Prayer and the power of changed lives.
by Rose Davidson*
The rage in her eyes skewered me to the floor like a dagger. “No, Mommy, no!” I screamed, my shaking hands covering my bottom. Undeterred, she jerked my arm. The belt slapped my legs repeatedly.
“Didn’t I say one swat for each thing you didn’t get picked up off your floor before I came in?” her drunken voice demanded. “And you.” She stumbled toward my sister with the belt raised above her head like a snake ready to strike.
Tears highlighted the terror in my sister’s face as she cringed, awaiting the blow.
As if scales dropped from her eyes, Mom abruptly stopped. She stared blindly at her two hysterical daughters; the belt slipped out of her hands. Covering her face, she moaned and reeled out the door. My sister and I sobbed away the fear, not knowing that alcohol caused Mom’s unpredictable behavior.
I was seven that day. Many similar moments shadowed my childhood, like the time Mom drove my sister and me home from my grandmother’s — ninety minutes of sharp curves around a lake. “I think I’ll just drive off the middle of the next curve into the lake and kill us all.”
Her distraught voice infused fear in us. Struggling to maintain control of the car, she nearly killed us by accident several times.
In between the shadow times, happier interludes showed the real Mom buried inside.
But we never knew what she would be like. One day she turned into Girl Scout leader, PTA Mom. The next she drank herself into scary, out-of-control Mom.
Fear became almost a living thing inside me, controlling much of my life. I feared strangers, heights, fast cars, and new situations, as well as the consequences of not pleasing people.
If I displeased Mom when she drank, she might spank me harshly, belittle me, or force me out of the house to fend for myself until I could be with my father.
Mom treated my older brother even worse. She spanked my sister and me with a belt, but once she went after my brother with a yardstick, breaking it as she hit him. Thankfully, my dad grabbed it from her before she could hurt him more.
Worse than the physical pain, Mom heaped emotional pain on my brother, leaving him an angry, rebellious teenager. He was kicked out of two high schools and finally ended up in the military. Thankfully, that turned his life around.
While I struggled with fear and worthlessness, my sister shared my brother’s anger. Most of her life she inadvertently pushed people away.
My father tried everything to fix Mom’s issues. He even forced her to see a psychiatrist back when people considered it shameful to do so. She went only a time or two. Mom refused to cooperate, so he finally gave up.
When I turned fourteen, my dad sat down with my then-high school sister and me. “Your mom and I are getting a divorce,” he told us. To our relief, we ended up living with him and visited Mom whenever we wanted. By then, my brother was married and on his own.
Mom’s need to secure a job forced her to control the drinking, so we enjoyed mostly pleasant visits with her. But when she was drunk, her phone calls were emotionally abusive.
Roots of the problem
One day my father shared with me what started Mom’s troubled state. At thirteen, she married my dad, who was then seventeen years old. At fourteen, she gave birth to their first son. He died a few hours after his birth.
My dad felt a measure of relief, as he didn’t know how he could support a child. My mother received no emotional support from anyone to deal with her grief. Just a little over four years later, she had three children under the age of four, with no help in learning to care for them.
At the end of my junior year of high school, friends introduced me to Jesus. Mom had taken us kids to church on occasion, so I knew that Jesus died on the cross and came back to life. I just didn’t know it was for me. I didn’t know about believing He died for my sins and receiving Him as Savior. I also didn’t know Jesus could free me from fear.
Mom taught me that I needed to do more good things than bad in order to gain eternal life. But how could a person keep track of where he or she stood with God?
During visits with Mom, I babbled on and on about Jesus. She listened to me and seemed interested. “I went to Sunday school as a child,” she said. However, based on what she taught me, I didn’t think she understood that Jesus paid for our salvation.
Desire to die
When I was a sophomore in college, I arrived home for Thanksgiving break to discover that earlier that day, in a drunken state, Mom carried out a threat she made often in my younger years: “I’m going to turn in front of that car and let it kill me.”
Firemen used the Jaws of Life to extract her from her car. When I reached the hospital, she lay in ICU with a 50/50 chance to live.
I sat on the floor in the hallway outside her room nearly all night waiting for the opportunity to see her a few minutes each hour. Inside I quivered with shock and flashbacks of childhood events. I begged God, “Let her live long enough to believe in Jesus as her Savior.”
In two days doctors spoke of a miracle: Mom pulled through. Six weeks later, she left the hospital with minor injuries.
Six years later, I had married and was living in another state. Mom and I still talked about Jesus whenever I thought she’d listen, and I still prayed for her. Shortly after I gave birth to my first child, Mom called. This time she babbled. “Guess what? I started going to a Bible study! I love it!”
Mom studied the daily homework and thrived on what she learned. In time, her Bible study leader led her to Jesus. Now when we talked, she asked tough questions. Because she had remarried a year before the car accident, she asked me, “What about this passage that says if you divorce and remarry, you commit adultery? Have I committed adultery?”
Depending on Jesus
With a faith that deepened each year, Mom stopped depending on alcohol to cover her pain and problems. Now she took them to Jesus and watched Him work. Visits with Mom revealed peace and joy in a face that used to reflect only misery.
Mom and I both prayed for my sister, and she eventually trusted Jesus as her Savior.
Over the years, Jesus healed my deeply embedded fear of my mother. Thanks to this, no fear ever shadowed Mom’s relationship with my daughters. She loved planning adventures for them, and they loved her.
During our last visit together, the relationship with my mom took the best turn ever. No longer were we only mother-daughter and I a spiritual mentor. We had become friends.
Rejoicing in grief
A month later, at age 55, my mother died.
I will forever grieve the loss of my mom, but I am eternally grateful for changes in her life — for events that developed her craving for spiritual things, for the Bible study leader who loved her and showed her Jesus.
I rejoice too knowing that death doesn’t have the last word: I will see my mother again one day in eternity. And we both will see Jesus!
* Rose Davidson is a pen name.
Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands
Bible studies: Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby
Jesus the One and Only by Beth Moore
Jon Courson’s Application Bible Commentary Old Testament
Jon Courson’s Application Bible Commentary New Testament
About the Author