Content Warning: descriptions of physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse of a child (me).
Although I don’t refer to God as any specific gender in my writing normally, I have done so in this because of the fact that God being gendered as traditionally male is part of the story and the quotes and the backstory aren’t as accurate without the specific gendering of God as male. I do not believe God is male, or at least that God is only male, but I’ve written God as male in this essay to keep the integrity of the story.
As a child, everything I enjoyed was a sin worthy of God’s displeasure and rod of punishment that would strike down upon my back at any moment, perhaps having lifelong physical effects because I needed to learn to trust that God only wanted the best for me and what was best for me was to trust him (and God was always gendered as male, “the Bible says so”). God would then give me orders and commandments and I would be expected to have immediate obedience because if I didn’t I could end up in the belly of a big fish or much worse. When I grew up, I was told that people were praying that I would be gang-raped, beaten, and left for dead in a gutter somewhere so that God would bring me to my senses so that my rebellious spirit would turn back to God.
“When do you obey?” My father or mother would ask me after a beating. “Immediately, if not sooner,” was the expected reply. It was the mantra. You always obey authority immediately, if not sooner. Not standing up and heading to the kitchen with a huge smile on my face before the request was even out of their mouth to do the dishes meant I was a disobedient child, and needed to be punished, and “I spank you as hard as I can to make it hurt really bad because God commands me to, and God loves me, and God loves you. And you should be lucky that it’s me that is spanking you and not God, because when you grow up and God spanks you, you could die.”
And then whatever instrument had been chosen as a torture weapon that day was brought out, “lay down over my lap,” was the command, which I was expected to do immediately, if not sooner, despite the fear and the churning sickness in my stomach. Then my skirt would be slowly tugged down to the floor or tucked up over my stomach and back, my underpants pulled down so that the instrument would strike bare, naked flesh. Any crying louder than was acceptable, any wriggling, any trying to protect my naked bottom with my hands earned more and more swats.
Sometimes it was a wooden slat from an old set of louvres, some days an electrical cord, or a green stick of bamboo or an actual cane, over and over and over again, until they decided that my rebellious spirit was broken, and I would comply with the correct attitude.
And then, when all was done, my underpants pulled back up and my skirt or pants back where they go, I’d be commanded to “stand up and stop that sulking or we can start again.” Then whichever parent had administered the punishment would demand a hug, because “You only made me do this to you because I love you, and I need you to understand that, so give me a hug.” Refusal to give the hug would result in another spanking also. If I cried too long or too hard afterwards, they would say I hadn’t heard the message loud enough yet and they would go another round. After the hug, I’d be asked what I did to deserve the spanking, and I was to give an answer and expected to correct it or do what I had been told with a sweet attitude immediately, if not sooner.
It was all done out of love, you see. My parents loved me because I was their daughter, and God loved me if I was “saved” and I would know I was “saved” if God punished me when I stepped out of line, hence my on my knees beside my bed when I was 13, crying, praying, begging for God to please beat the shit out of me for lying so that I would know I was “truly saved.”
If I wasn’t “saved,” I was going to burn in hell for eternity and I would deserve it because I chose to rebel against God by not obeying his command to “get saved” by “asking Jesus into your heart.” I needed God to beat me senseless so I would be assured that I was not going to hell when I died although, as my pastor when I was a teenager told me, I should be thankful for each and every hardship and suffering in my life because I was not yet burning in hell and so anything short of that was a huge blessing for which to be truly grateful to God and anything that wasn’t hell was much better than I deserved.
The thing was though that when God created humanity, he created some to “get saved” and “go to heaven when they die,” and he created others with the purpose of sending them to hell. Any time I questioned this I was told that I shouldn’t question God, that God is holy and just and pure, and he has every right to choose before creating a person, what their eternal destiny was. So, if I was created to go to hell, which was God’s purpose for creating me, God was holy, and I was to trust him. And if God didn’t figuratively beat the shit out of me by punishing me with harsh circumstances, then I better plead God’s mercy. But there would be no point pleading for God’s mercy if God had designed me explicitly to send me to hell.
“Gods ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts than our thoughts, and it doesn’t seem fair to our human minds, but God is righteous and just in all his doings.” Those that were created to go to hell were people that would never be loved by God and they would have tough lives with lots of suffering, and if I turned out queer (and in the 90’s it was a major insult) there was no hope of salvation, I was simply the definition of depravity.
You know what this was called? The “wonderful” Doctrines of Grace.
The only way to know if God loved me was if God punished me.
It often seems like God isn’t done punishing me yet or perhaps God isn’t punishing me, and God has turned me over to the lusts of my flesh to live in my depravity because I was always supposed to go to hell, it was ordained before the foundation of this world that a barely five-pound infant was sent forth into the world to live, to die, and to go to hell.
And sometimes, although I know now that this is all lies, I am still scared.