By Kathy Collard Miller
Darcy’s training pants were wet again. Again! As I struggled to pull down the soaking pants, I felt a rush of frustration.
“Darcy, you’re supposed to come in the bathroom and go in the potty chair.” As I spanked her with my hand, my tension and tiredness found an outlet. Spanking changed to hitting.
Darcy’s uncontrollable screaming brought me back to reason. Seeing the red blister on her bottom, I dropped to my knees.
“I love Jesus,” I sobbed. “I don’t really want to hurt my child. Oh God, please help me.”
As the weeks turned into months, my anger habit worsened. At times I grew so violent that I hit my toddler in the head. Other times I kicked her or slapped her face.
As a Christian for ten years, I was ashamed. “Oh, God,” I prayed over and over again, “please take away my anger.” Yet no matter how much I prayed, I could not control my anger and I wondered whether I might kill Darcy in one of my rages. In time, I had to be honest with myself – I was abusing her. “Oh, God, I’m a child abuser! Help me!”
I was afraid to tell Larry, my husband. “After all, he’s a policeman,” I thought. “He’s arresting people for the very things I’m doing.” I certainly couldn’t tell my friends. What would they think of me? I led a Bible study. I was looked up to as a strong Christian woman. But inside I was screaming for help.
One day I remembered Larry had left his off-duty service revolver in the bureau drawer.
Convinced God no longer loved me and had given up on me, I concluded suicide was the only answer: “Then I won’t hurt Darcy anymore.” But then a thought sprang into my mind, “But what will people think of Jesus if they hear Kathy Miller has taken her life?”
I couldn’t bear the thought that Jesus’ name would be maligned, even if I wasn’t acting much like a Christian. I closed the bureau drawer.
Sometime after that, I shared briefly with a neighbor about my anger. She didn’t condemn me like another friend had when I’d tried to share my pain. She even indicated she sometimes felt angry towards her children too. “Oh, Lord, maybe there’s hope for me after all,” I cried out when I left her house that day.
From that turning point, God began to reveal the underlying causes and the solutions for my anger little by little. And there were many. I had to learn how to identify my anger before it became destructive. I forced myself to believe God wanted to forgive me – over and over again (Isaiah 43:25). Reading books about disciplining children effectively, I became more consistent in responding calmly to Darcy’s disobedience. She became better behaved.
I also copied verses like Ephesians 4:31 and Proverbs 10:12 onto cards, placing them in various locations throughout the house. As I took Darcy into the bathroom, I would be reminded that, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins (Proverbs 10:12).”
These truths contributed to breaking my cycle of anger.
Eventually, I had the courage to share my problem with my Bible study group. James 5:16 admonishes us to “confess your sins to one another and pray one for one another, that you may be healed…” They prayed for me and their prayers indeed had “great power.”
Through a difficult process of growth over a year, God’s Holy Spirit empowered me to be the loving, patient mother I wanted to be. Then He began my ministry by giving me opportunities to share through speaking, articles, and books. My memoir is titled, No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing).
I’m thankful to the Lord for healing the relationship between Darcy and me. A beautiful woman who is a loving wife and mom, Darcy has forgiven me for the way I treated her. We share a close relationship. God also healed my dysfunctional marriage with Larry. Now we minister together and are lay counselors, married for over 50 years.
Although I wondered during that devastating time of my life whether God could ever forgive me for the horrible things I’d done, I know now that He has. And He is even more than capable of empowering us to face any challenge, even child abuse.
Kathy Collard Miller (www.KathyCollardMiller.com) is a popular retreat speaker and the author of over 60 books, including Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory. She and her husband Larry live in Treasure Valley and also speak together at marriage seminars and retreats. Kathy has spoken in over 30 U.S. states and 9 foreign countries.