Some time ago, I wrote Julia’s story for publication. It appeared in a few magazines at that time but since then, it’s been sitting in my files. And that’s no place for a story like this. God speaks to us through the stories of others.
Julia Loewen’s story as told to Rose McCormick Brandon
The doctor returned to his office, leaned across his desk and peered into my eyes to emphasize his words. “If you’re behaving this way to get your father to notice you or care about you, Julia, forget it. He doesn’t.” His harsh statement was meant to rescue me from self-destructive behavior but nothing could snatch me from the numbness that engulfed me. I breathed a sigh of relief when pregnancy tests returned with negative results.
My father, a doctor and a talented artist, suffered from an anxiety disorder that led to prescription drug addiction. He rarely paid attention to his seven children except to make us grovel for things like clothing, allowances and school tuition. Our begging and tears gratified his twisted desire to inflict emotional pain. Humiliation was his favorite tool.
Mother’s death intensified Dad’s cruel streak toward his children. While she lived his hostilities were mostly directed toward her. His ominous words following Mom’s funeral still ring in my ears – “Now the gloves are off!” No one asked what he meant, but we expected the rage that had always permeated our home to increase. And it did.
My mother, who also suffered from a form of mental illness, rejected me from birth because of a congenital eye disease, an imperfection that, in her view, made me ugly. Mother’s methods of surviving in a household with seven children included tying pre-schoolers to their beds.
We never ate meals as a family or celebrated special occasions. The only normalcy in the household came from the influence of a housekeeper who lived with us until I turned eight. From my earliest memories I loved church and in my teens joined a youth group. At fifteen I approached a church leader, a trusted father figure, for counseling regarding my mother’s impending death. It’s almost impossible to express the sense of abandonment I felt when this man sexually assaulted me and then used me repeatedly for sexual gratification.
Because the abuse happened in a church setting, I didn’t realize his actions offended God. I felt expendable, made to be used. I tried to tell my mother but too weak to care, she pushed me away. I discovered years later that my father knew about the abuse and ignored it. The trauma of being used by a man who appeared “godly” affected my whole life, led to promiscuity and the constant fear of pregnancy.
At twenty-one, unwilling to absorb the high emotional cost of staying in a relationship with my father, I broke communication with him. We never saw each other again. At the same time, I became estranged from my brothers and sisters, not because I blamed them but their presence brought back painful memories.
I ached for God almost constantly but He seemed a million miles away. On two occasions when I sought the help of a minister, I was told God could never accept me. One day I made a promise to myself – “Some day I’ll find out how to know God and when I do, I’ll never leave Him.”
At thirty-two, I met and married my husband John. His employment took us to a remote village in northern Quebec. His love and approval led me to risk thinking God might love me too.
Without a church to attend, I joined the membership of a television ministry that sent tapes and a Bible. Alone a lot, I read the Bible night and day. In the book of John, I realized for the first time that without Jesus I was headed for hell.
On one of the tapes, the speaker’s words caught my attention – “It doesn’t matter what your minister thinks of you. It matters what God thinks of you. If you are hungry for God, He will accept you.”
My heart danced with hope at the thought of being accepted by God. But fear of approaching Him overwhelmed me, however I was not afraid of Jesus. “Jesus hold my hand,” I prayed. Immediately, the sweetness of His presence filled the room. Love swelled in the core of my being, swallowing up all my fears. On February 17, 1978 I made peace with God by giving my whole self to Jesus Christ.
Two years passed before we moved to a city with an evangelical church. In the meantime, a woman in Montreal sent Christian videos to me via the daily company plane. A Bible, tapes and videos became my church. The Holy Spirit guided me and my faith grew in that lonely isolated place.
Two days after receiving Him, Jesus spoke to me. “When will you forgive your father?” He asked. A scene from years before ran through my mind – my parents were in a bitter battle. Dad was spewing out cruel words, humiliating Mom. I watched. Hatred and rage took control of me and I wanted so badly to kill my father.
As this scene unfolded in my memory, Jesus came and stood beside me. He caused me to understand that He also loved my father and that me forgiving him was not an option. Jesus reminded me that I had been forgiven and He expected me to forgive my father. I wanted God too much to disobey Him, so my decision to forgive was selfish at first. In time, I came to see my father’s life as a tragedy and feel true love and compassion for him.
Memories of sexual abuse still haunted me. One night at an evangelistic meeting, I went forward for prayer for healing of a physical ailment. Two weeks later, I noticed the ever-present pain from the past sexual abuses had disappeared. No sting. No terror. No guilt. Instead of healing my body, the Lord had healed my broken heart.
Forgiveness for the minister who assaulted me flowed through me. Later, the Lord prompted me to find this man and tell him I forgave him and that God loved him. When we spoke, he made light of his offences but his response inflicted no pain because God had totally freed me from the abuse.
In 1984, in trepidation, I contacted each of my siblings and asked their forgiveness. By this time my father had passed away. My brothers and sisters, who always treated me with kindness, accepted me without reservation and we now have regular family get-togethers.
The freedom of knowing Christ also gave me the courage to return to the voice lessons I loved as a child. After several years of devoted study I received my degree in music. To celebrate the twentieth year of my spiritual re-birth, I recorded my favorite hymns on a CD entitled “Sing to the Lord” at the Gaither studios in Indiana.
God planted a new song in my heart when He forgave my sins and reconstructed my broken life. Now, my song belongs to Him.
Rose McCormick Brandon’s books are available at her website, Writing From the Heart. Julia Loewen lives in Scarborough, Ontario with husband John and their two children. She recently recorded a second CD entitled JOY. Julia ministers with Prison Fellowship of Canada. Visit Julia’s website at: http://www.julialoewen.com/