I held my breath. I could hear my brother scream. Was I next?
My dad’s footsteps got closer. Then I saw his face. Eyes glowing like the incredible Hulk, except this was real. When we’d hide his belt, it didn’t stop him. He’d use his hands instead.
“Son of a b****,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Dad, please don’t!” I cried, trying to shield my face.
“Put your hands down or you’re gonna get it worse!” he warned.
I didn’t believe it could be worse, but I was too scared to find out. Lowering my hands, I felt the sting. My ears, my poor ears. My face was burning.
With each slap, shame slipped into my heart, filling every crevice.
As an adult, I replayed those scenes, hoping I would eventually figure it out.
Why did he beat us?
Our dad was a volcano waiting to erupt. Instead of dealing with his problems, he stuffed them down with food. That’s the only time we felt safe.
When his anger rose, we knew how much of a head start we needed.
It was hard for my father to move his 400-pound body. In the upstairs hallway, he had to turn sideways to come after us. He’d reach for his belt and the four of us scattered like little mice.
Other people thought my father was funny. He was funny, with them. They thought he was a nice guy. But nice guys don’t beat their children. They use their hands to help them up, not to slap them around.
Our radar was finely tuned. We became experts deciphering body language. A raised eyebrow, a stern look.
I don’t remember laughter in my house, unless it was at someone’s expense. He would roar and I would crumple up inside.
Why didn’t anyone help?
If those episodes of abuse happened today, someone would have called the police. The lines on my brother’s legs and arms would have been enough to warrant help. But. years ago, we had no voice. Nor did we talk about it. It was our normal. For all we knew, everyone was being hit.
But, why did mom allow it? How could a mom let her children get beaten? Eventually I realized mom was an accomplice. And there were times when dad was unavailable, mom would do the hitting. Using whatever she found within reach, sometimes a wire hanger.
After dad hit us, my sister and I would lay on our bed. I could hear whimpering coming from my brothers’ room. I waited for my breathing to settle down, thinking, we must be bad, we must be very bad.”
There is a difference between discipline and punishment. We were not disciplined.
Afterwards, we were told, “Get away from me!”
We were more than willing to oblige.
One day, as I read from my Bible. I came across John 19:1.
“Pilate took Jesus and had him beaten.”
Tears slid down my cheeks. We weren’t the only ones. Jesus understood.
Years later, someone told me God loved me. He loved me so much he sent his Son to die for me. When I heard about him I was ready to believe.
I got wrecked when I was a child. But God has taken every negative thing in my life, weaving it into something of value.
Some questions do get answered
Was my father wrong to beat us? Absolutely.
Why didn’t God stop him?
God gave us a free will. We like it when we’re referring to our free will. But some people make poor choices. Some hurt others.
Even though I was abused at the hand of my father, I became convinced God loved me.
God is healing the wounded places inside of me. But healing requires forgiveness.
Could I forgive my dad?
When I was 24, my dad lay in a hospital, dying of cancer. As I stood by his bed, he said something I had never heard him say before,
“I’m sorry I wasn’t a good father to you.”
I felt God softening my heart, nudging me to extend grace.
And then, I heard myself say, “You did the best you could.”
Words I grew to believe. Reaching down I kissed my dad on the cheek.
God helped me do the impossible.
God, who has always been there, even when I got wrecked.
About the Author: Anne Peterson is a writer, speaker, poet, and published author of 42 Bible Studies and numerous articles with Christianity Today/Today’s Christian Woman. Her poetry is sold throughout the US and abroad. Anne is presently working on a book about Real Love.