I sat across from the pastor at a local restaurant. The table between us was laid with a red cloth and salt and pepper shakers sat one on each side of the tin napkin holder in the middle of the table. We could hear the bustle from the kitchen and he asked the usual questions one would ask a thirteen year old, school and friends. And then home. I stared at my barely-eaten french fries, their smell churning my stomach. Tears formed and a lump in my throat prevented me from speaking.
“I hate him,” the quiet words penetrated the lump. I hesitated, “And the Bible says hating someone is murder,” I said quickly, in almost a whisper. I could not look at him. My cheeks were now saturated and I could taste the salt of my tears.
His eyes widened slightly, he shifted in his seat, cleared his throat about to speak, then closed his mouth. He took a deep breath and stammered something about Jesus and love and everything was going to be okay. His words briefly whriled around my head and dropped to the floor.
The moments felt like forever, and nothing he said made sense. The facts were the facts. I hated, and God isn’t ok with hate, and that meant He couldn’t love me.
I left the half-eaten french fries on the table and he took me home. I thanked him and returned to my personal hell.
Dear thirteen-year-old self,
I’m sorry. .
I’m so, so sorry for the hell you lived through.
I’m sorry that your home was a war zone and the enemy slept across the hall and ate at the dinner table.
I’m sorry that you couldn’t fight, you could only witness.
I’m sorry that you thought you were bad, and wrong, and evil, and sinning so gravely you were not only beyond saving, you were beyond loving.
Let me tell you what you don’t understand. That hate…. That hate you’re feeling…. The anger that burns inside you…. That’s how you’re supposed to feel and it’s okay, you’re not bad.
And God, not only does He desperately love you, He’s just as mad as you are, maybe more.
He’s not going to punish you, or throw you away, or disown you. He’s right there beside you.
Do you remember the story where Jesus makes a whip and clears the temple? Now He was mad! Do you know why He was mad? He was mad because the people with power, the people who were supposed to be taking care of vulnerable, the fragile, the tender ones, were instead hurting them.
Your “MAD” is the whip Jesus made for you. The whip needed to clear the “temple” of your heart. You are precious, your heart so tender. And that man you are living with, in the role of father, is hurting you instead of protecting you. I know all you wanted was a dad. And instead you got a monster, a monster who hurts your mom over and over again. And he’s hurt you too hasn’t he? When you tried to stop him.
So you keep being mad. Be mad and sad and scared, and “hate” if you have to. It’s what you’re supposed to do and it’s the right thing to do.
The only way to clear the temple of your heart is to grieve and all those feelings are part of grieving.
But nobody died you say.
No, nobody died physically.
What died is your dream of having an everyday-dad who loves you.
What died is your Mom being able to take care of you.
What died is your sense of safety.
What died is the little girl you used to be because she had to grow up, see and know and endure things that nobody should, and she has to take care of and protect others when she doesn’t know how.
And be mad.
Use the whip Jesus made for you.
It’s okay and you’re allowed, and it’s what a Jesus wants you to do.