A Young Child’s Journey & Prayer – part 2

As I mentioned in my last blog, my hope has always been grounded in God’s love for me. Whether my schizophrenic mother was consciously aware of it or not, she also knew deep down that is where I would find hope (Psalm 71:5-6). She allowed me to go to church with an elderly neighbor woman who asked to take me to Sunday school. As a six-year-old, I did not weigh the options as to why or which church I should attend, and I didn’t even fight with my mother saying I didn’t want to go. As soon as she told me, it was just something I felt drawn to do (John 6:44).

This is where my journey with the church begins. I can still see that first grade Sunday school class and feel the warmth of its environment. Even though I had to sit in a hard pew for the next hour listening to the pastor go on and on about things I couldn’t understand and for what seemed like hours, I still felt drawn to this environment full of happy sounds and loving people. And, it could have been that I welcomed the attention and the fact that somebody cared about me. The desire to attend church was so strong that I wasn’t even deterred on the day when the neighborhood kids were lined up in my front yard yelling and spitting at me as I walked from my front door to the car waiting to take me to church.

I’m sure that woman and her family had no idea that giving a poor simple little girl a ride to Sunday school would have such an impact on her life. God truly can do big things through simple displays of love. So, it was unfortunate that after only a year or so, the elderly neighbor moved away and there was no one to take me to church.

It was in 1968 and the beginning of desegregation when I was entering the third grade. The city wanted to bus me and my brother down to a school in the poorest, and most dangerous, part of town. However, my proud and stubborn father was able to get us assistance and enrolled us in a Catholic school instead. Private education still didn’t guarantee a friendlier environment for me. I still had to endure two years of bullying by one classmate in particular. It is amazing how verbal ridicule and threats can be as scary and as painful as the actual act of physical abuse.

I was not Catholic, therefore, I was not required to go to Mass but I wanted to go anyway. As an eight year old, I would get up early and walk the half-mile alone to school so I could attend Mass before school started. The peace and comfort I experienced from being in the church was compelling and comforting.

By the fifth grade, I was pulled from the Catholic school to attend a public school closer to home and God provided another way for me to continue my journey towards Him. That was when the Fourth Baptist Church sent a bus into our neighborhood and offered rides to anyone who was interested in attending Sunday school. Not only was I excited to accept rides to Sunday school, but I also received rides to Wednesday Awana and Friday night youth events. It was at one of these Friday night events, on Jan 19, 1973, that I asked Jesus to save me from my sins and trusted Him as my savior (Romans 10:9).

Now that I had been lifted out of my neighborhood and was visiting the healthy Christian homes of the new friends I had made, I began to yearn for a loving Christian home of my own. As an 11 year old girl, I started praying and asking God to one day give me a Christian husband and family.

This part of my journey had a limited season as well. The friends I had made at the Baptist church moved away and I no longer felt comfortable going to church by myself. Therefore, since my parents didn’t like the baptist church, I decided to attend a nearby Lutheran church. As a witness to my new found faith, and since I had not been baptized as an infant, I begged my parents to let me and my siblings get baptized. It was a private ceremony with only me, my brother, sister and, of course my mother had to be there. As I hungered for more, I then asked if I could go through confirmation.

All through my childhood, God had been drawing me to Himself. As I referenced in my last blog, nothing can separate us from the love of God. However, I tried to walk away from Him and, unfortunately, I had a period of time in my later teen years where I lost my way. However, the Spirit did not let me forget who my Father was. No matter what I was involved in or experimenting with during those years in the 1970’s, I still felt compelled to read the scriptures before going to bed. I will talk about those years in my next blog.

Hope for a Young Child’s Future – part 1

When people hear my story, they ask how I made it to this point in my life. Circumstances dictate that I should be living on the streets doing who knows what. Many think I am strong. But I say it is not me. I am as weak as the next person. As I was learning to adapt and survive in an environment of neglect, and physical and sexual abuse, God was working in the lives and circumstances around me (John 5:17). He was my ultimate father, protector and provider.

Even though my mother and father were alcoholics, God still provided my father with enough sense to know that he needed to buy food and pay the rent so we didn’t end up on the streets. Yes, for years I was terrified because we had to share a bathroom with the strangers next door and because rats would run across the room when you turned on the lights, but as a child growing up in a poor inner-city neighborhood, you just accept that as normal.

Even though my mother was schizophrenic, she knew enough to leave her chair in the corner of the living room once in a while to cook balanced meals for me, my sister, and brother. Granted, they never threw us a birthday party and my hand-me-down clothes were out of style, but my parents made sure we were fed, clothed, warm, and physically safe — to a point.

I have forgiven my parents for their neglect because I know that they were sick and, considering the circumstances, I am thankful that none of the physical abuse came from their hands. It is alarming to know, however, what awful things children can do to one another. Although the abuses were not my fault, I was a target because I did not have adults in my life to tell me that I could say no to inappropriate behavior or that someone would be there to protect me from the boy across the street with the hammer.

As you can imagine, because of their addiction and my mother’s mental illness, I never knew the warmth and smells that most people experience from the embrace of a parent’s hug and never knew the security and joy that comes from the tender sound of a parent saying “I love you.”

So, back to the question, how did I make it to this point in my life? Experts will tell you that a child cannot survive without love. Well, He who is love (1 John 4:16) was drawing me to Himself (Romans 8:30) and showed me love through teachers, people in the church, and the one time I can remember being comforted in my grandmother’s arms.

As Paul goes on to say in the rest of Romans, chapter 8, nothing can separate me from the love of God. This was the hope I would need to rely on through my childhood and teenage years. That is where I will begin next time.

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