[In today’s guest post Elena Williams (a pseudonym) writes of a painful childhood at the hands of family and church, and her experience with God that drew her through and brought her to a place of life and rest in him.]
The problem growing up in my male-dominated church-centered family was that “Honor your father,” meant incest. At church the pastor ruled and his needs, for money and control, were met. At home, Dad ruled as sanctioned by the pastor he financially supported, and Dad’s needs for power, sex, and money, were preeminent and enforced. It was said that since heaven would be an orgy, better to go to hell.
At age 14, I read the Bible cover to cover. At 15, on a church retreat, my only escape from home, I planned to end my terrifying life. I had seen others lose their minds, commit suicide, do substance abuse, or embrace promiscuity. Fearful of these, I reasoned that the way to quietly and peacefully end the situation was to end the life.
Before I could carry out my plan, I believed God spoke to me personally with: “I want you. I will change your life. Will you let Me do that?” I liked hearing God’s offer, because the men I knew neither offered nor asked. They overpowered and took what they wanted, in God’s name and quoting the Bible as their authority.
“Yes,” I said to the gentleman of the Bible. Thereafter I studied the Bible and prayed, seeking God. He promised a new life. God gave me an education and a profession to be able to grow up and leave terror behind.
Most difficult was after I became a professional, when the local authorities investigated my dad with regard to younger siblings still at home. One of my sisters was suicidal. I publicly testified about the incest by day and had nightmares at night. Church members shouted, “You slut!” each time, as I exited the courtroom. Relatives accused me of ruining the family, harassed with intimidating phone calls, and stalked. Eventually, the minors were saved from further violation as the County restricted access of their biological dad.
I married my college friend. We were married 30 years and have two wonderful, accomplished, and loving children. My husband had confronted my dad, establishing safe boundaries. Eventually my husband passed away. I was saddened with losing my best friend and thankful God would continue the victory.
2 Cor. 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.” This came true for me, I believe. The power of evil – violation, stepping out of reality, drugs, depravity, threats, accusation and stalkers – diminishes – when we experience the power of God through those who love us, and these folks may not be our biological family.
I waited a long time to find human love – my husband was the first person, I believe, who loved me, and our relationship began when I was well into my twenties. It was a faith journey for me, believing that God loved me, so I should not take my life, and that He would provide a new family and dear friends, some day.
God in heaven, my husband (when he was here before going to heaven), our children, and my close dear friends have held life together with me through all. I am ever so grateful, and I have the opportunity in turn to share God’s love with folks who are not my biological relatives.
Regardless of our background, in Christ we can go forward and choose to be stalwart men and noble women. One of the questions that comes up regarding my story, my journey, is, “Who helped along the way?” I would have to say that Gladys Aylward, George Müller, and the Casper ten Boom family, for three examples, helped along the way. They lived both by the Spirit of God and the Word of God at the same time. They were true to their God-given callings and their gifts, sometimes against the protocols of culture, society, and institutions. They loved God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. They loved their fellow persons as themselves. They were stalwart men and noble women.
I’ll close my testimony of God’s love here with a poem:
My drumbeat echoes through the trees
Its rhythm softly counters with the breeze
Creator God attends His ear
I sense His presence, feel Him near.
(Elena Paige Williams.)
God is always present, carving His path of peace before us, through the minefields, as we journey, our steps a drumbeat on the trail. God attunes, He attends.