The phone rang in the kitchen. “I’ll get it,” Robert said, springing to his feet.
I leaned back and shut my eyes, touched by the concern in Robert’s voice. What was happening to him? For that matter, what was happening to me?
I will take your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
God was softening my heart, but I cringed when the verse came to mind.
I first heard it at the age of fourteen. The Sunday after the rape, my pastor spoke on forgiveness. Allowing God to pluck out the seeds of bitterness that hardened hearts. Being willing to accept hearts of flesh. Work through the feelings.
I refused. My emotions were too raw. My anger too great.
Over the years, the seeds burrowed themselves into my soul until I rarely acknowledged them at all. A critical spirit sprouted among shoots of distrust and sarcasm. Unattended, they grew to maturity, wrapping their roots around every aspect of my life.
Had God allowed the rape, or had I been responsible?
I shuddered as I recalled the scene. I’d cried out in pain, but Danny made it clear I had asked for what he was giving me. Slapping his hand over my mouth, he chastised me harshly. “Shut up, you little tease. You can’t go prancing around in those snug sweaters and short skirts and expect a guy not to be attracted to your tight, young flesh.” He moaned as he came to fullness within me. I whimpered inside, but never uttered another sound. This was my fault. I deserved the pain.
“Did you give the baby up for adoption?”
I nodded, unwrapping the blanket and gently outlining my baby’s angelic face with my pinkie finger. I handed the picture to Marissa. “I loved him so much.”
She smiled sadly. “Too young to raise a baby, but not too young to bond with him, right?”
“I was fourteen.”
Vivid pictures raced through my mind. The birth. The baby. The Asian nurse who lifted him from my arms and carried him out of the room. Out of my life. The doctor who explained that my father had arranged everything. I willed the images away and returned to the moment.
“My father sent me away so no one would know I was pregnant. I stayed with a great-aunt in Chicago . . . thought she would help me raise my baby, but . . .” The tears returned. Softer this time. Like a gentle rain.
“Tell me about your baby, Biz.” Marissa set the black-and-white photo in front of me. “Did he have your beautiful big eyes and fair skin?”
I nodded my head, not trusting myself to speak. No one had ever asked me about the baby. Not even my mother. In forty-eight years, I’d never once spoken his name in conversation. But oh, how my soul longed to remember him. “He was so tiny,” I said, forcing myself to continue despite the piercing agony within. “Blue eyes and a tiny tuft of my grandpa’s red hair. Gorgeous long eyelashes and the sweetest little mouth I’ve ever seen.”
Marissa broke off another square of chocolate for herself. “Did you get to spend much time with him?”
“Nope. Just a few seconds before the nurse took him away.” My lip quivered. I paused for a deep breath to settle my nerves. “I thought the nurse was going to clean the baby up. I had no idea I would never see him again.”
Marissa stretched out along the bench. “Do you want to talk about the baby’s father?”
Somewhere deep inside, a switch turned. My body stiffened as a gush of fury caught me off guard. “No,” I said, standing and crossing the kitchen. “I don’t think so.”
I stared out the window over the sink. “I’m quite sure I would blow my Christian witness.”
Marissa laughed. “Don’t need to worry about that with me. I don’t consider myself a religious person, anyway. At least not in the traditional way. So lay it on me. Keep your Christian witness for your Christian friends.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. I swiveled and leaned against the counter, facing Marissa. “You’re totally missing the point. My Christian witness is meant to win unbelievers to the Lord.”
Marissa didn’t fight me.
I shoved my mop across the filthy basement floor, muck from the past climbing higher than everything else on my mind. Grandpa insisted God loved me, but if so, why would he allow me to experience such horrific pain and heartache?
Rejection. Rape. Where were the angels God supposedly sent to guard over me? “Why, Lord? Where were you? Why didn’t you protect me?”
I worked my way back to the staircase and sat down on the steps. Despair wrapped its arms around me, destroying all hope. I must have been too bad as a child, even for God.
But that was wrong. I recognized the deception, and as I scanned the clean basement floor, a thought came to mind.
“Start at the bottom. If the foundation is unclean, dirt will continue to work its way to the top, soiling everything in its path.”
Like the tine of a fork working a knot out of a child’s shoelace, a finger of grace loosened the tangled grip of despair that held me captive for so many years.
God was confirming what he had said before. He didn’t want me to hang on to my past any longer. He wanted me to uncover, examine, and dispose of childhood debris. And he had sent Marissa to help me do it.
Climbing the steps with renewed energy, I smiled. God was with me. I still didn’t understand why bad things had to happen, but I knew for sure God cared.
My head hurt. I rubbed my neck and checked my watch. Four o’clock. Gritting my teeth, I pushed myself out to the garage, collected the stack of picture frames from the trunk and the remaining manila envelope, and returned to the kitchen.
My heart sank as I rummaged through the pictures. What had I expected? A treasured memento? A letter from Grandpa? I wasn’t sure. I just knew I felt emptier than
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