The Little Girl In The Picture

One day as I was sorting through dozens of old photo albums (mine, as well as those I had inherited from my mom) I came across a 3×3, black and white photo of a little girl, age five years old.

Thankfully, my mother was faithful to write the name, date and event on the back of her pictures. So, as I turned the little faded snapshot around I read, “Taken on the way to school, the first day Anne went.”

“Taken on the way to school, the first day Anne went.”

“Taken on the way to school, the first day Anne went.”

For some reason, that hand-written memo seemed a little strange to me. Why didn’t it say, “Anne’s first day of school?” As I looked closer at the date the picture was taken, I understood.

The notation on the picture was accurate. The photo was not taken the first day of school. I had missed the first two weeks of my first grade because I was a witness in a trial proceeding. A predatory pedophile had raped an innocent five year old little girl…me.

As I studied the picture, I began to remember the events of those trying days. I recalled how embarrassed I was. In some ways the trial felt every bit as traumatic as the crime. I hated that it was so public. The little girl in the picture had been subjected to testifying before a courtroom full of stone-faced strangers. She was required to say words she thought were dirty and she had to describe acts she didn’t understand.

The abuse continued as the little girl in the picture faced the evil injustice of a judge who seemed to sympathize more with the perpetrator than he did with the victim. “She’s young, she’ll forget this,” he assured the court. Why the dismissive attitude toward such a heinous crime against a child? Who knows…but for years I wondered what the judge might have been doing in his spare time.

It was the judge who told my parents to take me home and not talk about what had happened. “Let her forget; don’t mention it any more,” was his unwise advice. Of course, all the suggested silence did was add the destructive feelings of shame and secrecy to the damage already done.

Now, fifty plus years later, in my upstairs room, I stood face to face with my past as I looked at the little girl in the picture. Without saying a word to Steve, I put the snapshot in my purse and immediately drove to a photo center to get an enlargement made. They say the eyes are the window to the soul and I hoped to get a better look at the child’s eyes so maybe I could see what was going on in her soul.

Alone that afternoon with the enlarged picture of the little girl, I sat for a while and gazed at her sweet face. I was overcome with emotion, but not the emotions I had grappled with in the past such as hatred for the offender, resentment against the judge, nor sympathy for the pain my parents suffered for trying to do the right thing by pressing charges.

Instead, I had only one overwhelming emotion that day. Compassion. I held the picture of the little girl in my hand….and I talked to her.

Little girl, I know you. In fact, I used to be you…but I’m not you any more. Sweet child, you are so young and innocent. There’s something you need to understand, none of this was your fault. Little one, I have such deep compassion for you. I am terribly sorry for what happened. But, little girl, you are going to be just fine. You’re going to have a beautiful life. You’ll see. God has wonderful things planned for you. Don’t worry. Jesus is going to heal your wounded soul; He’s going to help you forgive what you think is unforgiveable.

I dare say, many of us have a “3×3 picture” in a drawer, in an old box, or maybe just in our thoughts. Sadly, it reminds us of hurts as well as failures experienced in our past. But the good news is we don’t have to live the rest of our lives as a wounded child. We really can grow up, and, through the healing touch of Christ we can grow beyond the hurt.

I can testify that Psalm 103:13 is true. God really doeshave compassion on his children… on those who fear him; for He knows how we are formed, He knows we are but dust.” It was His compassionate touch that healed me and in turn enabled me to show compassion as an adult to the little girl in the picture. (If you need healing from a childhood experience, I explain in detail how I gained God’s peace in my book, “Overcoming Negative Emotions.”)

The healing that God provided was sufficient to allow me to feel sorrow not just for victims but also victimizers. If you have wounded someone, God’s love is so great that He also has compassion for you. I pray you’ll seek His forgiveness. If you will, you’ll learn of the joy waiting for you in Psalm 103:11, 12 that says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

To me, the little girl in the picture no longer represents damage, but instead, redemption. I long for others to know the same lasting recovery. To help you begin to know His peace and redemptive healing, we offer you the following song. It was written with and recorded by a friend of ours. Her name is Sharron Kay King. She and I share a very similar story. We not only experienced the same kind of hurt but we both know the source for healing. The testimony about that source is contained in the song she sings. May God touch you with His truth as you listen. You’ve suffered long enough. Let the healing begin.

Comments

  1. Steve and Annie,
    Wow with tears in our eyes Curt and I praised God once again today while listening, watching and reading your blogs. Thanks Annie for sharing about the 3 x 3 photo. So helpful!!!!
    May God bless you and your ministry to this next generation.
    With Thanksful Hearts,
    Delite and Curt

    • David and Vicki Leavell says:

      Wow Annie! What a precious, difficult story you have shared. In spite of what happened to you so many years ago, God has brought healing to you and is taking a terrible circumstance and using it to help others due to your willingness to share! It made me cry! and so did Steve’s song the Seasons of a Man’s Life! Love ya’ll! You are an amazing couple!

  2. Oh, this is beautiful. The message of redemption brings light to every darkness. It is evidence of God in the midst of sorrows.
    Thank you, Annie.

  3. Annie,
    I was looking over your website again and saw the picture and read the account. I barely remember hearing about the horrific thing that happened. Of course, I was relatively young also and the impact of it did not register as much with me as it would have had I been a little older. My heart broke for you, but also rejoiced at how you have allowed our Lord to free you from the bonds that often accompany such an experience. I commend you in Christ for your tenacious spirit that would not allow you to be victimized your entire life. I always appreciated your parents, but the fact that they stood up for you back then makes me appreciate them so much more. They and you are very courageous people. Glad to be lifelong friends with you.
    I think this touched my heart in part because I had a similar experience in my life, but I did not have the courage to tell anyone, nor even admit it until I was much, much older. I can testify that healing comes when confrontation occurs, even if the perpetrator is already dead. Many blessings to you, Steve and your family.

    • David,
      Thank you for your encouraging words. I think of all the people in the Bible the one I most identify with is the little boy with the sack lunch. He brought what he had…five loaves and two fish…and Jesus took it, blessed it, broken it and dispersed it. With a simple lunch he feed thousands. I look at our ministry…not as a feast, but just a sack lunch. I am grateful Jesus finds a way to feed others with our left overs. Rev. 12:10, 11 says, “…For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Feels good to use what Satan intended to destroy me and help set others free from his chains. To God be the glory!!!
      AC

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