How I Found God in My Darkest Hour
I woke up again freezing cold with my stomach wrapped in knots. My body dead to feeling. I squeeze my eyes shut tighter because I knew I was still there. Even though every night I imagined I would wake up far away. Safe. That loud fan he insisted was always on was still blowing full blast in the damp basement. The smell of stale and rancid diner food and cooking oil lingered on the sheet I was given “for my comfort.” My whole body tense, muscles aching and fearfully wondering if he was there. I knew it was morning because the light was coming through the tiny window in the concrete room. I could hear the clear plastic over the window flapping. Over and over the flapping noise against the wall. I concentrated on just that sound. I didn’t want to hear anything else.
When I was a child I grew up in a house where my parents believed in God. They told us all the time about our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. As converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints they tried their best to express the importance of the gospel. We went to church and had family night. We prayed over meals and at bedtime. It was difficult though. We struggled with basic needs of food, clothes, and security. There was a lot of discomfort and anger; six people living in a tiny one room shack. We coped the best we knew how. And addiction was real in our lives. It left me pretty jaded but with a foundation of belief. And prayer. I knew prayer worked.
I always found it odd that I was constantly worried as a child. While my friends thought their piano recitals and dance performances were the most worrisome events. My young mind was worried about making money and getting out to take care of myself. I remember having my first real job was a beacon of hope that I could change my circumstance. Someday I knew I could move away and find out what life meant for me. That day came quicker than I had ever imagined.
It was a sleep over at my house. I never had sleep overs at my house I was too embarrassed of how we lived. But it was one of the few I had ever had. My foreign exchange friend and best friend were there. My best friend came from a put together family. The kind you look at and think are perfect. They had everything together, their home was pristine, their clothes clean and stylish, they were happy and righteous. She knew God was real. But my German friend and I weren’t so sure.
We stayed up late talking and I remember it was the first time I ever vocalized that I didn’t believe in God. I expressed that I was lost and felt like if there was a Heavenly Father he was an absent parent. That was the day my best friend got up and walked away without a word. She went in the other room and we were never friends again.
I tried to keep up with church and to find truth. But that is when the rumors started about my lack of faith. Then the rumors became more creative. I heard the whispers and the conversations I walked in on. The leaders and the girls had plenty to say. Like an untied drift boat I was pushed out further and further drifting away from any safe harbor I had ever had. It is true I could have stayed in the boat but I was a child and I was lacking in so many areas. I ran. The last interview I had with the bishop ended with me screaming that I didn’t believe in God. Crying and exclaiming that I wanted all these people to leave me alone. I didn’t go to that bishop interview willingly. And I never went back.
Sometimes having a blank slate you have to rebuild. Perhaps it is natural human nature to grasp at some sort of belief. So when you lose all you ever thought you knew you have to take those ashes burnt down from whatever belief you had and rebuild. If you have very little direction this means you start to search. I searched in all the wrong places.
I began running away at 15, I just wouldn’t go home. Sometimes I would find myself bumming at “friends” or random places I had never been before. All I wanted was to escape. And the world gives you lots of ways to escape, but you always wake up right where you were before. Still lost still searching. The further I went away from faith the more and more empty I felt. The more hurt and anguish I felt.
The world is harsh and unkind. Being young and lost is devastating in an unforgiving world. I spent the next four years completely destroying my life with drugs, alcohol, experimenting, and failed suicide attempts. I felt alone even though I was surrounded by friends, strangers, people I thought I knew. Hopelessness was my only constant friend. But I told myself that I was exactly where I had always wanted to be. I was on my own.
There were glimpses of hope throughout my time of searching. I got a full ride scholarship to college. I had a job and my own apartment and I knew how to work hard. Looking back I think I fooled myself into believing I was functioning. My grades were good and my employer liked me. I had friends. Then I met the end of my running away. The catalyst for being burnt to the ground lying in ashes.
He was a cook where I worked. Don’t be fooled that this is a love story. It’s far from that. You could call it a thriller or horror. Maybe a nightmare although it was real life. I was a waitress, I had always been a waitress. I had dealt with obnoxious back of house cooks and I figured this was just one more of those guys. He gave me the creeps the moment I saw him. My run away radar was going off. But I had been running too long. I wanted to prove to myself that I could stick with college and my job. Prove that I had figured out how to be a grown-up.
You depend on the line cooks as a waitress to get you your food, to not screw up your order, because you depend on those tips. You don’t want to mess things up with back of house because it really messes things up for you. He started asking about me. The other waitresses wanted me to talk to him. I wanted nothing to do with any of it. Then he asked me out. I said no and not ever. Then my orders stopped being made. I pleaded for him to just do his job. And I accepted the condition. Just one date.
Maybe we all wonder at some point, “How did I get here?” It was slow and deliberate how I found myself being held hostage. Kidnapped. What do you call it when someone isolates you, locks you away? Someone who you went on one date with? Then he stalked you. You tried to break up with him even though you had never said yes to dating him in the first place. After the one date it was game over. He was everywhere. In my apartment, waiting for me after class, at my work. He wouldn’t leave me alone. My friends disappeared quickly as he isolated me.
The abuse started slowly and my fear rapidly increased. The lack of control over anything in my life scared me. I searched out help, bringing texts he wrote about how he was going to murder me and desecrate my body to his parole officer. I was told I didn’t have enough evidence or an established documented pattern of behavior. He was a felon and the law refused to protect me.
After he broke into my apartment and beat me, trashed my home, and sprayed me down with ice cold water in my shower I called the cops. I filed a report. The cop told me he knew this guy that I needed to leave. Then again my car tires were slashed my windows smashed. Another report. Finally I took my situation to a crisis center to get an order of protection but no one protects you until after court. I didn’t make it to court he came after he was served.
The basement was my world I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t get out. Maybe even if I could have just walked out I would have been too scared anyway? I was broken physically, I had been in a car wreck on my way to my final tests at school. My elbow was dislocated, my arm broken, my car was gone, and my classes failed. I was so alienated and confused in my own body that I couldn’t shake the constant fear that gripped me. What was going to happen next? Was I going to make him angry? When would he kill me? Would anyone find my body? I am not sure if life can get any darker than it was at this point.
Eventually I opened my eyes that day. It was quiet there was no stirring or moving except the sound of the fan and plastic flapping. No banging or footsteps upstairs. There was no one there but me. I hadn’t prayed for years at this point in my life. At least not formally. I probably uttered mindless prayers in my head asking for help or peace. But it was finally time. I had to accept that I was no longer in control. That I had no life lines left to pull me out. Finally I crept to my knees.
Shaking I prayed out loud for the first time since I was a child. Sobbing through the words and pleading to be forgiven. As if my whole life came bursting through a gate and flooded out. My fears and begging to be protected, to be let go. So much came out that I finally ran out of words and just sat unmoving.
And as if someone was there I felt loving arms wrap around me. Literally I felt physical arms holding me, I felt the warmth and love of someone who cared so deeply for me that I could feel it in my heart. I didn’t hear the a voice of an angel or see any being but at that moment I knew I was not alone. It was as if I recognized his embrace. My heart was familiar with this feeling, this presence. An old friend, my brother, was there comforting me.
It was unmistakably Christ being sent from my Father in Heaven to be with me. At that moment I don’t think I could have determined this was what was happening. But as I look back I see his hand in my struggle in my greatest hour of need. Regardless of if I was “worthy” he was there. When you experience something so real denying it seems nearly impossible. My miniscule almost insignificant faith in prayer was the beginning of my whole truth of knowing God is real. Knowing that he has a son who died for me, for us. That despite the darkest of moments you can call on him and he will bear your burdens.
That was the day I was given the strength to escape. The day I was able to talk my captor into taking me to “clear out” my apartment. The courage to jump from a moving car and run into a neighbor’s home and call my Dad to come get me. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was God who made this possible. All I had to do was simply ask with a prayer and the doors of His strength and hope were opened to me. I alone was not capable of this chain of events that lead to my freedom. As if angels carried me out of that basement and padded my fall as I rolled away from that car. Then comforted me as I waited for my Dad to drive 10 hours to get me.
Since then my testimony of my Father in Heaven has only grown. Prayer is no longer something I wait years to do. It’s a constant in my life. Yet the answers and comfort are still just as real as that day. He is there for all of us. His arms are out stretched and there are no requirements to feel his love for you. He will wrap his arms around you. He is there and he is waiting for us to ask for his help. All things are possible through Him.
Years have passed and through the companionship of my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ I have found so much healing and hope. Life is full with God bearing you up through the rollercoaster of life. He makes this journey so much more incredible. You can learn more about my beliefs and our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at Mormon.org. You can also ask me any questions about my journey finding God in the comments below.