It is hard to be an adult and feel as if I don’t even know who I am. Struggling to make sense of the past. Asking God why. And feeling lost. Who am I/are we? For so long we were told who we were and what we were to do. It was easy. Follow the rules and do what your authority figures are telling you. Read the books you are given and follow those principles and you will have a successful Christian life. We did all the right things. We went to all the seminars. We bought and read the books. We did the stuff we were supposed to do. We wore the right cloths. We acted the right way.
Yet it all felt empty. So, I tried harder. I tried to forgive and forget. I listened to the instructions on crying out to God. On how to pray. I learned the “correct” way to cry out to God. I’d heard the stories of deliverance and restoration that came from crying out to God. It didn’t work.
It didn’t change my family. My dad didn’t come home and we didn’t have the restoration of a family that was “whole.” You know the kind of family that has both parents around following God, with 10 thousand children, because those are the families God will use. At conferences we were told to try harder, do more. If you did it right the things that had happened to my family wouldn’t be happening. My mom wouldn’t have been hurt. My dad wouldn’t have left. We wouldn’t be stranded out from under the ‘umbrella of protection’ that God has designed for family. If we were doing it right, God would miraculously change my dad’s heart and turn him into this superhuman Christian.
We were all playing a game. A game run by a man, who should not have been given the power to run our lives and families the way he was. It was all a lie. I know it, but I still played along, I didn’t know anything else.
As a young adult, I tried many times to break away from all the bondage and lies surrounding a lot of my growing up life. Then I would get sucked back into it. Some people, who have been inside, have called it a cult. Many/most people outside have called it a cult. I would agree. It’s a little scary to think that one was ever part of a cult. The best kinds of cults mix just enough truth with their lies to draw people in. And boy were thousands upon thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people drawn in. It is so hard to try and muddle through it all. Searching for truth. Completely changing your way of thinking. Learning that words like forgiveness, authority, submission, obedience, modesty, etc are not meant to bring fear. Learning what those things actually are and that they are not meant to oppress and keep us in bondage and darkness. They are beautiful words to bring freedom and love.
For so long, I had very successfully pushed this part of my life into a nice little box. It was locked with a pretty, but incredibly strong lock and tied with beautiful ribbon, that could not be cut or untied. Or so I thought. Then social media exploded with people all over talking. Telling their stories of horror and pain and hurt. It was this strange uniting of people, some familiar and some complete strangers. It was beautiful. There was a glimpse of hope. There was comfort, yet sadness, that I wasn’t the only one hurt.
At first I ignored it all. Then I slowly started reading more and more. Thinking about the amount of people who have been hurt so badly and the people who have turned their backs on a God they had been taught about and thought they knew. Truth be told the god they taught was only a tiny part of the God of the Bible and mostly part of a man made god. I was angry and a little depressed. I wanted to just crawl into a hole thinking about how evil our world is, how easy it is for that to creep into and destroy people’s lives.
My husband and I recently went and saw the movie Son of God. The cross scene struck me. As people around me were crying and I myself was crying, I found myself feeling peace and joy. At first I thought what is wrong with you? This is horrible. They just portrayed Jesus being beaten over and over. They just put him on a cross! As horrifying as that was, I felt peace and hope and yes, joy. I was overwhelmed with the love displayed in that scene. So much pain and yet there is hope.
This part of my story is painful and filled with so many lies, but it’s not the end of a story. It is just a part of it. I get to choose how big a part of it, it is. I have made some of the dearest friends and have had some wonderful memories, I wouldn’t exchange for anything. There is hope. There is restoration. My God is much bigger than ATI and all of it’s twisting of Scripture. He is all about healing, restoration, growth, and community that is real and allows for the freedom to tell your story. Healing, restoration, and growth can only happen in real community, when there is freedom to be honest about what you’ve been through.