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“I dreamed I went to heaven and you were there with me; we walked the streets of Gold beside the crystal sea, we heard the angels singing, then someone called your name, and then you turned a young man and he was smiling as he came. And he said, friend you may not know me now but then he said but wait…” Ray Boltz
I was only in the Children’s Home for weeks before I got to go on tour with the other kids who had earned that privilege. We traveled around the country singing in countless churches and eating more “dinner on the grounds” than we can even count. I was adjusting to being at the home after a couple of weeks, however, I was still very shy—perhaps the correct word is scared. Because of that fear, I had very little interaction with anybody, especially any of the male staff members. Traveling around the country for 8 weeks was a lot of fun. As I look back on it now, that first summer tour was the first step, triage if you will, to addressing my gaping, oozing emotional wounds.
It was a simple task, really. But the task was mine and mine alone and one that I cherished. Every night, summer after summer, it was my job to grab a plastic cup from the storage containers on the greyhound bus; find a place to fill it with water and put it on the pulpit. After I got over the sheer terror of “Dad McGowan” calling me to the front of the bus to ask me to get water for him, his request made me feel special and I got that cup of water without fail for well over 6 years. It seems silly, but it was a precious gift for me—to be able to serve Dad McGowan, even if it meant something that anybody could do. He made me feel like only my water would quench his thirst. There was no magic in that water; but there was something greater than magic about being asked to get that water.
Years later I asked Dad McGowan why he didn’t just get a staff member of the sponsoring church to get his water. I was stunned by his reply to that question. He told me that I would not get near him-I wouldn’t even hug him; I would stay away from him. He told me this was a chance to prove that all men were not like the ones I had experienced in my life. He knew that getting him water would bond me to him. He knew my love language is serving and that would allow me to express to him that I loved him, because I did. I never missed getting him his water—and somewhere along the way, he became a Dad to me.
I hugged and loved without reservation after a very short time. I found myself going to him for advice, and it was a sermon by him, that the Lord used for me to ask Jesus to be my Personal Savior. I still remember the sermon Dad preached that night. He preached on the compassion of Jesus—and how when He is our Savior; but more importantly, how He is our Abba Father.
Dad understood the gravity of the kids that he was charged to feed, cloth and protect—but he knew He had to point us to our Abba Father too; a father Who would never leave us or forsake us. I look back on that time now, and wonder how I would have made it through any of what would happen after that day without my Abba Father. In fact, one day very recently, I was reminded of the power, the love and the protection of my Abba Father.
“I am so, so sorry”. You could have heard a pin drop that day at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church. The pastor, my pastor, stood at the pulpit and was leaning on it as if it propped him up; and he let those words sink into the minds and hearts of those listening to him. I think Ray leaned on that pulpit because he was justifiably angry, disgusted and sad. He was preaching a sermon called “The Bruised Reed”. Essentially, he was preaching on a variety of painful subjects and how the church should respond.
Sometime days during one particular week, I was warned about his next topic, I went anyway. Ray was preaching on sexual abuse—a topic that is more familiar to me than even I know. Sexual abuse is part of my story from the time I was 7 years old until I was 14 years old and then again for 12 years by the hands of my husband in the form or sexual abuse the experts call “martial rape”.
I thought these wounds had been healed, and for the most part they are; but the scars were very thin and even the slightest friction could cause them to become gaping wounds, again. This sermon was more than slight friction. As Ray preached about how the church should respond to victims of sexual abuse, he spent a long time addressing guilt and shame that victims experience after being abused.
“So don’t believe the lies. You are His beloved, You are Abba’s child. No more guilt and shame, isn’t that Amazing Grace? Josh Bales
I was sitting in the back of the church that day. Ray stood at the pulpit, fully understanding the gravity of this moment. He told us a story of a pastor’s retreat he attended and how he was 3 out of 7 who had not been sexually abused. He wanted to make it very clear this was not part of his story but his heart broke for those whom it did affect.
After he spoke those words, he stayed silent for what felt like forever, and I was sure the over-head window light highlighted the tears in his eyes. It was then I started crying not only for me – I heard people all around me crying too. If statistics are correct at least 1 in 4 of you reading this has been sexually abused. The realization of that kind of statistic is astounding; I am proud of my pastor for preaching on such sensitive and painful subject.
We ended the service with communion and I returned to my seat with my head bowed and more tears streaming down my face than I ever could remember. Crissy was sitting beside me and I could hear her crying too because she has lived with the repercussions of my abusers for a long time. I knew her tears were for me-as her instinct is to protect me and to be incredibly angry for anyone who didn’t protect me. I couldn’t even look her way though, I just dropped my head as the service ended and could not stop crying. Suddenly, somebody grabbed on the other side and it was Anna, Crissy’s sister in law, and she hung on tight. By that time, Crissy grabbed the other arm and I was flanked on either side of them by the truest form of love a person can receive.
Certainly, some of the tears were a sign of an awareness that so many years of my life had been robbed by the repercussions of this evil, this darkness. The scars, though healed, oozed a little that day as I realized that some of the pain would never be completed healed; they would need wound care; they would always need to be given attention.
“I used to pray that I could rewrite history, I used to pray that You would take this shame away and hide and hide the evidence of who I have been. But it is the memory of the place you brought me from that brings me my knees, even though I’m free. Heal the wound but leave the scar, a reminder of how merciful You are, I am broken, torn apart so heal the wound, but leave the scar”—Pointe of Grace
As the last of the congregation was finishing communion I sat in the pew and had completed soaked up the tissue that I had and I could see each teardrop fall on the floor of this church that has been such a refuge. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to get from that pew and out of the church without anyone seeing me—or my red, puffy and swollen eyes. I think this is indicative of the shame I still felt—I didn’t want the world to know. But I glanced to the front of the church and saw him standing there, and suddenly I was headed to the front of the church as quickly as I could get there.
I had not known Crissy very long when I met her parents. I still remember when I met her dad for the first time, in 2008. It was at Tio Pepe’s in Clearwater. Crissy had told me for months that I needed to meet her parents as they themselves had their own victory stories; but most of all she wanted me to meet them because there were (and still are) in a word, amazing.
Tom Loughrige is the kind of person that would find a connection with a nail, a bulldozer, a drug addict, a preacher, a doctor or anything in between. It took about 5 minutes for he and I to find a connection. And, it was an important connection for me at that point in my life. We were talking about my hometown. He went to college there and knew all about it and we just talked and talked about Jacksonville—much to Crissy and her mom’s displeasure I am sure. I don’t think Tom has ever met a stranger. He is kind and gentle and probably the most generous person I know.
I finally looked up and now the tears were just falling on my shirt, but I saw Tom standing at the front ready to pray with people and without even thinking about it, I bolted to the front and when he saw me coming, he grabbed me in his arms and tried to get me to stop crying –I was crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. What he said to me are words that were meant only for me to hide in my heart –and I did.
Later that day, it occurred to me that I had two people in my life that annihilated my view on men. I had found two who didn’t want anything from me. I had found two who were and are not only father figures to me but are images of my Abba Father-the one that claimed me that day when I asked him to be my Savior. It occurred to me that not only do I two father figures on this earth, but I have my Abba Father who is Who is chasing me down and who loves me unconditionally. Dad McGowan and Papa Loughridge shine Jesus in everything they do. Both of them love me unconditionally and both of them would protect me. However, the most important thing they do for me is point me to my Abba Father.
“Dad McGowan is in his 80’s now, but recently told me that he never even needed the water, but he knew I needed to get it for him. A few months ago, “Papa Loughridge” told me he was never going to let me fail.
And so, on this Father’s Day, I am not a orphan without a father; I am a blessed with 2 who love me as their own, but most importantly they remind me of my Father Who will never leave or forsake me. And for that reason, I can say nothing else but “Thank You for Giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed”
“One by one they came, as far as the eye could see, each life somehow touched by your generosity. Little things that you had done, sacrifices made, unnoticed on the earth, in heaven now proclaims. And I know up in heave, you are not supposed to cry, but I am almost sure there were tears in your eyes, as Jesus took your hand and you stood before the Lord, he said ‘my child look around you, for great is your reward.” Ray Boltz