Still, my father’s death triggered a chain of events that changed the trajectory of my life. The Bible’s description of God as “a father to the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5) became true and real for a troubled teenage girl.
After hearing the news, my mother decided to move back to Denver and the chaos of the cult. I didn’t want to go with her. I called Lillian, an older sister who had married and had begun distancing herself from the cult a few months earlier. She told me, “Start walking.” I hung up the phone and walked out of my house with just the clothes on my back.
I had walked a little over three miles when she found me and picked me up. She hid me in a hotel for three days. My mother looked for me that night, and when she couldn’t find me, she loaded up my other siblings in our station wagon and, without telling them where they were going, drove them back to Denver. As usual, they left behind most of their belongings.
Lillian and I waited until we were sure they were long gone before driving back to the recently abandoned house. It felt dark and ominous going inside, but I was determined to retrieve what little I owned. I packed up all my clothes and the little odds and ends that have such meaning to a 13-year-old girl, and I moved in with Lillian, her husband, Mark, and their six children.
They reluctantly enrolled me in a Christian school just down the road. Compared to the public schools in their area, they considered it the lesser of two evils. Several students there embraced the new girl, and they became my first real friends outside the cult. They showed me love and acceptance quite different from anything I’d ever experienced. I could tell they had something inside them that I was missing and desperately needed. From my friends at school (and at the church with which it was affiliated), I learned about the Good News of God’s love for me. I learned how Jesus, God’s Son, was sent to earth to die on the cross for my sin. I learned that Jesus lived, was crucified, and was raised from the dead.
Not long after enrolling in the Christian school, my sister allowed me to go on a retreat with the church youth group. The youth pastor gave me the opportunity to ask Jesus to come into my life and change me. That night, God took the broken heart of a 13-year-old girl in his hands, and since then he has been gradually restoring the wholeness that my chaotic childhood smashed to pieces.
I left the retreat a different person than when I arrived. I didn’t understand everything about God or the Bible, but I had a willing heart and lots of friends around to help me learn what I needed to know.
Because I wasn’t sure how my sister and her husband would feel about my acceptance of Jesus as Savior, I kept quiet about it at home so I wouldn’t get sent back to Denver. Much later, they both accepted Christ as well, which gave me the freedom to open up about my salvation experience.
My faith has carried me through the dark valleys I’ve walked on my healing journey. It has helped me persevere through intense fear, tragedy, and multiple murders of people I love. As a child, I knew myself only as the polygamist’s daughter. But when I came to truly know and experience God as my father, he shattered the evil, all-consuming grip my earthly father had on my life. I began to find my identity as a daughter of God and learned to experience true freedom in and through Jesus Christ alone.
My earthly father wrecked my life. Now my Heavenly Father is rebuilding it.