Here is another entry from Sue Simons, who with her husband, Tom, was a god friend to our folks and invaluable as we tried to help Dad recover from his stroke. This story involves my mom!
I’ve heard that question asked many times by many different people. I also wondered why God would have allowed me to be born only to be abused both mentally and physically by my parents. When I became an adult I worked through the pain and put that away neatly in a little box and for the most part forgot about it. As life went on various events that seemed Satan inspired kept getting in my way; again I wondered why God would allow that to happen! I never allowed those events to block me from doing God’s work but it still made me wonder. Years later I met a couple that would become close friends for the balance of their life – Roger and Nelda Hawley. We worked closely on various church projects and I learned quickly to value their advice. Nelda was always such a quiet inspiration – never pushy so the event I’m about to tell you about seemed so out of character for her.
The congregation had been having a ladies class on Sunday afternoons; not exactly convenient for me since we lived 45 min from church. The other issue for me was that they were sharing painful events to help healing. I didn’t talk to people about what we had lived through – figured it was better left in it’s little box. One Sunday Nelda asked me to come to the class and share; I explained I didn’t share that with most people and didn’t care to do so. Out of character for Nelda, she kept pushing for me to come. I was not happy with her about that but finally agreed to come when she assured me I wouldn’t have to share if I didn’t want to. Imagine my feelings when I was called on to share! I thought “fine! Just get it over with!” and went to the front of the class and started sharing.
My parents had been prominent people in the Flint MI area; there were many congregations in the Flint area and my parents were always looked up to as examples of what Christians should be. What most people didn’t know was what was going on in our home! I was called horrible names and beaten so badly that I had welts on my legs that didn’t heal until years after I was married. I was terrified of anyone finding out because I had been warned that I better not tell anyone. One Sunday morning my youngest brother had gotten ready for church too early; this, in most families, would be something to be celebrated – but not in our home. My dad slapped him back and forth down the hallway of our ranch style home and ended with slapping him so hard that his head hit the corner of the doorway and split open his head! My mother refused to go with them to the ER so I went – holding his head together all the way. Not only had we been physically and mentally abused, but we also suffered from medical neglect. The neglect for me led to Rheumatic Heart Disease which triggered Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis. For my brother, it was neglect with severe allergies. Doctors had told my parents they needed to install an air conditioner with a special air filter; they responded by saying they didn’t believe in allergies. My poor brother – his allergies were so bad that the whites of his eyes would swell over the pupils of his eyes making it almost impossible for him to see. One would think that would have evoked sympathy from our parents but it didn’t. At the dinner table, unable to see, he would reach for his glass and miss – spilling the milk everywhere. Rather than feeling bad for him, my parents would slap him around and then call him names and make him clean up the mess. I would try to help but was told to go back to my chair or I’d get the same. I shared many of these stories and how I had prayed about it and was able to put it away and not let it affect the way I raised my children or my work in the church. I went back to my seat thinking “well, Nelda, I hope you’re happy!” What a horrible attitude for a Christian to have! We are always supposed to do things in a cheerful manner. After the class was over, a young lady came up to me and through her tears thanked me for sharing. She said she had been abused growing up but not nearly as bad as I had been; she knew if I could survive and become who I had that she also could survive! I was shocked! I went up to Nelda and said “You knew, didn’t you!” She smiled her sweet smile and simply nodded her head yes. I apologized to her and God for having had such a bad attitude.
After that event God made me aware of why we have various things happen in our life. Sometimes it’s a matter of we need to grow; sometimes it’s so we can have empathy and be able to help someone weaker to get through bad times. Years later I also realized that sometimes bad things happen so that others will learn to be God’s hands to help us. Sometimes we are the servant, other times it’s our turn to be served. Allowing others to serve me has been a much harder lesson to learn. I feel so much more comfortable in serving.
I now look at various events in life and pray to have God revel to me what He has in store for me. How does God want me to use this situation? Does God want me to change me or help others around me to change? I have found through life that if I allow God to guide me that He will always be praised with the outcome. I’m not always in my ‘comfort zone’ with where God has me placed, but I will, most of the time, find out why He has had me walk a certain path. I also now am not afraid to share various events in life with others; I never know when someone may be hearing what I say that needs to know that they can survive; that God is always with us as long as we invite Him to be there.
May God bless us all with the heart of a servant!