Thursday, February 23, 2012

Recollections


Why shame the family by posting this, Hannah?

You're going to do damage to our ministry, and by extension, the ministry of God, by talking about this!

You should focus on the good in your past, and forgive and forget the bad.

I can already hear it now. The protests, the angry demands to delete this post. It's happened before, and I gave in to keep the family peace, to retain my parents' very conditional love, support, and approval. But you know what? Carrying around all the baggage and hurt from my childhood and past hurts! Not being able to freely express my feelings about things that happened isn't helping me heal at all. I can't let it go if I don't shine a light on it.

So here it is, the first episode of ickiness that has been festering within my memory for years.
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My earliest memory is one of pressing my three or four year old face deeply into the scratchy plaid sofa cushions while my father whipped my bare behind with his thick leather belt. He would go on to apply his version of the "board of education" to my "seat of learning" so often that it snapped in half during a marathon beating beating when I was fifteen.


The details of that first offense have been lost to the fog of childhood memory, but in the case of the second instance, my "sin" was refusing to lend a pair of tights to one of my younger sisters. After forcing me to read Old Testament passages about the stoning to death of disobedient children, my father punished me for my selfishness and proud spirit.

I'm afraid I didn't really learn my lesson, because I went on, in my disobedience to the bible-based rules of the house, to commit all sorts of vile sins, like sneaking out to the movie house and wearing pants and buying tapes of praise music.

How did both of those events make me feel? Well, I do remember feeling bewildered as a tiny child, wondering why I deserved a beating. I was indignant, in my little heart, because it had been my two or three year old sister who had committed the offense, whatever it was.

When my father beat me so many times that his belt broke, I was angry, and in a lot of pain. My thighs were swollen and inflamed for days after that. I felt despair and, for the first time, actual hate toward my father. I despised him for telling me that under God's rules, I ought to be stoned, but that I received mercy by only getting a beating.


That juxtaposition of horrifying "what-you-really-deserve" against an equally horrifying "this-is-the-mercy-I'll-give-you" is a motif that repeats itself all through my college years as well.

When I wore jeans instead of khakis to an event off-campus:
"You really deserve a hundred demerits, but I'm going to be merciful and only give you fifty demerits and you'll have to undergo counseling every week for a whole semester."
But that's a story for a different day.