Paul–from Abuse to Freedom

Hi Everyone!

This year I turn forty-nine. I became a Christian nine years ago, and my goal was to be baptized before turning fifty. Since most people do this immediately after their conversions, why the wait? Along with people’s baptisms are stories of their conversion and what brought them to Christ, stories that can become quite personal and often times filled with things the person would like to forget. Mine is like that. I’m a private person, and perhaps because of this, telling my story was never important to me. ‘Best to leave the past in the past, and get on with my life,’ is what I’ve always believed. ‘If the time comes when I think my story could help others,’ I thought, ‘I’ll tell it.’ Well, that time has finally come, so here it is.

My story goes back. . . way back to the time when I was just a baby and my parents divorced. I have no memories of my Dad. As a toddler, my memories were of poverty: a single-wide two-bedroom trailer in Milo, Maine, lots of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, saltine crackers with milk, and my mom crying . . . a lot.
When I was six years old, my mom met a man who would change my life forever, but not for the better. In the beginning, things looked good. He took us out of our poverty-filled surroundings and moved us into a much bigger and nicer home on a dairy farm. Soon after settling in, however, we saw a side of him that we’d never seen before: a side that would fill me with horror and fear for the next twelve years. The hardest part wasn’t the abuse; it was the fear.
“If you tell anyone,’ he often warned us, ‘I’ll kill your mother and your brothers.’

I feared for my own safety, for my mom’s safety, and later for the safety of my two little brothers. I was afraid not only of him, but of anyone finding out. I had to keep the secret; my family’s lives depended on it. I remember begging my mom to let me go live with my real dad, and I didn’t even know him. Any contact with him, however, was forbidden. ‘When I turn eighteen,’ I remember thinking, ‘I can leave home and get to know my real father,’ but when I turned eighteen, he died of cancer. We never met.

So where was God in all this? There was no religion in my home. A few of my friends went to church, but outside of Christmas and Easter, I knew very little about Christianity. Yet somehow, I knew God. We talked all the time. I wouldn’t call it praying–I didn’t know how to pray back then–we just talked. As a six or seven-year-old, I would lie in bed at night and beg God to stop the abuse, asking him to protect my mom and brothers. My talking to Him didn’t stop there; we talked all the time. We talked when I had to play my first saxophone solo in the sixth grade Christmas concert. We talked when I was at bat during the little league all-star game. In the eighth grade, we talked when I liked a girl but didn’t have the courage to even speak with her. I talked to God at middle school dances, during high school sports, during Driver’s ed, and in the jazz band. The list goes on and on. We talked just like a father and son would talk.

Then one day it happened: God gave me the strength to stand up to my abuser and tell someone. The cycle of abuse ended, and justice was served. I turned eighteen soon after and determined to leave the past behind, I moved away to begin my new life of freedom. However, angry at the abuse I went through in my childhood, I stopped talking to God.
Failure—many failures—soon followed. I failed in college, in several careers, and then in a marriage. God, however, didn’t stop loving me. Knowing I would stop at nothing to care for, protect, and love a child of my own like a Dad should do, out of my failed marriage he gave me a daughter, changing my life once again. He knew what I needed.

A few years later, God introduced me to my wife, Kim, the most important person in my life. From the day we first met, both of us knew we’d be sharing the rest of our lives together. I don’t think she’ll ever understand just how important she is to me. Without her, I may never have been saved. We started a family soon after we were married, and God blessed us with two more children, this time, boys. Like most new marriages, we experienced problems in our relationship, but we were committed to each other and refused to give up. We started attending the Rock Church in Brewer, where we met Pastors Dave Dube and Jim Funari. Through them, God changed my life once again. Slowly but surely, I was beginning to understand that God does listen when we talk. Every time I’ve ever needed a change in my life, he’s done it. I may not understand it all, but I trust him.

A couple months later, on a Sunday morning in 2009, Pastor Dave gave the invitation to accept Christ. God spoke to me, and I raised my hand. He invited us to repeat a prayer, I did, and I meant every word of it. I was saved!

Not long after accepting Christ, I faced one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. How do you forgive someone who has sinned against you when you were an innocent child? I thought it was impossible, and I expected to carry that hatred for the rest of my life, but God said, “No.” Desiring to deliver me from the weight of all the hate, he said, “It’s time.” It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but when it was over, I felt God’s peace pouring into me.
In the years since, I read the Bible, I go to services, and I volunteer. I try to give back to the community, to be a better husband than I was the day before, and most importantly, to be a good father. The peace and happiness I feel have never been greater.

Looking back, I’ve learned that no matter how bad things may seem, Jesus Christ, who lived, died on the cross, and rose again, will provide a way out. I know he did for me. I’ve been attending church and reading the Bible for about ten years now, but my relationship with God has lasted my whole life. I know he was listening to me when I talked with him, asked for his help, and then for his forgiveness. He listened just like any great father would do because he is my father. . . my Only Father!