rescue me from my misery. But I couldn’t seem to find Him in the uncertain world in which I lived. Perhaps He didn’t exist, I thought, or even worse, perhaps He knew me, but He didn’t care. I complained to Him all the time, begging Him to change my life, but nothing around me seemed to change. Looking back, I see a lonely, neglected, frightened child, totally confused about right and wrong. Hungry for love.
There were rays of light, however, within the darkness. My brother, Reuban, who was much older than I, introduced me to books and often encouraged me. He filled my imagination with endless possibilities, and in reading, there was a kind of escape. However, when Reuban was not around, life became a continuous journey of endurance, just making it from day to day.
My Father drank, and my mother still fluctuated between deep depression and hysteria, often changing without warning. There was always a lot of screaming. My mother’s rages were unpredictable, and my father’s behavior when he was drinking left me feeling unsafe and confused. My other siblings, when they were around were so much older than I, so that we had little in common.
Sensitive and emotional, I was an easy target for the dysfunction surrounding me. I dreamed impossible dreams of being rescued. I imagined that I was adopted, and my “real” family, the ones who were reasonable and kind, would find me and bring me back home. I created a fantasy world where I was beautiful, brilliant, and loved. In school I became adept at “selective listening,” where I would retreat to my safe fantasy place, unless I were called upon, then I would switch back to a fake attitude of attention and interest. I actually began to make better grades in my classes when I lost interest, and no one ever guessed that I did not live in the real world. I was not very far from total retreat, where I would sink into fantasy and never return. That’s when God intervened.
One night as I sat upon my bed, the world dark and quiet around me, I felt this tremendous urge to “escape” forever. I thought about all the unsafe people in my life, and how easy it would be to simply disappear into myself, leaving everyone who had hurt me behind. While sitting there, pondering those things, I heard a voice deep within my spirit.
“Do not give up,” whispered the voice. “I am with you.” I felt a shock wave going through me and an incredible warmth. Suddenly, my soul was flooded with love and mercy. My heart cried out for that Loving Presence that now filled the room.
“Someone must love.”
The voice whispered, again. “Someone must forgive. Why not you?” My heart was suddenly filled with joy, and my life seemed to hold endless possibilities. I received an understanding beyond the scope of my years. “Well, then,” I whispered back, “it might as well be me.” Something happened. A communication. A knowing. An understanding that though my life might never become easier, I would never again walk through the dark alone. I wish I could say that my dad stopped drinking, and my mother became happy and fulfilled, but God did not change my family. He changed me. I did not understand what happened. I just knew from that day forward that I was not alone. Today whenever my life seems dark, I remember that God came to a young girl who did not know Him; not because He needed her, but because she needed Him.
Jaye Lewis is the author of the online blog, Entertaining Angels, Encouraging Words. Jaye Lewis work has been published around the world, on the web and in printed publications and in several languages, including Hebrew, Japanese and Spanish.