Growing Up in a "Reverse Whack-A-Mole" Family

I was raised by crazy people.  Not the “wild and crazy” type.  The mentally ill type.  All the men in the family had significant issues.  My dad left our family when I was 12 and never provided either financial or emotional support.  Some divorced fathers become “Disney Dads” – showering their kids with gifts and fun events to make up for their physical absence.  Not mine.  He rejected virtually everything conventional, including even giving birthday and Christmas gifts.  

He was emotionally abusive and, according to my mom, seemed to relish picking on me.  Instead of reaching out to my brother and me in terms we could relate to, he would badger us for not having warm feelings toward him.  When I see Jesus ask in Matthew 7:9-11, “Which of you fathers would give a stone instead of bread?” I have someone I can nominate. 

My dad’s dad thought he had cancer when he was in his 60s, so one day he jumped in front of a speeding train at a railroad crossing about a mile from our house.  

My brother, who was a year older, suffered from schizophrenia and manic depression.  We never had any kind of relationship.  He spent most of the last 20 years of his life in and out of mental hospitals and eventually hanged himself. 

My other grandfather had an emotional breakdown and was also hospitalized for several months. 

And then there were the uncles and cousins.  Among them were at least one alcoholic, one who was unfaithful to his wife, a hoarder/hermit, and (allegedly) a small-time criminal.

In short, there were no healthy men anywhere in sight, and I always felt on the “outs” with all of them.  

You probably know the carnival game Whack-A-Mole where nine mechanical moles pop out of their holes in a random manner, and the player tries to whack them with a mallet before they retreat.  I have concluded that I grew up in a “reverse whack-a-mole” world where there were about nine whackers and one mole – me.  

Whack a mole.jpg

Several years ago, I visited a counselor to try to piece all this together.  After hearing my story, he said – on at least four occasions: 

There is no explanation for you.  Someone with your background should be unemployable, divorced three times, abusive, an alcoholic, or some other kind of addict.  The fact that you’re none of these things is an incredible testimony to God’s grace.

Whenever my wife calls me out on something I’m doing wrong, I love reminding her that I “should” be a whole lot worse than I am  😊.

You may know that I wrote a book called That’s a Great Question, which is a critical thinking/apologetics book.  It’s aimed at the “intellectual” side of the faith.  I love discussing skeptics’ “head” problems with the Bible.  I can’t necessarily answer all their questions to their satisfaction, but I can hold my own in the discussion.  After we have tap-danced a bit and they realize I’m not brain-dead, I like to say something like this:

I’ve appreciated our conversation.  Even if we don’t agree, I respect your perspective and I hope you respect mine.  I don’t think I can convince you conclusively of the truth of the Bible at this point, and I have studied these issues enough to feel there is probably nothing you can say that will convince me to walk away from the faith.  So, we’re at something of a standstill.

However, I want to point out a totally different reason that I know that Jesus is real.  And that’s the fact that he absolutely changed my life.  

I then tell them my story, and they typically listen attentively.

So, yes, Jesus can even rescue someone brought up in a reverse whack-a-mole family.  Praise him!