Note: The Bible quotes featured in this post were highlighted or underlined by me sometime between late May 1999 and Spring 2000.
Throughout high school, I had one of those Teen Study Bibles. It was stuffed full of highlighted passages, notes, a small prayer journal, and old church bulletins. When I was 24, I was sorting through some boxes I had stored and came across it. I pulled out the bulletins and flipped through the prayer journal. I read a section toward the back I’d written about not taking Communion because I had a beef with my old youth leader. I found other passages where I thanked God for the Godly example of some of the people in my church. Absolutely disgusted with my own naivety and under the influence of a resurgence of painful memories, I took it all—prayer journal, Bible, and bulletins—chucked them into a black trash bag, then turned to my husband and said, “I’m probably going to hell for that.”
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…James 1:19 (NIV)
So, I don’t have the Bible I used in high school. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named stole the Bible I was given in junior high, so that one’s gone as well. However, I do still have the Bible my church gave me when I graduated high school.
On May 23, 1999 I was handed a pink Women’s Devotional Bible that had my name embossed on the front. I used it throughout that summer and fall, which was the same time period I was being stalked and threatened. I also used it for a few months after I left Arkansas.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.James 1:2-3 (NIV)
I bought a new Study Bible and stopped using the pink Bible sometime in 2000. But, I kept it around. Mostly, I’ve kept it out of spite. That’s a ridiculous thing to type, but it’s true. I felt like getting rid of that last link to my old church would be like admitting defeat. Keeping it around was like saying, “All right, y’all. I may not physically be there any more, but I’m haunting the crap out of you.” Again, it’s ridiculous. I know it’s ridiculous. But, that’s where I was stuck for a long time.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.Matthew 7:15-19 (NIV)
I saw it sitting on the bookshelf a couple of nights ago and wondered if I’d ever made any notes in it. I couldn’t remember if I had or not. I flipped to Matthew and saw that I had highlighted some passages back then. They were some of the passages I’d read in church that Sunday morning after the first break-in. I flipped back to the front and went through that old Bible page by page to see what I’d marked.
There wasn’t much marked and it was… well, it was eerie. I have some journal entries I wrote after everything that happened, but nothing from the months when I was living right in the middle of it. When I found that old Teen Study Bible 10 years ago, I saw the girl I’d been before it all happened. Reading those passages last night, I got a glimpse of the woman this time in my life was starting to shape and I saw faith and hope.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5 (NIV)
Honestly, it startled me. Because time does funny things to our memories, doesn’t it? I often think of this one traumatic event as The Thing That Killed My Faith. But, I know there were several micro-traumas that happened after I left Arkansas. Alone, none of them were as big of a deal as being threatened with murder and abandoned by my church. But, over time they sure did add up. The whole stalking thing took me to the edge, but that alone didn’t push me over.
I wonder if I would have been OK if I’d decided to take the rest of the year off instead of jumping into a Christian college right away. Or if I hadn’t still been so willing to trust people (which I “remedied” by late 2000). I wonder if I would have been OK if I had received a couple of empathetic responses instead of flippant remarks or silence in those early months when I wasn’t so hush-hush about the whole thing.
I don’t know. I could play what-if games for the next 15 years and still not know.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Romans 12:9-10 (NIV)
When I look back at the summer and fall of 1999, all I see is a legacy of fear and hurt and anger. All I see is a girl who was terrified and too weak to do anything but run away. But, maybe it’s more complicated than that. Maybe faith, hope, and love were there in the midst of it. Maybe that’s my legacy too. Maybe I just forgot.