Free at Last

By Kelli Beaucage

"If you're real God, why did you leave me?" the terrified little girl sobbed, as she lay hidden behind the closet door. "Why did you leave us behind, Daddy?"

Seven-year-old Cheryl (not her real name) had suffered constant fear and torment since her father abandoned her mother and two sisters three years before. Her abusive mother, afflicted with mental illness, couldn't handle the pressures of bringing her daughters up on her own, and abused Cheryl and her sisters.

"I remember hiding in the closet with my sister to get away from my mom and her moods," Cheryl says. Often, her mother's manic-depression would come on suddenly in the middle of the night. "If she saw that the floor was not washed, she would wake us up in the middle of the night to beat us."

One night, Cheryl woke up to see her mother beating her sister with an extension cord. Fear gripped Cheryl as she heard her mother say that "God was out to get her" for all the things she and her sisters had done. On the other hand, Cheryl had heard that this same God loved them. How could this be? In a young child's mind, these conflicting messages brought confusion and pain, and only served to drive Cheryl further into tormenting fear.

"I was afraid of absolutely everything and everyone - especially those in authority," Cheryl says. "The same fear that gripped me drove me to become violent so I could protect myself."

Cheryl would take out her anguish on her school classmates. If someone so much as made a loud noise it would ignite her fear, and Cheryl responded with violence. By the time she was eight years old, Cheryl was prescribed pills to calm her down and even advised to start smoking to help her relax.

By the time she was 13, Cheryl and her sisters were back and forth out of a psychiatric hospital, and in and out of various relatives' homes because of their mother's problems. The instability increased Cheryl's fear of being alone, yet she was also determined to leave her mother's home for good.

When Cheryl received an invitation to move in with a family whose children she babysat, she gladly accepted, only to become pregnant by the man in the house some months later. Feeling abandoned again, Cheryl went back to her mother's home to have her child.

Soon afterwards, a man came along who wanted to marry her. "He wanted to marry me so he could stay out of jail and I wanted to marry him to get away from my mother," Cheryl says.

After her marriage, Cheryl continued to be plagued with a gripping fear. Two more children followed, and Cheryl would often stand over their beds at night to watch them sleep, terrified something would happen to them. "Fear ruled my life - everything I did was because of it," Cheryl recalls.

After her marriage ended seven years later, Cheryl was in and out of relationships simply because she never wanted to be alone. She became alcohol dependent in an attempt to drown the hurt and torment she battled day after day. Then one day, years later, a man came knocking on Cheryl's door. "He wanted to introduce me to God," Cheryl recalls, "but I didn't want to hear him - I thought I could do just fine on my own!"

Because she had heard so many mixed messages about God, Cheryl had become hardened to the idea that she needed someone stronger than herself. After all, where was God when she was growing up?

Still, the seeds of truth were planted in Cheryl's heart and eighteen months later, while walking from her home on the way to the bar, Cheryl heard some music coming from a building she had never noticed before. It was a local church having a worship service, and out of curiosity, Cheryl walked through the door.

"I walked in and looked around and saw the people worshipping God," Cheryl says. "I didn't understand it and thought they all must be drunk!" Cheryl recalls talking with the pastor's wife and then staying to listen for the remainder of the service. She never made it to the bar that night. Week after week, Cheryl found herself drawn back to this same church and six months later, she prayed and asked Jesus Christ to become her personal Savior.

"When I gave my life to the Lord, I felt such a burden lift from me," Cheryl says. "For the first time in my life, I knew there was someone there for me - God was there and would be my help!"

Security at last! Never before had Cheryl known what it was like to have something "sure" that she could count on. Now, with Jesus, she had the assurance that He would never leave her.

In her newfound relationship with the Lord, Cheryl did indeed find someone she could trust. The fears didn't go away instantly. But over time they weakened their hold as Cheryl grew in her relationship with her heavenly Father. "Even though I knew God was with me, I still had to learn how to trust Him. It was through building my relationship with God that I learned I had nothing to fear".

Learning the scriptures was life changing for Cheryl. Being filled with His Holy Spirit helped her to experience His presence in powerful ways. "I know that not only is He with me, He's living inside of me! I don't have to live in fear anymore - I can feel His presence."

Cheryl discovered that the more she spoke with God in prayer, turning every concern over to Him, the more freedom she experienced. Every day, the love of God became more real to her and each day she found greater strength. Today, the fears that gripped her for so many years no longer have a hold on her. Cheryl is free at last!

 

Kelli Beaucage is a freelance writer and ordained minister. She and her husband, Leonard, pastor a church in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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