A Long Ago Story

 

© Jeanne E Webster. All Rights Reserved

“Jesus loves me this I know…”

Curled up in bed, she finds no escape from Mommy’s piercing cries. Softly tiptoeing to the window sill, she  longingly looks up to the heavens, as if searching for an old friend. She believes her home is out there and a heavenly, loving Papa awaits her return. Since learning the “Jesus Loves Me” song at Vacation Bible School one summer, she drew much comfort and hope. Peering impatiently into the dark, starry expanse, she pleads with her Papa. “I don’t like it here anymore, Papa. Please send an angel to take me back home.”

Only five years old, she knows fear… fear of her stepfather. He’s hurting Mommy now, and she’s afraid she’ll soon be the next victim of his drunken rages. Trembling with dread and hatred, she hears him bellowing her name. The routine is humiliating. He forces her to remove her clothes and stand before him naked, then proceeds to beat her with his army belt. Glaring into his eyes with intense rage, she is most afraid of crying in front of him, not the pain he inflicts. He mustn’t know he has hurt her; she must remain strong. “Please, Papa. I’m so afraid. I want to come home.”

“For the Bible tells me so…”

Stumbling through school with average grades and many sick days, she grew slowly into an angry, stubborn, withdrawn young girl. Teachers comment on her report card, “She will not act like a young lady. She’s always fighting with the boys.”

Home life is chaotic. Constantly on guard when her depraved stepfather is present, she keeps mainly to her bedroom or stays outside until nightfall. His lack of morals is evident as he prowls the house, naked except for a newspaper shielding his privates. “Thank you, Papa, for making me strong and protecting me. I wish Mommy would be strong enough to leave this nasty person.  I asked her once why she puts up with the beatings. She said, ‘Because I love him.’”

“Watch over me, Lord.  I still want to come home but I don’t know how to make that happen.”

“Little ones to Him belong…”

Many years passed.   The young girl mellowed into a happily married mother of four. Life was good for the first few years, but overshadowing this semblance of normalcy was the Viet Nam war. “Papa, watch over my husband and protect him from harm and send him home to us soon. The kids really miss their daddy. Thank you.”

“They are weak but He is strong…”

Daddy returned from war a stranger, dishing out physical and mental abuse on a daily basis to the young wife. Physical battles ensued with resulting scratches and bruises. Before long Mommy had become the villain, according to Daddy. He encouraged the kids to hit her, declaring her an unfit mommy. The Sears & Roebuck catalog was searched routinely for a new mommy. Divorce ensued after Mommy got on a greyhound bus headed for nowhere, leaving her whole world behind and calling it quits to the abuse.

Due to the fierceness and severity of the divorce dynamics, the young mother had only one viable option regarding her children. She had to leave them in the care of their father. There were no safe houses, no support for abused families in those days, and she had no family support or a job. Her husband promised to shoot her if she applied for a divorce, removing the children out of state would result in a kidnapping charge, and both options were not in the best interest of the kids. A dead mom and a lifer-in-prison dad were not good alternatives. So she walked. And inside…died…for a long while.

“Please take care of my children, Papa, and protect them from harm. I know You are stronger than anything life can throw at them, and they are good kids. They are my life. I give them back into Your hands. I know I will see them again someday; that’s all that matters. I love you, Papa!”

Epilogue:
Long ago Anna B. Warner penned the song, “Jesus Loves Me.” A young woman took those words to heart and believed them and staked her life on them. Why? The Bible told her so! The Word of God is far mightier than abuse, fear, threats and even death itself.