When I first read Joy's post, it touched my heart like few blog posts do, and I knew I wanted to share it with you. With her permission, I'm reposting that blog post (be sure to check next Wednesday for another one from her).
My debut novel deals with physical, mental and sexual abuse. This abuse real-life story from Joy is another form of abuse but just as evil and hurtful. I truly believe we must stand up against this and encourage each person who has suffered abuse, to seek for freedom and deliverance.
Will you do your part today?
Now, Joy's post . . .
On this hot July day my handsome, young, and hard working Daddy was trying to get me to smile. And he was hauling me around in my favorite toy – my wagon. My beautiful and pregnant-with-my-brother Mama wanted me to smile at her, but the sun was too bright, and I was too grumpy. Our faithful dog, Cindy, watched patiently. Mama had bought me a new dress with matching anklets, new sandals, and had curled my hair. I was eighteen (or so) months old.
I loved Mama and Daddy, but my answer was no.
On another day, a few years later, I hauled my wagon up a hill in our neighborhood. That box on four wheels with a handle went lots of places with me and took me lots of imaginary places. With a small pillow at one end, I could curl up and read. Under a blanket covered branch, it was a vital part of my fort; the place I could be anyone I wanted to be. Or I could color and dream and tell my dolls my secrets, and be. I was five.
But that day was different.
The big kids in the neighborhood either shunned or bullied me. I had my hair pulled, received shoulder shoves, was called names, and had my dresses pulled up on a regular basis. I tried very hard to keep my fears to myself. I was the big sister – I needed to be brave. It was better if they were mean to me than to my brother. Besides, I was scared to death what they’d do to me if I stood up to them, or worse – if I told on them.
That day, they called me to the top of the hill. I should have known, but they sounded so nice – like they wanted to be my friends. They didn’t.
Instead, they talked me into getting into my wagon, whose wheels were now slightly loose and rattled, and riding it down the hill. By myself. It seemed like an easy request although it wasn’t until I was sitting on my knees in my Hiawatha that I realized I’d made a terrible mistake. When they gave it a group shove, it was too late. Even the rattle of the wheels on the rough blacktop (it was a much different texture in the early sixties) didn’t block out their taunts. Their favorite was “Stupid!” It felt like a swear word slipping off their tongues and into my frightened and breaking heart. Another I heard was, “Ugly!” The laughter that followed my downhill plunge was cruel and loud.
I sailed through three sometimes busy intersections with no way to stop. My wagon’s only brakes were my feet, and somehow I knew that using them would cause me to flip and get badly hurt. So, I hung onto the handle with both hands and rode to where the road inclined slightly which was at the end of our driveway. Shaking inside and out, I walked my wagon into our yard – it had never been so empty or so heavy. Invisible to the human eye, I hauled shame, embarrassment, and sadness instead of the innocence I’d started out the day with. I parked it, and sat on the swing for awhile to catch my breath. My knees ached from new scuff marks caused by the bumps in the road, and some small bits of dirt that were now ground into them. Mama wouldn’t notice that so much – I was always skinning my knees. That meant I wouldn’t have to tell her about them. And I didn’t. Until I had to. Even then, I was in my thirties before I told anyone about the wagon ride.
For years, the burden I hauled around in the wagon of my heart was terribly heavy. I was stupid and ugly and unacceptable.
They thought I was helpless. But I wasn’t. And they were about to learn a lesson of their own. Sometimes a little girl has to tell. It’s the only way to be safe. I didn’t plan it that way, but it happened.
My daddy was home from work between jobs (he worked two so Mama could stay home)and was watching me walk home from where the bus dropped us off. Behind me, one of the boys held the back of my skirt high above my head and said terrible, nasty, dirty things to me. He didn’t see the strong man waiting for me. Nor did they see the woman by his side. I didn’t see them either because I kept my eyes focused on the ground in front of me as I walked in shame.
That boy was about to pay a very high price for his cruel act.
Daddy asked me a few important questions and then walked me over to that boy’s house. He lived in a central location, and most of the neighborhood kids were out there playing. A few parents were as well. Grown-ups who had witnessed his unkind deeds and those of their own children as well. They believed I had to fight my own battles.
They were wrong. Sometimes a little girl needs adults to do what is right.
That day, I stood in front of all of them and that boy’s dad with my hand in my daddy’s and told him what his son had done. He already knew because he often sat on his front steps and watched, but in the face of my father, he was forced to act. And he did. He beat his son publically with such violence; he screamed out in pain, and I cried.
As we walked home, tears stung my now chapped cheeks, but I held my head up. And I noticed the way Daddy looked the neighbors, both kids and adults, straight in the eyes. He knew they knew, and they knew he knew.
Instead of giving up on their nasty acts, they continued to taunt me at the bus stop in the mornings. I was usually the first one there, and they’d push me to the back – every day. They knew my dad was working then, but they’d underestimated my mama. I saw her coming, but they didn’t and by the time one of the noticed her, it was too late. She lined them up and gave them “what for!” She’d take a step in their direction and they’d back up. When she got them up against the side of a house, she continued to let them know that picking on her daughter was unacceptable and would not be in their best interest. Then she came to me, put me at the head of the line and lined them up behind me. (She later became the favorite room mother in my classrooms and president of the PTA one year. They always knew she was around.)
After that, the bullying stopped. Not because they were suddenly my friends because they weren’t. But not one of them wanted to face my defenders. A sense of power surged into my heart. I wasn’t alone. I had my parents. Word got out at school it was best to leave me alone. It’s funny, but that’s when I started to make friends although I was careful around certain kids. Kids who given the chance would do the same thing again. Kids who were mean to other kids. Kids I know now were probably hurt badly and were passing on what they knew.
Sadly, even with the love and support of my faithful defenders, it took me years to empty their words from my heart. Because I believed them over the other words I heard. Because I gave them authority that didn’t belong to them. Those kids don’t know it, but their words held me captive for a very long time.
It took the gentle and constant love of Jesus for me to let those words go. He used Matthew 11:28-30 to reach that secret place where the burden that wore me out resided.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (NLT)
Sitting at the top of that hill today, in my car, in the shade of a tree old enough to have been a silent witness to my wagon ride, I heard their gleeful laughter and their voices echoing in my heart. Stupid and ugly ricocheted around the healed place, and I felt the sting, and the familiar burden as the words tried to shove their way back into their old position. But today, they could only bounce around because my heart is no longer their home. I glanced in the rear-view mirror as I drove down the hill, and thanked God for taking the loneliness, degradation, and sorrow from my wagon.
John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
Driving away fifty years later, I smiled. I am truly free, and most of the time I live like it. Jesus and I are working on the times when I don’t. Over and over I am experiencing His gentle heart and His rest.
So now is the time to ask…what’s in your wagon?
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Wonderful, freedom-loving blessings!