The Power of
Light Beyond the Shadows
Until you’ve walked
in shadows, how do you know the light is bright?
This has been a theme in our family for several years. Shadows are dark and dreadful, but when the sunshine filters in, it’s as though God smiles down to assure us
He cares about what is
happening. Let me start
at the beginning.
Several years ago, our daughter Jennifer* was married. The honeymoon years were wonderful. We loved our son-in-law and welcomed him to the family. They were ecstatic to welcome their first child and our first grandchild. She was perfect—ten tiny fingers and toes, beautiful eyes, and pretty black hair. She began life in an apparently happy home and was adored. But, gradually, things began deteriorating within the family—things no one could see. Shadows were creeping in as shameful behaviors were shoved in a closet, covered up, and hidden.
At first, no one noticed the impact this made on Tiffany, but she internalized all the hurt and anguish her parents exhibited as they pulled apart. Though only a child who still played and acted as other children did, her thoughts were being established. Her parents eventually divorced, leaving her devastated. She loved them both and felt caught in the middle as everything fell apart.
The shadows were thickening.
In time, the problems began to come to light. Our son-in-law was drinking heavily and abusing drugs. Our daughter reached such a sad mental state that she couldn’t care for herself, let alone Tiffany. So, her dad took custody, declaring he would raise her without help from anyone. As Jennifer struggled to heal from the wounds resulting from years of mental abuse, we struggled with weekend visitations, and the devastation of sending Tiffany home with her father each time.
In time, Jennifer was ready to change things, and, after Tiffany’s father was arrested, she had a chance. She went to court and was awarded custody, with visitation rights granted to the father.
This worked well for a while. However, Tiffany’s dad refused to honor the agreement. Tiffany would arrive at school late, and missed some days entirely. He did not bring her home on time or when expected. Court hearings urged her dad to cooperate, but things didn’t change. The shadows grew so thick it felt as if we were walking in darkness.
As the years flew by, Tiffany began to go to counseling. She had the usual problems at school, and she had an especially hard time connecting with other children. They tended to bully her. To cope, she began to withdraw into fantasy worlds. We tried to interact as much as possible, going to church, taking trips, watching movies, and spending time with family. These times seemed to help, but emotions stretched thin, like rubber bands, every time Tiffany left with her dad. We learned to place our fear at the feet of Jesus, the only safe place to confront the shadows hovering over us.
After not seeing Tiffany for months, one weekend her dad decided he wanted some time with her. Tiffany loves her dad, and naturally she wanted to go. She assured us she would be gone only for the weekend, but it turned into a lot longer. After two days, her dad stopped all communication. He told Jennifer Tiffany no longer wanted to live with her or even talk to her, and she did not love her. He told her that Tiffany wanted to change schools. And, most shocking, he informed her that Tiffany didn’t want to be a girl any longer!
What? The beautiful, little girl who loved pretty clothes, chick flicks, playing with makeup, and getting pedicures had suddenly become confused about her gender? This couldn’t be happening. We were shocked. In our agony, we wondered where God was. Why was He allowing this to happen?
The shadows covered us in darkness, and we desperately needed a light.
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if it depends on you.” We went into action. Jennifer contacted a lawyer to find out what could be done. We prayed, our church prayed, our friends prayed. It didn’t take long to receive an emergency court hearing. After talking with Tiffany, the judge quickly ordered her return home.
She arrived dressed like a boy, very confused and upset. After many long talks with her mom, Tiffany assured Jennifer she did not want to be a boy. Yet, the questions remained. Tiffany was more confused than ever.
Tiffany began using her phone to chat with people who were negative influences and to look at inappropriate things. She carefully hid these things from everyone—fine on the outside, turmoil on the inside. The pressure became so severe that she experienced a “meltdown” at school. She became a different person, hearing voices in her head telling her to hurt the boy and girl who had been bullying her. A hospital intervention helped Tiffany evaluate and understand why she had been living in the shadows, and she began to see the light herself. After returning home, things smoothed out, school resumed, and she settled into a routine. Life became almost normal, except for medication, counseling, and psychiatrist appointments. You may be saying to yourself: “Normal? I think not.”
Just look around. Untold numbers of children are living this life. We are thankful for the interventions provided: a church family who loved Tiffany and prayed faithfully, and pastors who took time to counsel her. I’m most thankful for our daughter, who, after experiencing a dark time herself, has worked hard to provide a home filled with love and support rather than condemnation. She fought courageously for the right to protect her child.
Walking through the shadows has not been easy. We have cried enough tears to fill a river, experienced overwhelming sadness, depressing uncertainty, and enough financial instability to go under. Yet, through it all, we have experienced the assurance and peace that God is most definitely in control. He provided peace in the storms—joy in the laughter, happiness in the hugs and kisses we receive freely from Tiffany.
Free Will Baptists have given Tiffany opportunities to hear the Word of God, from conferences like Shine!, to the national convention, youth competition, and summer camps. She attends every church service unless she is sick and has since she was a baby. Yet all of this did not stop the shadows. Influences beyond our control made her life a tug-of-war between good and evil. Does she see the light now? It’s hard to say. We hope she does, and she appears to be living in the light.
She still needs restrictions on phone and Internet usage, and her mother still monitors these closely. At a recent Shine! conference, a presentation about the dangers of the phone and Internet really helped to open Jennifer’s eyes. I am so thankful for interventions like this, and I can’t say it enough.
Parents, beware! You may never know what is happening with your child unless you monitor their technology closely. The shadows can creep in and take over, even in a Christian home. Tiffany, like many other children, has been inundated by technology. We must be aware that today’s technology opens doors to allow this world to affect our children’s morals, thinking, and attitudes in detrimental ways. Check your child’s phone periodically, their texts, their “friends” on social media, and the videos they watch. It is so important to stay informed. They may get angry or even resent it, but you might prevent a tragedy. Most important, don’t assume this can’t happen in your family. It may already be happening and you aren’t even aware.
Today, the shadows are lifting, and we see the light beyond the shadows. Tiffany is excited about continuing school, graduating, attending college, and eventually marrying. Our job is to offer continued love, prayer, guidance, support, and encouragement. The lines of communication must stay open so she feels safe and protected.
Will our lives be completely worry-free? Certainly not! We can, however, rely on the fact that Jesus will take care of us. He proves it again and again when we let Him. Consider His promise in John 8:12: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Tiffany’s story isn’t over. She may be your child, attend your youth group, sing in your junior choir, listen closely during your Sunday School class, or even be your child’s best friend. Treat all of these children with dignity and compassion. You may never know what really lies behind their attitudes and actions. Commit yourself to pray they, too, will discover the true Light beyond the shadows.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
The Shine! Conference sponsored by WNAC helps girls aged 12 to 18 confront the challenges of today’s culture. Learn more: www.ShineFWB.com or www.WNAC.org.