The following is an excerpt taken from Chapter 18, Between 2 Gods; a Memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community. This portion takes place in my ‘rebel years’, shortly after my 17th birthday, as I try to navigate living arrangements and party life, running from God, evening denying Him, yet finding myself, face to face with the reality of His love.
[…] And so it was that only weeks after I moved in with Cheri and Annette, I moved out again and settled into my new home with Kyle and Amy. We had arranged one quick meeting for me to check out the bedroom and agree on rent, and it was a done deal.
I arrived at their door with my belongings and was greeted by a large black dog, barking furiously. Dogs are wonderful pets, when they like you, and you are familiar with them. Large, strange black dogs, who bark like you’re their lunch, are not so nice for pets.
Fido was gated in the kitchen, so that he could not come to my room, but every day I had to step over that gate, dodge through the kitchen, jump over the other gate, and go downstairs to shower before work.
I refused to admit it, but that dog terrified me. “No, no, I’m fine,” I said, when Kyle or Amy asked, but every time I faced that dog when they were gone, my heart first stopped when the dog barked or growled at me, then restarted with furious energy as I braved the kitchen. For several weeks I silently endured that dragon-sized beast. Daily I imagined my remains on the floor, for Kyle and Amy to clean up when they returned home. But each day I survived the mad dash, and landed on the other side of the gate laughing from the adrenaline rush.
Needless to say I didn’t eat much when Kyle and Amy were away, as I never lasted long enough in the kitchen to scrounge together a meal. Gradually I accepted these inconveniences as part of my new environment, and stored food in my room.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. Kyle and Amy decided they wanted to parent me. They set a curfew. I would need to tell them who I was with, where I was going, and how long I planned to be gone. And any other detail they would like to know, I would be required to tell them. I had been on my own for a year, with no one demanding those things, and I was not about to play that role in a tenant relationship. I came and went as I pleased. I was responsible for my own meals and groceries, except the occasional dinner in the evening, so there was no need for them to know my plans. I was renting a room. Nothing more.
About that time I met up with my past party friends again. In conversation I told them about my living conditions—the dog, the “babysitting” and curfew—and they offered me a room in their apartment. I accepted immediately
We drove to Kyle and Amy’s to collect some basic items, and I informed them of my decision to move out. I made arrangements to return for the rest of my belongings the next day. […]
So began the adventures, in early December 1986, of living with my party friends. They were “responsible” party friends, and great roommates.
It wasn’t much of a life, really, working and partying, but it kept reality at bay, and prevented me from facing memories of home and childhood. And it effectively drowned out the voice of God, so that I didn’t need to contend with Him, or the reality of my sin and rebellion. Most of the time…
Every now and then, when I watched 100 Huntley Street, and listened to the testimonies and stories of Jesus, or when I was alone at night, and sober, His voice would whisper, and I would find myself contemplating God, and my eternal destiny. When friends or roommates were present, I boldly cursed Him, even dropping the “f-bomb” when we stumbled upon Christian TV programs. But in the absence of company, I listened and wept. On one occasion, I even called in for prayer, after listening to Reverend David Maines, and a sweet Grandma prayed for me and encouraged me. Still, had someone asked me, I would have said God didn’t exist, that I didn’t believe in Him and, at best, I was an agnostic. Probably atheist. There was no way, in my mind, that a loving God could exist, given the life I had known up until that time, and with my experiences in church. But in those moments, alone, when I heard His voice, and felt Him move deep in my fragmented spirit, I was compelled to believe.
What was more, in those moments He was not condemning or harsh. When that Grandma, in her shaky, aged voice, told me of God’s love and prayed for me, it was as if God Himself reached down. And the voice I heard in the stillness, alone in my room, was one of love and invitation. Standing at my window, looking up into the night sky, I felt as though my chest might burst and the tears would fall, unashamedly, as my heart cried out to this Being, whoever He was. And, if just for a moment, my spirit would come alive, and life would breathe into my soul. And then the moment would pass, and life, with all its harshness, returned.
On the harsher days, when God was far away, I scoffed and mocked the very God who breathed that life into me. On one such day, walking down King Street just outside King Centre Shopping Plaza, a group of Beachy Amish Mennonites congregated, handing out religious tracts.
I resented my cultural background and wanted to be rude, but I recognized the man reaching out his hand with the tract. Elroy Wagler. He didn’t recognize me, but my older sister had worked for him and his wife, Dianne, and I had visited their home and played with their children, Anita, Lynette, Loretta, Nathanial, and Timothy. Suddenly it was personal and I didn’t have the heart to decline or be rude. I didn’t identify myself, but I smiled and graciously accepted the pamphlet.
As I walked away, I shredded the pamphlet and tossed it in the garbage can on the sidewalk. Why did the people seem so nice when, in my reality, so much of the culture had been harsh? Were they all pretending? Was any of it real?
I was forced to see good and evil, so that I could not simply write religion off as a curse or a fantasy. And always I would find some chaos, drama, or party to push that reality far away, and leave God lost in the shadows of the past, the shadows of religion and time.
Had I known how to look past both—good and evil—to see only God’s pure love, and His desire for relationship, then I might have believed and been transformed.
–Conclusion of excerpt: Chapter 18 Between 2 Gods; a Memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community —
BETWEEN 2 GODS is currently on sale (paperback) on Amazon USA, for only $13.61 (04/27/2015) I have no influence on how long it will be on sale.
On the roller-coaster of those teen years, there were highs–literally–and there were lows. Reconnecting with my friends was a high, but only weeks later in that very apartment, I would experience an all-time low. I would be raped by a friend, triggering a flashback, and derailing my roller-coaster completely and leaving me lost and wandering. But each tragedy, over time, became a pathway that would lead me back to the love I had searched for so desperately; a love that had been there all along, lost behind the shadows of my broken story.
I pray that you, too, find love, acceptance and hope if you have not yet. And if you have, I pray that my story encourages you to continue clinging for dear life to the One who gives that love freely.
~ T ~