A little baby girl was born into a Christian home. Her mommy and daddy loved her so much. All they wanted was to love and protect her as much as possible. She was one of the luckiest and most blessed babies ever born. She had a Christian father and mother who went to church every time they possibly could. Twice daily the family gathered in the living room for a time of devotion. Daddy read from the Bible and prayed with his growing family. Of course, the little baby had no idea how blessed she was. She had no idea the love that encompassed her, swaddling in warm blankets and tender arms.  

A few years came and Sally grew into a little girl who loved to wander around outside in summer time. She followed older siblings to the creek, sliding down the creek bank into the shallow, cool water. The cows mooed lazily, lying in the pasture, chewing their cuds. No one checked on Sally because she had older siblings to watch out for her. She loved the country farm where they lived. She often watched the sheep, the chickens, the kittens and cats drinking milk from their bowl just outside the milk house door.   

Sally started to notice how one brother, a few years older than her, began to pick on her and torment her unmercifully. She cried and wanted to find protection, but where? She went to her mother. Her mother understood. She observed the actions and words of her children. She knew what was happening. She felt bad for Sally. She so wanted her life to be peaceful, but it wasn’t. Mother would try to punish and discipline Sam, but it seemed a losing battle. Father was so busy with all the chores and farming; he wasn’t around much during the day. When he was, he wanted to be fair, and both Sally and Sam would get spankings. One day, when Sally’s mother told her to love her brother, no matter what he did. It all seemed confusing to Sally, but she would try.  

When Sally was about nine years old, her brother started coming to her room at night. She nor her sister said a word to Mother or Father. What made Sally keep it a secret? She’s not sure. Did her brother tell her she dare not say a word to anyone? It seems that way to Sally, but she’s not sure. Sally just knew how awful her brother had been and now her was showing her attention in a different way. What did it mean? Sally was so confused. She just laid there on the floor, under the covers, while her brother explored her body. Sometimes the words her mother had said came back. “Love your brother no matter what he does.” Why did she feel so ashamed, so dirty, so lost? Why did her younger sister get to stay in their comfortable, safe bed? Why did Sam always pick on her? 

Sally turned twelve and was baptized into the church her parents attended. She was filled with joy for such a short time. The seventeen year old neighbor boy, Ralph, started coming over. He was showing attention to Sally. She felt so grown up at thirteen. He even began sneaking over and being with Sally after dark some evenings. Then the most awful thing happened. Sally and Ralph had an intimate sexual relationship. Sally felt so guilty, so dirty. She knew she had to confess. That was the only way to get out from under the guilt. During the next revivals, she crept downstairs to her parents room and knocked on the door. Sally told her parents. She answered their questions. Back upstairs, safe in her own bed, she slept. When she came downstairs the next morning, a dreadful surprise awaited her. The living room was lined with men in dark suits and black shoes. Her dad was among them, the visiting ministers, and the home staff, too. They started asking questions that her young mind could not connect to anything. After the visit, she looked up the word they used in the dictionary, “fornication.” Now at least she knew what that meant. Later, Sally would come to understand that all the questions were to determine if she was pregnant or not. She just didn’t know because no one had told her such things.

The next evening Sally was excommunicated from the church. Mother had stayed home and Sally had too. She knew Jesus had already forgiven her. Her heart was so light and free. The very next member’s meeting, Sally went to the car and off to church with her father. Mother had stayed home, but Sally didn’t know why. Sally went in and sat down. What? The usher was motioning for her to come with him. She went and, oh no! A room full of men again. But there sat her mother. How had she gotten there? Sally told about the peace in her heart and everyone went back into church. Sally was called on to tell her experience. She was re-accepted just like that.

A couple happy years followed for Sally. Years filled with lots of friends. Sally was bubbly and loved friends. They celebrated each other’s birthdays and had fun together. Sally could forget for short periods of time how weird she was, how different. The past always came back to haunt her. Satan was discouraging her. She truly was the nincompoop she had been told she was a hundred plus times by her brother. What was the use of trying? God knew what a failure at life she was. She quit praying and reading her Bible. She knew Mother still loved her, but that didn’t even seem like enough.

At seventeen, Sally met a young man from the town nearby. She knew she wanted a Christian for a husband, but she was just goofing off, having some fun. The young man was serious, though. He started talking about Sally going to his house and meeting his parents. He even wanted her to tell them he loved their son. She was suppose to tell them that she wasn’t just a Mennonite girl out having fun. But she couldn’t; that was a lie. She did though. She told the lie. One evening he wanted to be intimate. She begged him over and over, “No please don’t, I don’t want to be expelled again from my church.” All her begging was in vain. He would tell her years later, that he thought she was just playing hard to get.

The months came and went but Sally could not break off that relationship. When she would try, Ben would threaten to kill himself. He wanted to be with her all the time. He wanted to meet her parents. He just couldn’t live without her. In time, just a few days after she turned eighteen, she was walking up the wedding aisle, praying in her heart, “God, you know I don’t really want to marry this man, but please, somehow, make it work.” Oh, how Sally had sat in the kitchen at home crying. Mother wanted to know why she was crying. Sally couldn’t say a word. Finally, Mother said, “Do you love him so much?” No, the opposite was probably more true, but Sally didn’t say a word.

There was trouble for Sally almost right away. Ben had had a sexual relationship with another male, and he expected Sally to do what he wanted when it came to sex. She hated it! She couldn’t enjoy that at all. When she didn’t want to do what he expected, he would tell her she was the sick one. She was the one that was so inhibited she couldn’t relax. The emotional abuse began, too.

Sally had a strong will. She determined she would love this man no matter the cost. She prayed a lot. She cried herself to sleep at night, hiding her tears in her pillow. She knew Ben would only be angry if he saw her crying. He didn’t like her tears. He couldn’t understand her, and she didn’t blame him. She knew she was a complicated mess that only God would be able to help. She couldn’t blame anyone but herself. She was the one who said, “I do.” Yes, and for better or worse. She WOULD love this man. God would help her and she knew what sacrificial love was. Her mother’s words stood her in good stead now. Her strong will was a lifesaver, to be sure. Nevertheless, she knew she was lost. She felt so totally lost. She didn’t even dare to hope. She had married an unbeliever and sealed her doom. She had never known this despair. When Ben wasn’t home, she would sit on the bed and howl in anguish. Oh, to have no hope!

The day came when Sally went to church again. Her mother met her in the entry way. She told Sally that if she really wanted to be saved, there would be a way. Oh, now Sally felt a spark of hope. Could it really be, after what she had done?

Disaster was lurking. Mother became very sick. Forever imprinted on Sally’s mind would be the day her mother showed her the lump on her throat and said she had a doctor’s appointment. Yes, the biopsy confirmed it to be cancer. The following months were more than difficult. More emotional pain would follow as Sally dealt with Ben and his jealousy and her dying mother. He didn’t want her to go be with her mother. He could die tomorrow, he argued. Sally knew it was true. He could. She knew Mother was so sick and she was dying. How to love and respect Ben and how to let her mother die without seeing her? She loved her mother and wanted to be with her. Sally’s emotions were over-whelming. Once again, she was so confused. Life made no sense. Relationships made no sense. The one thing Sally felt sure about was her mother’s love. Mother cared about her like no one else. One sad day, Sally went to her mother’s funeral. She had been married for one year. She knew her mother was in heaven. She knew she had to meet her in heaven. She had promised her mother she would and she meant to keep that promise.

Time passed. The days turned into months. Sally found forgiveness for her sins, but she wasn’t able to stand for long. Soon she started dressing like Ben wanted her to and going to the places he wanted to go. Sally hated some of the places they went. It was places that were evil, darkness and shadows, but she endured and while enduring, she prayed for protection. She prayed for God to save them; to please make a way for them.

Now Ben started talking about a baby. Sally did NOT want a baby. Their home was not a Christian home. Of course, Sally did what Sally always did. She relented; she gave in. A darling, precious, little baby boy was born to them. He was so perfect in Sally’s eyes. She had no idea she could love like this. It was such a wonder and such a joy. Sally began to pray for that baby immediately. “Please, God, somehow work it out for me, so this little boy will be saved.”

When Sally had been married about three years, Satan brought another temptation. In all Sally’s life she had never thought she would be untrue to her husband. It had not even entered her head. She knew the Word from all those devotions at home. Ben’s best friend started calling Sally while Ben was at work. He would visit and tell her he noticed how Ben treated her. He started showing up at the house. Sally was getting very uneasy, but she liked how he cared. Sally felt powerless and AND miserable. He wanted sex. She had no desire for sex. Sally did what she was use to doing. She gave in. She had no boundaries with Sam, none with Ben, and now none with Ben’s best friend. Sally allowed this to happen two or three times, but she couldn’t live this lie. She confessed to her husband. Sally found out what real anger was now. She cowered in fear. Ben told her to get out of the house. Where could she go? The shame was more than awful. She drove to Hannah’s. Sally doesn’t know what she told Hannah other than asked if she could stay for a couple nights because Ben was so angry that he wouldn’t let her stay at home. After a day or two, Ben relented and Sally went home. Ben loved this girl, even if it was in a way Sally couldn’t understand. Sally had no idea what she had done; how her marriage would forever be changed. Ben’s ego was shattered. He had been betrayed by his best friend and by his wife. The friend was out of their lives. Sally didn’t mind that, but the shame, the guilt, the emotional pain was always with her. There was no escaping it. Ben’s anger was on the surface and Sally felt like she was walking on eggshells. There was no escaping the anger; it seemed to Sally that Ben took his anger out on her when they had sex. She dare not refuse, but it did not feel like love. This is what she deserved, right? Satan is a cruel taskmaster, and she had gotten herself into this mess.

Oh! Another beautiful baby boy was born into Sally and Ben’s home. Sally felt overwhelming love for this perfect little baby, so innocent, so darling. Sally gave her heart to being a mom. She nursed her baby, changed diapers, took care of the one year old precious brother, amidst all her frustrations, tears, and prayers. “Oh God, please let these baby boys grow up to be Christians and get to heaven somehow. Please, oh please make a way! And please, oh please, forgive and save me, too.”
God had saved Sally shortly after her mother’s death. Her acceptance into the fold was not to be. After all, the whole congregation thought Sally had left the church and married Ben willingly. She sure wasn’t about to say anything different. Her frustration as she tried to live her convictions were more than she anticipated. Satan had told her she wouldn’t be able to live a Christian life, and sure enough, she couldn’t. She put her jeans back on and went back to fitting in with Ben’s family and his friends. She didn’t know how to be friends with Christians when she was out of the church. It was the easiest just not to be with any of them. Most of her family was in the church, but they kept the avoidance and she was only with them occasionally.

The years passed. Sally would go to church once in a while, but Ben didn’t like her to go. Sally was sure to come home crying, and cry she did. She wanted to be saved, in fact she knew she had to be saved. Her mother had told her there would be a way and she believed it. One year, during revivals, Sally attended some of the meetings. She asked Ben one evening, very nonchalantly, if he would want to go to church with her. He said he would go. She showed no excitement, for she had learned long ago that if she really wanted something, she would not get it if she let Ben know how much she wanted it. That very night, God called Ben. Sally would find out later what had happened that night. When the invitation was given, Satan wanted Ben’s soul, but so did God. God told him, “If you don’t give your heart to me now, you’re beat.” He wasn’t going to let Satan win this one. He stood when the invitation was given. A few weeks later, Sally’s membership into the Church of God In Christ, was restored. Ben was baptized. Now Sally knew her life would be happy.

Sally was busy all the time. Little boys to care for and love, a husband to pack lunches for and get off to work; it all helped Sally forget her past and not to think about it. She found joy in living in the present. Ben and Sally had lots of friends in the church. They went places for meals and they invited friends for meals and evenings. They had lots of good times. However, trouble seemed to dog her footsteps. How could it be that Ben was so easily upset? She seemed to be the one who upset him and made him angry. Why couldn’t she make him happy? She wanted so much for him to be happy. Surely if she were a true Christian wife, Ben would be happy.

Sally became so frustrated with life again. It seemed there should be someone she could talk to, but who? She couldn’t come up with anyone. She called the help hot line one day when she was so frustrated. Her fuse was short with her little boys and she didn’t want to hurt one of them. The lady was nice enough, but told her she needed to find someone to support her. All the marriages in the church looked so happy, walking into church on Sunday mornings, holding hands, little ones in their arms or tagging along. If she said anything to a friend, she got tagged as having marriage problems. Well, she had more than that, but what was missing? What did others have that she didn’t have?

When Sally went to church, the tears would pour down her cheeks. She didn’t know why church always made her cry. Songs made her cry. Her emotions were so uncontrollable. Sometimes little snatches from sermons would start the tears cascading down her face. There was no way to hide it. She couldn’t explain it when someone would ask her about it. What was it?

A baby girl came to their home! So much joy again as Sally gave her self to being a mother to this darling, little, girl. Sally forgot her troubles for awhile and life didn’t seem so unbearable. She still cried. Something was still wrong with her husband. He asked her to do things that she felt sure other Christian women didn’t have to do. Sometimes he still threatened to kill himself. Sally prayed all the time. She knew Jesus cared. Her mother’s faith and prayers sustained her.

After Sally had been married for many years, she was in so much emotional pain, that she walked into a mental health facility. She asked if she could talk to someone. The receptionist told her to have a chair; she would see if someone was available. A man came out and told her to make an appointment; his schedule was full today. When he saw the pain on Sally’s face, he told her to come back to his office for a few minutes. Sally doesn’t remember what he told her then, but it must have given her hope. She would see him every week for an hour over the next six months. He made her look deep inside for answers. It was such hard work, but she was determined. Slowly Sally began to know the truth about herself. She found, with God’s help, a hope, a willingness to learn, to work at becoming the person God had intended her to be. Sally still prayed all the time. It was in secret, or in her mind. No one knew how much she prayed, not even her own family. She knew God was working and doing what He said He would. One day when she was walking across the yard, God had told her that “little bit by little bit” I will heal; I will restore.

God had something special planned that Sally didn’t know anything about. One night when she was troubled over her same and guilt of the past, the Lord began talking to her. Ben had a lot of back pain and often slept on the floor beside the bed on a mat. That night God told Sally to get on the floor with her husband; to lie on the mat with him. Sally obeyed. God told her to go through all the painful, bad things that had ever happened to her. Sally didn’t want to. “Why God? I don’t like all those horrible things! Why do I have to live through all that pain again?” She didn’t know why, but she obeyed. She went through all the bad things starting when she was a child to her wedding day and after marriage. She shook with sobs. “Oh, please don’t let my husband wake up.” All was quiet. The tears stopped. God said, “Now you are whole, take up your bed, and walk. You have no crutches. I have healed you.” Sally felt like she was thirteen. She was scared, but God gave her what she needed. She had to grow emotionally to catch up with her age. She felt like God asked her to take her car and invite friends to go to the city shopping. She did. She still doesn’t know how she did that, but God helped her. She was so glad when she got back home. God asked her to be the first to walk into a store, and the first to walk into the restaurant. She didn’t like doing these things. She had always followed behind, but God had a new thing for her. She grew up. There was no one to blame; there was no crutch to fall back on.

After Sally had been married for twenty years, God did a very special thing. He blessed her heart with a love for her husband like she had never known. She truly loved him! Oh! This must be what brides feel when they get married. Sally was on cloud nine. She had given sacrificial love all these years, and now this! It was more than her heart could hold. She told the her pastor and the staff granted her request to have a vow renewal. It was so amazing! God even put it into Ben’s heart to let Sally have this special occasion. She invited her friends, and kept it to a few people. The love in her heart was more than she could keep to herself. Now it was not hard to love the man she had married. While there were still plenty of problems and challenges, she had hope again.

God continued to work in Sally’s heart. She noticed how stoney her heart was. She read and re-read the scripture about taking out the stoney heart and God giving a new soft heart. She memorized it, saying it over and over while she took her daily walks. How she prayed that God would take her stoney heart and give her a new, soft heart. One day it happened! As she was nearing the end of her walk, right by her mailbox, God did that very thing. Now the tears of joy and thankfulness flowed unchecked. Sally didn’t try to stop them. Everything became new. The leaves on the trees were so bright green. The sky was so blue. Sally noticed how soft baby cheeks were and how perfect God had made everything. It was all so beautiful.

Sally knew she had a strong self-will. God was going to change that, but Sally didn’t know how. She knew God was asking for her to give up her will. She tried on her own to surrender, but found over and over, she just couldn’t make it happen. She remembered reading, “Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hannah Hurnard. Much-Afraid let herself be bound hand and foot to the altar. Now Sally begged God to do the same for her as she knelt by her window,”Bind me hand and foot, lay me on the altar of your will. Please, God take my strong, stubborn will out of my heart.” Sally was helpless, but that is when God took her strong will. She still struggled with her will, but there was grace to give in, to surrender.

Real life continued and so did the struggles. Sally grew more and more into what God had planned for her. Her faith grew more and more as the years passed. God truly did what He said He would do. She watched Him work in the lives of their children. Troubled teen years smoothed out for them. God gave them beautiful Christian spouses. God really could mend broken hearts. Sally learned how to accept love, and give love unconditionally. She learned the boundaries God had placed for her safe keeping. She felt healing waves even recently as someone acknowledged her past and her lost girlhood. Oh! There are no words for the love and validation she felt within that sacred moment. No one had ever done that for her before. Today Sally can even thank God for the awful things that happened in her past because they formed her into who she is today. She has come to know that Jesus is the only covering she needs for her life. Oh, how precious is the blood of the Lamb! God can taken broken things and make them beautiful!

– Author’s name withheld on request