My father was a teacher.
He first wanted to be a pastor, a revelation that was quite surprising, considering neither of my parents attended church and only spoke of God when they wanted to restrict my behavior or forbid me from participating in some activity. Everything fun was a sin. So, at best, I learned of a rejecting and small-minded God.
Drinking was a sin. Getting drunk was a dire and unforgivable sin. Cursing was a sin. Disobeying my parents was a sin. Selfishness was a sin if I was guilty, but oddly enough, it wasn’t a sin when my parents were guilty. Lying, particularly to my parents, was a sin. As was dancing, skating, smoking, going to movies, hanging out with friends. Wanting cool clothes and caring about how one looked was also a sin…vanity. Sin was not permitted. It was very, very bad. God hated sinners. He sent them to hell. He only accepted the perfectly obedient.
Sex before marriage would send you to hell. But somehow adultery never made the list, perhaps because it was my father’s specialty. That and a few other sexual sins.
Considering these shaming conversations were the only ones “about” God that were heard in my house as I was growing up, the thought of my earthly father leading a church service was incongruous, to say the least. Thankfully, the pastor gig didn’t pan out. And when it fell apart, he moved toward what he considered to be the next best option. He became a teacher. Of 7th and 8th grade English. And when he received his Master’s degree, he added Reading Specialist to his title.
This “next best” option still gave him power and access to fairly young children.
He was a Sergeant in the Air Force and for the rest of his life, everyone who knew him called him “Sarge.” He earned the nickname. Wore it with pride. My father was a man who demanded absolute obedience. Like God.
Though I am unsure of my age when he first started sexually abusing me (childhood trauma can play havoc with memory…and the soul), by the time I entered elementary school, I was already showing signs of long term abuse. Torturing my dolls. Sexual awareness far beyond what was normal for a 6-year-old. Fear of adults. Withdrawal. I carried secrets no little girl should ever have to carry.
My father the teacher taught me many things.
He taught me to fear. To disregard my own intuition and perceptions. To hate myself. To despair. To distrust. To expect the bad. For you could always depend on terrible things happening.
He taught me to disassociate. To hurt. Feel agony beyond what I could bear. To hold in my tears, even as they ripped me into pieces. To numb my emotions. To live in a vacuum void of any life-giving elements.
And he taught me about sex. He told me he was doing it for my own good. To help me.
My father the teacher was very, very helpful. When he wanted something from me.
My greatest fear is that he also taught other little girls. And if I had found my voice when he was alive, I might have been able to prevent him from taking on other “students.”
I pray I am wrong. I pray I was the only one. But the odds are against my prayer being answered. I wonder often if the day will come when I encounter another child he personally tutored the way he groomed and tutored me.
He was such a “good” teacher, the lessons he taught me have been difficult to unlearn. The numbness persists. As does fear and despair. My memory is full of black holes and brief flashes. I cannot put the few memories I do have into any kind of order. They pop into my head and play behind my eyes randomly, then fade away just as quickly. I struggle to believe I have value unless I prove myself to be useful again and again. I must earn the right to live and breathe, unsure I am even a person. I see my Heavenly Father through the same lens as I view my earthly father. I fear Him as I feared him. I don’t know how to trust Him, just as I knew I could not trust him. I feel His rejection and displeasure just as I felt his rejection and displeasure. I feel used by Him much in the same way I felt used by him. My earthy father broke me, smashed me to pieces, shattered my soul. My Heavenly Father allowed it…and He has not bothered to put me back together.
Could be the healing I have sought hasn’t come because of the lessons my father taught me. Such a very “good” teacher. I can’t seem to change the way I see my Father and I think this hinders me in my pursuit of wholeness. Not only did my father shatter me with his lessons, he shattered my ability to trust the One who might be able to help me.
He stole my hope. Derailed my future. Defiled me.
The problem with being defiled is that I am the one who got dirty. He walked away unscathed. Unlabeled. He got away without enduring a single consequence.
What he taught me did not help me. It did not prepare me for life. Instead, it crippled me. His lessons have been something I must constantly struggle to overcome, not something I can build and stand upon.
But he taught me. Teacher, teacher. He taught me lasting lessons. Written indelibly on my heart. Infused into every cell. And I walk this dark and empty path he set before me though I have tried desperately to leave it behind. I walk this torturous, desolate, poisoned path every single moment of each and every day.
I have been perfectly obedient.