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Inside The Mind of a Prodigal

Every time I read the story about the Prodigal Son, I feel it's a story about me.

by Laurie Kopf

When I was a young girl, I remember telling my parents that I would never leave them, even after I grew up.

But I did grow up, and I did leave them. In fact, I ran from them, I cut them out of my life, and for many years I rejected much of what they valued.

I guess that would make me a classic prodigal child.

In recent years, as I've grown close to God, and as I've raised children of my own, I've spent a lot of time thinking about those painful years. What made me so different? What caused me to choose a path that was so different from my brother and sister? What turned me from an obedient child to a teenager and young adult with a tough, rebellious exterior who seemingly made all the wrong choices?

I cannot speak for all prodigals, because all of us have our own stories. But perhaps my experiences can shed some light for some of you who are trying to understand what might be going on in the mind of a prodigal. This is a long piece, especially for an online article, but something tells me that if you are the parent of a prodigal, or a prodigal yourself, you will be interested in the details of my story.

A Sharp Turn

I was born on July 13, 1957 in Ridgewood, New Jersey, the youngest of three children. During the first five years of my life I do not recall any difficulty or major crisis. I believe I would have been described as a quiet, shy little girl who tried to keep up with her brother and sister but, because of the age gap, felt left out much of the time.

When I was five, my dad was transferred and our family made our new home in Overland Park, Kansas. It was at this point that my life took a sharp turn one day when I was outside playing. I don't remember this experience in great detail, but I remember an older boy in our neighborhood led me to a stairwell that led to a basement. That day he robbed me of my innocence. Although intercourse was not involved, what he did to me awakened feelings and sensations that God did not intend for a 5-year-old to experience.

As I look back I recall some of the thoughts that began to run through my mind. A voice in my head told me that I was a very bad little girl. I began to feel like I was different from other kids my age. I felt different from my brother and sister to the point that I didn't seem to fit into my own family. I began to believe that my parents couldn't possibly love me as much as they loved my siblings.

I believe this experience was the beginning of the battle that would go on in my mind for many years to follow.

At some point after the abuse, I attended Vacation Bible School at our church. I can still clearly remember looking up as my teacher told my mother that I had asked Jesus into my heart. I believe that even at the age of 5, I knew I was a sinner and I needed Jesus to forgive my sins. I felt dirty and believed that only Jesus could make me clean again. I knew I needed His love and forgiveness in my life.

When I was 10, my father was transferred back to New York City and we returned to New Jersey. We lived in a very nice neighborhood in a brand new two-story home. I continued to be quiet and shy; my confidence was extremely lacking. My brother was a senior in high school when we made the move and my sister was a freshman. They were both able to make friends quickly, but I found myself struggling to find my way as a fifth grader. I couldn't find where I fit in.

"Why don't you take more than one ... "

The story I share next I still don't truly understand myself, but it is a slice of my life. It happened one evening while I was in sixth grade. My mom was at the dining room table helping my brother and sister with their homework. I don't believe I felt left out just because of this one instance—most likely it was an accumulation of situations that for some reason built to a climax for me that night.

I remember telling my mom I had a headache. She told me to go take an aspirin, and a few moments later I found myself at the kitchen cabinet where the aspirin were kept. Suddenly a strange thought popped into my mind: "Why don't you take more than one? Take several." So I took a small handful. Then after awhile something told me "Go back and take more ... you didn't take enough." So I found myself back in the kitchen at the cabinet where the aspirin were kept and I proceeded to pour more into my hand. I made my way back to the bathroom and swallowed them one by one. I admit to you that I don't recall the voice telling me why I should do this; I just remember listening to the voice and following its bizarre suggestion.

Later my mom came into my room to say good night. She asked me if I still had a headache and I said "Yes." She said, "Well did you take an aspirin?" I remember replying, "Yes I took some."

"What do you mean you took 'some'?" she asked. "Laurie, how many did you take?" "I don't know ... several." It took a few more verbal exchanges to finally get the full truth out of me. I finally told her, "I took 21." I remember her dashing out of the room and I could hear her running down the stairs to the floor below. Next thing I knew my dad abruptly came into my room, grabbed me out of my bed, and began telling me not to shut my eyes as he guided me down the stairs into the kitchen.

I will never forget the look on the faces of my brother and sister as they sat at the kitchen table. They were looking at me like I was an alien or something. As I look back now I can't blame them. I could hear the voice in my head saying, "Look at them—they think you're crazy. They're thinking, 'Laurie, what would make you do such a stupid thing?'"

To be honest with you, I didn't understand it either. Where would such a bizarre and twisted idea come from? What would make me think to do such a crazy thing?

When I appeared in the kitchen my mother was on the phone to the emergency room. She was told to make me drink 20 glasses of fluid in a relatively short period of time. I still remember my mom making me drink glass after glass of water, milk, juice, anything, until finally my stomach began to recoil violently, ridding itself of everything in my stomach.

I really don't remember much of anything said to me that night. My body was aching, and I was exhausted and weak. All I wanted to do was go back to bed and go to sleep. In the morning I woke up to my stomach and the muscles that surrounded it screaming out from the bizarre episode of the evening before.

I soon learned that my strange behavior of the night before did not have the results I believe I was looking for. As I look back, I believe that I wanted to hear my parents say they loved me just as much as they did my brother and sister. I needed to hear that I was special and that I was a very important part of our family. Sadly, at this point in my life, I didn't know what it was that I was after, so how was I supposed to explain it to my parents?

This peculiar episode was soon buried and forgotten as time went on. I was left with the belief that I was different, that I was weird. I felt even more like an alien in my own family than I did before. The voice in my mind would say things like, "Your whole family thinks you're crazy," or, "You'll never be good enough, so why bother?" or, "You're stupid, and you do stupid things." And yes, there was always, "You're a bad girl, you'll always be bad."

Listening To the Enemy

I look back upon these episodes and realize that I was experiencing an intense spiritual battle. I believe the enemy, the devil, used those insecurities to prey upon me. I did not realize until I heard a Campus Crusade for Christ speaker named Ney Bailey say at a conference, "The enemy speaks to you in your own voice and in your own accent." When I heard this I finally understood that the thoughts that I have struggled with were coming from an enemy who was literally trying to destroy me. It says in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert, Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour," and in John 8:44 we are told that "…he is a liar, and the father of lies". As I continued to listen to these lies I began to believe them to be true. The devil knew how to speak to a young girl who had a huge need for love and affirmation.

But the Lord never stopped pursuing me. I recall a time when I attended a large Christian conference. My brother was at my side in the seat next to me. As the evening came to a close, they proceeded to give an invitation for those who wanted to receive Christ or rededicate their lives and asked those people to come forward. I could feel my heart beating through my chest, and I felt so drawn to go forward that I set aside any embarrassment and found myself being pulled down the stairs and down the aisle, making my way up to the front. My best friend's older sister ended up being my counselor, and I remember praying with her.

For several years I grew spiritually. We were part of a good church, and one special memory is of the night our family was baptized all together. My parents also took my sister and me to a "Lay Institute for Evangelism" conference where we learned how to go door to door with surveys and then share the Four Spiritual Laws with people. I even remember going out with my sister and a group of kids to the beach and sharing our faith without fear or intimidation.

A "Hard" Appearance

By the time I began my freshman year of high school, my brother and sister were in college and living away from home. My high school was split along racial lines, and was known to be one of the toughest schools in our area.

On my first day I was hurrying to get to class, and while walking through a tunnel that led to another building another girl turned as she passed me and punched me in the back. I looked back at her as I gasped for breath, wondering what I had done to deserve such a blow. That same week, while still trying to navigate my way around and get myself to classes on time, I came up on four girls walking abreast across the hallway. As I passed them, they all spit onto the back of my head all over my blonde hair. I closed my eyes as I slipped into the cafeteria and leaned against the wall attempting to regain my composure, tears now streaming down my face. "Why me?" I thought. "Why would anybody do that to someone who's trying to mind her own business?"

I soon realized that I must look like easy game. I was only 5'4" and weighed 98 pounds. I realized at that point that I would have to change if I was going to survive the next four years in this insane place.

As the days passed, I felt more and more like I wasn't going to fit in here, either. I knew I didn't fit in with the "popular" kids or the "brainy" kids, so unfortunately I ended up outside with the kids that smoked cigarettes and marijuana. I had always said that I would never smoke cigarettes, but it didn't take long before I found myself compromising my standards and beliefs.

I learned how to achieve a "hard" appearance; I wore my jean jacket with my pack of cigarettes in the front pocket and I learned how to talk the talk, using as many four-letter words as possible. I also learned that you never look anyone that you don't know in the eyes unless you wanted to get punched again or cornered somewhere. I had resisted smoking marijuana up to this point, but it wasn't long before a friend at church introduced me to pot. I quickly found that getting high worked like anesthesia to deaden the hurt and pain I felt inside and permitted me to come out of my shell a bit.

On the Run

This was the true beginning of my rebellious years, when I began to turn away from God. I found myself on the run—to where, I had no idea—but I continued running nonetheless. As I look back now, I realize I was searching for someone who would love me unconditionally, someone who cared about me and wouldn't look at me like I was an alien.

During my junior year of high school, I met a guy during a church youth group that was meeting at my parents' home. We went out on a couple unsatisfactory dates, and then began seeing each other regularly the following summer. It would turn out to be a summer we both would never forget.

I think what attracted us to each other was our need for acceptance. He made me feel special. He made me feel like somebody loved me for who I was. I think that's how I made him feel. Eventually we became involved physically, and that seemed to make them us even more desperate to be together.

A couple of times during the summer my boyfriend would return to my house after he had dropped me off, sneaking back to see me after my parents had gone to bed. One night, at 2 a.m., we were discovered when his mother called my parents looking for him.

Once again another one of those notorious great ideas popped into my head: "Run away!" I mentioned the idea to my boyfriend, and he was all for it. We decided that we were going to try to get married. The only place we thought that would be possible was in Las Vegas, so that's where we headed.

We tried to get married at a chapel only to find out that since I was not yet 18, it would not be possible. We were really disappointed. Eventually our parents tracked us down in Colorado, and my father told me that if we didn't return home he would have the authorities put my boyfriend in jail for statutory rape and for taking a minor across state lines. My boyfriend sold his car and we flew back home, not knowing what to expect.

We arrived at the airport to find only our fathers standing there, waiting for us. I remember my father coming up and putting his arms around me, telling me that he was glad I was home safe and that he loved me. This was a moment in time that I will never, ever forget as I couldn't recall my father hugging me and telling me he loved me like this before. It meant the world to me that even after all I had put him through, he still loved me.

In the days that followed our parents discussed the situation and decided that we would not be allowed to speak to each other for six months, not even at church. I felt like they had cut off my lifeline. When the summer came to an end, my boyfriend went off to college and I began my senior year of high school. As you might guess it was a terrible year for me. My boyfriend was off at college experiencing his new-found freedom and I was at home still bound by restrictions set by my parents. I felt more alone than ever before.

"If it doesn't work, we can just get divorced."

The next summer my parents encouraged me to attend a girl's school in Missouri. I believe it was their desperate attempt to put some distance between my boyfriend and me. And it worked. I wasn't at school long when I decided that I would write him a "Dear John letter," breaking up with him. I felt like I was tying him down, and I thought he would end up resenting me if I didn't give him the opportunity to find out for himself what else was out there.

Time went on, and I started seeing someone else. I will admit that our relationship was mostly a physical one. I knew I didn't feel for him the way I had felt for my old boyfriend, but I figured I now had nothing to lose…except myself. The Enemy once again began working on my mind, saying things like, "He's already forgotten about you. He's having sex, so you might as well have sex, too. You've already given up your virginity, so what difference does it make now?"

This new boyfriend happened to be an atheist. I remember telling my mom on the phone that we were thinking about marriage, and she said, "Laurie, please don't marry him." That's all it took. I was still blaming my parents for what happened to my old boyfriend and me, so I made the decision to marry him.

On my wedding day I still recall thinking, "If it doesn't work, we can just get divorced." Not the best way to start out your married life.

After two years of marriage we had a son. He was a beautiful, priceless and precious gift from God. For the first time in my life I experienced the unconditional love between parent and child. But even with a child in my life I soon found myself depressed, and eventually I became dissatisfied with my marriage. I felt it had been a mistake from the beginning, and I wanted out. When Kaylin was 18 months old I made plans to return home to New Jersey for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I knew I wasn't going to return to Missouri, but I didn't tell my husband until he came to New Jersey for Christmas that I wanted a divorce.

As I look back at the choices I made during those weeks and months, I see now how desensitized I had become. With each wrong choice through my adolescent and young adult years my heart had become more and more hardened. All I cared about was myself and what I wanted. Jeremiah 17:9 puts it this way: "The human heart is more deceitful than all else. And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?"

To this day I am so ashamed that I could be so selfish, so heartless. In no way did my husband deserve the pain I put him through. I was the one who failed; he didn't. I look back now and grieve at the pain I caused him, his parents, and my son. How could I have been so uncaring? I now believe that it's because I so utterly and completely believed the enemy's lie: "It's all about you, Laurie." In my mind I would hear him say things like, "You'll never be happy with this guy, so why not leave? He'll be better off without you anyway. He deserves someone that will really love him. You'll be better off back at home. He's an atheist; it's because of him you aren't in church. Leave him and everything will be better. You deserve to find real happiness."

After I returned to New Jersey, I began looking up some of my old friends. It was also just a matter of time before my old boyfriend heard I was in back in town. We hadn't seen each other in six years, and yet when we finally did see each other our feelings were rekindled. By this time I had already started divorce proceedings and was waiting out an 18-month period for a no-fault divorce. I began thinking, "If I just marry him, then I will finally be happy."

A New Tool for the Enemy

Everything seemed to be going just the way I had hoped ... until I found out I was pregnant again. Because of the timing I knew the child belonged to my ex-husband.

So now I was faced with a choice I never thought I'd have to make. I could choose to keep the baby and return to my ex-husband and continue my life with him, if he'd have me. Or, with painful regret, have an abortion and stay with my boyfriend.

Just days later, very early on a Saturday morning, I found myself sitting with a friend in a woman's clinic. There were approximately 30 young women seated around the room, some with boyfriends, some alone. It was a very depressing place to be. It felt like walking into a funeral home, and in many ways that's exactly what it was.

I will never regret anything as much as I regretted my decision to go through with the abortion. That day is forever engraved on my brain as a reminder of just how selfish and wretched I could be when left to my own devices. Now the enemy had a new tool he could use. Now I was a "murderer."

A Close Call

Not too many months later I believe God decided it was high time He got my attention. I had begun working for an electric company as a cashier. A man came in one afternoon with a delinquent bill, and I walked to the back of the building to ask someone in the finance department how much he needed to pay. On my way back to the counter a new supervisor grabbed me by the arm and began asking me a question. Suddenly we heard what sounded like an explosion, and we looked over to see a car flying through the front window of the building! It all looked like it was happening in slow motion. Bricks were flying threw the air and glass was slowly showering down like a glistening snowstorm.

After everything had settled I realized, that if the supervisor hadn't grabbed me at that exact moment, I would have been at my cashier counter. It was then that I found my workstation was now a mass of tangled metal underneath the car that was almost completely inside our office.

To say the least, I was shook up. I could barely stop shaking. This close call left me believing that God was telling me I needed to turn around and come back to Him or He was going to take me home early. I wish I could say that I immediately listened. I can say, however, I had a new fear of God that I never felt before.

After the waiting period ended and my divorce became final, my boyfriend and I were finally married. I really believed that being married to this man was all I needed to finally be happy. But even now, I was ignoring some big problems. I knew he drank a lot of beer but it wasn't until after we were married that I came to understand that he was an alcoholic. It didn't take long before I realized that my happiness would not be found in being married to my husband.

A Destructive Path

I allowed the enemy to continue to work in my mind by listening to his lies. Through the years people had made jokes and comments about my nose being large, and that had led me to believe I was ugly. In an attempt to make myself attractive and stop the nose jokes, I made the decision to undergo rhinoplasty. Unfortunately, it didn't take long before I deeply regretted allowing a surgeon to alter God's master design. Even worse, through this experience I continued to entertain the lies of the enemy, and ended up going down the treacherous and destructive path of adultery. The enemy told me, "Your husband could care less about you or what you're doing" and, "You have to think about yourself now and your own happiness, no matter what the cost."

At the end of that path I only found emptiness, guilt and shame. For others I caused excruciating pain that would haunt them in the shadows of their minds for a lifetime. The enemy never tells you how great the cost will be; he only tells you what you want to hear so you will follow him to a pit of despair. I am reminded once again of John 8:44, "…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies." As Christians we must always keep in mind what it says in John 10:10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."

Baby Steps of Faith

I found myself severely depressed. My husband continued to drink, and we continued to drift apart into complete isolation."

It was at this point that I finally began to cry out to God for help. I realized that, when left to my own devices, I had made a complete mess out of my life. When I finally came to see that my husband was unable to love me the way I was searching for, I found myself on my knees crying out to God for help ...  and I found Him there. I went from being the fool to having my eyes opened to the Truth. I finally came to the understanding that only God could love me with the type of love I was looking for. Only He could fill the void that I had tried to fill with everything else.

A few months later my husband hit rock bottom and finally made the decision to stop drinking. We began to take baby steps of faith, turning our hearts toward God. We found a church and began attending regularly. Yes, we had a lot of baggage, and it would take time for God to help us shed some of our behaviors, attitudes, and desires. But He was indeed working, and I was beginning to hear His voice again.

About a year later, God showed us His grace and mercy and blessed us with our first child together. Then one day my husband called from work to tell me that he thought we needed to put the house on the market and move to Oklahoma, where my brother was now a pastor. He thought it would be best to leave all our old friends behind. In Oklahoma we would be able to sit under my brother's teaching and start over fresh where no one knew about our past.

This was the first big step of faith that we made together. Rob worked as many as three jobs at a time to support our family, and I took in ironing. We learned that following God's will is not always easy, but it always builds character. We can also say that God continued to be faithful and our family never once went without a meal.

Another step of faith I took during these years was to establish a better relationship with my parents. Although I knew that I was responsible for the choices I made as a teenager and young adult, I also cast a fair amount of blame on my parents. At some point I finally realized that my parents were only human and did the best they knew how. I knew that they loved me even though they didn't understand me or know how to deal with me. As friends came and went out of my life my parents were still there doing their best to hang in there and love me. And after I had my own children I came to understand the bond, the unconditional love that parents have for their children. I came to finally understand the excruciating pain that I had put my parents through.

My parents waited for many years for my return to the faith. All the while they prayed that I would finally come to my end and find my way back home. During one period, months would go by when they had no idea where I was, who I was with, what I was doing, or if I was even still alive. But, as with the prodigal son my parents welcomed me back into their lives. They accepted my apology for treating them so horribly and they forgave me. We then proceeded to put the past behind us and really never looked back.

Struggling in Our Marriage

In 1986 we attended a Weekend to Remember conference in Dallas, Tex. Because of the baggage that we carried into our marriage we still found ourselves struggling in our relationship. At this point I was pregnant with our second child. During the conference we fought the entire time. We sat through all of the sessions but we didn't do any of the suggested projects. It was a difficult weekend.

I also joined a group of women at our church in a study by Kay Arthur on Marriage Without Regret. Learning how to dig into the Word was like applying fertilizer to a sapling and watching it grow into a healthy, sturdy tree with roots that grow deep into the soil and branches that bear luscious fruit.

As I worked through this study I came to realize that I could not change my husband, and I could not fix our marriage, but I could allow God to change me. I began to grow spiritually and soaked up the study like a sponge. I prayed that God would change me and that He would somehow work a miracle in our marriage.

As I grew closer to God spiritually I found comfort knowing that He loved me unconditionally just the way I was. I found I could trust Him to be there for me and found great peace in knowing that He promised to never leave me or forsake me. We were blessed with a third son in 1988 (bringing our total, including my son from my first marriage, to four sons), and I also began to see spiritual growth in my husband's life. In fact, it was about this time that he began to express a desire to leave his secular job and go into ministry.

To be honest, I wasn't warm to this idea. My entire family had now moved to Oklahoma; my brother was the pastor of our church, my sister and her husband lived there, and after my father's retirement he and my mother made the move from New Jersey to Norman. I couldn't imagine God asking me to leave. But through one of my brother's sermons, God helped me realize I needed to submit to my husband and follow what he felt God was telling him to do as the spiritual leader of our family.

So we prayed together, asking God to lead us where He wanted us to be. Our first thought was to look at the possibility of working with FamilyLife; even though we can't say we enjoyed our time at the conference, there were seeds of truth that we had taken with us. It took several months to find out if they would accept us with all our baggage. But, as God would have it, we were accepted and began our adventure in raising our financial support.

I remember my mom called and asked if we could come over because my dad had something to say to us. At this point my dad had lung cancer and was very weak. When we arrived he proceeded to tell us that he and my mom had been impressed and moved by our faith during the past months. He said they wanted to join our support team, and that he was very proud of us. This was a gift from God, especially to me. Those words were like precious gold. I had longed to hear that my father was proud of me my entire life! Knowing these are words some people never hear from their fathers, I thanked God for the precious blessing of hearing them from my dad just days before he would forever be silenced by his death.

The Battle Between Two Voices

We moved to work with FamilyLife in Little Rock, Ark., and God provided a wonderful home. Our boys were now 5, 7, 8 and 14. Rob started his work at FamilyLife, and the boys soon started school.

For the first time this left me home alone. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. And even though we were now working with a marriage and family ministry, we still found ourselves struggling in our relationship at times. Our life could have been described as a roller coaster ride. When our relationship was up, it was way up, and when it was down, it was way down.

With being away from family and finding myself not only in a new place, but also in a new stage of life and motherhood, the enemy began to work on me once again. I began to hear negative thoughts a lot. At times they came at me like a whirlwind. I heard things like, "Here you are on staff at a ministry for marriages and yours in a mess. You are such a hypocrite! You should be ashamed of yourself. Who are you to be working at a ministry that helps couples when you both quarrel all the time? You shouldn't be here. You're a fool to think God could ever use you." Or things like, "Your kids don't need you anymore. They're old enough to be without you. You're a terrible mother anyway." And, "You are all alone. You don't have any friends. You don't fit in here and never will. Maybe life isn't worth living ...  remember absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Being with God would be better than living the life you're living now."

I know there are others out there that are tormented with these same thoughts. We need to know how the enemy works and come to understand that he uses the same tactics over and over on any who will listen.

One day I found myself returning home after driving my youngest son to school. The sound of silence seemed to engulf me. As I drove along I felt the warm sunshine on my face. It felt good. I searched the landscape and enjoyed the beauty of His amazing handiwork as I passed home after home. There were mums blooming in golden yellows, deep purples and shades of milky white. Birds could be seen and heard as they quickly flapped their wings above me in the deep coral blue sky.

I found myself wondering how wonderful it must be to soar high in the sky with the wind in your face. How free it must feel to fly wherever your wings felt like taking you knowing He would take care of you.

I pulled into my garage and closed the garage door behind me. Darkness seemed to swallow me up along with the car. It was quiet, except for the soft hum of the car motor running. For some reason I found myself just sitting there, like I was frozen, while the car continued to run. It was then that I heard a voice somewhere in the recesses of my mind. First it said, "Just let it run. Then it will be all over. You won't have to deal with the pain and heartache anymore. Besides, everyone would be better off without you."

After several long seconds I then heard softly but firmly: "No, Laurie, those are lies, turn the car off, now. You can't do this; your family needs you. You can't put them through the horror of finding you. Think for a moment—who would wake your boys up each morning with a gentle nudge and kind words like 'Time to rise and shine?' Who would make their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the same love? Who would softly kiss their boo boo's to take away the pain? Who would lovingly cuddle them in their lap to read them their favorite books over and over again? Who would cover them up each night with a warm hug and a soft gentle kiss? Who could ever love them with the same love you have for each one of them? You can't do this. Turn the car off now."

Then I immediately heard the other stern voice: "Let the car run! They will be just fine without all those things. In just a short time, they won't even miss those things or think about them anymore. They don't need you. They won't miss you. Let it run. End your own misery. Then you will find the peace you've always been searching for."

Then softly, yet firmly, I heard the other voice say once again, "Laurie, turn the car off now! Think how devastating it would be for your kids to come home on the bus and find you weren't here waiting for them. Who would pick up your youngest son from school this afternoon? Turn the car off now!"

I began to picture my husband talking to our four boys as they sat on the couch in our living room. He was telling them that mommy was gone. He told them that mommy would not be here for them anymore. At that point, each boy began to cry softly and I saw hot, salty tears flowing down their soft cheeks. I knew then what each one felt. Mommy had betrayed them. I had betrayed them in the worst possible way.

Then I heard the soft voice say one last time, "Laurie, turn the car off now!"

In a mindless fog, I felt my hand reach up, grab hold of the key and turn it towards me. The engine stopped. The voices stopped. There was complete and utter silence. I laid my head back against the headrest, closed my eyes and sighed deeply. The battle had been won.

I then pushed the button on the garage door opener so that it opened the door about a foot. I opened the car door, grabbed my purse and walked through the cloud of gassy fumes as it began to burn my eyes. I made my way to the door to the house while trying not to breathe. I opened the door to the house and stepped inside quickly closing the door behind me. My fingers relaxed and I felt my purse and car keys drop to the floor. I walked a few steps to the couch, where I had pictured my four precious boys in tears, and sat down.

I sat there frozen like a statue. Dropping on my knees to the floor, I burst into tears. I cried out loud to the Lord in deep anguish and said, "Please help me! I can't do this anymore! It's too hard! It hurts too much!"

I cried until the tears stopped flowing. I reached for my Bible and found myself turning to the Psalms, reading many of them aloud. I felt as though a blanket of peace was wrapping itself around me. It was there on my knees, alone with God, I found solace.

A Lifelong Battle

 I still have moments when I struggle with doubt and insecurity, and the enemy attacks my mind once again. I have to tell you that I have come to the conclusion that most likely it will be a lifelong battle. I know it is a tactic the enemy will chose to use against me whenever I get weary, lose my focus, or become isolated. But I've come to know the enemy's voice and I recognize it much sooner.

When those negative thoughts start coming we need to know where they are coming from. We need to replace those negative thoughts with the truth. We need to know what God thinks about us, and we need to meditate on who we are in Jesus Christ.

It wasn't until I was 40 that I talked with my brother and mother about my being molested at age five. I told them I had always believed that it had been my fault; that it had because I was a bad girl. My mother came over and hugged me. She said, "Laurie, it wasn't your fault. It was never your fault." As I heard these words come from her mouth I began to feel the gaping wound that had festered so long begin to heal. It says in Proverbs 12:18, "But the tongue of the wise brings healing." It was then I knew the enemy would never be able to use that lie to torment me again.

Shortly after this incident my mother gave me a little round plaster cast that I made of my hand back in kindergarten. As I looked at that tiny hand print I clearly saw there was no way I could be at fault for what happened—I was so little and helpless.

My mother has said she doesn't know where she and Dad "went wrong" with me. "We tried to treat you kids all the same," she said. Perhaps that was part of the problem. I needed "more" than my siblings did. More encouragement, more love, more affection, more attention ... maybe I needed more of everything because I wasn't my brother or my sister ... I was Laurie and I was different.

I believe that many prodigals are after this same affirmation. They want to know that they have true value, that they are an important part of the family. They need to know they are loved for who they are, without being compared to another sibling. They need to know they are unique and God created them exactly as they are inside and out, for a unique purpose that no one else can fill.

I want it said that in no way do I blame my parents for my wrong choices. I also want to make it clear that I in no way see myself as a victim. I alone am responsible for the failures in my life. When I stand before God I will have to answer for my actions and I will stand before Him alone.

God is sovereign; He knows me through and through because He created me just the way I am. He never makes mistakes! He knew what it would take in my life to bring me to Himself and I thank Him for loving me enough to do so. I give Him all the glory for what He has done in my life! I like what 1 Samuel 12:24 says: "Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you."

Copyright © 2005 by Laurie Kopf. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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