Once I heard a pastor say “you should have a three minute testimony ready at all times”.
Yeah, that wasn’t about to happen. I couldn’t sum it up in three minutes. So, my testimony was only shared in bits and pieces. Some people know my whole story. Now you will too.
Some time as Christians, when we come out of our respective pits of darkness into Christ’s light we don’t want to talk about our past and present struggles. Being transparent encourages one another, and enables God’s glory to be seen to a hurting world. That is why when I read an article viewing the church as a hospital for the sick, not a place of healthy Christians; I thought to myself, that is such a good analogy. There are a lot of different areas that are addressed in a hospital. There are a lot of wings, and floors in the hospital. As a matter of fact I think I’ve visited the same floor more than once.
There is nothing worse than feeling like you are alone in a struggle, or an illness. It is when we share what we’ve been through or are dealing with that we can be an encouragement, a means to nurse those around us, while the Great Physician heals us. Let’s face it, I’ve been real sick, and I am still sick and need healing. But then aren’t we all? We are just on different floors at different times. Sometimes we are able to nurse those around us, sometimes we are in need of it. All of it is used for His glory.
God doesn’t waste anything, especially our pain. – Mary Southerland
Being a transparent Christian is the way to show how I once was lost, and now I’m found. I knew of the song Amazing Grace from listening to my Grandmother, now I know Amazing Grace. I knew of Jesus, but I didn’t know Jesus.
Knowing Jesus, makes all the difference.
Growing up I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness.
I don’t even like typing that.
Even when I called myself one I didn’t like saying it when I was around people who weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses. It never felt right.
Now I know how twisted, inaccurate and mind-controlling the Watchtower organization is. It is a cult. Yes, they are a cult. They will deny that.
In a nutshell, this is what I was taught, and I do not believe much has changed: they believe they are saved by works, only 144,000 Jehovah Witnesses will go to Heaven, the rest of the Jehovah Witnesses will live on earth which will be restored to a paradise after Armageddon, and Jesus is like a God, but not God. They have their own Bible translation where words have been substituted by the Organization (but the regular JW doesn’t realize that). They believe anyone that is not a Jehovah’s Witness is worldly and will die at Armageddon (which when I was younger was supposed to happen in 1975.) If you were not baptized as a witness before that time you would be destroyed by Jehovah along with the rest of the worldly people. Jehovah Witnesses are to only associate with other Jehovah Witnesses or those becoming witnesses. There is limited contact with worldly people allowed for employment and schooling. Growing up, extracurricular activities and sports were to be avoided as it placed you in a position to be around worldly people. The Watchtower only allows studying the publications they print or recommend. No Holidays or birthdays are celebrated. Friends, community and personal time should only be spent with other Jehovah Witnesses or in studying, meeting, assembly time or door-to-door service. Witnesses should only date and marry other witnesses. Higher education was not an option when I was younger, and careers were unimportant. Basically, you were encouraged to become a full time “pioneer” (door-to-door) or find a job to just pay bills. Any leadership positions were discouraged. Jehovah’s Witnesses self-police themselves by ostracizing those that do not live up to the elder appointed standard set forth by the Watchtower organization. When teaching differences occur, (like when 1975 passed, and Armageddon did not happen,) the Watchtower organization indicated that as individuals the witnesses were responsible for their misinterpretation, not the Watchtower Society. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not to question the Watchtower Organization as that is questioning Jehovah. Any ‘problems’ are handled internally (within the local congregations) to maintain control and then broadcast to surrounding congregations as example, intimidation, or as a means of ostracizing.
I needed a hospital alright.
My thoughts of God were mostly driven by feelings of fear, and I most certainly did not know Jesus. I only knew of Him, and then not even an accurate picture.
But He knew me.
Even when I didn’t know myself or what or where I was going. His hand was on me.
There are several times in my teens and early 20’s that I can think back on when I know God has protected me. When I didn’t realize it, even when I was questioning Him, He was faithful, He was protecting me, leading me.
While I sat and listened to what was being taught by the JW’s on how to perform in such and such a way to gain God’s approval, and that only the JW’s had people that were worthy, He stirred in my heart questions and challenges. I wanted to have friends, and I didn’t see everyone I encountered at school as bad even while being bullied there. Lonely and confused, I spent more time with my maternal side of the family. I began to see what it looked like living outside of the JW bubble.
When I was in my late teens and dated an “approved JW” boy there was an unspoken pressure to settle down. I wasn’t interested. My soul was looking for something, but I didn’t know what.
I didn’t know where to look, I was blind.
While still in my late teens, one of the JW “worthy” men that I considered a fatherly figure made sexual advances toward me. I don’t know what he said to his wife, because then she accused me of trying to steal her husband. This was a couple that I spent a lot of time with and babysat for. When I abruptly stopped seeing them, my mother questioned me. I told her the wife accused me of trying to steal her husband, I was too naïve, ashamed and confused to say anything else. There was a big meeting with everyone. The man said he thought he had feelings for me, but nothing had happened, and he didn’t feel that way anymore. He never said anything about making the sexual advances to me in the first place, nor the fact that he had tried contacting me since then via phone. I sat and said nothing. I was dazed, confused, embarrassed and sad. My father seemed satisfied with the explanation, and wanted me to forgive them. I don’t know exactly what my mother thought, we didn’t discuss it. To her credit she tried to on occasion, I withdrew. The man continued to try to contact me via phone trying to seduce me, while simultaneously blaming me for his pursuit on account of how I looked and dressed. He told me I was no good, I was just trouble. I told him if he didn’t stop calling me I was going to tell someone. He stopped calling, unfortunately his words stuck. I tried burying them along this guilt I felt like I participated in his lie by not saying anything to anyone.
Thank you, Jesus for healing me from all of that, when I placed that at your feet, you have carried it for me ever since.
The JW rose colored glasses were off. I realized that there was no difference between the JW’s and the worldly people they were always warning me away from. They told me worldly people were evil, JW’s were good. I saw no difference. If that was a lie, what else was?
I ran. I’d like to say I ran towards Him. Instead I spent years of thinking of myself first. They were lonely times, even in the midst of drinking and partying. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I had one life I was living and when I was home there was another I pretended to conform to. I lead a double-life. I made many poor and foolish choices. I figured if I was being accused of being no good, than I might as well not be.
I know now that God was protecting me on some country roads when I foolishly tried hitch hiking one winter morning at 3 am after running out of gas after an evening of partying. One car stopped way down the hill from where I was walking, started, and stopped. I didn’t run for it. I just kept walking. When I was just about home, a truck driver tried picking me up, offering a ride. I declined. He persisted, and became angry when I declined, roaring off precariously close to me. I don’t like to think about what unwise choice I might have made if he would have come by many miles earlier. Yes, God was protecting me that early morning.
I moved out into an apartment on my own where I made more choices. Some continued to be foolish, but I gradually made better choices. I didn’t think about God much though in the choices, and I certainly didn’t know Jesus.
I’m so thankful God isn’t dependent upon my feelings.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there, If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hid me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:7-12
In hindsight, I realize the people that He surrounded me with in my life that supported me emotionally when I needed it most. He protected me by placing people in my life, to lift me up and show me His love. They were Jesus with skin on. He was protecting me by drawing me to Him. My maternal Grandmother was the first to show me Jesus with skin on. I had close friends that were there when I needed them. He placed a man in my life that would love me, and stand by me when my family would deny me.
Even though I had long since stopped claiming to be a Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were still interested in what I was doing. Often times over the years, I would get unannounced visits or calls, or meetings to talk about my lifestyle choices, or at least what they thought I was doing. My Mom would track me down and call me at odd hours which would really tick me off. I thought my Dad would be easier to fool than my Mom, I wished she would go away, and leave me alone. (That thought would haunt me) I always felt like they wanted to catch me doing something so they could punish me.
I finally stopped playing the game.
After I moved in with what would be my future hubs, my future step-daughter and my future sister-in-law, my parents came to visit us trying to persuade me to return to the witnesses. They tried to explain to Craig that it had nothing to do with him, ‘he didn’t know better’, it was me. They could attend his wedding, but not if he was marrying me. If I didn’t come back to the JW’s I would be disfellowshipped. My mother said ‘if your father tells me I can’t come see you, then I have to obey, whether I like it or not.” They never came there again. It didn’t matter if I didn’t consider myself a JW or not, I was being treated like one, based on their standards.
Not long after, my mother who had been experiencing some health problems, had a large mass removed and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I refused to meet with the appointed elders who were determining my fate according to the JW standards. They had called me, and I told them that I was not claiming to be a witness and they had no right sitting in judgment of me, they were just three men. They tried various pressure tactics, even one of them saying I was responsible for my mother’s illness. They told me I would be disfellowshipped, they were acting on Jehovah’s behalf.
With that came the ostracizing from any family or people that I knew that were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was “permitted” to go to my family home, was not invited, but if showed up would not be turned away; however, they would not visit me. They would not call me unless it was an emergency, or deemed necessary. (it is still that way today)
I visited and tried to maintain contact with my mother as she battled her cancer, but they were strained and awkward visits at times. She gave up her struggle seven months after her diagnosis.
My father’s side of the family for the most part is Jehovah’s Witnesses, with the exception of an aunt and a few cousins. My mother’s side is not. My siblings, with their respective families are. Most of the people I grew up with and knew outside of my mother’s side of the family are also Jehovah’s Witnesses.
At her funeral and afterwards, with few exceptions, only my maternal side of the family talked to me. (Craig, thank you for being my strength that day)
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded every one in your book. Psalm 56:8 NLT
We were married three months later, and while my father and siblings chose not to attend, it was a beautiful wedding and we were blessed to be surrounded by friends and family, including my maternal family.
At home we were a family of three. Me, the hubs and my step-daughter. (I feel weird when I say that description. I don’t think of “step” when I see her.) Not quite two years later, our first son joined the family.
God is so patient with us. He is so patient with me.
I went from the life of “all about me” to “all about the kids, all about the family”. Anyone else have a problem with the 2nd commandment?
I was busy living life, but if you asked me about God, I was still harboring these bitter, angry feelings. I didn’t want to acknowledge or think about things I had done in the past because of the stone throwers. It had been so engrained in me growing up to associate the Witnesses with God that I had made them one and the same. I had to re-program my thinking.
I had to re-program all the things about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, grace, salvation, heaven, truth, the list could go on about what the Witnesses taught me that are inaccurate according to the Scriptures. I had to read the Scriptures for myself.
October, 1988 I cried out to God. I told Him I was tired of running. I was tired of carrying all that stuff inside. Told Him I knew I had made mistakes, told Him I was trying. Told him I didn’t understand a lot of things, asked him to help me. I prayed to God in Jesus’ name to help me. I prayed for forgiveness. I certainly didn’t follow any ‘script’, nor did I know of one, I just spoke from my heart. And I asked Him to show me He heard me by having me get pregnant. One year later, our second son was born.
I would like to tell you that re-programming went quickly. It didn’t. Over the years many people have been used to show me Christ’s love, and to understand the true meaning of what it is to have a relationship with Him, to understand the true meaning of grace. I didn’t grasp that right away.
My ‘nurses’ often didn’t realize they were helping me. I often didn’t either at the time. He has used people like my husband, my children, good friends, church, work and blogging communities. I get a glimpse of how He has used people in the past, like my Grandmother.
I understand the lines “I once was lost, but now I found, I once was blind, but now I see”.
I am surrendered to Jesus Christ. When on the cross, my sins held him there, yet he prayed for me. He thought of me. A gift, pure and simple. Nothing I could ever do would compare. It was freely given. He is the way, the truth and the life. Because of Him I see the Father.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 8, 9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8, 9
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:22-24
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life, No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. John 14:6-11
In the hospital, the Great Physician heals me. He has me in his care. Each past wound surrendered, is dealt with lovingly, in prayer. In the hospital there are many wings and floors. All those illnesses, sickness, scars that need to be probed, examined, and removed are done under his care to draw me closer to Him. Being a transparent Christian, means saying this is me and what Jesus has freed me from.
He loved me enough, just as I was, to pursue me. He loves me enough to heal me, past, present and future just as I am.
In His hospital, He frees any pain: past, present and future. I am so thankful to be in His hospital. There is peace there.
My prayer is this post is used for His glory. I will look for you in the hospital. There are many rooms. Have you claimed yours?
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:4-7
I won’t go back, can’t go back, to the way I was before.
I’m under His care.