Sixty-four years ago was the last time my father gave me a whipping. I was sixteen at the time, strong muscled and six-foot three in height. I had literally “fallen among thieves”. Admittedly, I was on the wrong path.
The whole family attended services at the Central church three times a week, offered a prayer of thanks at every meal, and had private devotions many nights. Evil companions corrupt good morals and teaching. The desire to be in the “IN” group and be accepted in bad company had been secretly hidden in me.
The offense that brought on the switch could have been any number of things I was engaged in. My actions contradicted all the teaching and upbringing that my parent had brought me. Administrative punishment (the switch) used to be conducted in the bathroom, but I was too big and too old to have the room to do the job. Dad would meet me in the double garage for the engagement.
When the door opened Dad was dragging in more of a limb than a switch. His eyes were down, he had grown old for I was the youngest of seven. Any resistance I might offer would overpower him. He really didn’t know how to go about whipping a grown boy, so to make it easy, I just bent over a chair and waited. Give him credit, he tried to do the job. Frankly, I didn’t feel the intended pain. Then it happened. He dropped the oversized ‘switch’ and moved toward the door. He looked back and I saw an old man with deep hurt in his eyes. His face was ashen his steps slow. He stopped at the door for a long moment just looking at me, and his old eyes were saying, “Thank you Jack for RESPECTING ME. My tears came then, my heart broke just to picture my Father and his last son still at home. I had broken his heart and his spirit. God help me!
The answer to that unspoken prayer came for within weeks I was away to a Bible School in Dasher, Georgia. My off-bad behavior continued at the school supported by the anger in my life that I did not understand. I spoke too loud using swear words at the superintendent of the dorm and he heard me. Before the “Discipline Counsel (8 male teachers), I stood and pleaded guilty without saying a word. I knew what the verdict would be, and they all agreed to the bottom line – SEND HIM HOME ON THE NEXT BUS.
Then the dorm man stood and said the funniest words, “I withdraw my charges against this boy.” That created a furor – “You can’t do that” was called out. He replied, “I just did”. Tears were in his eyes, tears that I didn’t really understand, but somehow reminded me of my Dad. They formed a new school policy that was voted on and approved by all. “PERMANENT PROBATION“. Just one slip and the sentence of ‘homeward bound’ would be reapplied.
I had been baptized (immersed) at the age of twelve, but the water had soon washed away. In the following two years at DASHER BIBLE SCHOOL I found the indwelling Spirit that was promised (Acts 2:38). A new life began when Jesus was put back on the throne. Our senior Motto was “God first, Others second and Self last”.
That was the year I fell in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Marion Ann McLeroy. To know and claim a woman that was tall, shapely and so lovely was beyond my fairest dream. She was and is my ideal. We were engaged a year later and three years later (After my college days) we said our vows at the old Central church where we attended.
Ann’s bridal shower brought in many gifts. Eighty three dollars and fifty cents bought us a ’31 worn out “Chevy”. Just before we said our final goodbyes to Mother and Dad, he slipped $200.00 in my pocket. We looked back as we moved to the car and I said, “What do you see?” Ann said, “I see your Mom and Dad standing in the threshold of your house.” I said, “They started it and now they have finished it”. I broke rant and went back and took my Mom and Dad hands and said, “Thank you!” Dad smiled, as if remembering the last “Whipping” in the garage.
I look back in life that is nearly over for me here. Too bad we aren’t born old and full of years and then gradually drift back to when we were young. Too bad we have to wait until we are old and see the pattern of life that has marked our ways. It is incredible that when you get to be 80 years old you feel very much like a child, seeking answers that have not come. By the way, the last of the Exum siblings died last week. He was my oldest brother and now marks a grave in Nashville, Tennessee.