Of course, she had no memory of that terrible event, but it hounded her all the time she was growing up. How would you like to be known as the girl whose father had murdered her mother?
Mattie pushed it aside and refused to deal with it. She finished high school and college and, feeling a call on her life to teach the Bible, was in seminary working on a degree in biblical studies when she heard God say, “Mattie, you need to come to terms with this now.”
And so, with the help of a Christian counselor, Mattie began to look at what had impacted her life. Finally, she was able to say, “Yes, that is a part of me and my story.”
A lot of good things happen to students in seminary. Mattie met a young man named Chad. They fell in love and decided to get married. She was seated at a table addressing envelopes, sending out wedding invitations, when the Lord nudged her said, “Mattie, why don’t you send wedding invitations to some of the people on your father’s side?”
She had had no contact with them from the moment that terrible thing had happened, but with fear and trembling she called, got addresses, sent some wedding invitations, and in the midst of her wedding celebration met an aunt and uncle and a paternal grandmother. The grandmother said to her, “Oh, Mattie, I have wondered about you so often. Over the years I have prayed night and day for you and now there you are!”
Six months later Mattie did another great thing. She went to the prison where her father is still incarcerated and sat across the table from the man who had brought so much pain and suffering into her life.
Today, Mattie is in Cambridge, England working on a Ph.D in Old Testament, becoming the person God wants her to be. Recently she put it into these words: “The one thing by which I never wanted to be identified has become the hallmark of God’s powerful grace in me and through me. Indeed, I am the daughter of a murderer, but much more am I the ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven adopted daughter of the King of Kings. I don’t know why I suffered this loss or why my father’s injustice has scarred my life. However, I know the One who was scarred for me.”
Indeed, by his stripes we are healed.
At the foot of the cross, Mattie found release. And there you and I are invited to come. Many of us brought our sins there, but we have never brought our hurts and suffering. There, Christ waits to touch our wounds with his wounds, take what was meant for evil and work it for good.
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church in Temple where he served as senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.