It seems there is a moment in everyone’s life they encounter “that defining moment.” That moment when we thought we were in tune with our lives and circumstances and understood at least enough to handle situations as they arose. One might think…
At this point in my life, it was just me and my daughter, who was at that time five years old. We had just survived a very difficult separation and divorce from a man who, let’s just say, had a lot of issues of his own that desperately needed tending to. My daughter and I were learning how to live life day to day on our own, and I was determined we would live with peace in our home. Peace. Peace and quiet. Peace and sense of well-being. Peace in our little, miniscule piece of the world. Peace, which neither of us had known for a very long time and we were on the journey of learning how to achieve it.
Then it happened. That one moment in time that changes everything. It changes time as we would always remember it. It marks the realization of what I wondered for quite some time, and in retrospect, God was trying to reveal to me. That one moment that compounds my already over-burdened sense of failing as a mother to protect her child.
It didn’t start out bad. There was actually a moment in time I believe we really loved each other. At least for a moment in the beginning. After a period of time, I found myself searching for me. As a wife, finding myself nurturing and supporting my husband, I found more and more there was little time for me. He was committed to his views and desires and I learned quickly mine were not as important. If I disagreed, I was sure to be shown how I was wrong. If I chose not to comment, I was a pacifist. If I chose to accept the invitation to spend time with him on an outing with a friend, instead of staying home to clean house and do the laundry, then my moment of enjoyment quickly faded after being verbally thrashed for being lazy and not keeping our home tidy. Never mind the fact he was unemployed half of our marriage and I was working more than full-time hours at the business (that I began as a manager before we were married and ultimately became sole owner) trying to make ends meet. And, if I my daughter acted up, it was because she wasn’t whipped enough. This, compounded with my daughter sitting on the side of her bed at bedtime asking me, “Why does daddy always hurt me?” And my feeble, inexcusable answer of “I don’t know.” I understood he had issues and needed help, but he refused to do so, even at my pleading. You get the picture.
The day started good. It was a Sunday in the Spring, not long before Easter. The sun was shining and the weather was warming up, enough to keep the windows open. The breeze flowed through the house and the air was crisp with life. It was beautiful. My daughter had been at her dad’s regularly scheduled weekend visit and I resolved I was going to finally shampoo my carpets before she got home. I almost made it too!
As always, when she came home, I met her at his vehicle to receive her and her things. When I went out to meet her, I saw her dad lifting her up with her feet on the arm rest of the open door, and he was talking very softly to her. I didn’t think a whole lot of it at the time, just that it was “different.” As I walked her to the house, she was unusually quiet and somber. I told her to go ahead and get into the bath while I finished up the carpets. She got out of the bath and I gave her a bag of candy that had been put up for her, while she waited for me to get her clothes. What I saw next would change our lives forever and would map out some of the most difficult months we had faced since the divorce—my daughter revealed how her dad had been inappropriate with her.
I was in shock. I acted like everything was okay, but I was certainly not okay. I called the ER and was advised to wait and take her to her pediatrician the next day, since I had already given her a bath. After I put my daughter to bed, I sat down at my kitchen table and began crying out to God. I was grieved beyond description and felt an array of emotions beyond comprehension. I asked, “Where was I? As hard as I tried to protect her, how could this have happened?” Then I turned my anger towards God and said, “And where were you? You’re everywhere we are! Why did you let this happen!!” I tossed the memories back and forth, trying to make sense of <em>anything</em>. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. Finally, well after midnight, when everything was dark and everything was still and quiet, I heard the Lord speak. All He said was, “Be still and know that I am God. I will never leave you or forsake you.”
The next day, I did as I was advised and took my daughter to her pediatrician who confirmed my suspicion. We were sent to Children’s Hospital for my daughter to be completely evaluated. She even told the social worker the same thing she told me. It seemed time stood still. Phone calls were made and over the next weeks, and even months came the flood of phone calls of “You’re a liar.” “How dare you get us involved in something like this.” “It’s just a yeast infection.”
After meeting with my attorney and paying fees that wiped out all the money I had, we were able to get restricted supervision, within the parameters of his normal weekend visitations—even so, he was NEVER to be alone with her, he couldn’t spend the night in the same house with her, and the “supervisor” is supposed to monitor every conversation. And one more thing—we were all on gag order. Hmmm—at least I know I won’t have to face not abiding to the law that required this. Yep. At any rate, the entity that handles this through the courts were too short-handed to help us (or so I was told) and it was insisted that a family member is used. Turns out, the only family member willing and able was one of HIS family members. No surprise there. “Why did she have to go at all,” I asked! There was no concrete evidence. The DNA was washed away in the bath. Or so I was told. Nevertheless, my faith was in God, not <em>anyone</em> else.
Next, came the barrage of “My daughter is a psych major. There’s no way he abused her. If he abused her, she wouldn’t want to be around him.” Oh my. Maybe a psych major but with no clinical experience. This is too often the case. I’ve found that kids have an incredible ability to “do” what they have to do in order to get through something. Kids naturally want to please. They naturally want to be loved and accepted as well. All of this played into his family’s unwillingness to accept that their “family” was capable to doing this. Then there was the confirmation that brought another mighty blow. He sought out a former employee of mine who interacted with us when we were married and said, “I know I had an affair on Katrina, but I didn’t do what she accused me of.” Wow. Like a ton of bricks fell on me. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.
Not only did I have to hold myself together for my daughter, I had to process what I deep down inside knew was true as well. He was unfaithful in keeping his marital vows to me. I thought back to a time when my daughter was still in a high chair. My sister-in-law had just had her son and was having medical issues and needed help. I packed up me and my daughter to go help. I invited my husband, but he refused to go. When we came home, the house was spotless and the bed sheets were changed. My first thought was wow, he has had a change of heart. He has finally realized I need help and has turned over a new leaf. Good times were finally on their way. I quickly realized my romantic notions were, let’s just say—<em>wrong,</em> when I went into the back bathroom to find my daughter’s high chair sitting in the tub from when I was cleaning it—exactly the way I left it when I went to help my sister-in-law. I questioned him about it, he just shrugged his shoulder’s. In my gut, I knew. I knew our marriage bed was no longer ours. But I didn’t have the courage to ask. I lived in fear of him and I had learned how to walk on those eggshells without cutting my feet. What would happen to me if I confronted him? Another day. Anyway…now it was out. I was right after all, and he <em>finally</em> admitted it.
I was literally a woman who had to be re-made. All while caring for my daughter and running my business. The DHS investigator smugly admitted to me he didn’t think my ex did what he was accused of and said he would file the appropriate report saying as much. He added he would forward his report to the local law enforcement of the county where the supposed incident of occurrence happened and "see what they come up with." (It happened in another county from where we lived.) We were supposed to be interviewed by the sheriff’s office of that county and the DHS worker was supposed to set this up. Months went by. Somehow, (what a surprise) our case got lost in the shuffle and by the time it was straightened out, we lost restricted supervised visitation. That’s when my daughter stopped talking. We did have that interview with law enforcement, but without my daughter’s testimony, even though it had been given to people in authority at Children’s Hospital, there was nothing law enforcement could do. Too much time had gone by and my daughter had been put through the ringer—without ever going to court.
My daughter progressively became more angry after every weekend she had to see her dad. And I became more frustrated with a system that did not work for us--my ability to trust was more than shattered by this time. Then everything came to a head. My daughter came home one Sunday evening so angry she was out of control, yelling, crying, throwing things. I had to physically restrain her. Once I finally got her settled enough to stand still, I made her stand in front of me and told her to tell me what was wrong. Crying very hard she said, “Daddy lied to me. Daddy didn’t rub with me a pencil because I didn’t feel it. Daddy lied to me.” Five. Years. Old. There was nothing I could do. We went to counseling. I was asked to come into session with her one day. The counselor said my daughter wanted to ask me something. My daughter looked at me with cold, dark brown eyes and said, “Why did you let him hurt me?” All I could say was, “I tried to stop him. I tried. I’m so sorry.” There’s something in a mother’s heart that breaks and never really mends when they know their efforts to protect their child was not enough to rescue them from the forces of nature around them. It’s indescribable and oftentimes unbearable. But God…
Through the many years and seasons that have come and gone since that time, I’ve learned to depend on God more than I ever thought I could. Through every season, every change and every new beginning, the Lord reminds me, “Be still and know I am God. I will never leave you or forsake you.” During that season, that’s all I had to hold on to. With everything and everyone who was against me, it was God, my family and the few who stood by me during that season that got us through it. My daughter weathered the storm and has had many storms to overcome as a result of the insecurities besetting her due to the abuse she was subjected to. But through the grace of God and the love we share in the bond of mother and daughter, I know we will overcome. I learned to trust that God will always work things out for our good, and so He does without fail. I also learned to pray for my ex. Even through it all, he is also God's child. I leave the details to God to work out. I truly do want him set free for himself and for others.
Peace. Peace. Wonderful peace. I have peace now. Every day. I live in His peace knowing He will never leave me or forsake me. I have proven God to be faithful over and over and over again. From those very words God gave me that dark, weary night so long ago, came this song. I hope you feel God’s presence and hear His voice say to you, “Be still and know I am God. I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hope you enjoy.
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