The living room of our house was there for show not use. My family stayed in the den so everything in the living room was off limits to me. The roll top piano to the Bible on the coffee table, they were all hands off. For a precocious five-year-old that was an engraved invitation.
When Mom thought I was in my room I was often in the forbidden room. I would swing the pendulum on the grandfather clock, walk my fingers silently across the piano keys, and hide inside one of the end tables. The Bible, situated perfectly to command attention from any angle, was like a beacon flashing red, calling me to come touch.
Although I was reading above my age level the King James Bible was confusing to me. Since I couldn’t make sense of the words I perused the pictures. There were glossy pages filled with pictures that quite frankly scared the bejeebers out of me.
The angels were especially frightening. One was trying to talk a man into stabbing a little boy and another fighting with a man. Then there was the woman trying to get a snake to bite a baby and a guy nailed to a cross. With the exception of the last, none of these were a true depiction of what was happening. It was only what my child’s eye interpreted. Yet, as much as they scared me I couldn’t get enough.
My visits to the living room increased so it was only a matter of time until I was caught. When my day of reckoning came I was so engrossed in examining the details of the pictures I didn’t even hear Mom’s approach. When finished reprimanding me I took advantage of her attention and asked about the Bible. She seemed surprised I didn’t know what a Bible was. I wondered if she didn’t tell me how she thought I’d know.
None-the-less, she said the Bible was about God. And God was always watching me to see if I minded. If I did I could go to heaven if not I was doomed to hell. Wait, what? There’s some guy I can’t see but who sees me all the time? And He is just waiting for me to mess up so He can send me to hell? As much as that freaked me out it didn’t stop my stealthily peeks of the Bible. It was an addiction. Scared or not, and believe me I was terrified, I could not stop returning to that Bible.
Sometime after Mom’s ill-worded God introduction, I was playing hide-and-go-seek with my friends. From my hiding spot, I looked up at the night sky and saw the shape of a man. I stood stock still too terrified to move. Without a doubt that had to be God watching me. Since I had only moments ago been looking at the Bible, when told to leave it alone, I was certain He had come to throw me into hell. I ran into my house without taking the time to tell my friends. I felt safer with a roof over my head.
Two things happened after that night. First, a reoccurring dream started. In the dream, I was alone in a room I didn’t recognize. A voice would call out telling me God wants to talk to me. In fear of God, I would run into another room with people. As long as I was among these strangers God didn’t try to talk to me.
When I wasn’t dreaming that I began having a nightmare. Mom kept a yellow light bulb in my closet. At night, she would crack the closet door to allow a little light in case we had to run from Daddy. The yellow light was soft making it easier to sleep. In my nightmare, I was in my bed looking at that yellow bulb when suddenly these winged, grotesque looking creatures would fly out of it straight towards me.
If it wasn’t Daddy disrupting my sleep with a drunken rant, it was demon bugs flying at me, or God wanting to talk. I was just a little girl and ill-equipped to deal with any of it. Yet, deep within I had a firm knowing that the answers were connected to that Bible.
I don’t recall how long all of that went on. In sheer desperation, I stopped caring about punishment for disobedience. Instead, I snatched that Bible off the table and retreating to my room where I would examine it for hours. Tucked between those glossy photos I found my answer; the Lord’s Prayer.
Though I didn’t understand words like hallowed and thought kingdom come was an actual place (since my Dad frequently threatened to knock me there) I knew this was my key. Blessed with the ability to memorize quickly I had that prayer down pat in no time. Then whenever the dreams came, whether God wanted to talk or the demon bugs attacked I put an end to it by softly reciting the Lord’s Prayer. It was my first introduction to the power of prayer.