Written by: Romika Gunn
Sensitivity Warning: Detailed accounts of domestic violence are shared in today's post.
I remember one Sunday, I woke up with my eyes swollen from crying so much from the night before…or maybe even the years leading up to, and I told myself that I was done fighting.
It felt like my heart was just as swollen as my eyes.
We struggled a lot growing up. It was a lot on my mom to raise both me and my brother by herself. Both of her parents were brutally murdered, and my biological father has been serving a life-sentence without parole as long as I’ve been alive, so she carried the weight of our lives on her shoulders. You could say, my biological family got so accustomed to beating the odds, until one day, we fell.
There are some times I can picture the tense creases in his forehead, as I watched as sweat traced each fold of furrowed skin down to the bed of his eyebrows. I can see his eyes, the outlines of bursting blood vessels at the strain of his anger, as his line of vision overlooked my own preadolescent face. I honestly don’t even know if in those moments of rage, he ever cared to check and see if me or my brother were present, but we saw. There were minor details, like the poignant shade of yellow coating his teeth that I can still remember. The fear still grips me sometimes, as I remember each lash to my mother’s skin as my stepdad beat her with the taut strap of a leather belt. I was eight years old when they got married.
The days following the beatings though, they were the worst.
At least when my stepdad was beating my mom, my fears were justified…he was physically there. The silence that followed his rage, though, that was the worst. During the nights following him getting kicked out of our apartment, I would crawl into bed with my mom, roll into her; our bodies so close, it was almost as though her breaths were my own. I still don’t know how she was able to sleep so soundly after. My fear following each beating would create splinters in my eyes that would keep my lids from closing. I would be so sure that the silhouette of our vacuum cleaner, or the darkened outline of our hallway closet was him.
Where was God?
I remember one night; I woke up to loud thumping and what sounded like strained screams. I remember leaving my bedroom, and there he was, my stepdad with my mom under him. He had dragged her down to the carpeted platform of our apartment stairs. He was choking her neck…I remember conversations with my mom…I knew I was supposed to call the police. I was supposed to, but I didn’t. All I remember is I went downstairs, and hid behind our couch, and I prayed to a God I didn’t believe cared about us.
Where was He?
I came home from school one day, and I told my older brother that this kid had made fun of me. I told my brother because I knew he’d be upset for me. I was right. He told me that he wished the boy would go to Hell. Somehow, my stepdad overheard, and in an effort to teach him a lesson, he grabbed a lighter, and forced my brother to put his hand in the fire until he understood what Hell felt like.
Again, I ask, where was God?
I can only imagine Elijah’s distress shown in 1 Kings 19:11-12 when instead of peace, God allowed disaster. Imagine the fear of being surrounded by an earthquake, in a windstorm, witnessing an unleashed fire on an isolated mountain. Imagine being called there by God having just shared with him how tired you were.
There are many more memories I could share that I chose not to, so I need you to trust that there are more. More earthquakes, more windstorms, much more fire.
So where was God?
Read Matthew 11: 28-30. He promised us He’d be there, and He is. It’s just also possible that He won’t provide for us in exactly the way we’d like Him to.
My mom and stepdad didn’t get a divorce until 2010. That’s seven years after they got married. Seven years of cyclical disasters. As I stood on my own mountain waiting for God to reveal Himself, I allowed my heart to grow bitter towards others, and especially towards God. Until one day, I finally heard Him in the whisper. You see, it might not have happened in the timeline I was pushing for, but He was there all along. After a series of several more unfortunate events, I was adopted by a Caucasian family I’d known ever since I was two years old. I’ve since graduated from college, and got the honor of speaking at one of my commencement ceremonies, as I was named one of the student valedictorians of my English class. I now work for a company making an income I never dreamed I could. And I have gotten to travel to many countries and have built so many deep friendships along the way.
Yes, there’s still pain sometimes. I will always have to cope through this life with the scars from my story…you will have to cope with yours too.
But God will be there with you.
He won’t forget what was done to you.
Just promise you won’t leave your mountain until you hear and follow the whisper, no matter how scary it gets.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, visit https://www.thehotline.org/
or call 1-800-787-3224.
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