Bethany sobbed and rocked back and forth in her chair as she told her mother and me in a rush of words and gasping cries of her attempt to take her own life a day before. She told us how she had been cutting herself, desperate to stop the pain and shame of being molested four months earlier. She begged us to believe her and forgive her and protect her and help her. Her words were like broken glass as they hit my heart, ripping away at my hardened beliefs and deepest fears.

A long night ensued, filled with explanations, choking cries of despair and shame, and anger at God for letting this happen and at myself for leaving her all alone to figure it out. Anger for the many nights she had cried herself to sleep, only to wake up to the same sense of unrelenting fear and guilt. For victims of molestation and abuse, the irrational feelings of guilt and condemnation are overwhelmingly intense. The fear that somehow they had caused the incident, the anger at being helpless to prevent it, and the deep identity-shattering belief that they deserved it—all this forms an inner core of despair so devastating it often leads them to contemplate taking their own lives, just to end the pain. My daughter, my precious and beautiful child, had been mistreated, abused, and then isolated by her fears and my prejudices to a point where she felt her best option was to take her own life rather than confide in us, the ones whose greatest role was to protect, nurture, and love her into adulthood.

My shame was well-deserved; hers was not. To say that I felt remorse, regret, and guilt at my failure to recognize her condition is a monumental understatement. My heart burned with the pain not only of my daughter but also of my heavenly Father as I realized how little I really knew my own child. How little of a genuine relationship I shared with her. How much I had wrongly assumed about her. The lies I had agreed to believe about her life and her attitudes. I had somehow lost touch with my daughter to such a degree that she couldn’t take her greatest crisis to me for help and counsel and comfort. In effect, when she needed me the most, I was no longer there. Paige, too, was heartsick at hearing Bethany describe what had happened. As her mother, Paige had always been there to protect her children and felt grieved to the core that this time, she hadn’t. She wanted to reverse time, to go back and protect her daughter from all this suffering.

Such was the shock and surprise at the night’s events that I had to step back and consciously calm myself in a moment of prayer and sacred Scripture reading. Accepting my failures, I was determined to learn, grow, and improve in my God-given role as Bethany’s earthly father. I began the process of rearranging my schedule, my priorities, and my life to a substantial degree and began asking God to show me what I could do to help repair the wounds in my daughter and in our home. Over time, that prayer for healing, wholeness, and restoration would be answered in a most unusual way.

This excerpt taken from Road Trip to Redemption, (c) Brad Mathias 2013. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers.

Publication date: May 28, 2013