In 2002, a 14 yr old girl called Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her bed in the middle of the night by man called Brian Mitchell. Her abductor took her to his forest hideout where he lived with his ‘wife’. Elizabeth commented later, “I thought maybe they took me because they had no children and wanted a daughter.” Instead, Mitchell made Elizabeth his second wife in a bizarre ceremony after which he raped her. Over the next 9 months, Elizabeth was tethered by her leg to a stake, raped repeatedly, and among other atrocities, forced to watch her captors have sex so “she would learn how to do it properly”. Miraculously, Elizabeth was eventually rescued and returned to her family for an unusual ‘happy ending’ to a child abduction case. She went on to attend university and then serve as a missionary for her church in France. Elizabeth’s story has had center stage in the US media lately because finally, eight years after her ordeal, she has been able to testify at the trial of her captors.
During her lengthy testimony, Elizabeth spoke in often graphic detail and I wept to read about her experiences. One thing in particular stood out for me. She said, that after the first few rapes, she “ felt like I wasnt clean, wasnt pure, wasnt worth the same. I felt like another person would never love me again.” But then she reminded herself, “It didnt matter what happened to me, my parents would always love me no matter what he did to me. That couldnt be changed. I was still a person of worth.” Elizabeth decided, “NO matter what it took, i would live, i would survive, i would do everything i could to keep my life and my familys intact.” Elizabeth’s hope was always that she would be able to return home, knowing with a surety that her parents, her family would want her home always.
I’ve been asking myself and I challenge every parent to ask themselves – Can my children say that? Do my children know that I love them NO MATTER WHAT? That I will search for them, pray for them, welcome them home and love them always? And can my children say with the same assurance, that regardless of what the world may throw at them, regardless of what trials they may have to endure, “I am a good person worthy of love. Nothing anyone else does to me can take that away from me.” I hope so.I hope my children will always know that they are beloved. By us their parents. And by God. And I hope they will always know that we want them to return home.No matter what.
I pay tribute to Elizabeth Smart’s strength, resilience and courage. I am grateful for her example – I shared her story with my daughters today. I pay tribute to Elizabeth’s parents and family. I am humbled by their example as parents and thankful for the reminder of the importance of my own calling as a mother in this often challenging and cruel world.