Front Porch Essay #5

Using Christianity For Healing: One Woman’s Journey
Connie Morris

I was reared in the Appalachian Mountains by abusive and violent parents. After their divorce I was subjected to an incestuous stepfather, which led to years of misery throughout my teenage and young adult life. Drugs, alcohol, various unhealthy behaviors, my own failed marriage, and two toddler girls preceded my appointment with spirituality and mental health. God’s mercy was rich as I searched for a healthy, happy life. The following are excerpts from my autobiography "From the Darkness" released in Spring 2002 by Huntington House Publishers.

…The baby was due the end of January…they discovered the baby’s heart was getting weak from the hard, yet unsuccessful labor. It was New Year’s Eve; and Harvey had party plans that he wasn’t going to have interrupted, no matter what… I had a device strapped around my belly that monitored the baby’s heartbeat and the labor pains concurrently. We were both growing weaker and facing death…The baby’s little heart finally gave up and stopped, announcing she had done enough and wanted to quit. I had felt the same way so many times in my life; but I was sure, since I had, she could also find the strength to live. I felt my own life slipping away as well; with mixed emotions I whispered in God’s ear and asked Him to please help us survive.

…We cooked on an open fire or ate mostly cold foods. Jessica was growing out of baby food, and many times she ate canned green beans or carrots straight from the can. We sometimes showered in the rain or carried water from the pond, also on our property, for sponge baths. Harvey…hung a garden hose over the rail of the truck and water dumped out in one weak stream. We had a large, barrel-shaped cooler that we filled with water and placed Jessica inside for her bath. She loved it; I suppose she didn’t know there was any other way to bathe…

…when it got late and she got sleepy, Harvey took off his black, leather, biker jacket and found a safe corner to hide it. He instructed Jessica to "guard" his most favored possession from being stolen, by lying on the jacket, and sleeping there until he came back for it. It was a routine they established and followed night after night. In her little heart, I think she knew Daddy would come back for his black, leather jacket, even if he forgot her.

…Incredibly I became pregnant again. …Perhaps one child was sporting to Harvey…but he didn’t cope well with the prospects of another baby. I was also in crisis… I honestly wasn’t sure I had the strength or love to stretch far enough to cover this little baby.

…The fighting was getting dangerous. Harvey even chased me with an ax and swung at my advanced pregnant belly. Only my quick feet kept the baby and me alive. He was beating me worse everyday, using his fist and punching me in the belly. Unable to work, I stayed home with Jessica while each evening he prepared to go out and find a party. Many times he started a fight before he left and told me he would be back to kill me, often describing how he would do it and how much he was going to enjoy it…

…The congregation had been dismissed and people were filing out the door. I was collecting my child and our belongings (Harvey almost never went to church) when my Aunt Kay stopped to give me a hug. It made me cry. "You need to pray," she said sweetly. I nodded my head, chuckled, and said "Yea, I sure do." I didn’t mean I wanted to pray, just that I was fully aware that my life was in shambles…my little girl and soon-to–arrive child deserved more than they were getting… things were downright terrible and I had no hope…but I still didn’t want to pray! Aunt Kay motioned for some others to join her, "Connie wants to pray," she told them.

Everybody got so excited, I hated to let them down; so up to the altar they led me. Aunt Madge took charge of babysitting Jessica. Helen Patton took the right side; Aunt Kay, the left. Uncle Harold sat on the front pew smiling and hiding an occasional tear. I already had on my coat when I was pulled to the front. They didn’t dare distract me by trying to remove it, so I knelt at the altar with it on. I knew how it was done and might have gotten through the scene without anything really happening, if only the Holy Spirit had stayed out of it. But He didn’t (Thanks, Lord). Several others were gathered around and praying loudly for the forgiveness of my sins and courage to live for Christ. I listened to them more than I prayed for myself. I cried a lot just because I needed a good cry, not necessarily because I was sorry for my sins. They prayed for a long time, perhaps an hour; and then each one started giving me advice on how to be a Christian, and to not expect too much out of myself at first. "It’s a growing process," they said. "Just trust the Lord; take it one step at a time; forgive yourself…" Sweat and tears were running down the side of my face; Helen Patterson laughed and squeezed me as she said with a country accent, "You’ve been diggin’, Honey; you’ve been diggin’."

Then somewhere in all of that, it seemed the Holy Spirit whispered softly, simply, and only one time…something to the effect of, "How about it? Do you want to live for Me?" I sat back and pondered the thought. I didn’t think I could really do it; I refused to be an unscrupulous hypocrite. It took mighty guts, like doing something heroic, to say, "Yes," in my heart. So after the praying was done, as we sat on the closest pew to relax and rejoice, I made the decision to live for the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One who died a horrible death on the cross at Calvary for my sins. I didn’t cry, laugh, or make any outward sign of my conversion. It was simply a decision, a stamp of ownership proudly and decisively pounded with one astonishing move of the hand of God. I knew it wouldn’t be easy (it wasn’t), and I might make a lot of mistakes (I did); it might even cost my life (it would, so to speak). My innate, stubborn disposition would not make it happen; but the love, forgiveness, and protection of God… would.

…We still didn’t have running water in our home. Harvey had found a cheap water tank and cobbled it to run cold water into the bathroom and kitchen sink. We had a real toilet, which had to be flushed with a bucket of water (usually once every few days), that ran into a hole dug just behind the building…

…The incision on my stomach was nearly eight inches long and required special care, just as Lacy’s little body did. It was typically hot and muggy; the flies swarmed freely through our opened doors. When the baby slept, I placed a fan directly in front of her and draped an old sheer curtain over her to keep the flies off. God protected us from infections and sickness that easily could have originated in such foul conditions…

…Revival broke out in our church… I wasn’t really expecting it and (ashamedly) sure wasn’t praying for it, but God gave it anyway. People reserved by nature were confessing sins and dancing with their whole heart to music that gave Jesus honor… People were slain in the Spirit from front to back and in between. At first I was too cold to reach out for the blanket. It was easier to remain snuggled up in my safe, protective world in which I had enveloped myself for thirty-four years. I was sitting in my pew, feeling lifeless and unmoved, as I watched miracles take place around me. The speaker, Mike Taylor, asked everyone to come to the front, take a piece of paper from the basket he provided, and write what we wanted most from God. I went forward like all good little Christians should, took the paper and pencil, and knelt on the floor with the others.

I considered what to write. I thought I should ask for my children to be mighty Christians, or for a wonderful marriage (now remarried)…I was trying to keep it down to something manageable by God. Out of the blue, I thought of writing, "I wish I had never been abused and raped." Time ran out, so I jotted down exactly that, tossed it back with scoff into the basket, and returned to my seat. A few moments later, while the worship team led us in songs of adoration, the Spirit of the Lord said to me, "I want you to thank me that you were abused." Had He been a human, I might have slapped Him! How dare He make such a request! …But I knew the moment was mine to grab, if only I had the guts. Where I could hide from view, I went to the end of my pew and knelt in the narrow walkway next to the wall. At the time I didn’t understand God’s request. I told Him I would receive His healing, but could it please be private. I didn’t want to hop, holler and hoot, or foam at the mouth like a demon-delivered deviant. That seemed to turn off the flow of the Lord, so I got up and went to the back of the church to wait for my family. They were all kneeling at the altar, taking care of their own business with the Lord. The exit to the sanctuary was in the back, with an overflow section positioned close by. I sat in the front pew of the added wing with my Bible and purse in tow, ready to make a quick get-away. Reflecting upon this reminds me how Satan slowly undermines our footing so we’re unaware of an imminent, disastrous fall; I teetered on that tragic edge. I’m ashamed I allowed myself to entertain such a cold attitude. Two ladies started walking toward me, each coming from opposite directions.

I knew I was had! They sat on each side of me and started praying for me. Before long the Lord permeated my hardness.

…I doubled over in my seat, holding my stomach from gut-wrenching rips. I wailed like an angry toddler, not caring how I looked or how loud I carried on. The Lord pulled away heartache after heartache till I finally screamed in agony. That brought others to the scene; I prayed my children weren’t watching, but if they were would God please help them understand.

…People were praying feverishly and making me wonder if I could take any more "healing." I thought about saying, "That’s all folks. I’ve gone as far as I care to go. Stop praying now. I can’t endure any more." But I yearned to be free of the cloud that loomed over me all my life. I was afraid if I pushed God away this time, He may never make the same offer again; so I continued with the process…it wasn’t near being over. I leaned over the lap of a lady next to me; then I felt as though I might vomit. I did pull back at that moment and asked God to please not list regurgitation as a requirement in this course. With no waste can insight, I thought of the nice, red carpet and decided to lie down on the floor. The nausea passed; but in the rushed mighty, boisterous waves of cleansing. It started at my feet and moved up my perspiring body to the top of my head in vibrations that came again and again. Every speck of my body took turns tensing and releasing in sweet shivers. As my legs quit trembling and the river flowed against gravity up my body, my back arced and breathing ceased…I remembered the beatings, burnings, vile touches, and words…my teeth even chattered as the river flowed through my mouth, cleansing my own fowl utterances. Then a few seconds of rest before it came again, beginning with my toes… the ones my mother used to kiss… then up and out. I visualized a maze so intricate that no mastermind could conquer it, yet here was the Holy Spirit weaving in and out with superior intelligence, knowing exactly what turn to take, erasing hidden secrets, and illuminating dark corners before exiting… then swiftly returning to another concealed passageway.

I’m guessing I was on the floor several hours. I could have stopped it at any time; I wasn’t in a trance or outside of my body. I was fully aware of my actions, yet totally uninvolved in causing them. I made myself allow God complete control…well, that’s not exactly true…I could have flopped like a fish there on the floor; I worked hard at holding my bones together as they rattled. Ezekiel 37:1-14 captures the idea better than I, "…can these (dry) bones live?…Oh Sovereign Lord, you alone know." In that passage, with a rattling sound, the Lord pieced together dry bones and recreated a breathing being…as He did in me…

It has become crystal clear to me that an alarming number of people are crippled by a life similar to that from which I was delivered. My life’s passion is to reach out with hope to those whose hearts and lives have been brutally broken. That is why I tell my story with such candor…that is why I must.

 

Connie Morris, now happily married to Kelly Morris, a rancher and plumber, resides in western Kansas on their 500 acre ranch. Her two daughters are now ages 20 and 17; both are living for Christ and are solid, happy young women. Connie is a first grade classroom teacher in a rural Great Plains. She may be reached at 785-332-2424 or at cmorris@nwkansas.com for more information, to schedule a public appearance, or to purchase a copy of "From the Darkness."