Thursday, July 17, 2014

GOD IS NOT GOOD



God is NOT good!

My name is Mark Phelps and I grew up a ‘PK’ - preacher’s kid!  My father was a preacher by the name of Fred Phelps.  He was preacher at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  Maybe you have heard of him.

I remember when I was a very young boy, listening to my father one Sunday morning speak about a man named Billy Graham.  At that time I was not sure who Billy Graham was but I knew he must be a bad man. 

My father said Billy Graham was telling lies about God; that Billy Graham had said ‘God is good’. 

On this particular Sunday I remember . . . during my father’s preaching he laughed about this, and made fun of Billy Graham, and mocked Billy Graham.  He said that God was not good and that God was going to punish Billy Graham for telling lies about Him.  My father told the church that God hates most everybody, and to say that God is good is a lie!

As it happened, during the week just prior to this particular Sunday, my father got angry with my mother.  He was yelling at her; loud and mean, using filthy curse words, and he was throwing furniture, and knocking furniture over, and crashing mayonnaise jars, and mustard jars, and glass plates with left-overs from the refrigerator, all over the floor and walls.  And he was hitting the walls with his fist. And he was hitting my mother. He threw her down the stairs, and as she was falling, she reached for something to catch herself and pulled her right arm out of the socket. She suffered for years from the effects of that fall.

And we were alone again. Each of us, my brothers and sisters and me, hunkered in the dark; TERRIFIED; shaking, shivering, and wishing he would stop.

I guess on this particular Sunday I must have started believing my father.  I must have started believing him . . . when he said God hates most of humanity, and God is not good.

I am sure he must have told me God was not good and God hates most everybody at other times, before this Sunday.  But this was the Sunday I finally remembered what he said; and I believed him; probably because during the week before this particular Sunday, my father was so hateful and mean to my mother, and to me and to my brothers and sisters . . . again.  And I felt scared and alone, and I finally despaired! I think something happened in my soul the day I started believing my father.  And it happened because of the way little kid’s hearts are wired.  For some reason children tie their view of God in with their view of their parents, sad to say.  It occurs to me now that the day I believed God was not good was the day I realized my dad was not.

I’ve had similar feelings of despair many times in my life since that day. Scared! Hopeless!  My father beat us kids, and my mom, regularly, for years.  At least twice a month my father would rage and curse and often his raging would include the beating of one of us kids and/or the beating of our mother.  There were 13 children and there were none who escaped the abuse.

I left my family, and my father’s church, when I was 19 ½ years old, sneaking out late at night for fear of my father hearing me and beating me . . . and even worse . . . stopping me.

Forty years later my beliefs about God are incredibly different. 

I met a loving woman and we have been married for 38 years.  Her love for me and for God is what began to change my beliefs about God, and began to change my life.  My wife knew that God was good.  She has never questioned this.  And she loved me, and she made our lives as normal as possible.  Because of her love I began to experience goodness and kindness and gentleness and peace.

Though my wife’s love began to change me, it was not enough for me to reach wholeness and mental/emotional health. I had so much poison left in my soul from my father’s teachings and behavior. I was finally able to begin to attend a church again, by the time I was about 30 years old.  I met several men who believed God was good, and I started spending time with these men.  And I experienced more goodness and kindness and gentleness and peace, in my relationships with these men.

The relationships I had with the men in this church changed me more, but I was still wrestling in my soul, deep in my heart, about what was true about God.  You might imagine it is hard to change your beliefs about God when they are forged in the midst of violence and terror, before you have even learned to speak a language.

I was eventually able to start working with a professional counselor.  I had learned from the men at my new church that the goodness of the Lord was real and that He wanted a personal relationship with me.  I had begun to believe that, a little bit, so I put it to the test.  

When I started counseling, I told God that I was scared to death.  I also told God that I did not know which way was up or down.  I told God that I was going to need him to be with me, and not leave me, if I was going to do this work I had in mind, with these counselors.  The biggest part of my heart did not believe that God would be with me in the counseling process, but I decided to start the work anyway.  

As it turned out, I spent years working with professional counselors.  And God WAS with me.  He never left me.  I told Him I was terrified to face what was in my heart, and He never left me.  

With counselors, I faced the terror over and over, and it gradually became a more manageable fear.  With fear reduced, I was able to begin facing the brokenness; the sadness and deep grief I had in my heart.  And I cried and cried, for years.  And my heart began to slowly come alive.

Then one day I discovered the rage I had in my heart at all the injustice and wrong that had been perpetrated on me and my family by my father, and I finally allowed myself to experience this raging anger. Growing up with my father, his anger was the only anger expressed! Everyone else’s anger was buried far beneath the terror that was ever present.  As I faced the rage over and over, with professional help, the rage began to lessen, until it finally became more manageable.  

And then beneath the anger came more sorrow and sadness from all the losses; of a life never lived, of a father that never was, of a mother who was unavailable, and of brother/sister relationships that never were, and maybe never would be.

I also joined a group that met two or three nights a week, mostly women who had been horribly hurt.  Working with these women I learned more and more how to experience my feelings, and they helped me heal more past hurts, and I began to be a human being, who experienced real feelings.  And despair slowly left and hope slowly came . . . into my heart and into my life.

I forgot to tell you, my wife and I adopted two precious baby girls and they became the driving passion behind the healing work I did; these two girls, and my wife.  I wanted to be a great father and husband because I NEVER wanted to hurt these three precious souls.  So I decided to take responsibility for my own life, by facing the devastation that was deep within.  I had previously tried to keep my pain stuffed deep inside; I tried to deny the brokenness, and just ‘suck it up’, but I found this didn’t work.  I needed help. So I got help!

And the Lord was with me, and I no longer wrestle; well hardly ever wrestle; with whether God is good or not.  God IS good and He loves me . . . and He loves you.  I now have hope for my life. 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalms 147:3

I hope you feel hope for your life!

If you have suffered hurt, and been abused by religion or anything else, I hope you are able to heal and I hope you learn the goodness of God, and His great love for you.  That’s my hope for you, that you will know how good God is, and how much He loves you.  I hope you come to know God’s goodness and love deep in your heart!

I would really like to know your story.  Please leave a message for me, or contact me!

12 comments:

  1. Thank you! What a message of hope for so many!

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  2. Thank you Mark, for writing this. What a hard story to write about, I am sure, but I am sure this will help many people who have gone through similar struggles. Since I 'met' you thru Facebook, I have been able to tell that you are a kind and gracious individual. Your healing is evident, God bless!

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  3. Kimberly, thank you for your encouraging comment! I appreciate you.

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  4. God is good. http://www.clrc.net/addiction_negative/negative_addiction_personal_testimony.html

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  5. Hi Mark-

    This is Zach Phelps-Roper, and I am a former member of Westboro, too. My mom is Shirley.

    Would it be okay if we talked sometime? If you message me on facebook or twitter, I can privately give you my phone number... I would love to talk to you!

    Sincerely, your nephew,

    Zach

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  6. What a deeply moving post, Mark. Be assured your vulnerability is outlining your journey to healing will bear fruit in others. God bless you.

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  7. I agree. I'm glad you were able to escape the tyranny that was Westboro Baptist Church. While the pain never truly goes away, at least you have an outlet for the pain to talk about it with people.

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  8. Hi Mark

    I can't imagine what you went through, no child should ever have had to go through what you and Nate did. I give you and the other former members who have left full credit. The fruit of healing has the sweetest taste.

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  9. That was beautiful. Your earthly father being so wicked, it is a blessing to hear that you could still embrace your heavenly Father. Many would have gone the other way. Fred Phelps was a soul-destroying man, but I'm so thankful that your struggling desire to become whole again, your lifelong journey lead you out of that.

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  10. Excellent post. Although I am agnostic now, I grew up in the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. This particularly resonated with me: "Then one day I discovered the rage I had in my heart at all the injustice and wrong that had been perpetrated on me and my family by my father, and I finally allowed myself to experience this raging anger. Growing up with my father, his anger was the only anger expressed! Everyone else’s anger was buried far beneath the terror that was ever present. As I faced the rage over and over, with professional help, the rage began to lessen, until it finally became more manageable." Although I'm in my 40's now, I am now dealing with a lot of fallout and I think it's very similar to what you described. I'm really going to make an effort now to do something about it because I am so tired of feeling all of this. Thanks again for sharing and wishing you lots of happiness in your life!

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