From rage to joy, hatred to love.
by Kay Cherry* as told to Muriel Larson
Raging with anger, I struck fiercely at my small daughter. She cringed in terror from the blows. Suddenly, I stopped and looked in horror at my tightly curled fist, then buried my face in my hands and wept.
I’m turning into a child beater! I thought. I knew I needed a psychiatrist, but what would people think? And how could we afford one?
I had realized for a long time that I suffered from emotional problems. As a result, I had pored over books and magazines on psychology, looking for answers. I had come to understand myself a little better but knew I still had serious problems.
I hated myself. Always had. The product of an insecure, miserable childhood, I was plagued by an inferiority complex, depression, loneliness, guilt, uncertainty, a sense of failure, and distrust of other people. I had lived with these problems for years. Small wonder that I quickly ran out of patience when I had to cope with three active, young children.
After we moved from Indiana to South Carolina, the kids seemed to be sick constantly. And I felt lonely in the strange environment, far from friends and family. My husband, Art, was worried about his new job and money matters. Because he was tense and tired when he came home at night, we often quarreled.
Art was a wonderful husband. When I first met him, I couldn’t understand why he loved me, since I hated myself so much. Why was I now beating his precious children in wild anger?
Cry for help
Despite my feelings of guilt and self-hatred, I thought of myself as a basically good person — certainly not a sinner. I sent our children to Sunday school. I believed in God, but I never thought of seeking Him for an answer to my problems.
Then one day all the children were crying, and I felt I couldn’t take any more. I looked through the window and screamed into the sky, “Lord, what’s wrong with me?”
Memories and tears
Immediately, past experiences flashed through my mind — painful memories of my mother abusing me. Someone seemed to say, “Here is what is wrong. You need to forget these things. Forgive yourself, and live your life now.”
I cried for a long time. My tears seemed to wash away some of the bitterness in my heart. For a while things went better, but soon the problems crept back.
Seeing the self
After moving to South Carolina, we attended several churches but didn’t care for any of the adult Bible classes. Then one week when I took the children to Sunday school, I decided to visit the young women’s class.
Those women had something — a warmth and friendliness. I enjoyed the class so much, I stayed for the worship service. The vocalist who sang that day told the congregation, “Although I’ve been religious all my life, I’ve only recently found Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.” I was impressed by her joy and enthusiasm when she told of her changed life.
The following week I went back. I had heard the good news about Christ’s death for my sins before, but that day it seemed as if I were hearing it for the first time. I began to realize I was a lost sinner. That was perhaps my biggest problem!
Joy of Jesus
The Bible class teacher visited me one afternoon. She brought me several books and pamphlets to read and invited me to a Tuesday morning Bible study. Although I was afraid it would be boring, I decided to go.
To my surprise, the women were joking and laughing when I got there. Christians having fun? I marveled. The joy of Jesus bubbled over in their good humor and warm friendliness.
But it wasn’t all fun and games at the Bible class. Through studying this Book, I learned what God planned for me:
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . .” (Acts 16:31).
Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
Jesus loves me! I thought. How can I hate myself if He loved me so much that He died for my sins?
As I got to know the women in the Bible class, I realized they weren’t putting on a front. They were really happy, living for Jesus. For the first time, I desired to be a real Christian.
One Tuesday I went home after Bible class and thought about all the things I had learned. Standing at the kitchen sink, I closed my eyes and prayed, “Jesus, I’m weak. I know I can’t live this life myself. Please come into my life, and I’ll live for You!”
No bolt struck me. I felt no great sensation. I simply took by faith what the Bible says: ‘”Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
That evening when Art came home, he received a pleasant surprise. He was not greeted by the usual discordant din of the children’s cries and my angry shouting. Instead, he found me singing happily as I finished preparing dinner and the children played contentedly. I greeted him with a kiss.
“What in the world happened to you?” he asked.
“I’m happy!” I answered.
Later that night as we sat together on the couch, I told Art, “I asked Christ to come into my life today, and He’s changed my heart. He’s given me joy!”
Art shook his head in disbelief. “How can that be?” he asked. But as days went by and I didn’t revert to my former ways, he came to realize that something unusual had happened to me. Whenever he commented on my changed ways, my greater love for him and the children, or my new patience, I would tell him, “Jesus makes the difference.”
I prayed fervently that Art would accept Christ as his Savior. I asked my friends to pray, too. Late one Tuesday night, about three months after my own conversion, Art asked Christ to come into his life.
Now we have a truly Christian home. Yes, there are trying days, but God supplies me with patience. He healed the wounds of the past, and my feelings of guilt were washed away by faith in Christ’s death on the cross. At last I have the sense of security and forgiveness I’ve always needed. And the hands I once used to beat my children now reach out to them in love.
*Name has been changed.