Rescued by the Cross : Stepping Our of Your Past and into God's Purpose

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2002-10-01
  • Publisher: Howard Books
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In this compelling book, one of America's most popular, influential, and compelling youth evangelists reveals his own incredible story of rescue. This book, Ken Freeman's first release, offers hope, encouragement, and insight to young Christians about how to step out of the past, no matter how painful, and into God's purpose. No one communicates this message with more clarity and vision. Linking a passionate plea for an uncompromised life lived in God's purpose with a compassionate understanding of painful pasts, Freeman offers a message of hope and direction to searching young people and those who love them.

Table of Contents

Foreword With Gratitude
Rescued by the Cross
Butchered Dreams
Broken Homes
Brand-New Life
Living Proof
Stepping Out of Your Past
LSD (lies, Sex, & Death)
Home Wreckers
The Sting of Rejection
Breaking the Mirror
And into God's Purpose
No More Excuses
Move Past Your Past
Don't Walk Away
Renew Your Mind
Prepare for Battle
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


Butchered Dreams

The blade must have been a foot long. Grasping the thick

wooden handle, my mother wielded the knife with a threatening

swoosh as she hovered over our bunk beds. My sister, Donna, and I

had awakened wide-eyed when she stumbled into our bedroom. The

sickening, stale odor of alcohol lingered in the air.

“You were a mistake,” she declared in a menacing tone.

The darkness hid her face from me. “A very costly mistake.

You’ve cost me way too much money. And for what? You’re

worthless, you know that? You came from hell. You’ll never

go anywhere. You’ll never amount to anything—just like

your worthless father.”

“Mommy, what’s wrong?” I asked, trembling.

“I’m tired of living,” she mumbled, looking over

my shoulder as if she were talking to the wall. She paused. I

stared at the knife, each second a heart-pounding test of my will

to survive. At nine years old, I had already experienced enough

physical abuse and emotional trauma to last a lifetime. Would

this night be the end of my tortured life?

“I’ll kill you both,” she sneered after staring

into space for what seemed like an eternity. “Then I’ll

kill myself.”

“No, Mommy, no!” I pleaded. “Stop! Please!

Don’t do it! Please, Mommy! Don’t hurt us!”

A flood of tears poured from my eyes. My cries soon escalated

into hysterical sobs and screams, which sent Donna into spasms. I

couldn’t understand her indecipherable babbling, but I

remember Donna’s shoulders heaving as she shook her head

back and forth. The sight of us wailing and begging for mercy

must have snapped Mom out of her liquor-stained haze. She sank

slowly onto the edge of the bed and began to cry. The knife slid

from her grasp.

“It’s all right,” Mom choked. “I’m not

going to kill you. I was just a little upset.”

My heart pounding, I lay in my bed for hours, unable to sleep. As

I stared at the dark ceiling, I wondered why my mother was so

angry. She had been born in South Carolina to hard-working,

church-going parents. She told me they never drank, smoked, or

cussed. A straight-A student through the eighth grade, my mother

took her first drink at a party when she was fifteen. That one

drink apparently touched off her love affair with booze.

Her alcoholism drove her to wander chaotically from place to

place. Living first near the East Coast, she wandered to

California where she met and married her second husband (my

father), who was serving in the navy. Then she drifted back east

and on into the Midwest. I was born in Virginia; two years later

my sister arrived while we were living in Kansas City, Missouri.

During my childhood we roamed through North Carolina, South

Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas, Washington,

Michigan, Texas, and several other states. Our longest stay in

one place was in the Saint Louis area. Even there we bounced

around like pinballs, moving from suburb to suburb.

I never understood why my mother grew to hate my father with such

a passion. They met when he was in the navy. Both of them were

heavy drinkers, which marred their hopes of a long and happy

marriage. Deep wounds inflicted by her miscarriage of twins a

year before my birth were salved with more alcohol. But booze

didn’t cure my mother’s pain; it only numbed her for a

few hours.

I was only four when my parents divorced. Though my father

initially secured visitation rights, Mom pumped us so full of her

venom toward Dad that we complained and asked embarrassing

questions whenever we visited him. Finally he put his foot down,

telling my mother, “Either you take full custody of them, or

I’ll take full custody. I’m tired of dragging these

kids back and forth between the two of us.” We never went

back to Dad’s house.

The Abuse Begins

The end of our visits to Dad didn’t bring Mom much

satisfaction. Though she occasionally smiled and even laughed,

these brief moments of normalcy didn’t make up for her

frequent dark moods. I was barely five years old when the abuse

began, intensifying as we grew older. She regularly cursed at us

and frequently beat us or banished us to our bedroom. Her

fearsome eruptions were capped off by screaming commands. Donna

and I never knew what to expect from Mom. We might come home

after a pleasant day at school, only to be greeted by flying

fists, a dinner plate sailing through the air, or a stream of

profanity that punctured our spirits like a dagger.

But Mom’s physical and verbal attacks were not our only

problems. A recurring pattern of neglect left us frightened and

confused. She would vanish for several days at a time, wedging

toothpicks in the front door and warning that any broken pieces

would alert her that we had left without her permission. It never

dawned on us that, with her thinking clouded by liquor, she would

forget leaving them there.

A steady stream of parties passed through whatever place we

called home for the moment. Even in the rare times when nobody

drifted by for a snort, Mom’s fingers would be curled around

a shot glass filled with amber-colored liquid. After emptying it,

she would take a swig from a glass of water, which sat next to an

ashtray that held burning cigarettes around the clock. Her eyes

were continually bloodshot.

While somewhat stable during the week, on Fridays she would often

disappear, leaving us with whatever bar buddy she could sweet

talk into baby-sitting her little “brats.” Sometimes

her flings would move in for a while, compensating themselves for

their services by dipping into Mom’s stash of liquor. Most

of these baby-sitters weren’t dependable, dashing out the

door moments after Mom left us in their care. Our temporary

guardians included ex-boyfriends or new lovers whom she lured to

the task with the promise of sex or other favors. The latter led

to one of the most humiliating incidents of our lives.

This traumatic event occurred the first night an ex-boyfriend

stayed with us while Mom took off for three days of drinking and

waiting on tavern customers. I remember crawling up the ladder

into the top bunk, laughing, and making playful remarks to Donna

before we drifted off to sleep. I awoke to terrible noises.

Looking down, I saw our baby-sitter on top of Donna, but at seven

years old, I had no idea what he was doing. Scared and unsure of

what was happening, I pretended to be asleep. But after she

screamed twice, I yelled at him. I had already learned how to

cuss, so I used a few choice words.

Since he had finished raping Donna, he reached up and pulled down

my pants. Though he didn’t rape me, I don’t remember

much about the molestation; I think my mind has blocked out the

trauma. But I do remember having to spend two more days with him

until Mom returned.

When I finally told Mom what had happened, she went crazy.

I’m not sure who she called, but the police showed up and

asked me a string of questions. Later they returned and took me

to the police station, where a cop hoisted me up so I could see

through the lockup window. I pointed out the attacker, but he

never looked up. Later I had to repeat the experience in a

courtroom. Fortunately, the lawyers didn’t ask too many

questions. I swore to tell the truth, pointed at the defendant,

and said he was the one who had done those terrible things to my

sister and me. We never saw him again.

Still traumatized from the molestation and angry at the wild

whippings from my new stepfather, I tried to commit suicide two

years later, when I was only nine. Before going to bed I managed

to sneak a bottle of aspirin out of the kitchen and swallow all

of its contents. I had seen someone do that in a movie and

thought it would take care of my problems. Going to sleep and

never waking up seemed much better than living. I’m not sure

that I really wanted to die; I just wanted the pain to stop.

Living in Denial

Those who think booze is harmless seldom acknowledge the squalor,

wasted lives, and broken homes left in alcohol’s bitter

wake. And they do not like to hear the truth that countless

parents haul their children into bars. As a boy I spent hundreds

of hours in smoke-filled taverns. Donna and I would play

shuffleboard and pool while my mother and her partner downed

another drink.

Depictions of harmless, fun-loving, tipsy drunks have long been a

staple of American cartoons, movies, and television shows. Such

humorous characterizations reflect society’s ingrained

philosophy that overindulging in alcohol is a carefree way to

have a good time. But after witnessing my mother’s violent

behavior whenever she was drunk, I know there is no such thing as

“harmless drinking.”

Citizens in the United States live in constant denial of the

seriousness of the damage caused by this harmful drug. Alcohol is

the leading cause of domestic violence and highway

deaths—approximately three hundred thousand between 1982 and

1995, more than five times the number of Americans who died in

the Vietnam War. The estimated social costs of addictions to

alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs exceed 240 billion dollars a

year. A recent study projects that by the year 2010 the combined

costs of depression and alcohol dependency will outrank cancer as

the worst burdens on America’s health-care system.

Over the years I have heard too many stories of people whose

descent into despair, further drug abuse, prison time, or

unwanted pregnancies originated with their first drink. If more

people would have spoken out against booze, maybe my mother

wouldn’t have taken her first sip at age fifteen. That

seemingly harmless act not only destroyed my childhood but

ultimately led to her premature death at age fifty-two. That one

sip also made those intervening thirty-seven years a time of

misery for her and for those closest to her.

Fight to Survive

“Hey, mister. Can ya spare a quarter? Gotta make a couple of


The man had just stumbled out of one of the dozens of taverns

that covered our suburban, blue-collar neighborhood. Every few

blocks sat a pool hall, lounge, or beer garden—usually next

to a convenience store that dispensed additional beverages. If

barflies didn’t get enough inside, they could carry more


He looked over his shoulder and blinked a couple of times. Though

I tried to look innocent, my faded jeans, grubby T-shirt, wiry

frame, and hardened countenance labeled me a twelve-year-old

hustler out to support my favorite habit. But my request was

innocent enough this night: I hoped to gather enough spare change

for a couple of burgers and cokes for Donna and myself.

“Uh, yeah,” he nodded slowly, fumbling in his pockets

before fishing out a couple of dimes and a quarter. A

beer-stained odor colored the air as he leaned over. “Here,

kid. Enjoy yourself.”

“Thanks, mister,” I nodded, trying to project the cool

manner that helped me survive on America’s streets in the

sixties. “I ’preciate it.”

“Got enough, Ken?” Donna asked as the man hobbled down

the street, muttering to himself.

“Think so. Let’s check out the grill.”

Scoffers may joke about “greasy spoons,” but those

modest diners were the highlight of our childhood. Donna and I

wolfed down our burgers with as much joy as if Mrs. Cleaver had

placed them gently onto our plates in a scene from Leave It to

Beaver. Our mother rarely served a home-cooked meal: her idea of

cooking dinner was plopping a box of carry-out food onto the

kitchen table.

The house in Saint Louis where we were living the night we

panhandled for our dinner was the closest we had ever come to a

real home. The single-story frame dwelling was nothing fancy: the

living room measured about twelve-by-ten feet and contained a

nondescript couch, two chairs, and an old television set. The

house also contained a pair of sparsely furnished bedrooms and a

tiny strip of a kitchen with a small table. Donna and I slept in

one of the bedrooms in sagging bunk beds—that is, when we

could sleep amid the drunken, profanity-laced revelry that

continued late into the night.

We never knew when Mom would burst through the door in an

unexplainable rage, grab a broom, and whack our legs with the

handle. After we burst into tears, she wouldn’t let us go to

bed until we stopped crying. We often slept by the front door so

we could hear her drive up, and then we’d hide downstairs or

in a neighbor’s backyard until she passed out.

Since we never knew when Mom would erupt in another tirade, Donna

and I spent many hours in the basement. In this safe place away

from Mom, we often tossed around a rubber ball, sometimes

grabbing a mop handle and pretending we were playing stickball in

the alley of our neighborhood. But we mainly liked staying out of

Mom’s reach. She couldn’t maneuver the stairs very well

and usually forgot we were there. Donna and I would play until

Mom left for work, then we’d watch television or roam around

the neighborhood.

We never had to worry about returning at a particular time since

Mom usually stayed out past midnight. After our impromptu burger

feast that evening, we wandered through the streets like a pair

of juvenile hobos. Passing most of the time under the

streetlights, we also loitered at the homes of a couple of

friends whose parents lived similar lifestyles. Donna and I

finally drifted home, hoping to avoid another beating.

“What’s that smell?”

Donna wrinkled her nose as we slipped through the front door

after midnight. Mom had arrived home first. Crumpled on the floor

and lying on her side, she was clad in dingy shorts and a worn

blouse. She was sleeping soundly next to a pool of drying vomit

and an empty whiskey bottle. In the shadows cast by the dim

streetlight, we could see two strangers sprawled on the couch,

snores bubbling up from their drunken bodies.

Suddenly a surge of hatred pulsed through my veins. I impulsively

walked into the kitchen and grabbed the butcher knife lying on

the counter—the same one she had held over my head three

years before.

Thoughts of revenge filled my mind as I dangled the blade over my

mother’s body. How I wanted to strike back at her for all

the wounds she had inflicted on me! I slowly moved the knife up

and down my mother’s lifeless frame, starting at her stomach

and grazing it along her torso until I stopped at her neck.

Finally I pointed it at her face and pictured myself slashing it

across her throat.

To my youthful mind, it was a game. I could pretend to attack her

and get even for all the insults and injuries, and she

couldn’t do anything about it because she was asleep. Take

that, Mom! How does it feel to be on the other end for once? Are

you scared? Are you sorry for all the times you hurt us? What did

we ever do to you to deserve this? Huh? C’mon. Speak up.

I’ve got the knife right here in my hands. You’d better

be scared. This could be your time.

Strangely, this vengeful daydream didn’t bring me any

satisfaction. I was overcome by emotion and began to cry. Soon my

whole body was trembling.

“Do it!” Donna urged from between her teeth, which she

had clenched to stifle her sobs. “Go ahead! Do it!”

I paused for a moment, still holding the knife over my

mother’s still body. I had the motive and enough hatred

inside to finish the task. I was tough too. I had become so

hardened by years of abuse that by now I could take Mom’s

fist to my mouth without crying.

For protection, I had developed a shell that enabled me to hide

as easily as the Invisible Man. But this night exposed raw

feelings and years of pent-up emotion. To this day I don’t

know what stopped me from using the butcher knife. Maybe my tears

relieved the stress. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I

stopped. Living with the guilt of murder would have created a

lifetime prison, one that would have outlived temporary

confinement behind bars. Despite what my mother had done, I

realized that I didn’t have the right to take her life. No

matter how badly she had hurt me, retaliation wouldn’t solve

a thing. Even the temporary satisfaction of hurting the person

who had hurt me so deeply couldn’t reclaim my lost

childhood, wipe out bitter memories, or force my mother to become


When the tears stopped and my body quit twitching, I shook my

head and slowly stood up. Walking into the kitchen, I flung the

knife on the counter.

“C’mon,” I said to Donna. “Let’s go to


Excerpted from Rescued by the Cross: Stepping Our of Your Past and into God's Purpose by Ken Freeman
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