ya know

I struggle with the concept of God. I really do.

I know where this struggle comes from. I know it’s time to deal with it too. Somehow. This is big. It’s really big. In my mind anyway. Since I have a difficult time speaking the words aloud, I’ve decided to try writing them. Even the thought of writing the words is triggering an anxiety attack. I’ve mentioned bits and pieces about this subject before and even those little bits were difficult. Why? Because it’s been ingrained in me from a very early age that talking badly about or questioning what I learned is bad. Very Bad. Bad as in apostate, as in dead, as in forever.

That said…on we go…

I was born into a “Christian” family. I have one memory of attending church as a small child. It involved the collection plate and Easter clothes. That’s it. I know I went to church because I have things from Sunday school in a scrap book my aunt made for me. My grandmother was very ill for most of my young life. She died when I was 5 after a long battle with lung cancer. I’ve been told she was sick for two and a half years. I have three memories of my gramma.

One is of being in her closet and playing with her high heeled shoes. Red ones. The heels looked so skinny I didn’t understand how she could walk on them. The next memory is of helping her make her bed one morning and finding all her dark hair in bunches all over her pillow. The last memory is of the night she was taken away in an ambulance. To the hospital. Where she died. She was at the table writing a letter and I was playing under the table when I heard her groan. I crawled out from under the table to see her holding her head in her hands and my grandfather come charging through the door from the living room. That’s it until the quiet lights of the ambulance pulled away from our house.

The next thing I remember is being told that my gramma had died and gone to heaven. I remember being hysterical and running to my room. Again that’s all. The next thing I remember is being in the back seat of a car and looking out the window at the big blue sky while thinking that if my gramma was up there watching me, she must be really big now because the sky was huge. Then nothing else until the morning I was the only one up and answered our door when someone knocked. I was five. Answering the door. Alone. Different times to be sure. There was a man and woman standing on our porch. I can still see the lady’s brown coat with the big black buttons. They asked for my parents and I got my dad up. I’m pretty sure my mom followed.

I have no idea what happened during that conversation but I can make an educated guess now. Those people were Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they convinced my parents to study the bible with them. Our lives changed alot after that. We had to go to meetings and out in ‘service’. That’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses call it when they go out and knock on people’s doors. I learned all kinds of things while my parents were studying this religion. I learned that my grandmother wasn’t really in heaven. I learned that it wasn’t ok to celebrate any holidays or have birthdays or be like other kids at school. It wasn’t ok to have friends who didn’t have the same religion and it wasn’t ok to be loud and rowdy or have an opinion. It wasn’t ok to ask questions or any number of other things I could write here. I was a good student too. I mean, I’d been prepped by my grandfather and the rest of my family to never question or speak up or say when something bad was happening. I followed all the rules and did what I was told. I was excited to have friends although now that I think of it, my parents didn’t socialize as much as I think they were expected to. I don’t know what that was about but I remember being disappointed alot in that respect.

The meetings we went to were supposed to teach us the bible. We went to the Watchtower study on Sunday and there was an hour lecture given by some ‘brother’ every Sunday as well. We went to a book study group one night of the week. That was the best because it was only an hour and I didn’t have to sit as long. There was also another meeting night that lasted for two hours. The first hour would be the Theocratic Ministry School and the second hour would be the Service Meeting. During those meetings people in the congregation learned how to speak in public by preparing small ‘talks’ of about 5 or 6 minutes that took place in settings similar to the door to door work. Also there were small parts to show what was happening in the world of JW’s and how others in different countries were fairing as well. I remember hearing about the persecution of brothers in Malawi because of their stand for Jehovah and being terrified that would happen to me. I remember hearing of how Armaggedon was coming and if I wasn’t doing what God wanted, then I would die and be gone forever.

Imagine a small girl already terrified because of what happened to her at the hands of her grandfather. Imagine being so convinced you were bad and hearing of this thing called Armaggedon and certain death. Imagine a child who’d watched her grandmother die a terrible and painful death, who was convinced that every time she felt sick, someone was going to tell her she was dying like her grandmother, imagine the terror of Armaggedon. How could I ever live up to that expectation? I was obviously bad or bad things wouldn’t happen to me. So how on earth would I ever survive. I remember telling my mom goodnight and saying “I hope I see you in the morning” for years.

to be continued…

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I can so totally relate to this. My parents divorced when I was young and my father moved back in with his parents. We sould spend our weekends at my grandparents and they were Jehovah Witnesses. My mother was raising us to be Catholic, so there was a bit of conflict there. My grandmother would take us to meetings on Saturdays and Sundays and sometimes even during the week. It was wretched for my brother and I. They made us a ‘special project’ bent on trying to save our souls. I remember being yelled at by one of the Elders for asking too many questions. I remember arguing that some of their teaching just didn’t make sense.
    After my father died (he committed suicide. He was bi-polar but he was told by the Elders that going to the psychiatrist was evil and that his real problem was he was ‘soul-sick’ and needed to get ‘right with Jehovah’) our visits to my grandparents went to every other week and we were picked up Sunday morning before meeting and we went to church with my mom instead.
    One Sunday my brother was going to be altar boy for the first time. About an hour before church he started to cry and throw up. He finally told us that grandma and her friends had told him that the moment he stepped up on the altar he was going to burn in hell for eternity.
    It ended up working out fine and he did great that day, but still…
    To this day I dread JW’s showing up on my doorstep and chase them away as quickly as if they were Meth dealers. They are scary people to me.

    Reply

  2. The similarities between training of the cult and the the training of the abuser are sobering. As you describe things, it brings me back to all the things that happened to Caroline, too, and the regimen is so solidly the same, despite your different locations that you know it arises from a brainwashing technique. Very scary.

    Traci, you might look into a DVD called “The Secret.” It might not be the right avenue for you, but several people I know who have struggled with the whole “God” issue have found some comfort in it, myself included. And it is empowering (I know you are familiar with that word!), something you could certainly use as you work through the issues of your life.

    Good luck in your journey. I’ll hold your name close to my heart as I walk my own path. I suppose you don’t feel it at times, but you are a strong woman. I’m amazed with your resilience. Peace.

    Reply

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