The sharp blade of a "bolo" knife sliced through my hand and as I lay in the blood stained snow, the reality of death hovered over me. "Was I really going to die?" I grew faint and stumbled into the house and found myself praying to God...not for my life on earth, but for my afterlife.
I suffered no abuse. I endured no trauma. But growing up I lacked a sense of internal security. The thought of eventually becoming an adult, with all its responsibility, felt elusive and frightening. Though our family believed in God, we rarely attended church. The notion of God, or lack thereof, felt elusive and frightening to me as well.
My Mom was the daughter of an itinerate preacher. She saw to it that my brother and I attended church every Sunday, beginning at a very young age. However, as I grew older, I drifted away from the teachings of my youth only to make a lot of mistakes.
But God wasn't through with me yet. It was many years later as I waited for my daughter at a bus stop that a little old woman with a kind face asked me, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?"
"What's the matter with you? How can you not know the answer to that question.....it's in all the newspapers? What world are you living in?"
Such a tirade being thrown at a shy, sensitive teenager by a social studies teacher in front of her peers can bring humiliation and shame. It can not help but reinforce her own feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.
Even though this happened to me over 40 years ago, it still hurts to think about it.
What is in the heart of a little boy who has no father? No father to run to and say, "I hurt myself today" or "I had a fight today, but I won" or "Will you play soccer with me today?" And then, after getting a step-father, having the mother say, "Never disturb him, he is too busy."
This had a powerful effect on one little boy, me.
There were three things we never talked about in our family growing up: money, my dad's alcohol problem and God.
There wasn't a lot of extra money so I started my first job at age 11 weeding flower beds for the neighbors. I always had a job because I wanted money in my pocket. Alcohol abuse colored everything we did as a family. Was Dad sober enough for us to do what was planned? I never invited friends to our home, I was embarrassed by what they might see or hear. As a teenager I had to go to the club, put my dad in a car and drive him home.
I was afraid I'd be a SINGLE school teacher of other peoples' kids with none of my own... if I really gave my life to God!
When I was only seven years old, it became clear to me that I could have Jesus as my own Savior-not just because of my parents' faith. Though young, I really knew He was in my life because of His promise in the Bible: "The Lord goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deut 31:8, Heb 13:5)
"If God doesn't really exist, then what's the point in living?"
I stared out at the Californian mountains pondering my existence; only 15 years old. I had grown up in a religious family knowing about spiritual things, but my life felt empty. I was conflicted; one side wanted everything that this life was offering me: sex, drugs, money, power and prestige while the other quietly hinted at other lesser-known realities in my life: purpose, peace, love, forgiveness and joy.
I was known in my family as "Little Miss Sunshine," and my friends called me "Goodie Two Shoes" but I knew I wasn't perfect.
My family didn't go to church when I was young, but at age 5 I started going with my neighbor. I learned about God, Heaven, Jesus, and that Jesus died to forgive my sins so I could go to go to heaven when I died. I wanted to go to Heaven but I didn't understand how.