It is my purpose to share some of my life’s story with others who may be experiencing something similar in their life. My prayer is that my story will help someone – even one other person in this life. Maybe it’s you.
I have a limited memory of my childhood; perhaps this is God’s way of easing my painful memories. Decades elapsed before I had the strength to share the story of the heartache I went through as a child. Although such abuse definitely existed back in the 60’s and 70’s, it wasn’t talked about much and there didn’t seem to be much help for abused wives and children. Being the oldest in the family, I was the child who bore the brunt of my father’s beatings over the longest period of time.
A Mother Who Tried Her Best
I was the first born son in a family of nine. My parents attended a community church in a rural area of America earlier in their married life. But shortly into the marriage my mother started experiencing severe emotional and physical abuse. My mother was a devout wife and tried in all ways to please her very impatient, abusive and unpredictable husband. My father was always on the move, never being able to keep a job. Thus my mother carried the heavy burden of trying to keep our growing family fed. With so many children, she had to be the ‘work-horse’ – working at outside jobs and gardening and always having to ‘baby’ this man above the rest.
I think very highly of my mother; but with all these burdens in life she couldn’t console me. As for the older children, along with our mother, we had to do all the hard-back labor jobs. So, at the very young age of eight, I was doing all these chores and helping to run the farm equipment.
Feeling Horrible about Myself
As children, we had to get up very early in the morning and milk the cows and do the other chores. We would then run into the house and then run back out to catch the school bus. Because there was so much to do and so little time, I went to school dirty and stinky – making it very hard to find even one friend. I did not do well in school because so often I would sleep in class from the exhaustion of it all. I had never known anything but work in my life and I certainly never knew what it was like to be a child with no cares in life.
At a very early age I remember my parents fighting to the point where my mother would take us to her parents until my father cooled down. I don’t remember all the specifics, but we were scared.
The first time I remember getting ‘beat’ was in 5th grade. We lived on a farm. The pigs had somehow gotten out of their pen. My father flew into a rage. He took a claw hammer and knocked me over the head with the claws, causing a head wound and lots of bleeding. On another occasion someone kindly gave me a new colored rhinestone belt. I was so proud of it. But my father, angry that someone had given it to me, took it and beat me severely. Another painful memory is the multiple times he chased me with a pitch fork and then continually jabbing or stabbing my back end with the tines [prongs].
A Wound Deeper than Physical Wounds
It just seems like yesterday when, in a rage triggered by something, this man took a hammer and hit me full force on the head, knocking me unconscious. I don’t know how long I was out, but when I came to he said: “The next time I will knock you out permanently.” The physical pain has long since gone but the emotional pain after forty years is still so fresh.
Probably the worst physical abuse I endured was a day when we were trying to remove a piece of equipment from the tractor. When the tightly bound pins would not come loose, he told my mother and me to do it ourselves. We proceeded to work at it while he went into the house. He returned with a 12 gauge shotgun and started shooting at me. How he didn’t kill me is a miracle to my mind. He then took the gun and proceeded to beat me and beat me and beat me and beat me…..until the wood broke off. I was in such terrible pain I could not stand up and when my mother tried to stop him, he then started beating her.
Physical abuse, resulting in bruises and wounds, eventually heal over but the trauma of mental and emotional abuse cut far deeper and last much longer.
Along with the excessive physical abuse, there was plenty of mental abuse also. I was only a young teen when my father, in a rage, demanded that I ‘leave home’. I started walking down the road having no idea where I could ever go but I kept walking. After walking a very long and hard mile or so from our home, he picked me up and angrily beat me for leaving home.
I recall having a large cut on my leg that became badly infected. Although I kept the feelings inside, I didn’t want to live anymore. Finally, my mother was able to get me the medical attention I required.
Depression and fear was what I lived by. These are some of the instances that stand out in my memory. I share them with you to let you know, I’m a survivor. This was what my young life was like. We did have better days when he was gone for short periods of time at a new job or something.
The Last Time for Me
I remember the day I snapped. I was seventeen and no longer living at home. My parents had moved the family again and I was living with a Christian couple so I could finish high school. When my twin sisters were born I travelled home for a weekend to see them. I didn’t bring any extra clothes with me as I hated to return home. When my father found out I didn’t take my clothes with me, he demeaningly kicked me. I didn’t fight back, but in my heart, I knew if he ever beat me again, I would kill him! I told my mother this when I left and I believe she told him. At age seventeen I matched him in size so that was the last time he ever touched me.
Sadness Caused by Sin
The physical abuse was very difficult but the emotional abuse I can’t really describe. It was ingrained in me from my earliest recollections that I was ‘worthless and of no value.’ Never did my father ever say he was sorry for any of the abuse; never has he tried to make it right and never did he ever tell me he loved me. He has lived a life of deceit and rage; self-centered and unfaithful to my mother and always plagued by financial failure.
People abuse others because they themselves are broken people. The Bible teaches that all of us are broken by sin and this brokenness is exhibited in multiple ways and to varying degrees.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Every one of us fall short of God’s glorious and holy standard.
Hope and Light and Love
I am glad to tell you that during this very dark period of my life the good news of God loving me and Christ dying for my sins penetrated my heart. Although my father never told me he loved me and demonstrated just the opposite, God told me in His Holy Word that He loved me and He convinced me of His love by giving His Son to bear the penalty of my sins on the Cross. What a demonstration of love!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten [unique, one and only] Son, that whosoever believeth on Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
If you know something of this kind of abuse, I can encourage you in this way: everything your earthly father should have been for you but wasn’t, your Heavenly Father will be. He will be all of that and much, much more when you receive Him into your life.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” John 1:12.
Without any choice on my part, I was born into the Dempster family. But when I personally chose to receive Christ as my Saviour, I was welcomed into God’s family – a family circle where our Father cares for and nourishes His children. My Heavenly Father is good and only does good for His children. What a family it is!
Lid of Secrecy Blown Off
After graduation, I worked hard at several jobs. Eat and work – hating the past and hating myself. I am so thankful that God brought into my life a Christian who became my wonderful wife. Shortly after our marriage, my father beat my mother up so severely, that he fractured her skull and left her bleeding for hours. My younger siblings called us and with the help of my wife, we got her the medical attention she required.
Thankfully my wife, as a nurse, knew her ethical, professional and legal responsibilities. “This man has to be stopped,” she said. Without delay, the process of exposing this hidden and violent abuse began. As people became aware of what had been happening for years under our roof and in the secrecy of our home, Christians rallied to support my mother and the family. This public awareness curtailed my father’s rages somewhat.
My mother finally, after fifty years, reached the decision not to remain in this environment any longer. God bless her- as she tried more than any woman on earth to fulfill her marriage vows as a wife. And yes, perhaps you were wondering: this man, my father, professed to be a Christian but like many others who know about Christianity, we saw no evidence of reality in his life. I can only leave him with God.
Knowing about Christianity and even adhering to its practices makes no one a Christian. A Christian has a ‘relationship’ – not a ‘religion’. A Christian enjoys a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian has experienced God’s grace and has embraced His love. The Apostle John wrote: “We love Him because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19
Effects of Abuse
I would never advise anyone to stay in this type of relationship for the sake of the children or for any other damaging reason. Depression has plagued all in our family of nine. Such abuse has far reaching effects. I lost one of my brothers to suicide. As for me, I have my daily struggles. Even as a Christian, for many years I dealt with the severe trauma of domestic violence by burying myself in work – a ‘workaholic’.
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul had a distressing personal problem in his life but the Lord assured him by telling him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2Corinthians 12:9
Another Turning Point
I lived to work until 2001. I was invited to assist in some Christian mission work with SeedSowers in El Salvador. This was a major milestone in my life. It was life changing for me to see others happily serving the Lord by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and seeing people living in extreme poverty and yet being happy in the joy of their Christian faith in Christ. I had dealings with God on this mission trip. I realized that despite the brokenness of my father’s life due to sin and the horrific impact it had on our lives – that despite all this, I realized how greatly God had spiritually blessed me.
In our rural home in America our father sadly left many scars on our lives. Before going to the Cross, Jesus pointed his fearful and troubled disciples to another home – a spiritual and eternal home. He said to them: “Let not your hearts be troubled….” and then in words that spoke of warmth, protection, assurance, happiness and a bright future, He told them about His Father’s house: “In My Father’s house…” John 14:1-2. What a contrast to many homes on earth! Does it sound appealing to you?
Refocusing on Christ and Eternity
God used my experiences in El Salvador to refocus my life as a Christian and to see the eternal value of living each day for Christ rather than living merely to work. By God’s grace and with His strength I now find far greater fulfillment in spiritual activities in our local church assembly than anything I could ever do for mere money. Although I may not have the ability of others in spiritual service, my heart’s greatest desire is to praise the One who died for me. I am enjoying being in the family of God and I am looking forward to my Heavenly and Eternal Home. That’s what motivates me.
I have so much to thank the Lord for. Yes, there have been more days than not, when I have asked the Lord ‘why?’ – but His faithfulness has brought me through. God’s grace is sufficient for each day. Yes, I wish I had done better in school. Had I been a better student then, perhaps I could be a better student of the Bible now and be able to share its liberating and heart-warming truths more effectively.
In a world that’s so broken and inhabited by 7 billion broken people, how beautiful it is to turn to God’s Word and experience the healing of many wounds and to learn of a very bright and unbroken future for those who know Christ personally as their Saviour.
The Bible refers to the wounds of sin and how we personally can be healed. Referring to the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross for our sins, we read: “But He [Jesus] was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
My Personal Advice
If you are facing these issues in life, go to someone you trust and pour your heart out. As a child, as a teen and as a young adult I never did this. I didn’t seek out someone to talk to who could help me in my pain and sad distress or who could intervene on my behalf.
You need to know that awful things happen on this planet because the human race has strayed and rebelled against God our Creator. God isn’t the source nor is He the cause of our misery or tears. Sin in the human family is the culprit. People and things are broken. That’s plain to see.
You Are of Great Value to God
Romans Chapter 5 in the Bible says that despite our disobedience and rebellion against our Creator, God loves every one of us. The big story of the Bible is one of a redemption that rescues lost souls and lifts them out of their darkness.
There was a time when I felt I was worthless and of no value. But it thrills my heart to know the value God placed upon me. You are not worthless in God’s eyes – in fact, no one can calculate the value He places on you as an individual. He values you so much that He sent His Son Jesus into this world on a mission of love that was fully expressed on the Cross when Jesus died.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
My Heavenly Father
Although I do not have an earthly father who cares for me, encourages me, instructs or guides me, I do have a heavenly Father who meets my every need. What about you?
Can you turn to the Bible for comfort? Isaiah 49:15-16 the Lord tells His people: “They may forget, yet I will not forget thee; I have graven thee on the palms of My hands.”
Gary and Mary Dempster have three children and seven grandchildren. They live and farm in the Midwest of USA and are active members of a local assembly [church] of Christians.
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