Sometimes, things reach right up out of nowhere, and knock the breath out of you.

I didn’t plan to see my childhood abuser last night.

I didn’t think — during an evening of trick-or-treating with Curlytop and Snugglebug — to put my guard up.

Nonetheless, there he was.

I had a plan. It was a good one. This year, on Halloween night, like last year and the year before, we’d take the kids to the Harvest Festival at our church, where they’d receive ample amounts of love and uplifting, and be shielded from the commercial nuances of the “holiday.” Oh, and they’d get to dress up and bring home loads of Red Dye-free candy, because they’re notoriously allergic, and our church family knows it.

So, I was helping the kids into their costumes when Mr. Wright announced, “Oh, yeah… My band has a gig tonight, so I’ll be leaving in about 30 minutes with the car.”

We have one car. Our church is not within walking distance. Argh.

I love my husband, but when it comes to scheduling, he is much more “fluid” than I, and it causes no small amount of distress to me, the “planner.”

“No problem,” he said. “The gig is in (my hometown), so you can take the kids trick-or-treating at the businesses downtown while the band is playing, then come pick me up when it’s over.”

The prospect of returning “home” always makes me uneasy since seeing my abuser in the grocery store last summer, but I tried to cheer myself with the thought that I might see some old friends out and about with their kiddos. Besides, he doesn’t have kids, so the chances of running into him seemed mighty slim.

I was wrong.

There he was, set up on a street corner with a canopy, handing out candy to kids. Kids of all ages. When I spotted him, he was talking to a girl about the age I was he molested me.

My first response was terror.

I steered Curlytop and Snugglebug in the opposite direction, and looked back over my shoulder, as if he would follow us.

Of course, he didn’t.

But the fear was real.

Then, there was anger. And outrage. Didn’t the downtown association know WHO HE WAS?!

Had the community forgotten WHAT HE DID?!

And I realized how different things are today. How — because he was never prosecuted — there is a large new local population who DON’T KNOW.

There are mamas living within that community that don’t have that protective, gripping compulsion to steer their kids in the opposite direction. There are fathers who may pal around with him, bring the kids over for a barbecue, and not be afraid to leave their kids outside a line of sight for 30 seconds.

Then… I was angry at myself.

Angry because I haven’t forgiven him. Angry because I haven’t reached the point where I’ve asked God to release the burden of hatred and resentment. Angry because that very burden lords over my life in so many ways.

It affects my friendships, my relationships with my children, and my marriage.

Angry because that man who today, almost 30 years later, looks more like a regular old citizen than a monster, stole a piece of me a long time ago, and every time I think I’ve got it back, I’m knocked on my butt and reminded that without God, I’m just spinning my wheels.

Angry because I’m stingy with God. I say, “Here, take my life and my sorrows and my burdens… But not THIS. I need to keep this a bit longer, because it’s so much of who I am, and without it, I’m afraid I won’t exist.”

Angry because I AM the victim mentality I loathe in others.

If there is a prayer for me within you today, friends, please let it be for COURAGE to let go, FAITH that God sees me as more than that man’s victim, and STRENGTH to accomplish God’s plan for me.

I know he has bigger plans than fear for me, and I’m stalling the process.

He has bigger plans for you, too… Can we support one another, and lift each other up?