Monday, August 19, 2013

My Spiritual Journey Part 2

You can read part 1 here, if you missed it and are interested.

So we were no longer Jehovah's Witnesses. My mom met some other families who were around her age who were "ex-witnesses" and having a Bible study together. One had been a JW missionary, but all, like my mom, had been disfellowshipped and were seeking other spiritual knowledge. This was in 1975. I was 11 years old. These families became friends that are with me to this day. When my mom was dying these are the people who called her to say good-bye. Through them we found our way to a church filled with young people, that met in the park. The "leaders" would play their guitars under the trees and we would all sing worship songs. This church grew into an entity of its own....eventually becoming a very sick environment. In the meantime though, these young people became my family. They were young and getting married, having babies, educating their children at home before homeschooling was a "movement," and eventually forming a school for all of their children of which I was fortunate enough to have become a grafted in child of the church.

During this time the church decided to begin to live in communal households. One man (of course) would be the "head" of the house and would manage the finances that everyone contributed their earnings too. The houses were run from a communal purse. Anyone who owned a car allowed it to become property of the house. Meaning that when we had "needs" we approached the head of the house and asked for money for what we needed. When someone needed a car to use they looked on the key hooks to see which car was available. My mom had a really good job and a new car. Turning over her paychecks and handing over the keys to her car were very hard for her. I'm sure you can imagine the spiritual lessons that were presented to her in regards to her possessions. She continued to allow us to live in the communal house though, because I loved it! I had people around me who took care of me. Who cooked for me each night, and we all had dinner at the table together, people helped me with my homework, taught me how to be, they set boundaries for me and gave me limits. There were rules. These people took me on my very first camping trip. Unconventional as it was, it was everything I had craved and wanted. A family.

We eventually moved out of the communal home and into a place of our own....but my mom found a rental right down the street from another communal home in the church. There were lots of pregnant women and babies around all the time. I know that this is where my love of pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, and babies came from.

There was a lot of legalism and performance based teaching least that is how I understood it. Try harder, be better, sin less and be prepared for the "end times." I was terrified of the end times. I would think that maybe I should grow my bangs out because I had this crazy curly hair and if they got too long they were uncontrollable. Certainly in the end times we wouldn't be able to get haircuts or use blow dryers. We were taught often about the persecution of the Christians...before our time or in other lands and that it was going on now and it would come again and we needed to know where our allegiances lie. I was terrified. Would I "deny Christ" if I were faced with torture? I was 12 years old contemplating being tortured for my faith. Joan of Arc I am not!

Later (different church, similar teachings) when I had kids, I was so in love with them and the teaching of "God being a jealous God and love nothing more than God or He will take it away from you" often ran through my head. It really was debatable if I loved God more than those precious innocent babies I had just given birth to. Was He going to kill them as a punishment? I wouldn't spank them as was the churches teaching which meant I was putting my feelings ahead of my obedience. Again, I was at risk of being out of God's will and catastrophic consequences could be waiting right around the corner for me and my kids. Remember my story of letting my little baby boy cry in his crib, because I had to establish that I was in charge...not him. He would sleep in that crib! And the dad coming up to me as I cried outside his bedroom door, and asking "who says we have to do it this way?" Thank God I married a reasonable man! (We later became the poster family for the family bed lol) He often would remind me that God wants to restore what has been lost. He is about healing and building up. He wasn't about beating us down with guilt and fear and condemnation. But would I, of course not. I had to prove my commitment, I had to prove that I was good enough, that I deserved to be God's child. Work work work. Try harder and harder and harder. It was NEVER enough. Its a perfect example of being sick until I was done being sick. I was terrified to stop trying.

It is now so clear to me how so many of these entrapments were directly related to my early years of living with alcoholism. The need for perfection, to be considered good enough, to *prove* that I was worthwhile, to do everything "right" and to feel so deeply that my very life depended on all of the above.I tried so hard, but I was so tired and so angry. I was living under the thumb of an impossible taskmaster....myself and my own warped sense of who God was and what He was expecting from me.

Reading over this I think I sound like I was a real whack job....and in a lot of ways I suppose I was.  However, no one would have ever known I had all of that going on inside of myself. We all looked perfect. LOL My hair and makeup was always on, my kids were dressed perfectly in soft cottons and smelled of lavendar, I nursed them, I fed them homemade baby-food, later I homeschooled everyone....I was doing it right God damn it!

Ok, next will be "the dam breaks."

Much love to all who are reading here.

PS: I once saw a bumper sticker that said, "The church stole my soul." That resonated with me so deeply. I still don't go to church to this day. I don't blame the church....but I have since met a compassionate God and we are deeply at peace with each other. For now I am good with that on its own. Someday the door for me to go to church could open and I will walk through, because I do trust my God to direct me to what is right for me. Even when I don't totally understand the big picture.


SoberMomWrites said...

My spiritual journey was completely different from yours (structured Catholic upbringing) but my home life was much the same...and I have landed in the same place. I have a deep and personal relationship with God (actually all of the Holy Trinity) but I haven't set foot in a church on a regular basis in 10 years. I think there's a big difference between being spiritual and being religious. There's nothing wrong with either but for me, they are mutually exclusive.

I've probably asked you before, but have you read the book "Will I Ever Be Good Enough" by Karyl McBride? I read it many years after my mother had died but it helped me so much to understand our relationship and begin to heal. You might like it as well.

Can wait to read the next installment. What an interesting life you've led!


dawn said...

Reading along with intense interest! All the while praising God that you were not run off by cult experiences, that you CAME HOME!! Thank God!
So, question, if you guys left JW and found this new group under the trees with guitars , , what was their name? I gathered it was an organized religion (I use religion loosely)
I look forward to your next segment. Really interesting for me as my background "is" conventional - rural MN, Lutheran, of course, , ,
I love my faith and the Lutheran heritage, but I will say that I did master the whole "guilt" thing.

Signe said...

I loved reading this. The first thought that came to my mind was my frustration with misinformed pastors who teach the wrong message. It sounds as though your husband has been blessed with understanding God's truth. I love how God puts people in our path to help and guide a yearning heart. I know he's human, but you sound blessed to have him. I smiled about the family bed. We ended up getting a king-sized bed because during the night the kids would trickle in if they had a bad dream or couldn't get back to sleep. Someone told me once, "For nine months babies are in the perfect environment and bam, the day they're born they're expected to sleep alone without the warmth and closeness that they spent nine months loving." It was a light bulb moment for me. Your life sounds so interesting. Thanks for letting us in. :)

Mary Christine said...

What an interesting life you have led!

It is such a shame that any church is largely made up of the people within. Some of them are so damaged and cause damage to others.

Anonymous said...

Annette, You are such a gifted writer and have such a talent for drawing the reader in and having us fall in love with each of the characters in your life. I can just imagine sitting on the back porch, sharing stories and a pot of coffee. Your stories are so honest and human that I always look forward to your new posts. I can relate to your family, spiritual journey, daughter's drug addiction and even your caregiver stories. Keep sharing because your writing truly is a gift!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered writing a book? This is fascinating stuff. Like you are the legit flower child turned crunchy granola lady only with impeccable hygiene and a previous harsh religion. I am so happy you discovered a compassionate God. I can't wait to read part 3. There is going to be a part 3 right?

Annette said...

Oh you guys are so funny. lol I have always thought I am so boring because I have never traveled. Someone who travels the world seems to epitomize exciting and interesting to me!

Anonymous, your comment meant SO much to me. Email me and tell me who you are so I can get to know you....if you are ok with that.

Dawn, It was just non-denominational Christianity. There was a lot of that back then. Anyone could start a church.....and I guess they still can. No accountability.

Sherry, its amazing the journeys we travel huh but end up at the same place. God has His hand on us.

Mary, thank you for being here and commenting. I love hearing from you.

Signe, my faithful commentor... it always means to much to hear from you.

Mads, you are so sweet! Yes, there is a part have to hear how I was restored to sanity, least you think I am still out here spinning around trying to be perfect!

bugerlugs63 said...

Hi, Really enjoyed reading this Annette, as you know, it rings so many bells with me (This is the day sung 54 times!) . . .
No blow-dryers in the end times proper tickled me. The honesty of it all is great, looking forward to "The Dam Breaks Thanks x

notmyboy said...

Great stuff! I was a religious bore in comparison. I was born and raised Catholic. When I began to actually read the Bible and study Jesus's teachings, I realized the Catholic Church was not where I was supposed to be. You might say I educated myself out of the church and into a relationship with Jesus. My family thinks I'm doomed, and they pray for my salvation. I, likewise, pray for theirs...big time!

Keep telling your story. I am riveted.