Fathers do not exasperate your children so that they will not lose heart. (Col 3:21).
For many children, it is challenging to hold things in check when your home is dysfunctional. Some children are pushed into the streets, or they are forced to find alternatives to lives filled with pain. Hence, they become poster children of rebellion. But for faith, I could have very quickly been one of those teens. Hope given by God, is the key that unlocked my hidden potential. It helped me to overcome the cruelties of life. Faith nurtured me through crucibles of pain!
My stepdad was relentless in his verbal and sometimes physical abuse. I felt powerless towards him and he knew it. Consequently, my siblings would also subject me to their outrageous antics modeling his behavior. I accepted things as they were. I was considered a weakling because I never learned to fight back. The reason I never fought back was due to the mental, emotional, and physical abuse I endured.
When I was eleven years of age we returned to Tennessee after my mother and stepdad had a terrible fight. She had been beaten and choked which resulted in us literally running for our lives. We drove all night to get back to Tennessee. If I had it my way, we would have never returned. I was glad to go to school in Morristown and I was happy to have my aunts, uncles, and cousins around. I had returned to Morristown, my sanctuary of peace in the shadow of Morristown College. The rich legacy of Morristown College established by Dr. Judson Hill and those that followed him defined the school as a significant place in Black American Hictory. My grandmother was extremely proud of the fact that we lived so close to the college. However, due to racism, changing times, and fate the school was leveled in. This was a landmark in my life. What happens when markers move?
However, by the time I went to the eighth grade we returned to Savannah. Things were manageable until the summer following my fifteenth birthday.
When I was 15 years of age, my mother moved to the other side of town to get away from my stepdad for the second time. The picture-perfect family, which was our public image, was shattered. Mom had decided that she was leaving him. While my mom made plans to separate from him, I was put out of the house after I accidentally broke a fish aquarium.
The summer was a particular time for me. It was a time of exploration and intrigue. Each day around 3:00 p.m. my friends and I would retire to our respective homes after hanging out during the morning and early afternoon. In anticipation of our parent’s arrival from work. It was customary for our family to be at home during the time leading up to dinner time. Since my mom was a school teacher the summer was a time that I would spend a lot of time helping my mom around the house and tending to my younger sister. It was a relaxed time that always ended abruptly when daddy walked into the house from work.
On this day he came into the house and in a commanding voice said “Ain’t you got nothing to do?” I nervously quickly replied “No sir. I have already done all of my chores.” He commanded me at once to go and clean the fish tank. This was a task that took time and patience. For the next hour, I would have to carefully place the fish in a bowl that was the same temperature as the tank. Next, I would remove all the aquatic plants and put them in a separate container. Finally, the most tedious task was to dip most of the water out of the tank into a bucket, carry it into the bathroom and then take the fish tank into the bathroom and strain the blue-green lava rocks into a bucket with a strainer in it and clean fish excrement and excess food from between the stones.
“Buddy! Put that damn bucket down and carry that tank in the bathroom. Your sorry ass will be here all day dipping that water out of that tank.” Because his command was laden with insults and cussing I immediately sat the bucket down and picked up the 20-gallon fish tank that was not completely emptied and heavy. I very carefully strained and carried the tank into the bathroom to drain the water into the bathtub. “And clean that damn tub out when you finish!” He yelled as I struggled into the bathroom with the tank.
I made it safely to the tub, I regrouped and began to tilt it forward to empty its content into the bucket with the strainer in it so that the rocks would not go down the drain. However, to my dismay, the water-logged rocks shifted forward causing me to drop the fish tank into the tub. “Whew, it did not shatter,” I thought to myself. However, to my utter disappointment, the bottom of the tank had a crack that was the length of the aquarium. After I collected myself, I cringed as I turned around and my step-dad was standing in the bathroom door.
He screamed, “Did you throw that aquarium in that tub?!” I said no sir, and before I could explain what happened, he commanded… “Get your sorry ass out of my house!” I went out to the carport not fully understanding what he meant. I was 15 years old, and I had nowhere to go, so I assumed that he was just angry. He followed me out to the carport and bellowed. “I said get out of my house… You got mad because I told you to clean that fish tank and you took it in there and busted it up. Get out! Since you hate me so much get out!”
Those words burned into my head and heart. I was afraid, angry, disappointed, and confused. With the clothes on my back, covered with water from the fish tank I went out the carport door and onto the street. I was about to cry, but my friends came and begin to ask what was wrong. I said nothing because I was embarrassed about being put out of the house. The first few hours I hung out with my friends, and as night fell, I went to my older brother’s house. My oldest brother had recently moved back into the neighborhood after going to the military, and he allowed me to come in and use the phone to call my mom.
After talking with my brother, I was told that I was to stay there until further notice. The next day when Daddy went to work my mom delivered some clothing to me. Since I was not in school for the summer and I did not have a job I mainly stayed at my brother’s house for the remainder of the summer.
God kept me through the crucible of the hell hole that was my home. My father was overtly cruel, and my mother was powerless against him. My favorite childhood song was a song we sang at church every Sunday morning, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear, What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” Although it appears that I was in pain my entire childhood it should be understood that my Daddy and mom’s actions were typical for me. As a result, I was not sad, feeling as if I was singled out and mistreated, I was actually a friendly and somewhat happy teen who was everybody’s Buddy. My nickname was Buddy because I was kind to everyone I met… including daddy.
God had already anticipated this because my brother had just moved back into our community and my mother had a contract on a new house that she was awaiting the final approval on. When I was pushed out onto the street, my mother began to execute her plan. She contacted my older brother and made arrangements for me to stay with him until we moved. During that time we visited on a regular basis, and it was during this time that we began our weekly prayer time together. Within a few weeks, my mother called all of us together and announced that we were moving to the other side of town. None of us questioned her move we just loaded up the cars and a borrowed truck, got our things and moved to the other side in the city.