I am becoming who God wants me to be. The real me. It’s weird that I’m a revelation to my family. They’re telling me I look younger every day. My 21 year old son, who is never the sweet, syrupy type, called to tell me how pretty I looked.
He liked a pic I posted because he said “it seemed like the real you. It captures your personality”. I can be cheeky and sarcastic sometimes.
Here’s the pic.
I’m opening up more and not stuffing down everything and speaking up and it’s created good changes in my relationships and my life.
Although I always acted like me at home, there was a lot I was dealing with trying to make sense of so many things in the last few years. With my family, there was a slight distance that had developed–so focused on the wrong things—that in a sense we are getting to know one another all over again.
Can you imagine church taking up so much of your effort and mental life that you haven’t really gotten to know people that love you? They’re in front of you. They exist. You feed and clothe the children, but never with a mind to just sit back and enjoy them. It was how I and many others learned to serve God. God (meaning the church) came first and everything and everyone else second, third or fourth.
Today, I see the good in my family and in turn, they are more open with me and I’m thankful they want to connect with me. They can feel the change. I hear that many ex-fundamentalists struggle to reconnect with family they had distanced themselves from and family members that they considered “worldly”.
I enjoyed listening to my oldest son talk about his date with a girl, or my daughter laughing about what her daughter did that day after preschool or my youngest son fussing about not being able to pick up his Homecoming date because he lost his wallet.
But this time, I was really listening.
I was enjoying hearing about their lives and seeing the lessons they were learning and the changes in their understanding about life.
So this is what real life is like–outside of the fundamentalist bubble.
Not having to prove to everyone my Christian perfection.
I know that the “really listening” thing sounds terrible, but I can remember a time when LIFE would just happen and there was always this disconnect in my head with my surroundings. Being so busy trying to earn my place in heaven that I didn’t take care of my life on earth. The disconnect happened because it was drummed into my head how different I was from the rest of the world. Just waiting to meet the Lord at His second coming. Don’t feel at home in this world anymore. Everyday life was so insignificant in comparison to the great mission of Zion (the Church of God) which was equated with serving Christ himself. In our lives, there was no distinction. What you did with and for the church was done for Christ. THAT was your service to God. I remember one pastor not being happy with me for saying that I would never put an organization before my family. Because to them, loyalty to the church is what puts you in heaven. Never be disloyal.
This life, the here and now did not seem to matter like it should have. Only what’s done for Christ will last. But aren’t family and home for Christ too?
Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No soldier active in service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the One who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
Only within the last few years did I fully embrace that my family was an important part of my life and God ordained mission. THEY were my gift from God and my blessing. My husband, my sons and daughter, and now my granddaughter and that extends to my sister, my nieces and nephews and their kids and my in-laws.
How could I fail to give them my full attention? Scriptures like the one above were often misused to induce guilt for caring about anything more than the church. I fell into the mental trap of my environment. Jobs, promotions, children, secular problems, spouses, and sometimes health, all should take a backseat to serving God through the obedience to the church. You had to show people you were a saint.
And a far as children were concerned, they were considered a blessing, but “you can’t trust them or get too close to them” was the attitude. They are apt to be used by Satan, and parents can get under their children’s spell and the child will run the home not the Lord? It used to be preached that nothing was more important than obedience to God in this way: even if it meant the death of your child. It was seen as a good thing to have that type of disconnect from your family.
Look at Abraham’s willingness to offer his son Isaac or Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter in the book of Judges. Our former Pastor used to say that his father would remind them that if he had to lie to keep one of his children from hanging, they would just have to hang. This was followed by exhortations to not let anyone or anything influence you to disobey God. Children were often put in a category of things that might cause you to slip from your steadfastness with God.
What did that mean? Steadfastness with God? In actuality it meant keep the church rules. The kids might influence you to let down on dress standards, celebrate a holiday in a secular way, or miss church services and thus, the devil would be using them to get to you.
I get the general idea that a child should not carry so much sway over a parent that they’re lying and stealing to please them. We see parents go too far all the time (note the recent ACT testing scandal). But the mixture of scriptures and examples from the pulpit had a different, unbalanced affect. Most parents I knew felt they had to prove their worth as a parent to the church body. Whatever they had to do to “tow the line” they did. Those that gave in to their children were seen as weak.
I’m glad to move on from those barriers after years of holding those standards on my kids the way I was taught. It was not fake adherence. My husband and I deeply believed in those instructions from our pulpits. I was honestly following them but now I’m learning how to live better for the future and follow Christ with better understanding. For me, leaving meant growth. God is showing me how to love my family in this life, care about them, and demonstrate God’s love whatever they are going through in their lives, because they are His gift to me. God’s love is unconditional. I hope my family sees more of that in me.
I have a book recommendation for those interested. The book recounts the life of the granddaughter of the founder of the Westboro Baptist church and why she left. Those of you may remember Westboro Church who made a whole ministry of picketing soldiers’ funerals and other protests. Those people sincerely believed they were right. I’m 3/4 of the way through and it’s astounding how much fundamentalist churches are alike. I could certainly empathize with her journey. Good read and a page turner.