by Cindy Wiggins Tapia
Mother was an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic whose résumé included the North Pole, the Lumite Plant and the Lovable Co. Daddy was a handsome playboy who tooled leather at Bona Allen Harness Shop. She hadn’t wanted me. He was distant. They camped out on Lake Lanier like they owned it, drank like fish, and fought like two weasels in a poke. They controlled every aspect of my life and criticized my every move I made.
Make no mistake, we always had food, clothing, and pennies for snacks at Shoemake’s down Hill St. But there was no love, praise, or encouragement. Their failure to feed me psychologically left me emotionally malnourished. As a result, I spent most of my growing up years feeling like an invisible child.
So began the hunt for something that would make me feel tangible.
Every Easter week, I’d blow the dust off Daddy’s Bible, read about the death and resurrection of our Saviour, and cry. I attended Buford Church of God for the cookouts, Ponderosa outings, campground picnics. One Sunday, I was sitting as far as I could get from the altar and still be in the auditorium when Preacher Summers looked right at me.
“Cindy, have you been saved?”
“No,” I cringed and ran for the door, sprinting down Hell’s wide highway.
I sought love and attention wherever I could find it. I drank. I cussed like a sailor. I sneaked around with a guy my parents hated. I dressed inappropriately. I hitchhiked to Atlanta to join the hippy movement. Cops brought me back. I got a job at Teen’s Diner and began making my first million dollars.
Funny how what you’ve been searching for has been right there under your nose all along.
The Lord set a heavy burden for me on Pete Wallis and his wife, Lorene‘s heart. She called every Sunday for weeks, begging we three girls to catch the bus to church, but I would not. And my sisters would not go without me.
In the meantime I developed a pain in my chest. One Saturday night I came home from my waitress job in so much pain it scared Mama. Daddy was moonlighting at Lex Cates filling station, so she called a cab to take us to Buford General ER. Dr. Miller diagnosed nerves, gave me a prescription for Valium, and the pain stopped. Yet, when Lorene called that Sunday morning Mama ordered me up, because she had a premonition that I would never have another chance.
I stomped aboard that bus in my micro mini dress and bobbed, synthetic wig, and flopped down, mad as a March wind. The Wallis family were all there. Lorene, Pete—the driver—and their daughters, Deborah and Jennifer. And away we went to Gwinnett Hall Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrenceville. Upon entering the building, I felt something more palpable in the air in the air than any human witness. I went back every week. And on Eastertide Sunday night, I asked Jesus to come into my heart.
No, I wasn’t worthy of the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, but He loved me anyway. And He loves you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, His grace is sufficient.