At times I hated the God I love
Too many biographies are sanitized accounts that end up portraying Barbie Doll Christians and Teflon coated saints. Such books seem to inspire but we eventually crash back to reality, feeling more deflated than ever. We are human and need real answers that the plastic Christians presented by doctored accounts cannot give us.
Ruth lets us see her wrestling with real life problems. Eventually – sometimes after half a lifetime – she emerged with answers that will help you and me live life to the max.
God’s supposed to be in charge of the Universe – isn’t
He’s supposed to be in control of the world – isn’t He?
He’s supposed to be especially kind to kids – isn’t He?
And I’m supposed to have TWO parents – aren’t I!
So why has Mummy left Daddy?
And why does she talk about it with my big sister, but not with me?
Well, God has done the dirty on me – so I’ll do the dirty on Him!
I’ll be as bad as bad can be!
And that will punish God for being so mean to me. I’ll get my own back on Him!
And Mummy says we’ve got to stay here in the country for two years – until her divorce with Daddy goes through.
But I don’t want them to be divorced!
Anyway, what will it matter! I’ve never been that important to anyone, have I!
Because Mummy and Daddy splitting up isn’t where my life started to go wrong.
It went wrong from the start. Daddy lost interest in me when I was born!
Born one month too soon, with no hair, no eyebrows, no fingernails, not filled out, apparently dumb (I didn’t cry for four days) – and a girl.
So Daddy has never bothered with me – he doesn’t care about me.
Well, he doesn’t have to now, does he!
My parent’s separation was just one of the episodes in my life that convinced me how unimportant I was. My father rejected me because I was too ugly to be his child and, even worse, I was the wrong gender. He immediately lost interest in me. I never knew what it was to have him pick me up, play with me, cuddle me, take me places, read me a story. Some fathers go out of their way to make their little girls feel special. I would have settled for feeling wanted!
I was unimportant to my mother, unless I was doing well at school. Whenever my mother told me about the difficult, 24 hour labor she went through to have me, I was always left with the impression that what she was really saying was:
“I went through all that for you – and you weren’t worth it, because you weren’t the son we wanted!"
I remember her “words of wisdom”.
“Nice girls don’t talk about sex.”
“Men are only after one thing”.
“You’ll never be any good with your hands.”
“You’ll never be a lawyer – you’re too gullible. Anyone could put anything over you.”
“You’ll never make it as a veterinarian – you’re too soft-hearted.”
But the thing she harped on most, the thing that she kept repeating – even when she was in her eighties – was:
“If you had been a boy, my marriage wouldn’t have broken up.”
Obviously being a girl is a bad thing. Girls aren’t worth taking notice of. Girls are a non-event.
My mother made my confirmation veil, for the special church service that made me a full member of my denomination. But she didn’t come to my confirmation.
My mother liked me to do well at school. But she didn’t turn up for my one and only prize giving.
When I was a child, the term “self-esteem” wasn’t the flavor of the month. It wouldn’t have mattered if it had been. I didn’t have any anyway.
Surely there are few experiences more painful than rejection – especially to a child!
I was sent to Sunday School – it was the “nice” thing to do. And my mother always emphasized my need to be a “nice” girl. But all I can actually remember were the Saturday nights, when my sister Susan and myself had to get our hair done up into tight ringlets with pieces of rag.
I have no idea when I was first told that God was my Heavenly Father. Probably when I was taught the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name .... “). But I imagine I wouldn’t have been very impressed – since the only example of “fatherhood” I’d come across was my own father who had rejected me. So the idea of God being my Heavenly Father cut no ice with me. I immediately transferred to God my perception of my own father – cold, distant, disinterested, unloving.
And obviously I wasn’t important to God, since He didn’t
care that my parents had split up. Come to think of it, apparently my parents
didn’t think I was important to God either. I was supposed to be christened
in my parents’ church when I was two months’ old. But they’d had a row
with the minister, so that never happened. They got around to getting me
“done” when I was seven. All I can remember is standing at the side of
the font and feeling like a right proper idiot. What was the poor minister
supposed to do? Tuck me under his arm and hold me over the font like he
did with the little babies that were there?
I also went to Sunday School during those couple of years we were living in the country. It was a small, very friendly Sunday School, and we were allowed to take our dog Whiskey with us, as long as he stayed quietly under our seat.
I don’t remember what actually happened at that Sunday School either. All I know is that we’d start off in church with all the others; but just before the Communion service started, we children had to leave.
We were told that the Communion service was for special people. How I longed to be good enough to be one of the special people and stay in the big church!
Yet it was while we were in the country that I had my first sense of the Presence of God. I was lying in bed one night, and just felt that God was so close that all I had to do was put out my hand and touch Him.
It was while we were in the country, that Mummy bought me my first Bible – a plain, small, wartime-economy edition one.
That particular Bible was to feature again much later in my life.
The divorce went through, and both my mother and my father married other people.
And in a way, that was the real start of my roller-coaster ride with God.
We moved to another part of the State.
The next few years were very stormy ones, emotionally and spiritually.
It took next-to-nothing to upset my new stepfather, who turned out to be an arrogant, violent alcoholic – with charming ways. As a matter of self-preservation, we quickly learned to smell my stepfather’s breath. If he’d been on beer – he was maudlinly sentimental. If he’d been on whisky – he was cranky. If he’d been on rum – watch out! Batten down the hatches! It’s going to be a rough sailing!
And if I was the one who upset him, he punished me by making me stay away from Sunday School.
I can’t follow the logic of that, since I went to Sunday School to learn how to be good! Rows in our house (it certainly wasn’t “home”!), became the rule rather than the exception.
Previously, I had learned what loneliness was. Now I learned what fear was.
Ever seen your (step)father punch your mother in her breast till she fainted? Ever seen your (step)father try to strangle her? Ever had to stay out till 2:00 a.m. in the morning, because it wasn’t safe to go home until you were sure your (step)father was in a drunken stupor? Don’t talk to me about my childhood – I didn’t have one! (Even today I can’t bear to taste “Old Jamaican” rum-flavored chocolate, or that popular confection known as “rum balls”.)
He tried to strangle my mother. He threatened to kill me.
And my father’s choice for a second wife? A tall, austere, prim and proper, self-righteous, judgmental woman, who was fanatically house-proud. My sister Susan and I used to have a “duty” visit with them once a year. Everything was so sterile and spotless that I used to feel that I ought to be wearing white kid gloves to play their player piano!
At the end of my time in High School, I was preparing to go to Teachers’ College. I needed to go to the nearest capital city for a required medical examination. The train journey was seven hours long. I was 16. As my father lived in that same city, I wrote to him, asking could I stay with him. He booked me into the YWCA. And told me that if I wished to see him, I would have to make an appointment with his secretary to see him in his office. How that hurt!
But a greater hurt was to come.
I swallowed my pride and made that appointment.
I have only one memory of that visit. As soon as I walked through the door of the office I saw my 5 year old adopted half brother, sitting on my father's knee – a privilege I had never had!
Years later, when I was grown up, I wrote to my father, saying I would like to get to know him better. His reply?
“I don’t want to be any closer to you than I am now.”
If this is what fathers are like, give me one good reason why I would want to get to know Father God better and listen to Him!
And where was God in all this? On the other side of the world as far as I was concerned!
He certainly didn’t answer my prayers. I kept asking Him to make my own Mommy and Daddy realize they’d made a terrible mistake and get back together again.
I told Him I’d stop being bad and start to be good if He’d make the rows stop.
But He didn’t.
So I rebelled.
I wanted to find out what all the hullabaloo was about – what was so special about sex, that adults talked about it in hushed tones, and school-kids sniggered about it behind the weather shed?
When I was twelve, my mother let me go for long car rides with a man she hardly knew. I learnt quickly from him. I didn’t know that the man was committing a crime and should have gone to jail.
But I did know that I was committing a sin.
And then one night at church we had Psalm 51, the Psalm King David wrote after he’d committed adultery with Bathsheba.
I found out just how much God hated this kind of sin,
and I repented and asked Him to forgive me. And I date my salvation from
But my perception of Him was still that of a stern, cold, unloving Father. So it was to a severe God I confessed, not a loving Savior. I had no one to teach me what Christ was really like. So I didn’t really believe that God was loving and kind, and that He had my best interests at heart.
I truly wanted to get right with God, and that’s when something special happened – the first really big, kind thing that I remember God doing for me.
I didn’t have anyone to talk to about how to get right with God, so I wrote to the minister of the little country church I used to go to while we waited for the divorce to go through. I told him what I had been doing wrong.
I didn’t dare put my home address on it. So I put my school address on it. The minister came to see me at my school. The headmaster let him see me. We talked in the Assembly Hall.
But what meant most to me was that this man had made a 10-hour journey in a steam train to come and help me!
This was the first time in my whole life that I felt someone cared about me!
And – somehow, somewhere – God planted a seed. I felt that He Himself was unapproachable – but I loved His word.
I joined the Interschool Christian Fellowship, (ISCF).
But I was a self-righteous prig – with a very hypocritical, judgmental, “holier than thou” attitude towards others. An attitude that didn’t have a leg to stand on, considering my own immoral history.
Then I panicked. I knew how far down the path of sin I’d already strayed. I didn’t know just how far an unrestrained me was likely to go. So when I got to college I joined the Evangelical Union, a Christian group for students.
There I received a shock. The other members of the EU were HAPPY Christians! To me a happy Christian was a contradiction. God was to be feared and obeyed. Indeed, as a child I had pictured Him sitting on a cloud, black notebook in hand, writing down every sin and mistake.
But these other students were smiling! They were enjoying their faith!
The only difference that I could see was that they belonged to different denominations from the one I did.
So I began church-hopping.
The trouble was that I couldn’t see into these other students’ hearts. Most of them had been brought up in Christian homes, and knew Christ as a close, personal Friend. I certainly didn’t!
Towards the end of my time at Teachers’ College, I joined a different church group, still looking for the love, happiness and acceptance that continually seemed to elude me. I still hadn’t realized that my main problem was that I had a wrong understanding about God.
This church was very legalistic, full of “Thou shalt nots”, which fitted in nicely with my own judgmental attitude.
But while I was a member of that church, I was falsely accused by a fellow member of having an affair with her husband. I was about 20 at the time; this man was almost 50 – and I couldn’t stand a bar of him!
So when the minister told me about this accusation, I just roared with laughter. That seemed to convince the minister that I was indeed a hardened sinner.
He believed the lady – not me.
I was sick of it – absolutely sick of it!
Didn’t I mean something to ANYONE?
My father didn’t want to know me, – my mother only liked me if I did well at school, and now my own minister had turned against me.
Where was God?
Nowhere as far as I could see. Or if He was “there” – He – like my father – had no time for me.
He – like my father and now my minister – couldn’t be bothered with me.
I felt that I’d been given a very raw deal!
I was so livid that I dumped that church – and I dumped God!
What was the point of serving Him, of trying to be a “good” Christian?
But I felt adrift, because I had no stability in my life. I was being sent to one place after another with my teaching. Even if my home had been close enough to visit regularly – it was the last place I wanted to go! I gradually came back grudgingly to talking to God, whom I still thought of as a hard taskmaster.
So once again I became very like the self-righteous Pharisees of Christ’s day – those religious leaders who knew what the Bible said, taught it to others – but didn’t live it. And just as they rejected Christ as their Messiah because they refused to believe the parts of their Bible that talked about Him, I rejected God as my Father, because I didn’t believe the parts of the Bible that talked about how much He loved me.
Then I was sent to a small country town to teach – and fell in love.
But I had qualms – niggling qualms. Somewhere I had taken on board the thought that Christians weren’t supposed to marry any one who wasn’t a Christian. Nevertheless this man was morally upright, and a good citizen. And possibly the only chance I’d ever have to get married. And deep down I was scared at the possibility that God might want me to remain single, become a missionary and go to deepest darkest Africa. So the closest I got to asking God whether it was HIS will that I marry this man was “Dear God, do you mind if I marry him?”
That hardly qualifies as seeking God’s guidance, or permission!
Actually, I thought I had made an excellent choice: Bob was tall, dark and handsome, non-drinker, non-smoker, non-gambler, owned outright his own house and car, had bought a home for his widowed mother, had never had a real girl friend before, held down a good steady job, his family was well respected in the local community, he was a skilled handyman, he belonged to the same church as I did – what more could I ask for?
Marriage which should have been a delight, brought me to the brink of despair,
In my webpage, Looking for Love I list all the questions I SHOULD have asked myself before saying “Yes” to Bob, and thus turning my back on God’s will for my life.
I most strongly urge you – if you are a Christian contemplating marriage with a non-Christian, someone who hasn’t any time for Christ, that you carefully read that webpage. Hopefully it may save you from the “years in the wilderness”, which is how I describe my marriage.
In my webpage, Marriage in a Minor Key I share the devastating results of this marriage, not only on my own personality, but on my relationship with God.
Because of the distress I experienced in my marriage,
there were many occasions when I wasn’t on speaking terms with God. Why
should I be interested in Him? He certainly didn’t appear to be interested
I often wondered why God didn’t take me outside and shoot me. It seemed the most
obvious thing to do. After all you put maimed animals out of their misery.
That’s if you care about their pain!
I was deeply wounded by my marriage. But did God care? Not only did he not seem to tend
my wounds, I wasn’t even worth spending a bullet on to put me out of my misery.
I often wondered why God didn’t take me outside and shoot me. It seemed the most obvious thing to do. After all you put maimed animals out of their misery.
That’s if you care about their pain!
I was deeply wounded by my marriage. But did God care? Not only did he not seem to tend my wounds, I wasn’t even worth spending a bullet on to put me out of my misery.
Besides what I perceived as my husband’s callous treatment of me, many other things happened to “put me off” God.
One of these was what happened with my own parents.
When they were both in their eighties, they remarried each other! They actually asked me to be a witness!
You might think that I would be delighted that God had at last answered my childhood prayer.
I wasn’t – I was furious!
If they still cared about each other why had they divorced in the first place? Why had my sister and I had to endure the fear and suffering of being hated and threatened by Pop?
And my mind flashed back to the time I had visited my father in his office. That memory still hurt!
As my own marriage continued to deteriorate I sought the “perfect” church – but none of them ever came up to my expectations. How’s that for arrogance!
The minister was kind, compassionate and even affectionate. My loved-starved heart soaked it up and thrived on it – for a time. I even believed that this man was God’s gift to me, in that God was expressing His own love for me through His servant. How I thanked God for this privilege!
Talk about being intoxicated!
Then one day God got stuck into me, showing me quite clearly that I was worshipping this man instead of Him. And that my feelings towards this man were far warmer than they should be. I instantly repented and sought God’s forgiveness
It was only two days later that I found out just how gracious the Lord had been in His dealings with me.
THAT’s when the whole church found out that this same minister had been even more 'affectionate' to some of the younger women.
I was devastated! Okay – I was in the wrong because I’d placed him on a pedestal, and I’d ended up having improper feelings towards him. But I’d been sincerely thanking God for the advent of this “man of God” into my life.
Talk about disillusioned! Not only had this man let me down – I felt God had let me down too. Why had He let me thank Him for what a wonderful blessing this man was to me!
Once again I changed churches.
And then, spiritually speaking, a train trip changed my life.
For some time I had been giving my closest friend, Thelma, a lift to church. So when Bob and I took a long train trip, my friend was without transport. Mutual friends took her to another church.
As soon as I got back Thelma said, “Ruth – you must come and visit this church – it’s wonderful!”
So I did – and found the spiritual home I’d been seeking all my life.
The word of God is preached fearlessly and accurately. And the people know how to reach out to each other in genuine loving concern. I’ve been fully integrated into the life of this church even though I am still no good at cooking or sewing.
This church recognizes that each and every believer has been gifted by the Holy Spirit. We are encouraged to identify our gifts and use them in the service of others.
But the full extent of God’s loving provision for me was only revealed several years ago when Bob suddenly collapsed at home.
I rang my pastor – he and his wife were at our place in ten minutes.
He drove my car up to the hospital while I went in the ambulance with Bob. (The very silence of the ambulance’s siren eloquently told me what I didn’t want to hear – Bob was already dead.)
My pastor stayed with me while I waited for the rest of my family to arrive at the hospital to say goodbye to their father.
When we were all assembled, he prayed for us as a family.
For quite some time after, whenever I had an unexpected attack of grief at church, there was always someone there to sense my need and give me an encouraging hug.
At last I really felt loved, wanted and accepted by them.
And occasionally I even felt loved, wanted and accepted by God.