I wrote Why Do You Hurt Me God? because I had to. I was compelled to – for many reasons. Since we began Spark of Life in 2009, and really for years before, we have had that question, in one form or another, slung at us from people from all walks of life, usually after a death of a loved one, or some other horrific loss. It is a good question, because it is an honest one.
I have included Chapter 1 for you to read, in part because it is Valentine’s Day on February 14, and it is a remarkable story of love and forgiveness, and because it is about my mom and dad, and every word is true.
They were married on February 15, 1944, in New Zealand, where Dad was stationed during World War II, and where he met Valerie Young from Auckland. She was 19 when they met, and on their first date he said, “I am going to marry you,” to which she replied, “I would not marry you even if you were the last man on earth.” When Dad died in 1993, they had been married for 49 years.
Their ‘comeback’ story has not only inspired me and my brother and sister, but countless thousands of others around this world. I have told the story hundreds of times in various settings. Their struggles were a part of my ‘dirt’ in my world as I was growing up. In the book, I attempt to answer some of the problems of why there is so much ‘dirt’ in the world if an all-powerful and all-good God exists. No one can answer all the questions, but there are some answers that help us make some ‘sense of the nonsense.’
May their story help you to never give up, on life, or on God. And though it appears God might have hurt us, the reality is he never intended to. He weeps when we hurt, and he is the God who has never given up on us.
Why Do You Hurt Me God? – Chapter 1
One Night, One Kiss, Three Words
Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day? Wake up! Don’t you care what happens to us? Why do you bury your face in the pillow? Why pretend things are just fine with us? And here we are—flat on our faces in the dirt, held down with a boot on our necks. Get up and come to our rescue. If you love us so much, help us! Psalm 44:23-26 – The Message
My dirt pile multiplied when I was thirteen. Those words from Psalm 44 eerily match my prayers to God at this time. Guilt, from having these thoughts about the God who is perfect, naturally followed such thoughts and prayers, and yes, even yelling at times at this God. ‘Why do you hurt me God?’ was in my mind long before this book was written. However, there were times, even then, when God showed his face to me, in the midst of all the dirt.
It was 1963. The Dodgers won the World Series over the hated Yankees, sweeping them in four straight. My Texas Longhorns were 11-0, beating Roger Staubach and Navy in the Cotton Bowl, and were crowned national champions. Life was pretty good for a thirteen-year-old living in Texas.
And in addition to those ‘important’ things above, my parents had the perfect marriage. Often I bragged to my friends at school about it, taking pride in their love for one another. But one night in the ’60s changed that thinking; in fact, it changed everything.
Then that fateful night arrived. The day innocence was shattered—the moment in history when I discovered fairy tales were exactly that—fairy tales. It was the night an appalling truth crashed upon me: Mom and Dad did not have a perfect marriage. Mom and Dad appeared to hate each other.
I do not recall what they fought about that night, but I remember enough to know that awful feeling deep inside of me, gnawing away any sense of stability. Their fighting intensified as the weeks and months rolled by. Every weekend was the same—yelling, cursing, hate-filled words slung back and forth.
Finally, Dad moved out.
Writing those words fifty years later still stings. At times I wonder if parents really comprehend the negative impact those three words have on a child’s thinking: Why? Why the hate? Why does Dad have to leave? Why can’t they love each other the way I love them both? Why can’t they forgive, and start all over? Why doesn’t God do something about it? Why can’t my daddy live with us? And why doesn’t the hurt go away?
Parents seem to forget the hurt they unintentionally inflict on their kids. But sometimes, parents remember.
It was a Sunday morning. We had not heard from Dad in weeks. I actually thought I might never see him again. The phone rang. It was Dad. “You guys want to play golf?” What a dumb question!
Dad, don’t you realize that all I want to do is to be with you? I miss you. Since you moved out, life has taken a tumble. I have pimples, I’m fat, and all the girls laugh at me. I have only one friend in the world, and he’s almost as weird as I am. I don’t care about anything, yet I do care. I’ll do anything with you. Sure, Dad, we’ll play golf with you.
So we played, but we hardly talked. Darkness came much too soon, and as much as I hated it, we headed home. “Thanks for the golf, Dad. Do you have to go so soon? Please stay a few minutes. Mom is not home yet. You can leave when she gets here. Please, Dad.”
So he stayed. We drank iced tea. We mostly sat, dreading the coming separation. And then Mom walked through the door.
To fully grasp the impact of that night, a few painful facts need to be revealed. They had been living apart for a few months, but they had been emotionally separated much longer. They had not kissed, hugged, held hands, or slept in the same bed for years. They had not, at least to my knowledge, used the word love to each other in ages.
Whether she knew it or not, Mom was about to give my sister, brother, and me the greatest gift imaginable.
It was around 10 p.m. when she opened that door and walked in. Dad began to get up to leave, but she stopped him. “Tom, you can stay as long as you want. I’m tired and going to bed.” My sister and brother were sitting there with us. So Mom made the rounds to say good night.
“Good night, Ann. I love you.” She then kissed my sister on the cheek.
“Good night, Richard. I love you.” She kissed my brother on the cheek.
“Good night, David. I love you.” And she kissed me on the cheek.
She paused. We sensed that she was not yet finished with the ‘good nights.’ But there was only one other person in the room. He was sitting in a big chair to my left. And though it has been fifty years since that night, I see his face so vividly, and I hear her words so clearly.
She walked over to Dad. With compassion, love, and tenderness such as I had never seen before, she kissed her husband, our daddy, on the cheek.
“And I love you, too, Tom.”
She left the room. Dad finally said good night and left to go back to his apartment. No one mentioned the miracle we just experienced. Stunned is too mild a word to describe our feelings.
The next day, as I was sitting alone in the den, the doorbell rang. I opened the door and saw Dad holding a couple of boxes with clothes slung over his shoulder. “Can you help me move my stuff into the house?”
So that’s how my daddy came home to stay. For the next twenty-seven years, he and Mom held hands, kissed, hugged, and, yes, slept in the same bed. They loved each other with the love of the ages.
Why? What happened? For twenty years, I asked that question to no one in particular. One day I was working on a sermon about comebacks. I always loved those stories where the underdog looks defeated and then makes a miraculous recovery, when no one believes winning is a possibility. And it hit me: the greatest comeback I have ever witnessed was the night Mom kissed Dad again. But I did not know the answer to that big “Why?” question.
So I called Mom and read the story I had written concerning that one night. I asked her if it was true, or had I imagined it? “If it is true,” I continued, “what happened, Mom? Why did you do that?”
Mom could hardly respond. No one in the family had ever said a word about that night. Tears flowed. Alzheimer’s disease was beginning to ravage Dad’s mind, which added more emotion upon her hearing the story.
Finally Mom spoke, saying, “First, every word of the story is true. You remembered it exactly as it happened. But I am surprised that you do not know why we got back together. I thought it was obvious. You three kids were a mess when Dad moved out. I simply could not bear to see all of you in such pain. So I decided to love your father again, and he decided to accept that love.”
So there you have it: they decided to love each other again.
Years after the night of the kiss, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I arrived at the hospital after traveling all day. As I walked into her room, I found Dad sitting in a big chair to my left. He was holding his bride’s hand and gently stroking her hair and forehead.
And my mind raced back to that fateful night, when love was reborn. One night, one kiss, three words.