It happened when I was a teenager. I lay awake in the blackness of an isolated campground, my stomach in knots, shaking at the sound of every small animal that rustled in the grass. A police car had just come around to warn us that a girl had been brutally murdered in the park where we were camping and that the killer had not yet been found. My imagination went wild, wondering if I would be the next victim. I think I was born feeling afraid… afraid of germs, spiders, snakes, car wrecks, airplane crashes, disease, criminals. You name it, I was afraid of it.
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.
After a long pause on the telephone, the nurse finally said, "I will need to have the doctor call you back in a few minutes with the biopsy results."
I knew by her response that I did have cancer and that my life would be now going in a completely different direction than I had planned. It happened in a moment.
It was cold in the living room at six in the morning. The coffee was warm, but I was very tired. I wanted to die. It was even colder at seven. My coffee was ice-cold and I was totally exhausted. At half past seven I only felt warm sunshine and I was full of energy. I hugged my friend and wept. I was happy! I was saved!
The Romanian peasant was on his knees, frantically gathering the half-rotten apples strewn all over the mountain road. In the pitch darkness, our rickety little car had plowed into his cart, throwing him off and somersaulting his two horses. As a cold rain and snow fell on this surreal midnight scene, I had never felt less in control. I asked myself, "What in the world am I doing here?"
"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.
At the age of four, I stood before our church congregation, recited a poem, then ran to the edge of the platform. With one big leap, I jumped off the platform, fully expecting my dad to jump up from the front row and catch me.
Growing up, I learned about God's love and His forgiveness of our sins. However, I had some big misconceptions:
1) Being a Preacher's Kid (PK) gave me a free ticket to heaven. I was a good, religious girl, and had never done anything really bad, and never thought of myself as a sinner.
I always seemed to have everything I wanted, BUT was never satisfied! In High School I was an officer in my sorority, on the Homecoming Queen's Court and enjoying life, but something was missing. I was heavily involved in my church yet, again, felt something lacking! I went on to Michigan State University and found myself with thousands of students from different backgrounds and religions. Which was right? During my junior year I was contacted by an acquaintance of a friend.
Many people think that being religious is the key to finding spiritual power and contentment. In my case, even though I thought I was very religious, I was not experiencing these things, until, through some life-changing events, I found the answers.
When I was a child, my mother took me to church every week, where I prayed and heard spiritual teaching. I was given a Bible, which I enjoyed reading. These religious activities were good things, but I needed a deeper reality of God in my life.
As I lifted my head from the arm chair, I couldn't decide what hurt worse, the crick in my neck from sleeping sideways, or the pounding in my head from the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed a few hours earlier. As I tried to recall what events preceded my awkward rest, bigger and more troubling questions started to surface. Questions like, "What I am doing with my life, where am I headed, and why am I so unhappy?" Just a few months earlier I left home to start my studies at the university, full of hope and high expectations.