Monday, March 07, 2016

Once the Cracks Appear They Aren't so Easily Fixed..or Sweet Freedom

I spent some portion of today listening to another left the high demand cultic Quiverfull church friend of mine vent, mentally sort and just deal. My phone rang more than a few times today with friends going through emotional things that are mostly part of recovery, being re traumatized by circumstances or happenings. It's never easy.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for those you love is simply listen without judgment and without many words. Being heard is an important thing.

Surviving things like cults and childhood abuse isn't easy and it doesn't happen overnight. So why are some so eager to run headfirst into theology that wounds people and leaves a trail of brokenness? Because they're trying to 'fix' something they perceive that is broken or wrong in the first place. Looking for that place where it all makes sense. 

That's how it happened for me. My baby, my youngest child was four years old and had a health crisis. She ended up in UVA with very low blood platelets. Blood was oozing from her skin and welling up in horrific bruises that looked like huge blueberries burrowed into her flesh.

During the days when she wasn't improving, that the doctors could not determine why her platelets had died off and why she wasn't responding to the treatment I was locked in a silent prayer pleading with the Almighty. I promised God all sorts of things if he would just save my sweet girl. Watching her suffer first from the ITP and later with meningitis was one of the worst experiences of my life.

It was also when some of the folks from a church a friend attended took the opportunity to prey on my vulnerabilities by choosing that exact time to make an appeal for salvation. I'd been raised Catholic and was agnostic until this desperate time. They offered to pray for my daughter. She still didn't improve much and we were going back and forth to the hospital for treatments and packed platelet transfusions.

But I started going to this church, this nondenominational church filled with other lapsed Catholics like myself. At first it was so strange. Here I was, in my early thirties married to someone nearly a decade older than myself with our two small children. Attending this church made my husband very happy, so I swallowed my misgivings and kept attending with him, even as I was told that my youngest child was much too clingy and given a copy of 'To Train Up A Child', expected to spank a child with low blood platelets. I smiled, nodded and promptly threw the book in the nearest trashcan when I got out of the sight of the book giver and kept cuddling my sickly traumatized baby.

As time went on the church gained new members and started taking on an increasingly fundamentalist slant until we arrived at full quiverfull homeschooling evangelicalism/fundamentalism. I was a coward in those days, I never mentioned my misgivings, I swallowed them with a smile and got with the program. The only problem was that my body would not cooperate, I had a huge number of miscarriages over the years. No one had figured out yet that we had a bleeding disorder in our family that wasn't going to allow me to have any more children no matter how anyone prayed.

My dear husband became more and more uncomfortable with the direction of the church until he wanted to leave.

Our leaving was traumatic to me personally because I had so many people I thought were sisters and brothers turn on me in some very nasty ways. That was nine years ago and still to this day I run into folks from that old church that act in some ugly ways.

Why am I sharing my story yet again? Because if someone educated with a good life can be seduced into joining and staying in a cult church anyone can. I joined because of my inner bargaining with God during my child's illness, against all better judgment. I was miserable most of the time and having to pretend I was happy. Mask firmly in place, wearing my dumb jumpers and long hair even if I stuck out like a gringo in Tijuana. In fact, parts of my existence in those years was almost schizophrenic when I wore business suits to work and special 'modest' clothing at home.

Through it all I was pressured to conform, sometimes caught between my husband's insistence I used my education and work and the members of the church that fervently insisted I stay home and raise my children. No matter which direction I took I was going to anger someone. By the end I had lined up with the conformity of the others, even if it chafed.

The only part that didn't chafe was my relationship with God, with serving at the church and leading worship. I loved that and I still do, I'm still involved with those things at my mainstream church.

The thing I learned coming out of my old cult church is that conformity is deadly. It kills so many positive things in people, like critical thinking skills and the differing gifts and abilities of everyone, forced into a one sized fits all mold that fits very very few people well.

I see the truth of the lie of conformity in the blogs of those that are enmeshed in the gears of cult churches, so many of them seem like either desperate cries for help and rescue from outside or rationalizations for the very things they either struggle with or some attempt to convince their own selves that they are not screaming inside.

I wish them freedom and truth. Stop with the mindless conformity. There is rich and satisfying life outside of the box. Don't stay as long as I did in that terrible state. I was in it nearly 14 years. Don't waste all those years like I did.

I've stopped conforming to others expectations and rules. Others know that well about me. A while back I was at a local quilting shop to buy blender fabric to put between the blocks of the winter quilt I was making for our bed. One of my friends works there and she came up as I was perusing the batik fabrics and said she knew others usually use white or cream fabric and I probably felt I had to use a coordinating pastel fabric. She said she could tell I was eyeing the deep purple fabric, urging me to 'get out of the box' and get the purple. She laughed and said I was so far out of the box I needed to just be my true unconventional self and get the purple.  I did get the purple and it looks splendid. Had I attempted to get the pastel or cream I wouldn't have been as happy with the finished product.

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