In 9th grade, a girl I knew only a little followed me home. She got off at my bus stop and followed me right into my yard. She was crying and on the verge of hysteria because she had begun having sex with her new boyfriend and was convinced she was pregnant. Her pants didn't fit, she didn't get her last period and her boyfriend had stopped talking to her because she was scared to have sex again. Her worst fear was losing him, the first guy to see behind the overweight and acne prone new girl who was lonely.
I got her to take a deep breath and pray with me. We prayed that she wasn't pregnant and that if she was God would help her. She prayed that her boyfriend wouldn't leave her. I ran into the house to get our phone and talked her into calling her Mother to come pick her up. The next day she ran up to me and joyously announced that she wasn't pregnant. She thanked me for our talk and then looked me dead in the eye and said "Carrie, your life is so perfect."
She didn't know that I didn't invite her over because unplanned guests were never allowed in our home. She didn't know that I kept her outside because I was afraid of what we would walk into. And she didn't know that I was terrified of the consequences of her visit when she left.
My home life was a crap shoot. I could walk in on my parents cuddling and making plans to go out that night. Dinner would be made, the house clean and my Mother would want to hear all about my day and my Father would want everyone to join in on a family hug. Or, I would hear the yelling just as I turned the corner into our yard. Based on the type of yelling and whether my Mother was screaming for help or not I would either walk as slow as possible or run as fast as I could. Some days it was Dad backing Mom into a wall and screaming at her over money she had hidden, occasionally making his point by shoving her or choking her. Other days the house was a disaster and my Mother was waiting for me to vent her rage on. And even harder for me, the days when no one was home and I would have to wait and see what would happen. If there was a note that they were at an appointment or working late, great. No note, overturned furniture and broken jewelry meant it was going to be a very long night.
No one knew that I was a cheerleader and worked a second job because it gave me an excuse to be out of the house on weekends. No one knew I joined every club and activity I could because it kept me longer at school. No one knew that some of my sick days were because I was helping my Mother put makeup over her bruises so she could keep her job, or because she once again took us and left my Father. No one knew that the times I did badly on tests or forgot to do projects were because I spent the night refereeing between my parents or taking the brunt of my Mother's frustration with life. They didn't know that I was backing out of plans again because I needed to help my Mother catch my Father cheating.
I am not airing my dirty laundry or getting back at my parents by telling the family secrets. I am reaching back in time to me. To a little girl clutching her bible and crying because she doesn't want to go out of her room and stop her parents from fighting again, she just wants to sleep. To the little girls and little boys who have to pick up the pieces of their souls every morning and go to school and act like nothing is wrong, all the time dreading the terror that comes every night. The kids who pay for their parents mistakes, and are even considered mistakes, and take that and bundle it inside them every day and just survive.
God loves you. He is standing right there in the midst of your pain and holding out a hand to you. Grab it and hold on tightly like I did, it saved my life. He will make you a victorious survivor instead of a broken victim. He will give you peace and love for all the destruction and hatred you have known. He will beat back the demons of the night and send his angels to watch over you. He will take your wounded and bleeding soul and heal you. He will make it so that when you see yourself, a broken and wounded child, you can say "I know exactly what you are going through and here is how God helped me". And most of all he will give you the desires of your heart.
How do I know? I no longer get sick when I come home. My house is loud and full of noise, but it is of music and laughter. The man waiting for me is a gift from God who is gentle and kind. The girl, also a gift, is my daughter who will never know the pain I have. And, finally, I don't fear the coming night.