My Mom and Dad split up when I was young, so I don’t have many memories of doing things with my Dad when I was growing up. One thing I do remember is this. Back in the spring of 1965, I was six years old and just finishing first grade. We had moved to Northern Virginia at Christmas and I was still getting used to the area. One thing that was different was that I had to ride a bus to and from school. Before the move I had walked to school. This was a long time ago and I was young, so a lot of the details are fuzzy, but apparently I wanted to walk home from school. I’d been paying attention on the bus ride, so I knew the route.
Then I got my chance. One day my teacher was sick and we had a substitute who didn’t know who was a walker and who was not. So, when the office secretary came on the intercom to announce that the walkers could leave, I left. It was a bit over 2 miles from the school to my house (2.19 according to MapQuest) along some fairly busy roads with no sidewalks. I was young. It never occurred to me that it would take me longer to walk home than it did to ride the bus.
When I didn’t get off the bus, my parents were understandably upset. I’m not sure what they did, but they found me as I was climbing the hill to our house. I’m not sure what happened when I first got home, but I do remember ending up in a bedroom with my Dad, scared and expecting to be spanked.
But I wasn’t spanked. I remember my Dad took off his belt, folded it in half, and then he held the ends together in one hand and the midpoint in the other hand. When he pushed his hands together and then snapped them apart, his belt made a slapping sound. He did that a couple of times. I think he asked me to scream when he did it.
I don’t remember what he said to me that afternoon, but I never tried something like that again.
Did my Dad have a reason to punish me? Yes. This wasn’t my first transgression involving getting home from school (I’d been caught taking a forbidden shortcut before we moved). You could even say that he had an obligation to punish me. I’m sure some who read this might fault him for sparing the rod and spoiling me. I will say this, though. What he did worked. I never did that again and I knew that I was loved. And, ultimately, I think I turned out ok.
So, what is it that I don’t understand? In an earlier post, I said that I had been raised Roman Catholic, but ended up agnostic. There were simply too many things that Catholics believe that I did not for me to call myself a Catholic. Eventually, I realized that I had the same problem with Christianity in general. There are some aspects of Christianity that I just do not understand.
Recently, I’ve been talking about God and religion with a friend. I even attended the Christmas Eve service at her church. I ended up having a really good night’s sleep that night and a very peaceful Christmas Day. By peaceful I don’t mean quiet – I’m often home alone, so it’s often peaceful that way here. I’m talking an emotional peace of a kind that I’ve rarely experienced since Jonathan’s loss.
And that has me once again reexamining my beliefs. Ok, so what’s that got to do with my Dad not hitting me when I was a kid? Well, one of the things that I don’t understand is the very basis of Christianity: the notion that Jesus died to atone for humanity’s sins, so that those sins might be forgiven.
As I understand it, it goes something like this: God made The Rules, declaring that certain acts are sins and a whole bunch of other acts are not sins (another thing I don’t understand is why an omnipotent God couldn’t make creatures capable of following The Rules, but I digress). If you sin and do not atone for that sin, when you die you will die forever or go to hell forever or some other such nasty fate. To prevent that from happening, God in His mercy sent Jesus to die for all humans, so that we wouldn’t have to die to for our sins. All we have to do is accept Jesus as our savior and ask forgiveness.
But why did anyone have to die?
I mean, He’s God, right? He made The Rules. If He wants to forgive a human’s sins, can’t he just do that without the bloodshed? Can’t He just say, “If you accept Me as God in your heart and ask Me for forgiveness, then I’ll forgive you.”
My Dad figured out that he didn’t have to hurt me to keep me from “sinning.” You’d think a God could do that, too.