Spare the Rod . . . please!

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother (Proverbs 29:15).

frustration: an act or instance of causing somebody or something to be dissatisfied or unfulfilled

home: a place where a person or animal can find refuge and safety or live in security


It’s 4:21 a.m. I have been awake since 3:30 after going to bed with a book and some gentle, soothing “spa” music in the background meant to rock me to sleep. I chose this instead of some silly high energy sitcom because I’d had quite a frustrating evening and my spirit needed stillness. Thanks to Pandora and May Sarton for the 10:00 sleeptime, much earlier than usual.

Last night a friend invited me out to dinner, which meant a nice change from the roast turkey and curly kale I have been eating for several days and will continue enjoying for a few more! Ginger Kitty’s sharing the turkey, but wisely avoids the kale. What should have been a great meal, though, turned into a great disappointment, with all but the good company quite frustrating. After sending my meal back twice, I finally refused it the third time it was brought to the table, telling the oh-so-young manager, “I’ll eat at home instead.” What I really wanted was to stand up and yell to everyone, “How is it possible to so completely screw up broccoli, red potatoes and steak???”

Endeavoring to eat “right” (at home or away) gets tiresome when what I really want is good ole, as we say in the south, “Amurikin” food: pizza, spaghetti, ice cream and pie, piled-high sandwiches, their innards spilling out of  tasty, unhealthy bread with chips on the side and either homemade or Mount Olive brand Bread and Butter pickles. No, dear Yanks, dill is not the only pickle. And yes, I want what I want when I want it! I still harbor that distinctly Amurikin attitude.

It’s more difficult to be “good” with food when the stress meter rises and I’m faced with either staring down my rebellion or giving in to it. A month of trying (unsuccessfully, so far) to rid the house of ants (dang, one just sped across this journal page as I sit writing in bed: he died before he bit me), along with a week’s worth of client cancellations a few days before the mortgage is due, plus hours and hours of research on water heaters (I need to replace my quarter-century old one) has a way of amping up anxiety. Though I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well I’m doing in the midst of it all, even with a week-old cold and cough, I found out last night just how strong the cumulative effect can be. Oh, I was polite enough to the young manager at Applebee’s, where, by the way, far too loud music competes with at least eight huge TV screens in a place where only the employees are young enough to enjoy that sort of thing. Yes, I was polite, but my nerves were frayed by the time I’d turned down my own dinner for the third time. I contented myself with enjoying, instead, my kind dinner companion (she’d experienced a rather hellacious day herself) as she enjoyed a yummy-looking pasta and chicken dish.

Given the month I’ve had, I have been thinking with genuine curiosity about what life must be like for folks who have “money in the bank” or enough resources to simply add another monthly payment, and so can just call the exterminator at the first sign of trouble, or simply go into a store and buy a water heater, have it installed that day and just be done with it. They don’t necessarily have to think about how many years it needs to last; they may think about it, but not because they must. For those of us who live in the unknown much of the time, knowing how (or if) one’s daily needs, not to mention long-term ones, will be met is a yearned for luxury.

All of us live, though, in a world where there is enough for everyone’s need, though that is so only if the greed factor is removed, which it isn’t likely to be in our lifetimes. Far too many of our human family are not able to take for granted that daily needs will be met without a great deal of effort, if at all. In my own life, I work every day with my practice of trusting that my needs will be met in a timely way. And in many ways they are, even if not always as I would prefer. And way too many hours go into making it all happen. Even when I’m not working-working, I’m working. True rest, once a natural part of my life, just isn’t any longer because that “old man river” called Worry doesn’t really yield to Rest.

Moments of respite come, though, which I’m appreciative of, and I’m grateful for many, many things. I write this not complaining, but simply educating. I know how good I’ve got it compared to so many of my brothers and sisters. I daily rely on trust and faith – in myself and in Life, and in the great goodness of people. In fact, the new water heater will become a reality because of the latter. And I just picked up new eyeglass lenses early yesterday morning, a gift from Knightdale Eye Care Center’s “Give Back Day” for the uninsured. I am one of 153 grateful recipients, and I was thrilled to share my gratitude publicly by providing a requested quote about the experience for Eastern Wake News.  Funny how the frustration of needing new glasses for four years turned into a no-cost gift from a loving and generous optometrist I didn’t know. Frustration is about thwarted possibilities; one knows the need can be met, but not how to meet it. My discipline? Practice, then practice some more; trust, then trust some more; envision, then envision some more.

Underneath all the “stuff” of daily living, which is pretty substantial for everyone these days, what is it that we really need? Well, in “The World According to Amy” we need to feel loved and valued. The evening took a turn for the worse when I heard a true story that hurt me to the marrow. It wouldn’t have mattered when I heard it; I would still have felt devastated by it. But coming on the heels of the month’s frustrations, the fly in the ointment of dinner (that got me itching for a fight), my food rebellions, and at a time of somewhat depleted internal reserves, I was hit really hard by what I heard. Before I share the story, though, I want to share my views about children . . .

I see children as pure sparks of the Great One, exhibiting the delightful exuberance of their True Self right from the beginning. “Enthusiasm” is their middle name, at least until adults (because of their own unresolved distresses) force that boundlessly energetic joy to go underground. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek; “en theos” literally means in God, possessed by God. Children are meant to have a safe place with healthy boundaries set by loving parents in which to grow, learn, and develop all facets of their self expression. Home needs to be that safe place. They are meant to thrive there, to come up against the world, rebel at certain times and have the sanctuary called Home to come back to. And everyone knows that children can most certainly be a frustration to their parents.

Folks, I found out last night how very alive and well “spare the rod and spoil the child” is in quasi-enlightened society. I guess I knew it already, but knowing now about a specific woman who has made a deliberate and willful choice to manage her children’s behavior in this way has stunned me. She’s part of a Bible study group with a few other women, all of whom have multiple children. They come together to focus and support each other in the “discipline” (read, beat into submission for the sake of destroying a child’s will according to Old Testament teachings) – in the discipline of these Beautiful, willful, needing-to-individuate, frustrating Sparks. Just so you know, research shows that this sort of discipline doesn’t “work” anyway; it just creates anxiety, a sense of worthlessness, anger… the list goes on. (By the way, after the discipline, the anger response, along with crying past a certain point, is to be dealt with immediately by more discipline.)

In the modern-day instruction, written about by many Christian fundamentalists, including Fugate, Dobson, and LaHay, you don’t hit children with your hand, for the hand should not be associated with the administration of the punishment. (“I don’t know how that paddle and belt and wooden spoon got to my child’s behind, officer.”) And according to N.C. law, it’s not child abuse if a mark or bruise is not visible the day after. Duh, like who would know, since the posterior is the only fully sanctioned place of the body to administer the “rectifying” discipline? In fact, Dobson, a psychologist, and author LaHay actually believe that God designed the posterior in such a way to be ideal for spanking.*

According to the teaching, after you’ve abused spanked your beautiful, made in the image and likeness of God child, you then have the child pray for forgiveness, then you pray that God will make your child better and you also ask Him to forgive the child.  Again, because it bears repeating, the purpose of this abuse is to break your child’s will (read, sense of Self, as made in the image of…) so that he will know who wears the pants in the Family of God. That would be the Big Daddy Himself, God the Father. Always ready to punish and then, if properly asked, forgive.

Bull_ _ _ t.

When I learned of this last night, I felt sick and wanted to vomit, but all I could do was cry, and so I sat here weeping with the knowledge of what these little children have been going through for the past week. (And for how long to come, I wonder.) Eventually, I was able to weep for the mother, who is apparently relieved on the one hand to have something to count on to help control her children’s willful behavior, yet on the other hand admits that it doesn’t feel quite right. And therein lies the glimmer of an unthwarted, yet distant possibility, which is that she will re-choose. Not likely, but possible. If she does, she’d likely have to leave the church for turning away from all that she’s been taught.

Giving away one’s personal power so as to no longer live from our God-given, intrinsic knowing always leads to trouble, for eventually, hopefully, a moment comes when the Spirit buried within us reaches up to reclaim itself and its power, which is, ironically, its connection to God, which, ironically, goes against the ruling paradigm. And there’s the rub, isn’t it? You/We can’t win for losing if – IF God is a punishing God, kindly disposed to one this day, to another the next. It takes a great deal of work to hold to that painful trap when our heart longs for the opposite.

All I could think last night was “I hate this world.” The visceral response I felt to vomit was my system’s urge to purge such wretched reality from my personal energy. It had gotten in too far. I began to “pray transmutation” by transmuting my empathic response into healing love and joy that was then sent to the children and their parents.

For me, living here and loving life as I do, loving the beauty around me every day and taking delight in nature, animals, children, insects (except ants at the moment), the kindnesses of people to each other (no, I am not a Pollyanna) . . .  well, the juxtaposition of this story against the world I love was just too much. Plus, I have a dear, dear friend who suffered for many years the exact treatment these children are now receiving, and so I wept, too, for my friend – and for that child’s mother, whose well thought out justifications for attempting to kill the spirit of this child brought exceeding pain that is still alive today.

Once the transmutation occurred and my system was out of its shock state, as is usual for me song lyrics rose to the top. I heard the pivotal line from Don McLean’sVincent, “and I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you,” followed by Mary Chapin Carpenter’s, “I can’t tell what time it is from this world’s busted clock; I’m a stranger here, no one you would know; I’m from somewhere else. Well, isn’t everybody, though.” Yes, we’re from someplace else. We were born from the heart of the Great One to be borne in on the tide of Love, but not love as the world knows it. Not as misinformed parents know it. And not as any one religion can know it. In the words of The Little Prince, “It is only with the Heart that one can see rightly.”

My great thanks to the un-named photographer whose photo was shared on Facebook

More and more I know that I’m meant to be here, be here for now at least; and more and more I long for Home, whatever that is . . .  Home: a place where we co-exist and co-create in peace. In peace with each other, in peace with whatever God is, not what God isn’t, and in peace with ants who prefer to live outside where they are meant to reside. One thing I know, Home (unlike home) is the welcoming place of all creatures great and small. It is where grown-ups know right from wrong because their minds and hearts are no longer burdened by distortions of Love, and is where they have access to the Upper Room, out of which emerges their own enthusiasm and creative ways of bringing up their children in a world that, as poet David Whyte says, “was made to be free in.”

Namaste (The Light in me greets the Light in thee)

Note: This essay was begun at 4:21 on the morning of September 29. At the moment of completion, it is 1:56 a.m. on September 30. I’ve been up all this time and, at the moment, am not feeling tired, just hungry! I guess I’ll have a bit of turkey. I’ll leave the kale for the light of day. No one should eat kale at two o’clock in the morning!

© Amy Pierce and In Spiritual Wonder, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Pierce and In Spiritual Wonder with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


One thought on “Spare the Rod . . . please!

  1. Alleluia for your way of seeing Life, Amy. Though I attended one of the most rigid Bible-based colleges in the country, Liberty University, one of my professors there who could read the scripture in Greek, Hebrew and Latin taught us that when it says “spare the rod and spoil the child” that it in no way was talking about assaulting another human being, especially not a defenseless child. The scripture was referring to the rod of instruction, actually taking the time to teach a child how to do things in a loving manner. He angrily spoke of the ignorance and wickedness of Christians who taught such violence.

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