When I was about twelve years old my dorm mother in boarding school offended me. I hardly remember what the problem was. I think she asked me to do something I did not want to do. I remember going into the closet and locking myself in. I was crying uncontrollably. She came to try to coax me out of the closet to try to calm me down, but this only made me madder. I started screaming at the top of my lungs. Everything in me wanted to rebel, to scream, to hurt anyone who got close — because I was hurt. I was going to show “them” that I would not give in. The more they coaxed me the madder I got.
I screamed for a long time. Then I heard them talking quietly in the next room, “What could possibly be wrong with Debbie? She has always been such a good girl.” They were perplexed and totally unable to understand why I would be screaming at everyone who came close to the closet. After I felt that I had won the battle, I reluctantly came out. But this scene was repeated several times during my teen years.
What had happened? I had always been such a nice little girl. I was the quiet, sweet one, the one who never caused problems when I was little. I was my daddy’s favorite child, who would cuddle in his lap and suck my fingers.
I was the child of Christian missionaries, serving God in India. My parents wanted to provide the best for their children, to teach them to believe in God and have good morals, to make them happy. I believe they were following the only light they had, to do the good that they knew to do.
They were so busy serving God that they did not have time to educate their four children at home. Since there were few English-speaking schools in India, they sent us to a boarding school at six years of age, as all the other missionaries did. It’s where we all went for an English education in India. There a dorm mother cared for all of us girls during that year of schooling.
There were very few years that I actually lived with my parents for more than a few months of the year. I learned to cope with boarding school, and I didn’t even cry when I was sent to school each year after the holidays. I wasn’t going to be weak like the other children who would cry when their parents left them.
We had good times, and I was a good student, the best in my class. My good grades pleased my parents, as they were very busy doing God’s work, giving the best they knew to God. My mother was a faithful letter writer, writing us once a week during all those years. On holidays they would do everything in their power to give us happy times.
I had what could be considered a very good childhood in many ways. I never lacked what I needed and we had many wonderful opportunities for travel and sightseeing around the globe. I am sure that my parents loved me, in the emotional sense, but I don’t ever remember being disciplined by my parents. Nor do I remember more than one or two things that they taught me about real life, about relationships. I hardly knew anything about my parents in a personal way, and I could not trust them enough to communicate with them what was going on inside me.
Deep inside, I actually felt as if my parents hated me, although I would not want to hurt them now by saying this. A child knows that he is loved when someone cares enough to correct him, and values him enough to be near him.
You could say that I was sacrificed on the altar of an excellent education.
Inside I was very afraid of people. I did not know how to be friends with the other children. I found people very hard to understand. They were selfish, they lied, they would hurt me, so it was much easier to be alone. I went more and more inward the older I got. I would hardly ever talk, either at home or in social situations. It was easier to be timid, look sweet, and not get into conflicts. I was very self-centered.
My teenage years continued in the same vein — more refined, but the outward silence only grew. My unchecked inner rebellion and worthless feelings left me hating people, feeling very lonely, and sincerely wondering whether God even existed. Many days, I cried on my way to school, or on my way back to the dormitory, or alone in my bed at night. I found comfort taking walks alone on the hillsides, gathering flowers, but always alone.
Children’s view of God is formed by their view of their father, and my father was absent. I did not see Him in those who claimed to believe in Him. At the Christian college I went to, I also did not find God, but only a lot of selfish people looking out for their own interests. God has been sorely misrepresented on this earth by the many different forms of Christianity that exist, for they all leave room for self.
I am sure that this story of the screaming child could be retold thousands of times, in different variations, by those who had little or no parental input as they were growing up. You can read many articles about the trauma of boarding schools. And how many orphans are there in the world, who don’t even have parents back home to take their identity from? How many children have only one parent, or even if they have parents, are alienated from them because of a lack of discipline, or because of abuse? They can never open up their hearts with their parents to learn from them.
Can you imagine what happens within a child when he is left to himself, with everything that goes on inside his mind? Not all human beings will be evil in the really bad sense if they can listen to the innate guide that the Creator has put in our conscience, but a child left to himself becomes a slave of his own selfishness. He is never accustomed to having his will crossed. He is the center of his universe, and when someone does cross his will, it threatens his very existence.
Worthless thoughts, or proud thoughts, run rampant inside a child, and without the loving hand of authority (and the rod of discipline) to deliver him, his soul will go haywire. All the behavioral patterns of life are established during the formative childhood years, so it is a cruel thing for parents to not help a child learn to control his anger and his desires. If the parents do not train their child, then someone else will. But the good news is that the loving rod of discipline from parents whose hearts are turned to their children has the capacity to deliver them from their own worthless thoughts, pride, and selfish tendencies.
During the years of youth we all have a need to express what is inside of us, and to have someone help us discern what is happening inside us. We don’t know who we are; we don’t really know how to think about things, unless there is someone to help us choose the path we will take. We might think we know, but actually there are many things and people influencing us all the time. Who will we respect? Who will we follow? Who will we trust?
Parents have such an opportunity to help their children make right choices, because they have probably learned many things through making wrong choices. But somehow just saying, “Come on now, sweetie-pie, don’t do that,” doesn’t change a child’s nature. All through history fathers have known to teach and to chastise their sons; and mother’s their daughters, but what has happened in our day?
The insecurity, pain, loneliness, anger, and inability to communicate had been so traumatic to me that I never wanted to have children. Why put children onto Planet Earth only to experience pain and loneliness? I know now that many people have suffered immeasurably worse things than I did, but I was determined that if I ever did become a parent, I would never send my children away from me to be educated. A parent’s responsibility is to parent, not just to beget, but to bring up and care for their children.
My parents sacrificed raising us themselves so that they could do “God’s work,” but this did not represent our heavenly Father. Those who truly have God’s heart will turn their hearts to their children. The very last verse in the Old Testament tells us that the Spirit of God will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.1
Although I had absent parents, the God that I could hardly believe in had mercy on me and gave me a caring husband, and brought my husband and me to a place where we could see the marvelous light of His life being lived on Planet Earth. I saw people living out the reality of what I had been taught as a child, but had never seen done. The words of the Bible, which before were just dead words to me, started coming alive and making sense, as I saw them turn into a reality before my eyes. A light was dawning in my heart. Most of all, I saw people loving one another, and I began receiving that love. What I was seeing and experiencing was bearing witness in me that it was truth.
Is not this the true work of God? A people loving one another enough to share all that they have, no rich or poor,2living together as a family, eating from the same kitchen, the strong helping the weak, the orphans being cared for.3 This is how God makes a home for the lonely.4 It is real.
After several years of healing in my soul and in my relationship with my husband, hope began to return to me that human beings had a purpose on Planet Earth, and that I had a purpose to offer to a future generation. My husband and I found hope to have children which we could raise with a purpose. The “formula” to raise them was found in the Word of God. “Husbands love your wives, and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband. Children, obey your parents, and you, fathers… bring them up in the training and admonition of the Sovereign.”5
Most of all, we were not alone in this most perplexing task of raising children, but we were surrounded by many friends who could support and help us, who were allied together in the same cause. We could educate them in that safe environment of a united front, close to us, and not have to send them away. We could obey the Word of God6 and deliver their souls from not just temporary human suffering, but they could be set on the path to life.
One day we will all, small and great, stand before the Judge to give account for what we have done with our life.7
My husband and I now have six wonderful children. As our children have come into adulthood, we have had the privilege of seeing the older ones marry, honoring us publicly at their weddings for the training that they received from us, including their discipline. Four are married and three have their own children, who are united in this same cause with us, and who bring honor to us. We were in no way perfect parents, but we had the freedom and conviction to raise children to know that there is a God who cares and is intimately involved with the human race, and with them personally.
What will happen to Planet Earth if this freedom is taken away?
One thing I can tell you for sure, the world will be full of screaming children in closets, wondering whether God exists, and whether anybody cares. Can you doubt the answers they will come to? And how they will behave when they are big enough to cause real trouble?