The inner strength to survive surprised me after what I endured with John. I look at pictures of myself during that time. I always wore a smile. How could that have been? My fortitude seems to have come from a simple understanding and an odd experience.
At age six, Mom registered me for catechism classes. A nun taught me that God gave his only Son, Jesus, for me, and that this Jesus loved me—me! But I didn’t pay attention to much else, so I had no idea who God or Jesus really were, could have been genies for all I knew. But I clung to those magical words.
Even though he was invisible, my brain told me, “He’s real.” I shared all my deepest secrets with my new friend. We talked about all sorts of things; at least I talked. He didn’t say anything, but I’m positive he heard me because I felt super special.
However, during those years with John, I stopped talking to Jesus, didn’t want him to know me. I was certain if he knew my ugly secret, he’d hate me.
But a few months after John raped me, something spectacular happened. I had struggled to pretend that the incidents with him weren’t real. One day I played kickball in front of my house until dusk, ate dinner, took a bubble bath, and watched The Flintstones on TV before bedtime. Then I went upstairs, lay in my bed, and turned off my nightlight. I liked darkness. It shielded me from the bogeyman—if he didn’t see me, he couldn’t hurt me. That consoled me, even though I often had bad dreams.
Suddenly a radiant image of what appeared to be a face illuminated my window. Brilliant light surrounded that image. My mouth fell open. I sat up, clasped my hands, and broke out into a wide smile. My heart filled with glee. I believed it to be my imaginary friend Jesus.
“Mommy!” I shouted.
No lamps were on, but my room gleamed as bright as the sun.
Mom barged into my bedroom. I suppose she thought I had a nightmare, but once inside she stood there silently. I fixed my eyes on the image and basked in the warmth that light brought. I didn’t know if Mom could see it, and I’m not sure how long it lasted, but I drank in pure ecstasy. Within my imagination, Jesus actually existed. Perhaps, that’s why my smile shone on those old photos. My mother commented a few times over the years about what she called “that curious night” when she said my face strangely glowed.