“No!! Please don’t leave me here with these people I don’t know!” I begged desperately for my husband not to leave. It was a safe place and those around me really cared about my recovery, but fear pulsed through me.
I had carried my secrets nearly fifty years. I was a novice at sharing my story with one, let alone several. Someone I trusted felt a weekend retreat would be a good step for me. I agreed to go. Now I was there and terrified.
At our small group table women began to share stories from their open hearts. My heart was tightly sealed and my mask of performance covered me. I was certain if others knew the truth about me I would be cast aside and abandoned.
As I listened to other’s stories and saw how they were believed and gently cared for, my heart longed. But the risk seemed too great, memories of speaking my story in the past brought uncomfortable scenes to my mind.
Those caring for me had been warned that I might try to flee. (In fact in the early stages of my recovery journey I was called “Valerflee”.) Early in the weekend I began to look for times when I might escape to freedom. I ran into difficulties with my plan. Our secluded retreat center was located well out of town in an area I had not visited before. I had no vehicle in my possession. We had arrived in the dark, and I had no idea where the nearest town was.
I felt caught and was sinking into despair and hopelessness.
My vigilance at night kept me awake, making me sleep deprived.
I crafted my plan. I would slip out when no one was looking and head to the lake.
The opportunity came for my planned departure. Once outside the building I walked quickly toward the lake, grateful no one was following me. I knew once I got over the hill I would be out of sight. My heart pounded as I walked faster and faster. Fear was controlling me and evil’s whispers were encouraging me to keep walking when I got to the edge of the lake. No one would find me in the water for awhile. It would be over.
I found myself at the waters edge, contemplating where my next steps would take me, when a figure appeared a hundred feet or so to my left. I glanced over and my heart sank. Someone else had come to the lake, my plan was thwarted. I quickly looked away, hoping she hadn’t recognized me. I didn’t want her to know why I had come to the water’s edge.
I turned and walked back to the building. As I walked I began to rehearse the excuses I would use for having slipped out. What explanation would keep my secrets and cause me the least amount of questioning?
The greeting I received was not the one I anticipated, my intensions were fairly evident. I wasn’t keeping my secrets hidden as well as I thought, and the staff was wise, gentle and kind as they engaged with me.
As the retreat ended, we were offered a time to share a testimony about how God had come for us during the weekend. I had something to say, but was unsure how could I share in front of an audience of many I didn’t know. Something kept urging me to speak. I resisted, but I did want to acknowledge the person who came to the lake and saved my life.
My time came to speak. I told of slipping out, getting to the lake’s edge, and planning to walk into the dark waters when someone appeared to thwart my plan.
“Whoever you are, you saved my life. I doubt you are aware of how God used you. Whoever came to the lake and saw me, would you please stand? I would like to publicly thank you.”
No one stood. The woman that saved my life wasn’t in that room. She hadn’t been a part of the retreat. She had come, sent by God, as an angel to fight for my life.
Before leaving I walked back to the lake to the spot where I had been before. I wanted to have a quiet moment with God to thank him for coming for me. As I looked down where I had intended to take my first step, a snake slithered in the water. Evil was there in that water.
In that moment I saw clearly the identity of the woman at the lake with me. Her dress had stuck in my mind, it was a turquoise dress my grandmother often wore. In the trauma of my childhood, my grandmother was my safe place. She protected me when she could and tried to make life better for me.
Once again my grandmother had stepped in to protect me from harm at the lake.
Evil lost and God won!
Valerie Avery treasures the journey of embracing all God has gifted her with including creating art and beauty using fibers, beads and nature. The bond of 50 years of marriage has created a legacy as mother to 5 and “Grammie” to 20. She is venturing into the world of writing and is grateful for a place to share stories of growth and hope. You can read more here.