Caution: Some readers may find subject matter to be graphic.
Mary added her stuff on the growing pile. “I don’t think that I have ever been camping.” Her excitement couldn’t override her irrational fear for the weekend.
“Your mom told me you use to go camping with your Uncle Ben and Aunt Sue every summer.” Mary watched Byron arrange equipment in the back of the church van and wondered why someone as good-looking and wonderful as Byron would be interested in someone as plain and boring as her. This wasn’t the first time she’d given him reason to question her comments about her past. She was embarrassed to state the truth; she didn’t remember much from her childhood summers.
Hours later, Mary was awestruck by the cliff of various colors that formed the background of the campsite. Setting up the tents and other preparations seemed a natural thing to her, even though she couldn’t recall ever camping before.
“I don’t know if I can get to sleep, I’m so pumped from the worship service.” Mary couldn’t help but agree with her tent mate and friend, Corrie, but the two soon settled down in their bags and said good-night.
“Mare, be a sweetheart and take this to your Uncle Ben in the camper.” Aunt Sue gave handed her a cooler. Mary would have rather stayed outside with Sue, but knew better than to disobey. She looked for her college church group, but found only her aunt and uncle.
Once in the camper, Mary offered the cooler to her uncle and tried to hurry out the door. As she put the cooler where he requested, Uncle Ben blocked her exit. Trapped, terror filled her as his hand covered her mouth. She knew what was next, her worse nightmare repeated every summer.
His ungloved hand tasted like cloth. Kicking to get away, Mary’s legs were trapped. Pushing him away, she released her mouth from his hand and screamed.
“Mary, wake up. You’re only dreaming.” Uncle Ben disappeared as the gentle voice of her friend shook her awake. “Mary, it’s me, Corrie. It’s all right. I’m here if you need to talk.”
Concerned voices came from outside the tent and Mary recognized Byron’s among them. How embarrassing to have Mr. Better-Than-She-Deserved hear her scream from a nightmare. She was sure to loose him now. “Everything’s fine, go back to bed.” Her words failed to convince even her.
“Mary,” Byron’s gentle voice expressed his concern. “We can wake Pastor Jim and Betty if you want. I have a feeling this is more than just a bad dream.”
“And we will stay right there by you if you want,” Corrie added. “Or right outside if you prefer us not to hear.”
Mary knew that despite her being unlovable, these people truly loved her. Corrie had brought her to church last year as a college freshman. She met Byron in the college group at church.
With her two best friends beside her, Mary sat in the Pastor’s tent with his wife. Afraid to look at Byron for fear of desertion, and unable to speak if she looked at Pastor Jim, she kept her eyes on Betty and Corrie. Her body shook and tears ran down her checks as she shared how every summer for as long as she could remember, her aunt and uncle took her camping. The only thing she remembered about the trips was trying to avoid opportunities for her uncle to rape her. It stopped only when as a rebellious teenager, she refused to go on the camping trip.
“What your uncle did was wrong. I think you know that, but it doesn’t take away the pain. Only Jesus can do that. You have some good friends here that love you just the way you are.” Pastor Jim gave her guidance and reassurance for several hours. Before leaving his tent, Mary rededicated her life to Christ and a new peace swept over her.
“You know, Mary,” Byron whispered to her while walking her back to her tent, “I’ve often wondered what traumatic event happened in your childhood that you would subconsciously choose to forget large chunks of it. I’m really sorry this happened to you. Together we will work through it.”
“You’ll stay and help me?”
“Yes. Together; you, me and Christ; we’ll get through the pain.”
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