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Against All Odds

-Lettie Kirkpatrick

Sociologists tell us there is a great likelihood that:

  • a child of an abuser will be one
  • a child of poverty will stay one
  • a child of an alcoholic will become one
  • a child of a broken home will have one.

These statistics fail to recognize a God who says: “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

I am proof of the truth of God’s Word. I was raised in a home broken first by divorce then by death. When I was 13 I had three brothers by my mom’s first marriage and two younger sisters by her second marriage. One of my most vivid memories is of crouching in the backseat of our car and praying for safety as my intoxicated parent drove wildly through the streets. I also recall lying in bed and covering my head with the pillow to shut out the arguments. “God, make things better,” I prayed. I didn’t know that first “things” would get worse.

Early one morning my nine-year-old brother found Mom dead in the bathroom. She had died unexpectedly of uncertain causes, leaving behind six children between the ages of 1 and 15. My birth dad had virtually abandoned us years before. My stepdad attempted to care for us for a brief time but eventually we were “sorted out” to relatives in other cities. I spent most of my high school years living with friends. My siblings and I all bear the scars of those years.

But in an Atlanta church at the age of seven I had decided to follow Christ. Our family attended church at the invitation of some friends from the trailer park where we lived. I began to sense a need to make a commitment to Christ. During the worship service one morning, God clearly called me to follow Him. I said, “Yes!” and was soon baptized.

My family’s lifestyle was not conducive to church attendance or disciplining. However, I had a hunger for God and began reading my Bible and praying. One brother told me years later, “As a little girl you were always interested in God.”

My fledgling faith provided an anchor for my uncertain circumstances. Although I did not know the truths about God’s character I knew it was God who comforted and encouraged me and gave me hope during those dark days. Wait, wait. Better days will come, He whispered to my heart.

I found a church home where Christians parented me. They provided transportation to their services, assisted me financially and later married me off! One family opened their home to me for a year while I attended high school. The concern and contacts of caring teachers enabled me to attend college. After two years I married Tom Kirkpatrick, who supported me as I obtained my Bachelors’ degree and graduated cum laude.

At this time God placed women mentors in my life who modeled a stability unknown to me when I was growing up. God blessed my husband and I with five children and I determined to raise them in a healthy, Christ-honoring environment.

Those “better days” were not without heartache. Our oldest child and only daughter, Shela, was diagnosed on her first birthday with a terminal muscle disease. It robbed her of all mobility, confining her to a wheelchair. After 19 years of modeling contentment in all circumstances, God called Shela to Heaven. And He called us to trust Him in our loss.

The sociologist’s predictions have proven accurate for my brothers and sisters:

  • All five have experienced broken homes.
  • Three were involved in alcohol and drug abuse.
  • One attempted suicide and finally achieved it with a drug overdose.
  • One served time in prison.

But some of them have since plugged into God’s power that changes lives.

My failure to enter the cycle can only be attributed to God’s grace. He alone can intervene in lives and bring wholeness, even against all odds!

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