The other evening I was in a children’s ministry leadership meeting (surprise! I joined that). One of my friends/one of the two heads of children’s ministry dropped a statistic that stuck with me. She said, “The majority of what any child feels about God is learned before they start school at age 5.”
That really hit a place in me and took me back to one of the few memories that I have/can handle remembering from my childhood. We didn’t have any sort of religious/Christian influence as small kids. We didn’t go to church, no one prayed, etc. I don’t think I even knew who/what God was until after I was 5. If anything God and Jesus Christ were just words, usually used as an expletive or something. It wasn’t that no one around me believed in Him, He just wasn’t part of our lives. My first, I suppose you can say encounter, with God happened around or after I was 8 years old. (Those years are a little foggy).
After my sisters’ father died our mother met a guy. He was renting our basement as a workshop to blow glass in. I liked to sit down there and watch him work. The melting glass was so beautiful, and he would let me play his djembe. For those of you who don’t know that’s a drum.
Somewhere there is a picture of me playing it, but I have no idea where it is. At some point they started dating and instead of staying in the basement he start staying upstairs. It didn’t take long before the violence started, but he had my mother so dependent and scared she wouldn’t leave. A short list of things he did to us include but is not limited to:
Holding mom down and cutting her hair off, tying her down and pouring hot coffee on her (she still has scars), throwing me into walls, holding a knife against me, keeping me outside to clean grass off the road, and when I threatened to call the cops he picked me up by the neck, slammed me into the wall a foot off the ground, covered my nose and mouth to where I couldn’t breathe and said if I ever threatened to call the cops again he would kill me.
He was a warm fuzzy kinda guy, not. What does he have to do with my first encounter with God? He was the first person to take us to church. As we stood there in the back pews, surround by people singing hymns, my mother’s bruises and scars covered with clothes and make-up, I looked up at this man’s face, this man I considered to be more a monster than human, I looked at the pastor – a man ignorant to the demon in his church, I looked at the crucified Jesus statue behind him – the supposedly all seeing eyes of a loving God, and finally I looked up to the brightly lit ceiling and said to myself, if this is God, if these are Christians, and if this is what God allows, I want nothing to do with Him.
I finished singing the hymns without heart or passion. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was because I was daydreaming of a life without the devil sitting beside me. When my step-father shaved I swear he wore the face of what I thought the devil looked like. I look back on that memory and I think how sad it was that at 8 or 9 years old I had such a negative view of life that I could turn my back on God.
Now I’m 25. The bruises and scars have faded from my skin, the demon that is my stepfather lives in a state several thousand miles from me and my family, and I have come to terms with what happened to me as a child. Occasionally I still have nightmares, but I work through them. If you follow my blog or know me in real life you know I’m a Christian now. I know it’s not His fault this monster sunk his talons into us, but He did offer more healing than therapy ever did.
And now I can breathe.