The first time I realized Heavenly Father loved me was when…
God was like a neighbor who lived a few houses down the street. I’d go to him when something was broken, come back to collect the repaired problem, wave my hand in unspoken thanks, and speed back home. I didn’t know more about him and never invited him to my home. I was relieved to know he was there, but thought of him as someone who lived close by and had a special set of skills.
But in an instant I knew God loved me.
I was thirteen years old. I’d been spit on, slapped, called names, called ugly, mocked, threatened, groped, and accused of gross sexual activity. I felt like the beauty of the world was not for me to enjoy. I did not deserve the air I breathed. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was convinced the devil would take me away because the world was too good for me.
There I stood in the middle of a pack of girls. Always in a pack, like animals. They surrounded me kicking, laughing, and enjoying it. I withdrew into survival mode. One of the pack leaders laughed while remarking she could see my heart slamming against my rib cage. My sense of self was used up. Fear filled me. I wanted to melt into the ground and not to be seen.
I imaged ways to escape. I thought of Scotty beaming me up to the Enterprise, a hole opening beneath my feet and swooshing me through a tunnel across town to my bedroom. Fighting them even came to mind, but I’d seen too many Westerns. If I beat one, they’d take revenge. If I lost, I would be an easy target when one of them wanted to feel big. Though it crossed my mind then, I hadn’t run away yet. If I ran, I knew I could never recover.
I looked toward the helpful neighbor, God. I prayed. He spoke. “Stand firm.”
I doubted. My legs and resolve were quickly shrinking. I was going to collapse and give in. “Stand firm,” was repeated. I believed. A physical power of strength entered my legs and moved up. Like an aperture inside a soft clay sculpture, suddenly filled with steel. He made it possible to do as he told me to do. With that tangible power, I could and did stand firm.
In that instant I knew what I thought was a neighbor was an all-powerful God. He knew what I needed, he communicated it to me, and he empowered me. He loved me and I was worth loving. I wisely invited him into my home.