Written my Marilyn McAvoy Clark
I was born in 1947 in Niagara Falls, New York. My mom and dad were 40 and 45 years old respectively when I was born. I have two much older siblings and then my brother who is 4 years older than me.
My God is an awesome God, and He is always with me and you. However, I didn’t really know that when I was growing up – l only realized it later.
My family was Catholic, and we went to church every Sunday morning for 7:30 am Mass. Later, we changed to the 5.00 pm mass that took place on a Saturday evening. In the summer we stood for the sermon, as it was 3 minutes long, so we were in and out of church in 20 minutes. I also attended a Catholic grade school.
My earliest impressions of God the Father was that He was to be feared, because of a very large painting of Him that was on the front of our church. It was maybe 20 feet high, and the Father was portrayed as an old man with a long white beard and looked quite stern. Below the Father in this painting was Jesus on the cross, and below Him was the white dove portrayed as the Spirit.
Though l was afraid of God the Father, I did, however, love Jesus. What I loved about Him was the feeling I had when l thought of Him – l felt warm, fuzzy, and safe. I still feel these feelings and more now. I finally came to know the Holy Spirit about 15 years ago.
Can you see how God first touched my life?
My childhood was a difficult one. By the time l was 5 years old, l had gotten myself into quite a bit of trouble. When I was 2 years old, I climbed up an advertising billboard that had a latticework backing (you won’t see that style anymore). I thought it would be grand to walk across the top, until I fell off and broke my left hip. I spent my third birthday in the hospital because of the injury to my hip, which led to a further complication of a bowel obstruction from the break.
I used to constantly get lost trying to follow my brother to school, and at least twice l was brought home by the police after searching for pollywogs* in the creek a few blocks from home. You see, my Dad had to work a lot, my brother was at school, and my mother was busy sewing in the basement in order to supplement our family’s income. I have also fallen into empty tar bins, walked through cement and have been brought home by a kind-hearted truancy officer after finding me in a bar.
Can you see how God preserved me, despite my mishaps?
When l was 9 years old, everything went further downhill. My mother started going out to work, and my brother started a paper route. l was left alone in the house a lot, so my brother-in-law used to come and visit me. I was 10 years old when he molested me for the first time. He often told me not to tell anyone about his visits or I would be sorry. However, I knew what he was doing wasn’t right.
Therefore, in defiance, I told my mother. She responded by saying that I would have to learn to protect myself from my brother-in-law’s advances. She didn’t want to tell my dad, as she was afraid that he would kill my brother-in-law. I will never forget how let down I felt from her: It was such a sinking feeling and sense of loss.
So, in an attempt to defend myself, I took the spare key from its hiding spot so that my brother-in-law couldn’t get in the house, and I listened to him as he pounded on the door. It was totally nerve-racking for me. Therefore, in order to get away from him, I did something else. Our church used to have 7:30 am mass on Saturday’s and that’s where I went. I stayed in church until I thought it was safe to go home. I did this for 2 years.
Can you see how God rescued me?
I still had to see my brother-in-law, as he and my sister, as well as their 3 sons, came to visit us every Sunday. Another time, l was left alone with him during a 30-mile car journey. I was terrified the entire time and clung onto the car door handle for dear life. I was determined to jump out of the car if need be, but God kept me safe.
Finally, when I was 12 years old, l managed to be completely free of my brother-in-law. l became a stock girl at my mother’s place of work, as she needed my help. The job was 30 miles away from home, and l went there every Thursday after school and spent all day Saturday there as well.
Can you see how God looked after me?
In my late teens, my life continued spiraling downwards. I discovered how good alcohol made me feel. By the time I was 27, I had cirrhosis of the liver, and I was on the verge of having “wet brain”, which is a form of brain damage that is caused by repetitive and heavy exposure to alcohol.
Finally, I was hospitalized for 3 weeks in a general hospital and then immediately taken to an alcoholic rehabilitation floor in a psychiatric hospital, where I discovered Alcoholics Anonymous. I got sober and actually celebrated my 43rd anniversary of sobriety this May. While l was in that program l renewed my belief in God.
Can you see how God freed me from my chains and gave me a new life?
However, despite my faith, it has been a long road for me to travel spiritually, especially between the ages of 27 and 69. I tried going back to church but it was difficult for me.
15 years ago, l joined a course which guides you into an introduction of the Christian faith. I asked a few people I knew about this course and since signing up, l have not looked back.
Can you see how God never forsakes me?
I have an amazing relationship with my God now. He has picked up this lost sheep, and He has carried me on His shoulders to a new life filled with His joy. He has been with me when I broke my neck and fractured my jaw. He has been with me when my l broke my leg, and I was in a wheelchair for 18 months. He has been with me through 2 alcoholic husbands and the birth of my wonderful son. He has been with me through back surgery on my spine. He has been my refuge and my strength.
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1 (NRSV)
Can you see how good God has been to me all my life?
He has blessed me with gratitude, peace, patience, and joy. I have a smile on my face now when I greet people – all because God loves me. My hope comes from Him, for He alone is my rock and my salvation.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.”
I would like to tell you today, that you too can have all this – and more. Just ask God or like in my case, beg Him for help. God hears you, He walks beside you, and He cries with you. I trust God for everything now. I know I will still face problems but I am not alone. I am His child, and He will never leave me!
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
And l shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.”
About the author:
Marilyn McAvoy Clark is a reformed Christian who has an intense love for the Lord. She lives in Ontario, Canada, although she is technically American-Canadian, as she was born in Niagara Falls, New York. She attends Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Ontario and has a son. If you would like to get in contact with Marilyn, you can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.