OneChild of Darkness
My childhood was not like Angel’s. I had loving parents who believed in God. Our family attended church every Sunday. I went to Sunday school, summer camp, and youth group and thought I was a Christian. When I went away to college, I stopped attending church. It was the sixties revolution. No one told me that anything “free” still costs dearly. And so free love cost my innocence, my self-respect, and a baby’s life. I thought I could just pick up the pieces of my life and move on.
When I had just about hit rock bottom, I received a letter from an old hometown friend, Rick Rivers, serving in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. We started to correspond. Once he came home, we dated, fell in love, and married a year later. Though Rick came from a solid, loving family, he knew nothing about Christianity other than what his grandmother had taught him: Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. I didn’t know until years later that he had an encounter with God during the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. It would be many more years until he gave his life to Christ.
We both had burdens weighing heavily on our hearts and souls, baggage we carried into our marriage. We had high and low times. I suffered from my past mistakes. Rick suffered from war memories and alcohol abuse. We loved and fought each other, and it all came down to one question for both of us individually: Who is in control of my life?
Looking back, I realize God placed many people in our lives to draw us to Him. We kept ignoring the pull, mistakenly believing we could figure things out ourselves. The turning point came when Rick decided to start his own business and we sold our home and moved closer to family. We experienced stressful outer changes but no inner changes. I waited in Southern California until our three young children finished the school year, while Rick moved north, lived with his parents, and set up business in Sebastopol. He hunted for a rental home for our family. Only one was available—situated between two Christian families, both of whom invited us to church within hours of our moving in.
Our marriage was crumbling, and I was desperate enough to try anything—even God—to stop the pain. “Seek, and you will find,” the Scriptures say (Matthew 7:7, nasb), and faith in Jesus came to me in our neighbors’ church. Rick found Christ later, in our home Bible study taught by the pastor.
The gospel of Jesus Christ opened our hearts and poured life into our souls. The book of Hosea opened my eyes to the truth. Whenever I’d had a problem, the Lord was the last one I would seek out for answers. I’d lived as a child of darkness until I was in my late thirties. I had been like Gomer, prostituting myself to worldly ideas and practices that defied God and left deep wounds. Now I recognize His loving hand on me from the time I was born. He was always near. In every tempting and potentially life-damaging situation, God had offered a way of escape. I chose not to take it. Even so, God never stopped loving me. And now that I walk with Jesus, He has used what Satan meant for my destruction for His good purpose, not only in my life but also in the lives of others. He can do the same for you.Study 1.1Light and Shadows
There are some things that once you’ve lost, you never get back. Innocence is one. Love is another. I guess childhood is a third.
John Marsden, Checkers
Alex bent down to Sarah. “I want you to go outside and play,” he said quietly. “I want to talk to your mother alone.” He smiled and patted her cheek.
Sarah smiled, utterly enchanted. Papa had touched her; he wasn’t angry at all. He loved her! Just as Mama said. “Can I come back when you’re done talking?”
Papa straightened stiffly. “Your mother will come and get you when she’s ready. Now, run along as you’ve been told.”
“Yes, Papa.” Sarah wanted to stay, but she wanted to please her father more. She went out of the parlor, skipping through the kitchen to the back door. She picked a few daisies that grew in the garden patch by the door and then headed for the rose trellis. She plucked the petals. “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not . . .” She hushed as she came around the corner. She didn’t want to disturb Mama and Papa. She just wanted to be close to them.
Sarah dreamed contentedly. Maybe Papa would put her up on his shoulders. She wondered if he would take her for a ride on his big black horse. She would have to change her dress, of course. He wouldn’t want her to soil it. She wished he had let her sit on his lap while he talked to Mama. She would have liked that very much, and she would have been no bother.
The parlor window was open, and she could hear voices. Mama loved the smell of roses to fill the parlor. Sarah wanted to sit and listen to her parents. That way she would know just when Papa wanted her to come back again. If she was very quiet, she wouldn’t disturb them, and all Mama would have to do was lean out and call her name.
“What was I to do, Alex? You’ve never spent so much as a minute with her. What was I to tell her? That her father doesn’t care? That he wishes she had never even been born?”
Sarah’s lips parted. Deny it, Papa! Deny it!
“You know how I feel about her.”
“How can you say how you feel? You don’t even know her. She’s a beautiful child, Alex. She’s quick and charming and she isn’t afraid of anything. She’s like you in so many ways. She’s someone, Alex. You can’t ignore her existence forever. She’s your daughter . . .”
“I have enough children by my wife. Legitimate children. I told you I didn’t want another.”
“How can you say that? How can you not love your own flesh and blood?”
“I told you how I felt from the beginning, but you wouldn’t listen. She should never have been born, Mae, but you insisted on having your own way.”
“Do you think I wanted to get pregnant? Do you think I planned to have her?”
“I’ve often wondered. Especially when I arranged a way out of the situation for you and you refused. The doctor I sent you to would have taken care of the whole mess. He would’ve gotten rid—”
“I couldn’t do it. How could you expect me to kill my unborn child? Don’t you understand? It’s a mortal sin.”
“You’ve spent too much time in church,” he said derisively. “Have you ever thought that you wouldn’t have the problems you do now if you had gotten rid of her the way I told you. It would’ve been easy. But you ran out. Did you have her because you thought bearing my child would give you a hold over me you otherwise lacked?”
“You can’t believe that!” Mama was crying now.
“And how much time do I have left with you today? Enough? You’ve used it up on her. I told you what would happen, didn’t I? I wish she had never been born!”
As the story of Angel opened, we met Sarah, the pretty little girl who lived with her mama in a small house surrounded by flowers. Sarah was not only cute but also bright, brave, and innocent, though her innocence was shattered all too quickly. She knew she had a father, and her mama said he was handsome. She also saw his fabulous gifts, which Mama passed on to Sarah, explaining they came from her papa.
Sarah had to wait to meet her father. Finally Mama thought she was old enough, so Sarah donned her loveliest dress and took pains to keep it clean. She tried her best to be charming, polite, and sweet—all to win her father’s approval.
But all too quickly she overheard that her father didn’t love her, didn’t want her, and wished she had never been born. He considered her a mistake.
When we begin our lives, we spring fresh and blameless from the hand of God. We are born with willful human natures, true, but in our early years most of us are loved, carefully supervised, and given all the affection we need to thrive.
The world is a big mystery to us, but we eagerly explore it. And it doesn’t take long before we test the limits our parents give us. As toddlers, two of our favorite words are no and mine. We want what we want. Little do we know we will spend the rest of our lives dealing with our stubborn, frustrating desires.
The Bible begins with a story of innocence too. In the first chapter, we read that God created the world and filled it with beauty—light and night, heavens above and earth below, the seas and dry land, plants and trees, the sun, the moon, stars to show the seasons, fish, birds, insects, animals, and people—each living thing producing offspring of the same kind. Notice how that phrase is repeated several times. God reassures His children that they didn’t come crawling out of the sludge.
God molded man out of the earth, but He created woman from a part of man. Woman is flesh and bone of man. I like that. God breathed life into humankind. Only a breath separates us from Him. He gave us, quite literally, the breath of life. Without breath, we cannot live.
Copyright © 2020 by Francine Rivers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.