When you were the youngest of four children, you didn’t have much power in the grand scheme of childhood things. When everyone got together to play softball, kickball, ice hockey, or any number of team sports of which you weren’t very fond, you had to play whether you liked it or not. When decisions were made about what to watch on television or what to do that day, you pretty much had to go along with everybody else because your opinion didn’t matter. You were just the baby, even if you were old enough to stay up as late as than everybody else.
Whether to avoid those things I didn’t like, such as chores or team sports, or to simply be alone to play as I liked, sometimes I gathered up my Barbie dolls and headed out to the barn, to its haymow made warm by the afternoon sun, where I’d sit cross-legged, my dolls spread about in the glory of pretty clothes and plastic shoes. There was Midge, a hand-me-down from my sister. She was the oldest, with coppery hair frizzled like a Brillo pad, and to whom I usually assigned the oldest and ugliest clothes. Then there was Madge, with curly hair cut just above her chin, who reminded me of the lady in the Palmolive commercial, and Marta, a dirty blonde whose legs could bend. Finally, there was my favorite: Mari, a real Malibu Barbie, who came with her own blue swimsuit and matching towel. She had straight, shiny, sun-kissed hair and a sweet tan. Mari had been my birthday present that year. I also had a couple of Ken dolls, but up to that point I hadn’t much use for them and usually sent them off to work each day. They just weren’t all that interesting.
Malibu Barbie was the leader of the flock. She told the others what to do and led them on all kinds of crazy adventures. They were housewives and explorers, scientists and cattle rangers. They lived in field and forest, mansion and mountain, digging up dinosaur bones for posterity in their spare time. Wherever they were, they dressed well and kept house beautifully.
One day, as I was wont to do on a warm summer afternoon, I gathered my dolls and escaped to the quiet solitude of the haymow. Sunlight poured in through the open door and I sat in its genial warmth. Like the baby in Hi and Lois, I loved to sit wherever sunbeams poured their soft, warm light over dust motes, heating up cold, wood floors in the house and barn. Our barn was not really a barn, per se, but an old carriage house with a haymow overhead. In the winter, we stored innumerable bales of hay, which we used as building blocks for mazes and forts, but in the spring and summer, before the harvest, it served as a refuge for those of us who “vant to be alone”. I liked to play there with my dolls.
There I sat in that great beam of light, lost in my own little world of dolls and adventure, working things out in my head, what this doll should say and that one do, when a sudden creak in the floor boards pulled me from my reverie. It was him. I knew it like I knew my shadow. I froze, hoping he didn’t know I was there, but too late. With the suddenness of a flock of birds taking flight, there he stood, looming in the open doorway, blocking the light. He must have snuck up the ladder.
Furiously, I evaluated escape options. There were only two: a) throw myself out the open door to the ground outside, or b) jump down the ladder to the stable below. Just as I decided to go for the ladder, my eyes flickering toward it, he moved in, blocking my exit. I was trapped. He unzipped and pulled down his pants. Not again, I thought.
And then suddenly, with crystal clarity, I saw a chance. I’d run like crazy, heading straight for the main ladder. He would have to pause to pull up his pants or risk being seen by our blessedly nosy neighbors since the back of the barn faced their house directly. It was the only chance for escape and I took it, leaping up and running like I’d never run before. He grabbed, but missed me as I streaked by, dolls forgotten. I raced across the haymow, ducking under the metal bars that anchor its walls, and hurtling myself out of its huge open hay-door, grabbing the rungs of that old wooden ladder, swinging myself around and flying down the rungs. He was older, bigger, stronger, and faster, but that moment he took to pull up his pants cost him the upper hand. On the ground below, I raced around the corner and headed toward the house. At the last moment, just before he turned the corner and saw me, I ducked into an old, broken-down chicken coop and ran to its end, falling to my knees and trying to hide myself behind some metal bars. I could hear him running toward me. The chicken coop became a trap, its walls collapsed on the far end so there was no other way out. Panicking, I covered my head with my hands and squeezed my eyes shut, hoping that if I couldn’t see him, maybe he wouldn’t see me. I tried to not breathe.
He entered the coop, breath ragged from running, and stopped. I knew in my heart there was no way he couldn’t see me. There hadn’t been anything to hide behind. Like a deer when it gets a whiff of an enemy, I started to jump to my feet, but something stopped me and I waited, squeezed my eyes tighter, and prayed for invisibility.
Suddenly, a strange sound came to my ears. It was the sound of running. More to the point, it was the sound of feet running away from me. It was the sound of feet running along the outside of the coop, toward the house. He yelled, “I’m going to get you! I saw you run into the house!” I opened my eyes. He hadn’t seen me! He hadn’t known I was there! Slowly I stood up, gathering my wits. He hadn’t seen me.
I had to get out of there. It wouldn’t be long before he’d realize his mistake and come back. Quietly, gingerly, I tiptoed to the doorway and looked carefully around, just in case it was a trick. But no, he really had left. I took off, running as fast as my feet could fly, straight through the barnyard and across the field to the safety in numbers of my neighbor’s house. There I stayed until my mom returned home. Funny. She had always warned us to stay out of the neighbors’ barns for safety’s sake. Funny that the real danger lay in our own barn.
Fast forward 20+ years.
As a young Christian, one of my greatest struggles was believing that God loved me personally, me, Bree B.W., pretty, but not beautiful, smart, but not very intelligent, talented, but not particularly so. I was average, mundane, commonplace, a solid C. And no matter what people say, there isn’t any single Scripture that says if I were the only person on earth Christ would still have come and died for me. It felt like I’d gotten in on a technicality. I had confessed and prayed the prayer, therefore God was forced to receive me. Yeah, I had a way to go in my faith.
There were times that I felt kind of like a blade of glass, winking and blinking in the morning dew, trying my best to get God’s attention like every other blade of grass in the great lawn of life. God gave me a picture of myself once, in which I saw myself dancing a beautiful ballet before his throne, dancing to the best of my ability. At the dance’s end, I looked up to see my Father’s expression of joy only to find his attention had wandered to other girls who were more interesting than I. I had not been able to hold His attention. God had showed me how I saw myself.
Oh, I longed to hold His attention, to be special to Him.
One day, I decided to take a leap of faith and prayed, asking God to show me that I was, after all, special to Him. His response was immediate.
I saw myself all those years ago, crouched down at the back of the chicken coop, eyes shut tightly, praying. In that moment, as I looked back on myself, God revealed what really happened, why my abuser had not seen me, even though there’d been little to nothing in that chicken coop to hide behind.
I looked and I saw Jesus standing before me, facing my abuser. He had stood firmly between us, like He forever stands between eternal night and day, and had taken the hem of his garment between his fingers and lifted it up, hiding me from sight. Jesus himself had protected me that day. That was why my abuser never saw me even though I crouched in plain sight.
I cannot tell you how deeply this knowledge affected me. I cried rivers of joy. Jesus had not sent an angel to do the task, but had come, He-himself, to save me. Never again would I need to question whether I was special to the Lord, for the Lord Himself had shown me and there could be no more doubt. I believed, and a deep wound healed that day.
Oh, there is safety in numbers, friends, but never more so than when those numbers begin with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, three-in-one. I hope my tale encourages you, when pain threatens to engulf you, to seek God, for He alone heals the wounded heart.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
PS: Bree is a pseudonym for someone I know, who allowed me to tell her story in the first person. Details have been changed to protect her privacy.