In my naiveté, I was still remembering her as she was before, instead of seeing her as she had become. I had missed the transformation in front of my very eyes. Actually, I’d seen the symptoms, but I hadn’t taken them seriously. Instead of investigating the sudden changes in my daughter, I’d dismissed them, chalking it all up to normal teen issues. Day after hectic day had come and gone, and I was blindly doing my best to keep everything and everyone in their proper places. Hypnotized by the repetitive schedules and demands on my time, I was slowly losing my awareness of the very real and dangerous problem growing in my own home. I had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Not only had Bethany changed in appearance and attitude, but the time she spent alone in her room and away from her family or friends had grown from a few hours each week to a few hours each day. When she was around, her blank and absent stare was devoid of any emotion—beyond her growing irritation with the rest of us. Yet I continued to misread her activities, changes in appearance, and nasty attitude. I shudder to think what might have happened that dark week in September 2009 if I hadn’t taken a moment to pray with my wife late one night in our bedroom.

Divine Intervention

As I took the time to quiet myself, and as I emptied my mind of the day’s worries, I opened my heart in prayer and immediately felt the presence of God intrude into my awareness. It was like a firm, tender, but powerful impression, a deep whisper in my mind: Ask Bethany what she is hiding from you. I thought, Tonight, Lord? Right now? My heart felt an intense surge of emotion as I sensed the urgency. Immediately!

Since committing my life radically to Christ eight years earlier, one thing I had learned is that when God clearly speaks to me, it’s wise to respond right away. My wife and I agreed it was important enough to interrupt our sleep that night, and we decided to find out what was really going on with our daughter.

As we walked the short distance from our room to hers, I felt frustration and anger build within me. Obviously Bethany was lying to us about something, and I was determined to find out what. Like many parents, we had battled with the pattern of deceit and halftruths so common in adolescents. I was convinced that Bethany had lied to us once again and was secretly pursuing some defiant violation of our house rules regarding boys or Facebook or texting. She was always pushing the boundaries with us, and this time she must have gone too far. After all, the middle child is often the most difficult—everyone told us so. Bethany had fought her mother and me every step of the way, ever since she was a little toddler. “I DO IT!” she had screamed at us when she first learned to talk and walk. And in the next decade, it seemed she had continued to resist every effort we made as her parents to win her heart and her trust.

Reality Check

At the door to my daughter’s bedroom, I paused and listened. I could hear her quiet sobs and restless movements. I was beginning to grow more concerned and less angry at whatever she had done. I began to feel a darkness—deep pain and despair—coming from her room. It was a palpable sense that something or someone was tormenting my daughter.

I had often felt unprepared and unqualified to raise a daughter, let alone two. I seemed unable to understand their unique emotional needs. Yet I knew for sure that I loved Bethany with all my heart, and I was ready to do anything for her. Like any father, I would take a bullet to the brain or a knife through my heart—whatever it took to protect her. But that night, I sensed something deeper and more terrifying trying to harm my child, something I couldn’t touch, fight, or repulse.

Whatever this problem was, it threatened to destroy my daughter, and it was time for me to battle for her like I had never done before. I immediately began to pray and to seek the wisdom of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Rarely do we get to pray for something else as pure and as needed as wisdom in raising our children, and I was exceedingly short and to the point. Lord, I need some insight here for Bethany. Please, Lord. I’m scared and confused, and I don’t know how to help her. Please, God. And again I sensed the peaceful but firm impression in my mind: Just ask her to reveal what she has hidden.