As a teen, I lived in Alaska, in two different houses, over a five year period. I snuck out several times from both, and ran away from each one. Some of these times were known to others, and some were not. But of the two times I felt the most desperate need bolt, the most desperate run away attempt was the least successful. Maybe it was because I seemed to run backwards. Perhaps it was a mix of fear, false security, guilt, and concern over leaving a loved one left behind, along with worrying what my friends would think; but running away became a more desperate desire, yet I seemed to fall further and further from my goal of making it happen.
In any regard, not making that final run, was definitely not because I had suddenly decided home was a safe place to stay. It was more like the jail door was open, but a tornado was whirling at the front door. Which option was best for me? Years later, I now know which option was best…the tornado by far. It might have landed me some place safe, like the baby you read about in the news, who is scooped up into a tornado’s belly, and vomited safely into a dresser drawer two towns over; safely sleeping. After all, Dorothy survived a tornado, and while on her journey, was kept safe from lions, tigers, and bears; and also from the witches and the flying monkeys sent out to destroy her. But unlike Dorothy, the phrase, “There’s no place like home,” meant something entirely different to me.
The first attempt at running away came out of sheer desperation to leave the role of scapegoat I had been assigned by my family. I couldn’t take it anymore, being blamed for everyone else’s problems. As the scapegoat in a family reeking with dysfunction, I was tired of being the excuse for everyone else’s issues, problems, and bad behavior. Sure I was an imperfect teenager, fully capable of mouthing off and being selfish, but not to any extreme some would be led to believe. I was a good kid; compassionate, intelligent, and funny. Why wasn’t I loved? It was never enough, so I kept trying harder to prove myself, and I was about to break. Being labeled a “problem child” subtly causes a shifting focus, which is exactly the intent; for the idea is to blind others to the truth of the real chaos lying underneath, and to distract them, so denial can go on and lives of sin can continue without inspection.
I’d given up on getting attention or love, but I still hoped to remain under the radar, undetected, left alone to live my own life in peace. But that wasn’t about to happen, so I became angry. I began to rebel, because I knew it couldn’t be all my fault. I knew the truth and began to fight for myself, because I realized no one else was going to. “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel” (Prov. 18:19 New International Version).
However, it was getting harder and harder to see the truth, when the fiery darts kept coming. Though I was saved, I didn’t yet understand how to defend myself with prayer. The phrases were aimed at me, over and over: “Why can’t you do anything right… Why can’t you be more like (someone else)… What is wrong with you… Why do you have to ruin everything?????” These were the lies which years later, I would learn to renounce in the name of Jesus. I still have to pray against them today, but they come less often. “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16).
How could it be only my fault when my thumb was smashed black and blue after being slammed in the doorframe, and then my face slapped afterwards for cussing from the pain of the “accident.” And even worse, was when that cold hand forcefully slammed down flat dead center on top of my head; HARD. There was actually a witness then, but when everyone is trained not to tell, even adults remain silent. Reporting it doesn’t even cross your mind; it would likely be futile. Who would believe it? For, those things just don’t happen in families that go to church on Sundays, where girls wear pretty dresses, and invite their friends to come with them, because the family is a positive influence and a good example.
Like any hurting teen, I believed if I didn’t protect myself, they would break me. I refused to be broken, not realizing I was already constantly gluing the precious broken pieces of myself back together. And that’s what l was doing… holding on to all my broken pieces, the night I was done being blamed. Of course no comfort; only condemnation, was offered that dark night when I shouted, “Then I’ll leave!” There was no reassurance of love, or a reminder that I was wanted, a gentle plea to stay and talk and pray about it. Instead, I was told that if I was going to go, I would have leave my coat behind, since I hadn’t bought it with my own money.
On Elmendorf Air Force Base, it was less than 30 degrees that evening, and pitch black outside. I had nowhere to go. But it took me less than a second to make my decision: I shoved off my new white downy coat with sporty blue stripes, threw it to the floor, and ran. I ran out into the black night, looking to the left and looking to the right. The icy clean air took my breath away. I ran towards my best friend’s house, but knew that would be the first place I’d be expected to be found. Her home life wasn’t stable either. It wasn’t an option. So I wandered. I wandered far past anywhere my friends and I ever wandered, even by our independent standards of doing whatever we wanted and going wherever we felt like going. I ran to warm up, but I slowed as the wheezing started. I was an asthmatic; just another way I’d caused problems for everyone else. I blew on my frigid fingers, and I scratched at the welts raising up under my jeans. I would get them when I got cold, due to a protein in my blood which reacts starkly to frigid temperatures. I didn’t realize then, that I actually suffered constantly from cold urticaria, which can in severe instances; cause low blood pressure, anaphylactic shock, and death.
I still didn’t want to go back. At the same time, I’d seen the footage they show all the military families upon first arriving to The Last Frontier: “Scary Survival Videos.” At 14, I was old enough to know that hypothermia was a reality, and frostbite was serious business, where I could actually lose my fingers and toes. This time, I had no runaway friends to be my hypothermia partner so I could keep warm, and I was never going to do that “naked hugging sleeping bag survival skill” anyway; not unless I was left for dead on a mountaintop. I don’t remember if I prayed, but I do know God was with me, protecting me and loving me.
I’d wandered for at least a couple hours, and I was far away from home. I knew I needed to get warm, or my body could be permanently damaged. I had on tennis shoes, instead of boots, and there was snow and ice on the ground. I didn’t much care about living right then, but always in my mind, was a loved one I had back at home, and being a teenager, I was also worried about my reputation, even among my friends. They would ask me why I ran away. I’d been trained not to tell family secrets. I’d been trained to pretend I came from a perfect “Christian” family. Who would believe me? It was too much anyway; a mountain of madness which no one would understand or believe or care about, and many don’t; even to this very day. Telling them would be impossible. Now I’ve gained enough wisdom to know that some things are only revealed by God in His perfect timing.
That night I found myself at the chapel, and was mortified to find a friend of mine was there too. He sang with the adult choir, so he was often up at the church. I didn’t want him to see me, but it was too late. He was an intelligent, kind boy, and our mutual friends had mentioned he had a crush on me. Maybe he wouldn’t tell anyone. As far as I know, he never did. He asked me what I was doing there, and if I was ok. I shook my head, and took a deep breath, so I wouldn’t cry. He didn’t know how bad it was at home, but I think to this day, he knew about one of the secrets. His eyes said he knew. He wanted to ask more questions, but seemed to understand I couldn’t answer them. When I said I had to go, he put his hands on my shoulders and gently shook me. His dark eyes looked scared. He said the M.P.’s (military police) would come looking for me, and everyone would find out I had run away. He said I would freeze to death if I went back out in the cold. And finally, out of wanting to help, he convinced me to call home.
When I made the call from the church, I did it on my terms. I’d learned a thing or two about manipulation and control tactics. I’d been taught well. My terms were that I’d tell where I was, but there would be no talking about it, and no punishment. If the terms were broken, I’d run away again, and I’d tell people why I was running. The terms were agreed upon, and the ride home was just as cold, if not more frozen, than the air outside. I was surviving.
The next attempt at running away came out of a desperation that had turned to hopelessness, and the plan came down to no running away at all. I was found out before I even got a chance to get out of the house. I’d spent too long packing in the bathroom, and refused to open the door even when a hole was punched halfway through it. If there’d been a window, I would have exited. But with no escape in sight, I stuffed my school bag into the lower shelf of the bathroom closet, put some towels on top, and exited the bathroom. After hearing about how it was my fault that there was a hole punched in the door, I shrugged and announced that I was going to bed. I slid under the sheets in my clothes. I’d have to wait until about 1:30 or 2 a.m., because darkness in Alaska doesn’t come till then during its super short spring and summer months.
My bag was packed with a few necessities, my tiny teddy bear, and about $100. The car keys were on my dresser, since I drove to school each day. The car wasn’t really mine, so I’d have to drive somewhere and leave it with a note, saying I was sorry and that it wasn’t stolen. I planned to drive from Eagle River to Anchorage, and then park and walk until I found a hotel. I KNEW there were some areas that were dangerous, like 4th Avenue, where everyone warned you never to go. But I was headed that way, because I thought it was the last place anyone would look. I never got there. I never got anywhere that night.
The door to my bedroom flew open, and my escape bag was swinging back and forth before my eyes. I was shocked, and my heart sunk. I was completely deflated… hopeless. I must have raised suspicion by staying too long in the bathroom, packing up my things. My key set was whisked up from my dresser amidst angry shrieks. I’d be taking the bus next day to school, which I hated. I lay in bed that night with my tiny brown teddy bear, tears soaking his curly fur. I’d never get out. I don’t remember if I prayed, but I do know God was with me, protecting me and loving me.
Though I managed to move out of my house quickly, because I was snapped up for a teaching position immediately after graduation, I never really got away until my husband and I moved from the state of Texas, out to Virginia where we didn’t know a soul. It was especially hard to leave a loved one back home, and I missed my friends. But being on my own was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I began to write my prayers in a prayer journal, participated in a bible study, and pursued Jesus in peace. All my life, I’d been bashed over the head with a bible and forced to go to church, with scripture used out of context to guilt and shame me. I was a victim of spiritual abuse, and was running from God, because I thought He was always watching me from the sky, waiting to condemn me and punish me, and tell me what I was doing wrong. I was afraid of Him, and angry with Him too. I was now discovering the joy of having a relationship with Him! My eyes began to open up to the truth for the first time in my life, and God’s teachings showed me that everything I’d been taught was completely upside-down… and completely wrong. I do remember that I prayed!
God moved me more times with my husband. Then God moved me more times with my children. Many things happened during those moves, and I’ve had many homes, but instead of running away, during each of my moves I have learned to draw closer to Jesus. When I start to run away, he doesn’t let me out of the door, without first insisting that he loves me and doesn’t want me to go.
Whenever the pain becomes too hard to bear for those who have been running and running all their lives looking for a little bit of love, there lies ahead the silver lining: One ends up desperately running straight into the arms of Jesus! And in that most desperate time, the running away will stop, before you even realize it. Why? It’s because Jesus has been waiting here for you the whole time, with his arms outstretched, already wrapping themselves around you! I discovered that Jesus had been holding me in his arms the whole time, crying tears when I cried tears. He was waiting for me run in his direction and cry out his name, so he could save me. He is doing the same for you. Though I was already God’s child, I hadn’t understood the power and authority I have in Christ Jesus. I didn’t realize that I was loved by God, unconditionally, without condemnation or judgment.
We don’t need to run away from Jesus, for he does not reject us! He loves us in spite of our imperfections, and in spite of our sins. We can run into his everlasting loving arms, and he will greet us with acceptance and unconditional love each and every time. If we forget how much he loves us, and start to run away, we can always turn back, repent, and ask him to forgive us. He will help us to battle the negative lies we have been falsely led to believe, and heal us of our guilt, fear, and anger; which will then banish depression; leading us to freedom and joy! We will discover that God is not far away up in the sky, but right inside of our hearts, and He’s been loving us our whole entire lives! For there really is “no place like home” when your eternal home is in Heaven with Jesus Christ.
“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:20).
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).
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