As the tendrils of religion distorted what I first knew to be true, the limitless unconditional love of God became conditional, and pleasing him dependent on performance. Every bad experience was interpreted by those around me, as that I must have displeased God in some way. My sickness was ‘evidence’ of my failure to be pleasing to God. Being shamed for being such a disappointment to God and the worry that maybe they were all right and I was wrong gnawed away at my soul. After all, I seemed to be the only one who thought that God actually liked me. The more I listened to other’s opinions of just how disappointed God was in me, the more distant God seemed to become. I began to worry constantly that God would leave me and I would never get back to having that security of knowing I was loved and that nothing I could do or not do would change that. Feeling the presence of God had become rare, hearing him speak even more so. Anxiety and doubt had become my constant companions.
It was during this time, when my daughter was 3 that I experienced the worst 10 minutes of my life. I was collecting my son from school, accompanied by my daughter and we went in to chose a book from the book corner for him to bring home. My daughter happily played in the Wendy house as we sifted through the books deciding which one to take. Having chosen the book we went to the Wendy house, which was just a few feet away to collect my daughter. She wasn’t inside. I quickly scanned around the hall and into the open plan classrooms beyond. There was no sign of her. My heart raced as panic began to sweep over me. I asked the few people left around if they’d seen where she went but they just stared at me blankly. I ran outside and around the outside of the school, again no sign of her. Anguish gripped me as I prayed frantically for God to show me where she was. I would give everything I owned, including my own life, just to know she was safe. I made my way into the street and began to run down the road in the direction of our house. I crossed one road, thinking surely she wouldn’t have crossed this on her own, but I just had to check if she’d headed home, so I continued and as I approached the next road she would have had to cross – a much bigger junction I saw her, tears streaming down her face, being led back in the direction of the school by a kind neighbour who had just happened to be looking out of her window at the exact time my daughter was running past her house all by herself. I asked my daughter why she had run off and she said she had come out of the Wendy house and hadn’t seen us, so thought we’d left without her. She had set off for home, distraught that we had forgotten her and left her behind. I looked at her incredulous. ‘How could you possibly believe I would ever leave you behind I asked?’ My head was spinning, ‘how could this child, who I loved more than life itself believe I would ever just leave her?’ Overwhelmed with gratitude for my kind neighbour and relieved that my daughter was safe, I collected my son and we headed home. I felt so ill after that that I went to bed as soon as my husband was back. ‘How could you let me go through that?’ I sobbed to God. ‘How could you believe that I would ever leave you?’ he responded.
Coming next: Divide and rule