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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)

TITLE: When Words Aren't Enough
By Sharlyn Guthrie


I don’t remember when the music began, but Mama said that it came from Jesus, who was invited into my heart a week before my fourth birthday. I marveled at the melodies sung by birds, frogs, and crickets. Listening to the whistling wind, I tried to imagine the words to its mournful tune. Songs played on my lips every waking moment –light-hearted, cheerful tunes of adoration for my Heavenly Father and the world He created.

Mama sewed lovely dresses for me and painstakingly French-braided my long hair every morning. My three older sisters doted on me, parading me before their friends. But Daddy’s heart was cold as stone. When I flounced into the room in one of mama’s newly-sewn dresses he only harrumphed. Instead of “Princess” (as my friend was called by her daddy) I was “nincompoop” or “muttonhead.” I learned to stay out of his way. Still, there is little else as important to a little girl as winning her daddy’s heart, however dishonorable his heart may be.

One evening Daddy drew me onto his lap, offering to read me a book. I dared to hope, but my hope was quickly dashed. Something wasn’t right about the way my daddy touched me. I tried to leave, but he wouldn’t let me go. Feeling trapped, my chest tightened until I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t wait for the book to be finished. It was the first and last book he read to me, but he constantly invented new ways to sate his lurid appetite.

Fear became my new companion –an unspoken fear, but it kept my eyes wide open in the dark and caused me to pull the covers over my head, nestling in a tight ball near the foot of my bed. When sleep finally fell over me I often awoke in a panic, feeling as though I were suffocating. On one such night as I sprung up gasping for breath, a melody from one of Mama’s radio programs came to me, *“He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock that shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand...” My soul had found a safe place to hide.

Although my family moved frequently, church was a constant in our lives. I memorized hundreds of Bible verses and daily experienced God’s love and grace through other believers. But when Daddy taught Sunday school or preached on Sunday evening, as he often did, the suffocating feeling again came over me. Unsuspecting people often remarked, “Your daddy sure knows his Bible.” They would never believe my shameful secret, even if I could find the words to tell them.

As a teenager, music continued to accompany every aspect of life. I practiced piano for hours, singing fervently as my fingers embellished glorious hymns on the keyboard. Music was my cleft in the rock…a hiding place for my soul…that is, until Daddy began interrupting my practice sessions. His discordant voice failed to match the melodies as he reached around me, groping, attempting to satisfy the beast inside, while continuing to voice the familiar words of a hymn. As I resisted, begging him to stop, despising him for what he was putting me through, I finally began to understand. Daddy knew all the right words, but he didn’t know the melody. A verse emerged from my memory. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 ASV) The words of truth poured easily from Daddy’s lips, but sin had deafened him to the sweet strains of the Spirit. Gradually I came to realize that he deserved my pity more than my disdain. I couldn’t imagine living a life so out of tune.

By God’s grace my soul sprouted wings, eventually daring to leave its hiding place. I found the courage to confront my father, though it seemed to accomplish little. I forgave him anyway, and as he grew old and feeble, I assisted him in his daily care. He never called me his princess or said that he loved me, but as I ministered to him, tears often slid down his cheeks. It was the only expression of tenderness he ever offered. Perhaps words failed him when he finally heard the melody.

*”He Hideth My Soul” by Fanny Crosby, music by William J. Kirkpatrick

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This article has been read 1288 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Sickler09/01/06
Really strong writing and delicate balance between detail and discretion made this a great entry. The pain expressed on the page was powerful, as was the forgiveness and love.
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/02/06
Powerful. Painful. Well done.
Stacey LaMontagne09/03/06
Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I have been praying about writing about a bad experience such as this and this has given me courage. It is a terrible thing to happen to a child and I love the way your main character handles what she endured. Thanks for making it positive but profound. I love the way she could pity him and care for him later on. What a testimony! (assuming its based on a true story, if not it still is very good to think about)
Karri Compton09/04/06
Wow, what an amazing and touching piece! I have a friend who went through almost this exact situation and she is now healed as well. Hallelujah!
david grant09/07/06
This touched me. A DAVEY for you.
Marilyn Schnepp 09/08/06
Sharlyn, I read this before, but couldn't bring myself to write a comment; but, because of your Davey, and your nice comment on my Davey's entry, I must say your story is written extremely well; it's just a difficult subject for me. But Thanks, and you DO deserve the Davey!