This is part two of my serialisation of excerpts from Aram McLean’s forthcoming memoir. For all parts, see here.
My ACE school moved a lot in the early years. The first place to accept it was a small church which also believed in a good Christian upbringing for every child. As such, they let us roll our rows of custom-made little kid offices into their back room. They also let us use their large cold basement for gym class, awards banquets, and other important recreations.
After two years in their backroom, the little church wasn’t so happy about us anymore. Our principal, Mr Jordan, may have rubbed a few of the Elders the wrong way, but I couldn’t say for sure. Perhaps they simply got tired of the seeing children wandering about the corridors looking shell-shocked, like they’d just seen a holy ghost or something.
The Doctrines of Grace had certainly become a hot topic of contention that second year as well. Serious rifts split down the middle of the little school and more than a few parents decided to take their kids out of it, by their own free will.
Various locations around town followed as believers came together and then disagreed, and we carefully packed our plywood rows of offices around to each new place. We took over a farmhouse for a while, then a couple adjoining rooms in a motel, and finally the lower half of a family home. It helped that we weren’t a large school, and that turnover was high.
My own life during this time often seemed to be a series of near misses, combined with more than a few direct hits. And right from the early days of the first church building’s little backroom, things didn’t feel too good.
One recess during this early time, I was playing with my seven-year-old brother Devon, when Mr Jordan unexpectedly stepped into the room. He smiled at us in a very strange way. Our laughter froze in both our throats.
“You just pulled down your brother’s pants!” Mr Jordan convicted me without delay. He sounded rather put out.
My six-year-old brain was forced to agree with him. “Uh…it’s just…a game we’re playing.” Swallowing became difficult. My chin began to tremble.
“We were only playing,” my brother agreed quietly. He was ignored.
“Go to the basement, Aram. Go back to your desk, Devon,” Mr Jordan ordered, efficiently. My brother exited the scene, relieved to have escaped punishment for once. I didn’t blame him. We all knew the basement well.
My size six feet shuffled towards the staircase under the vigilant gaze of Mr Jordan. Tears filled my eyes, distorting their view of my battered shoes.
I was left alone down there for quite some time. To ponder my sins, perhaps.
Finally, just as my heart was beating pretty much out of my chest, Mr Jordan arrived with a couple of witnesses in tow. Both their distant looks offered me no hope. It took me a second to recognize that one of them was my own mother. My mind began to have a seizure.
“Put your hands up against the wall,” Mr Jordan demanded. “And stick your bum out.” His voice was empty of sympathy and his psyche apparently incapable of empathy. “We will have no fighting in this school, do you understand? God tells us to not spare the rod. Spare the rod and you spoil the child.” He paused to take a deep and difficult breath in front of his witnesses. “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”
I wasn’t exactly sure how that worked.
“But…we were just…playing…” I made a feeble attempt to halt the inevitable. My heart shuddered to a halt at the appearance of the mahogany paddle in Mr Jordan’s callused palm. He reached down to move one of my legs into a better position. He continued with his mantra of instructions.
“Now, don’t move, or I might hit you in the lower back, and that would hurt much, much more.”
My body became rigid without any conscious choice. My mind went numb. I stood silently, my arms spread out before me, my ass to the sky.
There was a brief moment of peaceful nothing. And then pain struck within a cyclone of spinning air. It was only the beginning.
Mr Jordan had the uncanny ability of knowing exactly how long to wait between blows, for the next whack to score the maximum effect. The second collision nearly pushed me to my knees. Mr Jordan breathed heavily over me. The stench of stale coffee made me gasp, as he pulled me back to his desired position.
A third strike put me completely down.
The punisher pursed his lips and surveyed his handiwork. A small boy sprawled on the ground. “Now you may walk closer with the Lord again,” he said, for me and the mute witnesses. “Clean yourself up in the bathroom, and return immediately to your desk.”
I hobbled out of the room, past my mother who, moving slightly towards me, was halted by Mr Jordan’s dispassionate stare. She looked slightly confused as the distance between us grew. I found the washroom. I hid in there for a while. I waited for the Lord to pick me up for a walk.
He must have been at a Billy Graham crusade that day.
Finally, just as I was drawing the courage to emerge, there was a feeble knock on the door. I cracked it open and stared widely at Devon on the other side of hell. His face was in shambles, his chin trembling.
“What?” I gaped.
“They said…” he stuttered, pushing past me. “They said to tell the truth and it would be better…in the eyes of God…” Another pause for uncontrollable sobs. “So I admitted I’d slapped you across the head, and that’s why you whipped down my pants to get back at me, and then…downstairs…and Mom…”
I nodded with understanding. I left my brother to his own moment.
The truth shall set you free indeed.
- Beating Kids: Still Normal in Accelerated Christian Education?
- Psychological abuse, torture, and other bedtime stories
- Are Children Naturally Rebellious Against God? (guest post by me on The Way Forward)
If you want to read Aram’s memoir when it comes out (now retitled Aram’s Progress: I’ll Probably Get Sued), drop him an email.