I was Cher. Lounging across the top of the old piano, I mournfully I belted out “The Beat Goes On” and my greasy, long, straight hair hung defiantly over my narrowed eyes. He was Sonny. Hammering on the dirty keys, he muffled the horribly off-key notes he sang with his droopy black moustache. We thought we were something else.
We certainly looked like something else. Instead of a tight, red, sequined evening dress, I wore two, drab hospital gowns; instead of a black tuxedo, ‘Sonny’ was arrayed in a dingy, white lab coat. Our performance hall was the mental ward’s creepy recreation room, which was completely off-limits at three o’clock in the morning. I was sixteen years old.
The orderly’s name was actually Paul-Something, but I decided to call him ‘Boris’ from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. He admiringly addressed me, of course, as ‘Pasha.’ Using bad Russian accents, we exchanged secrets and passionately kissed my first kisses. As far as I knew, we were in love. It was a star-crossed, Romeo and Juliet, aching-heart kind of love. He was eighteen.
Four weeks of living in the mental ward of an Alaskan military hospital during the round-the-clock winter darkness was a gruesome experience. I had earned admittance to the ward by repeatedly attempting suicide. Interestingly, I was content to be at the hospital. I received tons of attention, various drugs and slept all day, every day. Boris was an exciting nighttime bonus.
In retrospect, I realize that a tremendous battle was being fought on my behalf in the spiritual realm; two dynamic forces were at war within my soul. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I had been attending a teen Bible study class and had been learning about Jesus Christ. Each evening, however, I was devouring books on the occult, astral projection and out-of-body experiences. Seeing no disparity in my studies, I sank deeper and deeper into a bewildering, spiritual darkness.
During this time, a serious, Stage-Three military alert put our entire army base on edge and we dependents wore dog tags; they would facilitate emergency evacuation procedures for relocation to the ‘lower 48.’ My dreams consisted of atomic fall-out horrors mixed with scenes of the returning Christ and I awoke often, shaking with terrified, cold sweats. Confused and isolated, I fearfully called the local mental health clinic and arranged a visit. My Command Sergeant-Major father cancelled the appointment.
Desperately, I began to elaborate to friends at school about the ominous voices I was starting to discern. The voices, which I now recognize were demonic, taunted me to take my own life. My friends thought it all a grand adventure, another of my creative impulses. They laughed.
Struggling against the voices’ suggestions, I walked in a self-induced, emotionally fragile haze. After several botched suicide attempts, thankfully, God intervened. Almost as an interested bystander, I watched my father admit me to the base hospital’s mental health unit.
Private ‘Boris’ broke dozens of military and hospital regulations by seducing an underaged patient. Ironically, he struggled with suicidal thoughts as much as I did. During our secret liaisons, he shared his plan to steal insulin and hypodermic needles from the hospital and run away to Canada. Once there, he planned to inject himself with the drug and die quickly. He believed he would cease to exist. No pain? No eternity? It was romantic. I fervently wanted him to take me with him.
One evening, one of my doctors, an officer, caught us kissing on the back staircase and our covert meetings abruptly ended. Several days later, I tried to leave a message for Private Paul-Something at his unit and his sergeant told me that he was absent without leave. I do not remember how long I screamed. I do remember being sedated.
My Nanny in Texas was praying hard for me during that shadowy, hopeless period. I am sure there were others that prayed. Slowly, over the next few weeks, I began to get a grip on reality and my life. My family was ill-equipped to deal with my insecurities along with the needs of four younger siblings, so I did not move back home. Because I could not go back to my dad’s, Nanny bravely took me into her home, as well as into her big-as-Texas heart. She took me to church, read her Bible to me and seemed to be constantly cooking goodies.
Nanny’s food and care certainly helped, but it was watching her relationship with the living God that propelled me to turn the corner. She loved me securely and never gave up. My very existence became a reflection of God’s answer to her many prayers. I heard her pray, I saw her pray and I unquestionably felt her pray. How could I not choose to live?
The fierce, independent spirit that my new life breathed took dozens of crazy turns. Leaving Nanny’s for an apartment at seventeen, I led a wild, promiscuous life. Marriage to an emotionally damaged preacher’s son yielded ten years of devastating heartbreak along with the pain of infertility. Old wounds surfaced.
I believed in God. Regularly, I taught the Bible to children in Sunday School and I slowly realized that I had never truly submitted to Jesus’ Lordship. I was lost! As our marriage dissolved, I finally cried out to God in complete surrender. Jesus Christ answered and forgave me; I became His child, at last.
Inevitably, the divorce came, but God has seen fit to multiply the original harvest of my Nanny’s prayers. My new husband and I are training our seven children to follow the Lord Jesus, and we serve in Kids’ Church where we are privileged to lead other children to Christ. This spring, I shared my testimony to hundreds of women and God used my story to draw others to Himself.
It is glorious and humbling to see the Holy Spirit work through completely broken hearts. From the ashes of misery and complete devastation, He has amazingly birthed in me the beauties of hope, joy and a desire to impact eternity for Him. I am a new creature and this life is good. My future is profoundly His.