I was thinking about what I should write, and I realized that day after day people read my articles though they don’t know a bit about my back story. My past has so much to do with where I am. To understand me, you really need to know where I came from. So here it goes.
I was always an emotional kid. One time my brother was picking on me and I remember my mom telling him to leave me alone, since I was so emotional. So when things went bad, I usually took it pretty hard. My childhood was bad, but looking back on it after hearing of people’s own hurts and struggles reminds me how I had it better than many people.
You can just about trace most of my problems to my dad. School ended at 3 pm and that meant it was time to ride the bus home. What would have been the best part of the day for many kids was dreaded by me. You see, my dad worked the night shift at Waffle House, which meant he was the one to watch my brother and I until mom got home from her secretary job. I admit that many kids get much worse than I did, but I considered what was happening to me as a 1st grader on up through middle school to be torture.
Dad wasn’t exactly a forgiving person. Even as a kid, you were expected to be perfect. I wasn’t. One day I spilled some orange juice. The result? I was put in a cold bath tub to try to soothe the marks left over from the belt I was whipped with. Say anything that rubbed dad the wrong way and it was a spanking and off to the “electric chair”. If you are not familiar with the electric chair, it is when you get up against the wall and lower your body until it was if you are sitting on an invisible chair. You were then to keep yourself up on your toes and hold out your arms out perfectly straight for an hour. Because I would get tired and couldn’t hold the position, a spanking along with more time was added to the “chair.” The electric chair name is appropriate, because you would begin to shake uncontrollably.
At least those punishments were for something I could try to limit: be careful what you say to dad and don’t spill any drinks. Some punishments were for things you could not control. One example would be the bed wetting I had a trouble with as a young child. My dad decided that this wasn’t going to happen anymore, so he would make me drink several, several tall glasses of lukewarm water until I felt very sick. He would then lock all the bathroom doors and tell me to go to sleep on his bed. I was instructed not to leave the bed or I would get punished. Finally, when I couldn’t hold my bladder any more and wet the bed, I was spanked. He told my mom that I wet their bed purposefully. Nobody listened to me about what was going on and I felt like nobody was on my side.
I wasn’t alone though. Some charismatic church held a Backyard Bible School in our trailer park for a week. I went everyday and through those loving volunteers, I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior. Because my dad didn’t want to go to church, we rarely went as a family. I eventually did get some Bible education by being picked up to go to a local independent Baptist church though. I wondered why my dad didn’t want to come to something that was so important. I’m not saying I was the perfect church kid. There were several times I’m sure I was hard to get out of bed to get on the church bus, but I did wonder why my dad wouldn’t go. He did seem to have some spiritual beliefs, as twisted as they were. One day before I was to be spanked, I knelt over a table and looked at a picture of a woman holding onto a lamb. Though my dad will deny it to this day, he told me “Jesus is the lamb. You better pray to the lamb that I won’t kill you.”
Add all of these experiences together and I can see why I was a socially awkward kid when we moved homes. We moved out of the trailer park into a nice community between my 6th and 7th grade years of school. After the move I heard my dad on the phone talking to some woman. I brought it up and was accused of trying to ruin my parents’ marriage. It’s true that I wanted my parents to get divorced – at one point I begged my mom to leave him. But that had nothing to do with me trying to find out what was going on with my dad late at night.
It did turn out that my dad was cheating on my mom. At this point my dad had moved up from Waffle House to obtaining a nurse’s license from a local college. While our family struggled for my dad to go to college, he was hooking up with a woman he met in nursing school. Several attempts were made to keep the marriage together, but the divorce eventually did happen. I felt to blame, even though my dad had been guilty of so much.
I felt alone. I felt unloved in my home and friendless. A young middle school student should not feel like I felt. What was the answer? One day I opened the mail and saw a newsletter from the youth ministry at Calvary Baptist Church. Inside were pictures of young people – SMILING. Though I had been saved as an even younger child, I had been out of church for a while and I had never been a part of youth ministry. I looked and saw that the youth got together on Wednesday. “Wednesday!? Church only meets on Sunday,” I thought. I went to mom and asked if I could go. The next Wednesday rolled around and I was dropped off at the church. The kids were having fun and the message hit me right where I needed guidance. I got involved and began to be happy. Out of my normal comfort zone, I agreed to go to youth camp where I rededicated my life to Christ.
Since then my mom remarried to a deacon and they are both active in church life. Though I still had many problems, I now felt hope. But something remaining hidden deep within me. I hated my dad. Though I never went to see him, he was heard of often in our house. My mom was having to go back to court to collect child support. My dad, who at this point had lost his nursing license for stealing morphine, was back working at Waffle House and could not afford payments. Each time I heard his name, I got madder.
I couldn’t hate anybody. I was now a leader and respected in my church. People praised me for being a Christian leader while things back home were still sour. It all stemmed from my hatred of my dad. Did this make a difference to my dad? No, of course not. The irony is that your feelings against a person really end up just hurting yourself. It eats at you. Forgiveness does not come naturally. It is a choice.
You know what? I am a sinner as bad as my father and anyone else in this world. But Jesus died and forgave me. I went before my church and talked to the pastor. I told him that I was choosing to forgive my dad and asked for his prayers to help me. I am now free!
I went and saw my dad recently. I ate a late night breakfast at around 11 pm at Waffle House. I hope and pray that he will be a changed, saved man. Whether or not that happens though, I can love him because Christ first loved me. This is my forgiveness story. What is yours? Write it in the comment box.