A Bit of History ~
It’s really hard to know where to start! Like a lot of people raised in the 2×2 sect – my involvement in the sect resulted from my great grandparents’ involvement with the original crew of workers. As I understand things, when the workers came to Redbird and Lynch, Nebraska, nearly everyone in the area “professed”, including my great grandparents. (my Mom’s father’s parents – the Witherwax’s) There was even convention for a while somewhere close to where my great-great-grandfather homesteaded (which is where my parents live now).
This is jumping ahead a little bit, but when I was a freshman in high school, I attended just that one year of high school in Lynch, NE. The school kids there were pretty rotten to me, which I was not used to. (Everywhere else that I went to school I got along with most people.) One day, the kids all ganged up on me and started asking me questions about my religion. The really weird thing for me (as I didn’t know the history of the area then) – was that they ALREADY KNEW all the traditions/structure of the 2×2 sect. In later years, I finally learned that most of their great grandparents and/or grandparents had been involved in it as well.
My great uncle Cecil was involved in the 2×2’s all his life – and told us a few interesting stories. One story was that my great-grandpa was involved in some sort of dispute with neighbors (all professing) about where to put a new road in that went through his property. He had Sunday morning meeting in his home – and one Sunday– NO ONE came to his house! They had apparently all decided that they were going to have meeting somewhere else and didn’t bother to inform him. He ended up just going wherever they had moved the meeting to eventually!
I don’t know what caused my Granddad Witherwax NOT to profess. I know his mom died when he was thirteen and my mom claims that is why he didn’t. I’ve found, however, that with the Witherwax’s there is a lot more under the surface usually…and Mom tends to make up reasons/excuses that sound good to her about, well…everything!
But, he didn’t profess and my mom was raised in a home with no religion. My grandmother had been raised German Lutheran. But Grandma was a pretty modern woman for her time – very intelligent, went to college, got her degree and became a school teacher. She must have been a bit wild because she and my granddad “HAD” to get married as she was pregnant with my mother’s oldest sister.
However, after all of their kids, including my mother were grown – Grandma started going to meetings with my Granddad’s sisters and their families and professed – and then Granddad professed.
Kansas – Mom professes
My Mom seemed to be convicted that she needed to do something about church/religion after having my brother, Morgan and me. We were living in southwestern Kansas at the time. I remember vaguely going to different churches for services and Vacation Bible School. (Ironically, I mostly remember liking the cookies and Kool-aid at VBS) I think I was three when Mom professed. The only real memory I have was bouncing onto Dad in the morning and asking if I was staying with him – and him telling me “no, you and Morgan are going to church with Mommy”. This would have been around 1974-1975 and Anne Dixon and Viola Reavis (sp?) were the sister workers she professed through.
To be honest, I don’t blame Mom for falling in love with the Friends and sister workers there in southwest Kansas. They were good people. We went to meeting at Jim and Martha Bishop’s house. We met our good friends, Andy and Susie Jones, who had also just professed and whose daughter, Jamie, was my age and my very best friend. In addition to Anne and Viola – we had Grace Young and Marvel Krause (who was awesome – loved kids and loved animals – and instigated fun things like water gun fights) and eventually had Annalee Keim in our field for several years.
Looking deeper at my mother and the reasons involved in her choice
There were more factors involved in her decision than the wonderfulness of the F/W. The expression “still waters run deep” definitely applies to my mom. I have to state, for the record, that I love my mother. But she is a manipulative, jealous, controlling and mentally unstable person. Not that you would have known it to meet her then as she always presented herself as a calm, very caring person in public. Other people, who didn’t live with her, loved her and thought she was wonderful. And I didn’t understand fully who she was then either as a youngster – just that she could reveal a terrible temper in the privacy of our home at times if I or my brother upset her. We were both easily controlled with a “look” from her in public.
I now strongly suspect that she made her “choice” partially because of her parents. My grandparents never had a happy marriage and she was always a little obsessed with making them (my Granddad especially) happy. I think she may have chosen the same religion they had chosen in an effort to please them and bring peace to her family. She would deny that vehemently, I’m sure.
I also believe that she also wanted to limit my Dad’s parents – my Grandpa and Grandma Galloway’s – involvement in our life. She has always been terribly jealous of my Grandma Galloway. Morgan and I got to stay with Grandpa and Grandma Galloway one glorious week one summer – and then we happened to mention something we had seen on TV and she told us after that “there’s no reason for you to go to your grandparents if all you are going to do is watch TV”. We had actually gone swimming in Evans Plunge several times, as they lived in Hot Springs, SD – and they had taken us to Rapid City, SD to see Mt. Rushmore and all the tourist attractions there. But, we never got to stay with them by ourselves ever again. And, my baby sisters were never really allowed to know them, which is sad, because they were wonderful, caring people who showed real love for others. They took in foster children for years after their own kids were grown.
I didn’t know then what pressure she put on my Dad at that time, but he has revealed since I became an adult that– as he puts it – “all professing did for your Mother was just made her harder to get along with”!
This, I see, is a common theme in the stories of others who have left meetings. A lot of exes seemed to have had a parent or parents- who were manipulative and controlling like my mom – and who moved on eventually to being flat-out abusive. Something about the “spirit” in the 2×2 sect seems to greatly appeal to people who are manipulative and controlling.
I was an easy-going, mellow kid –so this lifestyle my mother had chosen didn’t bother me much as a child. We went to all the available meetings, which was an opportunity for me to scheme with Jamie as to how we could convince our mothers to let us stay at each other’s houses and play. We read the Bible in the mornings and Mom preached to us (for hours it felt like) – and we usually were asked what we remembered in Sunday morning meeting on the way home (an hour drive) so I tried to pay attention so I had something to “report”.
All the Mennonite kids in the area still went to public school, so when I started school, my dress and braids didn’t make me stand out. We gave up Christmas- which looking back – was probably harder on my paternal grandparents than on me. I had bangs, and after Susie Jones informed Mom that she needed to grow my bangs out, Mom dutifully peeled my hair back into a barrette until they did.
When I started 3rd grade, the Mennonite kids were gone. They had built their own school and pulled all their kids out of public school. The rest of the kids I went to school with were staring at me as though I had LITERALLY missed the bus!! “Why aren’t you going to school with the rest of your church?” they asked. I said, “Remember? My mom doesn’t wear the black cap on her bun!!”
It has occurred to me as an adult – and my brother and I have discussed this – that some of the appeal for my mother was pride in all of the outward conformity. She is a very, very proud person. We were expected to conduct ourselves in a way that would make her look good. And, boy – was I good at that. “What a good little girl” “What a good little helper” the workers and Friends would exclaim when watching me clear the table and wait on our company hand and foot. And, my mother would beam, because Oh, what a good mother she was to have SUCH obedient children. When thinking of this -the verse comes to my mind “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”.
The “Foundation” is Laid (or shall we say, “Let the indoctrination begin”)
And, I meet Someone
It was about the time I was 8 years old that Annalee Keim came into our field. This was significant mostly because Annalee, while I believe was good intentioned and good-hearted, might have done the most to brainwash Morgan and me. She was definitely in our home the most. In Annalee’s gospel meetings, we would memorize and regurgitate all the verses plucked from the Bible to support the 2×2 homeless ministry. We had discussions on how to tell other kids at school why we didn’t celebrate Christmas (to tell them how wrong it was). She also took me with her when she was batching and I went door to door and invited strangers to gospel meetings.
I recognize now how God intervened and put His hand over me at that time. He and I “met” for the first time when I was nine years old. Lecil Sullivan, a brother worker, was in a gospel meeting and he spoke about the difference between time and eternity. I can’t tell you details of what he said now. But, somehow, sitting there, I felt a need to know God and to speak to Him. So, at home that night, I cleared out a little space in my closet and got in it and shut the door (because I had heard that verse about going into your closet to pray before and took it quite literally) – and I prayed for the very first time. Somehow I knew that He wanted to know me – and I wanted to talk to Him. It was very personal – and my relationship with my Father in heaven (one that I would neglect severely at times over the years) started that night.
I say He put his hand over me – because of this. Annalee started telling a story in gospel meetings—over and over— about a little boy named Willy. According to Annalee’s story, Willy told his parents that he wanted to profess at the age of eight, and they told him no because he was too young. But he pestered and pestered them until they finally gave in and let him profess. He then was killed in a farm accident of some sort. And, his parents and family were so thankful that they had let him profess.
Oh yeah, I got her message—you’d better profess before you die or you’re going to hell. But, somehow, having had the experience I had had with God, I knew I was in His care already and didn’t need to worry about hell. Besides, with what I understood then, I was going to wait until I was 12 years old and stand up at Bird City convention, because Jesus “professed” when he was 12 and he was our example. So, I did. My professing was, in my mind, just the start of me “taking part” in meeting – NOT the start of my walk with God. I had already chosen to walk with Him—in my bedroom closet when I was nine.
I know that some 2×2’s would say, Well, isn’t the fact that you were moved to pray after a brother worker spoke ‘proof’ that meeting is the ‘right way?’ ” And, my response would be: God can speak through ANYONE. He can even speak through a donkey and through a man that does not serve Him—just read about Baalam (Numbers 22).
My brother professed at Texarkana convention after the brother worker said, “I don’t know how you are going to sleep tonight if you don’t stand up.” So, Morgan stood up!
Cracks in the Foundation
It’s been a lot of years, so I’ll just touch on a few things that caused “cracks” in the foundation teaching that Annalee, my mom and other F&W built. We moved to Lakin, Kansas, when I was in 6th grade. In about 7th grade, my school friends asked me, very kindly, to show them where the Bible specifies what clothes a woman should wear. Where does it say to wear dresses?? I couldn’t find it. My mom spouted something about how we were supposed to be like Sarah. It was one of the first instances that made me go “hmmmnn” in puzzlement. My friends had a good point too—didn’t the men wear robes and sandals in Jesus’ day? Robes are kind of like dresses.
NOT, that I was going to be able to wear jeans—and I didn’t dare argue the subject with my Mom. I wanted to live to be 13 years old. My Dad had got exasperated at one point when I was riding my horse and my skirt was up around the top of my thighs and told my Mom I was too old to wear skirts when riding horses and it wasn’t modest. So, she made me wear culottes. Can I tell you all how much I hate, hate, hate ugly old culottes?!! (To use an old 80’s expression – “gag me!”) But I wore them while riding my horses all the way through college. And I had permanent bruises inside my knees from the edge of the hem rubbing me there while I rode.
Weirdly, when we lived in Lakin, she did get me a pair of jeans at a garage sale and gave them to me before I went fishing with my brother and our friend Ramona (whose grandparents professed and she stayed with them in the summer). I found out they were strictly for fishing, because I wore that pair of jeans once, riding my horse around town. Mom was furious and ranted and raved at me about how I was being vain and proud (i.e. in general, a horrible child). I wonder now if Ramona’s grandparents – Olan and Sarah Harlan – thought jeans should be worn when it was practical, and she didn’t want to show them what an extremist she was, so she was only okay with me wearing them if I was with Ramona! I say this because Olan was the one who advised my parents that it would be a good idea for my brother to do cross country and be on the track team. Morgan had a lot of allergies and breathing issues, and Olan told them that if he ran, he would expand his lungs and be healthier. Being involved in sports was considered taboo from what we had been told, but Mom and Dad took Olan’s practical advice. After all, it came from a wise professing man they greatly respected.
I forgot to mention that my Dad professed, in a Sunday morning meeting, when I was about 10-11 years old. I think he did do it with a sincere desire to be closer to God, but I’m sure there was plenty of pressure from Mom. Dad had great respect for Annalee as she had put an end to the younger married wives getting together for “hen parties” where they mostly complained about their husbands. He was also good friends with Andy Jones and Olan Harlan. He and Olan Harlan worked together. First, Olan worked for Dad when he was a general manager for a large farming/ranching operation, then later they worked as partners in a tire shop when we lived in Lakin, KS. Dad told me (recently) that in his conversations with Olan in those days, Olan told him that Mom would be Dad’s “cross to bear” in life. Olan also told him that he had asked Annalee before Dad professed “Why haven’t you talked to Neal about professing?” and Annalee had said, “Well, I would, but Neal has a VERY jealous wife”. So, there were undercurrents that I, as a child, was unaware of.
We moved to Nebraska – back to the “old home place” at Redbird (by Lynch, NE) in October of 1980. My mom was pregnant with my baby sister, Emma’lee at the time. I already had one little sister, Neah, who was 4 years old at the time. I was 13 and Morgan 16.
Morgan and I were so excited! To move from barren, flat southwestern Kansas to a place with hills, trees, rivers and creeks. It seemed like paradise.
It became more like hell for me.
I don’t know if I’ll scare some off here if I talk about evil spirits? I believe in them – I don’t see how not to. If we believe in God and his legions of angels – it stands to reason that Satan and his devils, demons and evil spirits are real. Paul said that’s what we wrestle against – not flesh and blood, but those darker powers.
I don’t know much about evil spirits – but I almost wonder if there wasn’t an evil spirit in the house my great-great-grandfather had built, where my Granddad had lived until he sold the place to my parents. My mother’s personality turned dark and evil when we moved there. She had always had a temper. But, now I could no longer do anything right.
Dad, unfortunately, was either trying to find work – or when he did – was working away from home, so he wasn’t around. Mom berated me for hours for everything – even little things like hanging a towel up wrong. Like a physical abuser who knows how to punch their victim so as to not leave visible bruises – my mother didn’t use the typical language of a verbal/mental abuser. She never called me ugly, fat or stupid. Instead, I was called vain, proud, rebellious and was told how disappointed other people (usu. unnamed) were in me. To be honest, I stopped listening most of the time when the rant would start. I was defenseless. To dare speak back to her was to invite a backhand across my face. My mom was a ranch girl – she grew up milking cows, throwing hay bales and other physical labor. If she backhanded you – there was some serious muscle behind it. She split my lip open more than once. And, I rarely spoke back.
I did however go into the other room, where she couldn’t see me and flipped her the “bird” vigorously!
She was verbally and mentally abusive to my brother also, but more so to me. Possibly, because no matter how many ways and many times she said it – I stubbornly didn’t believe I was as worthless as she was trying to tell me I was. She could “get to” Morgan and make him feel bad. And, he had more options for getting away from home as he had a job and car. He tried to stand up for me – I remember him intervening one night – and they argued and he slammed out of the house. My mother looked at me and snarled “See what YOU’ve done”. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was…shocked.
I don’t remember turning to God during that time, but I know He was there. My focus was on surviving my mother, not on my spiritual life. I can say now, THANK GOD for placing my brother and little sisters in my life. I remember a few times considering whether I could shoot myself with one of Dad’s guns or cut my wrists with a knife to put myself out of my misery — then I would think of my siblings and it would stop me. If you remember earlier I mentioned that my freshman year of high school I went to school with kids that harassed me. So that harassment at school and my mother’s abuse at home was unbearable at times for a kid who thought she was looking at 3 more years of torture to endure. (And, you know how long 3 years is to a kid. It goes by like a flash nowadays!)
Oh – and it gets worse…
My granddad sexually molested me the summer I was 14. My professing granddad. And, when bawling and trying to tell my mother what happened – to explain why I didn’t want to be around him anymore – I was told that I “had read too many magazines”.
Turns out, he had molested one of my cousins for years, ever since she was a little girl of 8 or 9. (Mine was a one-time nightmare, thank GOD). She and I decided that if our mothers would not protect us that we would stay away from him and we would make sure that he never, ever, ever touched my baby sisters. I really believe that God intervened because shortly thereafter Granddad died. I was happy and relieved at his death.
I will never understand my mother in that situation. I would have killed him to have kept him away from my baby sisters. I would have a hard time, even now, not killing someone if they violated my daughter. I DO NOT CARE WHO THEY ARE. I ask God to protect my precious child from monsters on a regular basis. I cannot imagine as a mother, not having that protective instinct towards your child. I strongly suspect that he molested her and her sisters as a child, but she still denies it.
(This is probably not that funny to someone who doesn’t have my slightly twisted sense of humor, but I imagine if she had read all the life stories of ex’s online back then, she would have told me that I read too many of the ex’s stories! The abuse that went on “inside” is horrific)
Life goes on…thank the Lord for a good brother
Morgan helped me “escape” when he could. He had the wheels and cash from all the jobs he worked at. He could sometimes talk Mom into letting me go to get-togethers with other professing kids and to convention. Even getting to go to convention was a battle. I remember one year I wanted to go to Antioch. I had gone the summer before with another young professing couple. Mom told me she didn’t think I should go, because “she heard that I was being a snob at convention last year”. I was stunned. I was a friendly, happy kid when away from her and thoroughly enjoyed all the socialization of convention. I would never have been snotty to anyone – it wasn’t in my nature. I asked her who said it…and she wouldn’t tell me.
How do you fight a liar? Especially one that has total control over you. The abuse continued until the day I graduated from high school. One of our biggest fights was over my graduation party. It was my party, right? – and I had just had it (and I was almost out of there). I was being nagged and berated and ordered around and I finally screamed at her “Why can’t I ever have something JUST because? Just because I’m your daughter?? Why do I have to work for everything from you?” I had NEVER screamed at her before. She slapped me more than once- nailed me so hard across the face that my jaw was numb for the rest of the day.
Apparently, my dad and mom have had fights where she states that he “never disciplined” us. His retort was “When did Melissa EVER need to be disciplined?” Most normal non-professing parents would have been ecstatic about the kind of kid I was. I was an A/B student (mostly A’s –not to brag!) and while my school friends were drinking and having sex, I never partied or drank. I barely went out with school friends for anything after school. I came straight home from school and immediately started doing dishes, cleaning house, and taking care of my baby sisters. I was my mother’s slave and babysitter. And, for Pete’s sake, I professed!
I told her once, after I was grown, married and a mother myself, that not only was I quite sure during those years that she didn’t love me, I was positive she didn’t like me either. She apologized with tears in her eyes. I struggle with forgiving her. Sometimes I think the issue is put to rest…and something will happen that brings up all the pain and hurt again – and I have to forgive her again. 70 times 7 — right?
Somewhere along in there…I lost that childlike faith I had had at 9–12 years old. Convention and get-togethers with the F/W was my escape from abuse, so I guess I started listening to their message – and bought into the whole “working my way to my salvation” doctrine. I rarely prayed. I read my Bible only to be able to “give my testimony” on Sunday mornings. I even sometimes came up with my “sermon” in the few quiet minutes before meeting started.
A legalistic parent makes for a sneaky kid
Now, I was a good kid for the most part – definitely in the eyes of “worldly Christians”. But, I was a little naughty and rebellious where professing was concerned. I had a friend at school that helped me curl my hair and put on makeup a few times at school. I, of course, scrubbed it all off before going home. I was too scared to try that more than a few times, but it was a definite thrill to have good-looking guys give me the “eye”, when normally I felt ugly – or even worse, invisible.
We lived in Norfolk, NE while I went to the last 3 years of high school and it was a big school – about 300 or so in my class. So, my dress and hair were not commented on quite as much as in smaller schools. Oddly, the other kids seemed to think it was my choice and I got a few compliments for “doing my own thing” from some of them. I still have a journal from English class that all my classmates wrote a note to me in. Most of the notes to me can all be summed up as “You are a very sweet girl, it’s so cool you do your own thing – but you need to let your hair down and party with us!!”
I also really, really liked movies. I had always loved books and music – so movies were very enticing. When Morgan and I went to get-togethers at one of the professing families’ homes, they would rent a TV and VCR for us and we would rent movies to watch. It was nerve-wracking, sneaking into the movie section at the grocery store and hoping we didn’t run into any of the other Friends! When we lived in Norfolk, two professing kids –brother and sister- who lived about 30 miles away would come to town to visit Morgan and I and we would go to the movie theatre. Conveniently, it was in the same building as the bowling alley, so we could always say we were going bowling. Apparently, since it was other professing kids we were with, Mom didn’t suspect anything.
When I went to college at UNL (Lincoln, NE), I had a pretty straight-laced bunch of professing kids to hang out with. We did a lot together – went waterskiing, swimming, out to eat, and went to different events the college put on – but only my best friend Kim and I would dare sneak out to watch movies.
College~ More cracks in the “foundation”
I was a very good girl in college. Made sure I got to Wednesday night meeting, even though I didn’t have a car, so I had to bum rides from the other kids. I didn’t drink, didn’t date much and I only hung out with my study groups when studying and my professing friends for socializing. However, I had a couple big “fractures” during my college experience:
When I left home at 18 years old, I left my 8-year-old and 4-year-old baby sisters. I missed them terribly. And, I missed my horse, Dolly. So, every weekend that I could find a ride back home (mom and dad had moved back to the old home place at Lynch), I went home to cuddle my baby sisters and ride my horse.
Mom, oddly enough, now that I was out on my own, started treating me much better. (She instead started in with the verbal abuse on my 8-year-old sister and got much worse to my Dad. But for me, I was finally somewhat “free” of her abuse).
Me going home for the weekend annoyed the sister worker in Lincoln to no end. I can’t even remember her name. She made comments – not really directly to me, but snide innuendo – that if I was doing what I was supposed to, I would be staying in Lincoln on the weekends and going to my “home” meeting. I was old enough and had learned to question authority enough…that I ignored her totally and continued to go home. The fact that she seemed to feel that I shouldn’t miss or want to be with my actual family – that I should want to be with the Friends instead (esp. considering that my mom and dad professed) – her attitude really bothered me.
I loved the Friends – I had actually thought of them as an extended family for some time. Conventions for me were a grand time – getting to see my friends and visiting. Even visiting with older friends was so enjoyable. I never limited my friends to my age group, so it was “old home week” when I went to a convention where I knew most of the people. THEN, I had an experience that showed me very, very clearly that the Friends were NOT my family:
One of the professing families had a Valentine get together for all the young professing kids they could round up in Nebraska and surrounding states. It was one of those freak days you get sometimes midwinter in Nebraska and Wyoming where it’s in the upper 60s and just beautiful, so we had played a bunch of silly games and were outside enjoying the weather. I was having a great time.
My brother, Morgan (who at this time was married and living/working in Missouri) happened to be traveling through and stopped in to see us all. Not sure when he got his earful, but before too long, he tells me that we need to take a drive. Thinking it was some family issue, I went for a ride with him. He tells me that a lot of the Friends are quite upset with me. I’m totally shocked. They think that I am being a mooch. (For those of you that are from other countries and may not use that phrase – they, the Friends, thought I was taking advantage of them financially and otherwise)
Now, here I am – a college kid with no car and no money. Our Mom and Dad at this time are barely getting by financially, and they did not contribute to financing my education at ALL! I was going to school because of financial aid – grants, scholarships, student loans and work study. I actually remember counting out pennies so I could buy a money order to pay my electric bill.
I had mistakenly assumed that the Friends were family, so to accept a ride to meeting, to accept a meal when invited to their homes, to accept a ride down to Missouri to see my brother and sister-in-law when other kids were going down there anyway – I assumed they had invited me, understanding my circumstances and were just being nice.
Not to make excuses for myself – I should have realized that I needed to kick in some $$ once in a while – or to tell them that I couldn’t afford to go/do whatever. But I was terribly hurt that no one had said anything directly to me and instead they had gone to my brother! I asked my brother as I was crying my eyes out, “Why did they go to you with this? Why didn’t they come to me?” He told me in later years that my questions really hit him hard. Why indeed?
Now, I realize in the Bible that there are some issues where God did not give us direct guidance. However, in the situation where you have a problem with your brother/sister in Christ – He did give us very clear directions. Directly from the lips of Jesus, there are directions for this situation (Matthew 18:15-16) “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained a brother.” And then goes on to tell, if the trespasser won’t listen, to take 1-2 witnesses, and if he still won’t listen, then to involve the church. It doesn’t say, “if thy sister shall trespass against thee, go tell her brother”.
And, the cracks widen
I did have a Christian (non-professing) college friend, Suzanne, who was from Atkinson, NE (near where my parents live). We split the gas and she gave me rides back home on the weekends. We had great conversations – mostly about spiritual things. I could see that her entire life was lived for God. (I sadly couldn’t see myself clearly – and didn’t realize that I attempted to compartmentalize God.) I remember one time “confessing” to her that I had dropped my contact on the floor and had prayed about it. I’m blind as a bat, so it’s a little hard for me to find one if I drop it! I was so ashamed that I prayed for something so “worldly”. Suzanne looked at me in shock. “God cares about EVERYTHING in our lives…even the little stuff,” she said.
Suzanne and I had a discussion one day about Corinthians and the “long hair” for women issue. From her point of view, the covering it spoke of was a veil, hat – an actual head covering. I agree with that now, but at the time I brought up the later verse that says that a women’s hair is given her for a covering. Suzanne said, “But what about the first verses of that chapter that talk about a man being the head of a woman and God being the head of a man. Why do you think it is okay to have women preachers who exert authority over men?” Well, she had me there. Why were some verses given major emphasis, while other verses in the same chapter and book were ignored totally in meeting? I remember being puzzled, but feeling guilty at the same time that I was questioning.
My mom at this time began to listen to a LOT of Christian radio. Weird, I know. But, I think it was because my parents are both very politically conservative and that’s where they felt the news was most accurate. Politics were discussed at our dinner table (ad nauseum) while I was growing up. I knew exactly where my parents stood on all the big issues and had my mind made up about most of them. My Government teacher in high school loved me. He allowed us to debate an issue every Friday and I’m sure my classmates were very surprised when quiet little me spoke up with a definite opinion on each issue. One of the most startling conversations I ever had with a professing friend was when my friend Kim stated that she was pro-choice. REALLY? – you can read the Bible – Psalm 139, read Jeremiah’s story – read how God knew us before and when we were formed in the womb and have that opinion? Anyway…I digress.
Mom expanded a little beyond the news on Christian radio…and started listening to Dr. Dobson, Larry Burkett and letting my little sisters listen to Adventure in Odyssey and the other kids’ programs. I ended up listening to it when I was home too and found the Christians who were speaking through that forum heartfelt and honest. I remember actually saying in my testimony in meeting one day that I was glad there were other Christians out there, like Dr. Dobson, who could reach people and let them know about God in a way that we couldn’t. After meeting, nobody said anything to me about it.
In the summer of 1991, I got a scholarship to go to Oxford, England, to go to school. I was so excited – I had never even seen the ocean and hadn’t been in too many of the US states. It was a program we had between the University of Nebraska’s College of Business and Oxford University. I stayed at Mansfield College.
My experience there started out a little rocky. I can’t remember how long the plane ride took, but it was long and I didn’t sleep well. There were a few kids in the same program that ended up being on the plane with me (thank God, because I wouldn’t have known what to do on my own). When we arrived in England, we got a taxi, made our way to Oxford from London and found our college. It was early Sunday morning – and I thought I needed to go to meeting, so I had a taxi take me to the address one of our sister workers had given me. Why, I thought that was necessary…I really don’t know now. “Being an example” to those other kids I suppose. I made it through most of meeting without falling asleep – and got quite the jolt of surprise when the emblems were passed. “That’s not grape juice,” I thought, almost choking on the real wine in the cup!
We had a supper that night where all the students met with the professors. They served cold tomato soup for our first course. I was jetlagged and a little sick to my stomach, so that was a little hard to take. Sick and tired, I ended up excusing myself early and going back to my dorm to go to bed. And, there it hit me. All the homesickness and loneliness you can imagine washed over me like a huge wave. What was I doing so far away from my family and everyone I knew?? I felt SO alone. I hit my knees and prayed to God like I hadn’t prayed in a long, long time. Then, I felt something cover me- an actual physical covering – like a huge warm hand holding all of me– and I heard God’s voice very clearly say to my mind, “You are not alone – you are never alone. I AM always with you”
From that moment on– I had the best time I had ever had in my life. My roommate was awesome – she and 2 other girls and I did all the exploring we could do when we weren’t studying. We had lots of field trips – all over England – and took advantage of a long weekend to go up to Scotland and explore. It stands as one of the most memorable times I have ever experienced. I faithfully went to Sunday morning meetings while I was there. Had a chance to ask about the wine when I stayed for dinner one day – and the older lady I asked was quite offended that we used grape juice in the States. “Wine is to quicken us,” she said sharply.
I’ve thought about that moment with God many times. I’ve never had that experience since – of Him actually physically touching me and speaking to me that clearly. But, it was very real and I’m so grateful to Him for His love in that moment and always.
And, so I went on through life, living saintly and peaceably – having been touched by the hand of God.
Uhh….yeah right. Not quite.
Our very, very patient heavenly Father was going to have to wait quite some time for me to get a clue.
I don’t even remember exactly how I got to be quite as much of a brat as I did in my twenties. I can say honestly that as a child, I was none of the things my mother accused me of being – I wasn’t vain, wasn’t proud, wasn’t a rebel…oh, wait…maybe I was a little rebellious, but I wasn’t vain or proud. Definitely no vanity – I thought I was ugly.
We had this little sign hanging in our house most of the time while I was a child that said “Children live what they learn” and had a little verse to go with that thought. Well, I can say that children do definitely live what they learn from their parents. I learned to be manipulative and controlling – and proud and quite, quite the rebel. Maybe even a little vain, but that took a while.
The other professing girls pestered me about boys. I liked boys. I like attractive men quite a lot – still do. But, for some reason, I was never the professing boys’ choice. I was quite sure it was because I was so homely. Makes my heart hurt to think about it now – because under my dowdy clothes, my unruly hair forced into a proper professing style, my glasses, etc – there was a cute girl. Had I known that as a child, teenager, even in college…what a difference it might have made.
I went on a few dates in college, but they were sort of “set up” for me. My professing girlfriends were somehow convinced that I wasn’t dating because I “didn’t give boys a chance” and scolded me for it. I think the message was actually, “lower your standards, ‘cuz you aren’t cute enough to snag the cute boys you like”.
So, after that conversation, I gave the first guy that asked me out a chance and went on a date with him. I was working in Omaha, NE at the time, right after college. I was following orders, but my professing friend was a little horrified when I told her because the guy did not profess.
My first “real” boyfriend
I didn’t go on a 2nd date with that guy, mostly because I wasn’t interested. But then I met John Burke. John was tall, dark and handsome (and nine years older – and divorced). And, he was taken with me. It was intoxicating. That attention became my drug of choice. We worked together and weren’t supposed to date by company rules, so this relationship was “forbidden fruit” in more ways than one. And, y’all know how sweet that is.
I did tell John right away that “my relationship with God was the most important thing to me”. I didn’t even realize I was lying. He wanted to go to gospel meetings. I should have been thrilled, but I was NOT. I had really screwed up by telling my professing friend that he was divorced, and she objected strenuously to me continuing a relationship. So, I hid the relationship. I figured he could go to Sunday afternoon gospel meetings – I just wouldn’t go. So, I lied to him…and I lied to the F/W. Well, lies by omission anyway– I didn’t DIRECTLY lie.
I haven’t talked to many people about this, so this is a little hard to put into words.
I’m GLAD I had the relationship with John (lasted about 1 ½ years) – but I’m so very sorry for how dishonest I was. The reason I am glad was because for the first time – an attractive man told me I was beautiful and sexy – over and over again until it finally sunk in that he actually meant it. I had usually, (except in my extremely dark days at 14 years old), had a confidence in myself. In who I was, I mean. I liked me. I figured most people liked me. I hated how I looked, though, and was completely self-conscious about my looks. He made me see my outward self differently – and I’m very grateful to him for that.
Ironically, he loved my long hair and that I didn’t wear makeup. He’d go on and on about how “naturally” beautiful I was. He was quite disappointed in me the one time he saw me put on mascara!! I felt like a fraud.
It dawned on me early on – that there were things about John I just didn’t really like. He assumed too much – assumed I felt the same way about him as he did about me. Assumed he knew what I was thinking and wanted. And, he was a talker, so I didn’t get much of a chance to correct his “assumptions”. But, I knew – this was NOT the guy I was going to marry. However, his admiration gave me such a high – and I did discover that I really liked making out with him– so I kept him around. Shameful…I know. But, for once in my life – I was in control of a relationship. (Wow, didn’t realize how ugly that sounded until I put it down on paper).
Oh yeah. Some of the Friends – I don’t know who – apparently knew the relationship was still on and sent the sister workers to speak to me about the “situation”. I went innocently to Ruth Ann Purdy’s house (a wonderful older single lady I was friends with), to – I thought – have dinner with the sister workers and Ruth Ann. It is so weird that I cannot remember the sister workers’ names now. (Is there someone who knows who was in the Omaha field in 1993-96?) The younger sister worker was a total sweetheart – very kind (Joyce Tuttle?). She and Ruth Ann never said a word. The other, older sister worker gave me, as we say, “the what for”.
It would be more fun to tell you this story if I could remember what the older worker actually said. However, I think I did what I used to do at home, and immediately quit listening when she started lecturing. I did tell her, over and over, I have no intention of getting serious or marrying this man!! I left annoyed and embarrassed, and I’m quite sure I left the older sister worker very annoyed and Joyce and Ruth Ann quite uncomfortable.
This was probably around the time that I went to York convention. And an old brother worker (Arnold Brown) told us ladies from the platform that we all needed to quit wearing jean skirts because they were so worldly and belonged in a barn.
Let the games begin
I had had it with being told what to do by others in every aspect of my life. I really no longer cared what the workers said. Spiritual leaders? Ha. I had respect for a few, but not most of them.
My relationship with John died a natural death –which would have happened without the lecture– probably sooner.
My party girl days began in earnest
Let me say first, that I do not view drinking the occasional social drink or two as a sin – now that I have evolved. But, back then, drinking alcohol was the height of rebellion for a professing kid. Sex wasn’t, apparently, that “big” of a sin. A good many of my professing friends lost their virginity before marriage and a few, including my friend, Jamie – “had” to get married. Which, when you tell kids they can’t go to plays, can’t go to sporting events, can’t go to movies, etc., etc – what is there left to do?
I had had a few drinks in college. My professing roommate and I had to test out getting carded when we turned 21. She ordered an alcoholic drink in a restaurant on her birthday. I went to the liquor store and bought us a 6 pack of wine coolers on mine. Woo hoo – wild ones, we were.
When I started working after college, I started going to the bars with coworkers to have a drink after work. This started getting to be a habit – and I stayed later and later. Getting tipsy, dancing a little (even though I didn’t really know how), and singing karaoke was fun. I was still socially awkward- like most professing kids are, but alcohol is an equalizer.
I had a good figure and had learned how to dress for work in a way that was attractive and very professional. Somehow, that didn’t carry over to going out afterwards. I was like the Amish girls when they get to have their time of rebellion. I’ve seen documentaries where they are standing there, drinking a beer, in their traditional garb! I think, somehow, in my head –I could not let myself look “too” cute. I did, however, have a good time.
Not that I was always at a bar. Don’t want you to get the wrong impression there – I’ve never been an alcoholic! I rode horses for other people around the Omaha and Council Bluffs area. I spent a lot of time with the professing kids my age that lived in Omaha – playing volleyball, going to the zoo, planetarium, out to eat – and even to music concerts. I went to get-togethers – the most fun ones were when we went canoeing down the Niobrara River. I still “convention-hopped” on the weekends in the fall – a habit I had started in college – hitting Utica, SD, Marysville, KS, Blackwater, MO, and, of course, the Nebraska conventions. Fun times and I still could easily fit in with the professing kids.
There were a few things I started to do that really weren’t rebellion. I just wasn’t convicted about it anymore. My hair was turning prematurely silver – an inherited Galloway trait. I have dark brown, almost black hair, so silver strands are very noticeable. I started going to a salon to color (but not cut) my hair. I also trashed the culottes and wore jeans to ride (and wore them a lot of times when I went out with my non-professing friends.) Coloring my hair earned me a few lectures from professing friends and it was made quite clear that they were very disappointed in me. However, my Dad had always had an issue with the younger ladies that let their hair go gray. “That Lana Hauck is too young and pretty to have gray hair and to look like an old lady,” Dad would say. So, I knew I had my family’s support. Besides, I was actually doing it to look my age!
I never really wanted to live in Omaha. It was just the first place I found a job out of college. There’s a lot for a younger person to do, but it is a yucky big city with yucky big city crime.
I had started working for a finance company in Omaha. Because my brother and sister-in-law were now living in Cheyenne (and because I wanted to live by the mountains) – I sent resumes to all the banks and finance companies in Cheyenne. I moved apartments frequently in Omaha, so every time I moved – I called those bank and finance places and told them I just wanted them to know I was still interested…and here’s my new contact info. Finally, Ford Credit called and offered me an interview. I got the job and moved to Wyoming in June of 1996.
Wyoming is still a little wild. And the Wyoming professing folks are a little more “liberated” than the Nebraskans. Just an example for comparison:
While I was in Lincoln, doing nice, worker-approved activities for the most part with the other good professing kids (other than Kim and I sneaking out to movies). Dustin was going to University of Wyoming and they were NAUGHTY! Most, if not all, of the professing kids went to sporting events (most of them had played sports in high school), to movies, to the bar to drink and dance (they actually LEARNED how to line dance). A few of them (who shall remain nameless) did things like smoking cigarettes, piercing their ear (the guys, not the girls) – even smoked pot and dropped acid. Basically, whatever the heck they felt like. Most of those things – I was way too scared to try. Then, of course, they went to meetings and conventions and acted like good little professing kids around their parents and workers.
I didn’t know that yet…but I soon learned after moving that my Wyoming co-workers were partiers. They loved me…and took me along for the ride. I went snow skiing with them, waterskiing at Flaming Gorge, to their houses for BBQs and parties and out to the bars. I was having a blast. And, of course, still going to meetings and conventions like a good little professing girl.
Did I really sin against God in all my “wild worldliness”? Well, yes – I occasionally got drunk. Drunkenness IS a sin – drinking a couple social drinks is not. That dawned on me eventually. After all, Jesus turned the water into really, really good wine. (AND the English Friends used it for the emblems) Not grape juice. The biggest sin I committed, however – I feel – was dishonesty before God and before men and denying Him with a LACK of Christian behavior. If you would ask my coworkers from Cheyenne if I was a Christian – I’m sure they couldn’t tell you one way or another. They might even say no.
I moved in with another professing girl when my bro and sister-in-law moved from Cheyenne to Casper. Julie was a doll and we really enjoyed each other’s company. She probably didn’t approve of my behavior totally – but she never said anything negative. She was up for watching movies and drinking the occasional wine cooler – but in our home, not where anybody else could see her.
You may be thinking that it was about time for me to get a clue. As old Willy Shakespeare said, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. My nose should have been twitching. After all…I had rejected the authority of the workers over my life (not openly but to myself), I was rejecting a lot of the “works” the Friends were trying to impose on my life – and was gradually accepting other Christians as being “all right with God”.
BUT, that chain that still bound me said that this was the Only True Way that came from Jesus Christ. And that the “people” were flawed, but the “way” was perfect.
So, why could I behave as I did? Because I was young. I wasn’t saved or didn’t think I was. I was convinced I wouldn’t know I was saved until I died, therefore I was willing to gamble that I could do whatever I wanted – and I probably wouldn’t die that night. And, since I thought I could work my way into heaven – I figured that, later, down the road, I could “make it right” with God. It brings tears to my eyes to think of my Savior – hearing my ignorant thoughts at that time. I’m glad He knows all things…and knew even then that He was going to bring me out of captivity.
I don’t know how to start this next story. It still hurts me.
One of the professing young wives in Cheyenne was my sister-in-law’s friend – and I thought she was also my friend. This young gal, Martha (my sister-in-law) and I did a lot of things together. We went shopping, worked out at the local gym and spent a lot of time together. I babysat her little boy. I helped her and her husband get a deal on a vehicle through Ford Credit’s Friends and Family plan. Her husband was very good friends with my brother. He was homelier than a mud fence – but intelligent and funny – and I liked him as a brother/friend. I was never a flirt, but I got along well with men – after all, my big brother was my bestest friend. And, I was very comfortable being friends with married men, because they were off-limits and therefore, there was no pressure or expectations. They could just be brothers/buddies to me. You probably kind of see where this is headed.
Morgan calls me one night (this was after they moved to Casper and I was living with Julie). He tells me that he happened to pick up a phone when Jamie and Martha are talking. (Remember Jamie from Kansas? – she moved to Wyoming and married Todd Lerwick) Jamie tells Martha that this gal (let’s call her B) has informed her that I am “after her husband”. B paints the picture of me as quite the Jezebel and implies that there are other young husbands I’m also “after”. Apparently, I leaned over at convention at one point and showed a little cleavage. NOW, all you ladies that are well endowed know this– sometimes THAT just happens. I would have been mortified if I had known and certainly wouldn’t have leaned over intentionally, but I was totally unaware. I was also completely totally innocent of all of her lies. I would never have been after a married man – they didn’t interest me. They were MARRIED. I wasn’t even terribly worried about being “after” any single man (just ask my husband) – but at least a single guy would have been eligible for a relationship!!
Can you imagine my hurt? I thought she was my friend. And, she professed! I was burning with anger – because, how do you fight a liar? She said it, so it was out there…and I knew someone was going to believe the lie and repeat it. And, again I found myself in a situation where someone had a beef with me – but they didn’t come to me! Instead, they went to an old friend and spoke lies about me as if they were gospel. And, the pain from that dagger in my back – it hasn’t healed yet. She is another person that I forgive over and over when the memories surface.
I was a little hurt by Jamie too – going to Martha instead of coming to me. But, I think she may have been trying to figure out how to “handle” the situation. I’ve never spoken to her about it. Jamie did at least tell B that she was quite sure I was not after her (Jamie’s) husband, Todd.
I didn’t confront B – which, I suppose if I had been following the Bible, I should have. But, I was not so sure that I wouldn’t strangle her if I confronted her in person. So, I just avoided her – and tried to staunch the internal bleeding.
Luckily, I got a distraction …because…my white knight rode into my life. (Or rather, as I can see it now – God merged a couple paths together to fulfill a plan He had had all along.
Dustin (aka the love of my life)
Who’d of thought that a 6’5”, 300 lb, wild Wyoming boy was going to be my “stepping stone” to salvation? (Maybe I’m the only one who listened to testimonies about not being a stumbling block, but being a stepping stone)
Well, apparently not me. Not right away. When Julie introduced me to her friend “Dusty” at Chugwater in June of 1997, I didn’t think much more than that he was a very nice BIG guy with a sweet smile. I’d given up on those professing boys – remember? And, I was pretty sure with the way I lived, none of them were going to accept me as wife material…ever.
Besides, I really didn’t care. I was having a great time being single. I was gone somewhere “playing” every weekend.
It’s a good thing Dustin is persistent. He was teaching art in Chugwater and Glendo, living in Wheatland, so whenever he was headed down through Cheyenne, he would call up his old friend, Julie – to see if she wanted to meet up. Little did I know, he was hoping that I would be there too.
He came through town the first time – I was down in Kansas at a rodeo/trail ride with my Aunt Crys. Next time, I was off at Flaming Gorge – waterskiing and camping with work friends. That time, he was actually on his way to airport – to go to Italy with his folks for a sightseeing trip. So, it took a while. Finally, in August, he decided he would have a boating get-together at HIS house and invite us(me). Sounded like fun to me, so of course, I went. Ironically…there were about 3 boats between all of the Friends that were there – and Dustin and I ended up on different boats all day long. But, finally – at the very end of the day – he played Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” CD (which I love – and I told him so)on the stereo in his basement – gave everyone else the “get lost” sign/look – and kissed me while Tom sang “I gave her my best kiss – she gave it back again”.
Of course, not really knowing each other – there was a little hesitation. I decided I might as well be totally honest. I gave him my “list” of all the things I did – I like to go to movies, like to have a social drink or two, like to go to concerts, I wear jeans etc., etc., and I don’t think that any of those things are wrong. And, he said, yeah, yeah – me too. Oh, and I color my hair, I said. Okay, he said. And, btw, he said – there’s a TV behind that curtain there in my basement.
Talk about a burden being lifted off my heart – one I may not have realized was even there. FINALLY – someone outside of my family that I could be totally, completely honest with – who knew where I was coming from and didn’t judge me.
In September (one month later) – I’m telling him about a prestigious job opportunity with Ford Credit I had been asked to interview for which involved moving all over the country. Instead of being excited, Dustin was crestfallen. “But….I love you. I want to marry you. I don’t want you to move”. I was a little surprised, but thought to myself – “y’know –actually that makes sense. That’s what I want to”. Needless to say – I bombed the interview. In December 1997, we were married.
After the “B” incident – and marrying Dustin…I withdrew from the Friends quite a bit. I was gun shy, to say the least. Why put myself out there and possibly incur the same treatment again?
I felt too, that people pulled away from me. My parents would go to visit my brother, but not Dustin and I. My professing college friends, whom I had faithfully traveled – to Arizona and Missouri – to visit many times when I was single – never came to visit me.
This is going to sound like an excuse…and I don’t mean it to be. I started taking birth control pills – and to say that they just didn’t agree with me is putting it mildly. Me – who was normally in control, showing the world my easy-going, fun-loving self – turned into Psycho Bitch. My poor newlywed husband! I’m so glad he loved me.
I’d like to excuse myself and say it was the hormones, but really, they just cut through my control to show what was really there in my heart. And what was there was really, really ugly – RAGE, insecurity, jealousy, bitterness and dark depravity. I fell in a pit. A dark, self-hating pit. Had I been in doubt that I was a sinner, believe me that I saw the reality of my sinful self in that pit.
It did, however, give me a little more insight and empathy for my mother.
I can’t talk about everything, and I think you’ll understand. Truth is…I don’t remember some of it. I faked things quite nicely with most people. I didn’t even tell my husband everything. Which, in retrospect, was probably a good thing – he might have bailed, screaming in terror – and I wouldn’t have blamed him. I was suicidal, once again. I couldn’t pray. I knew God wasn’t happy with how I was behaving – and I, in my sickness and depression, didn’t even want to change at times- so what would be the point of praying?
I did talk to my doctor, who put me on a milder pill – which helped a little. At least I wasn’t walking into the bathroom at work and slamming my fist into the stall door. (Oh yeah…I did that). I also stopped fantasizing about driving the sporty red Mark VIII that was my company car into a canyon wall at top speed. But, I still fought my emotions. I might have heaved myself to a standing position in that pit, but I had a ways to go.
Billings, Montana – 2000-2005
What brought me out of that pit? Well, my loving God did, of course. Gradually. With a move to Billings, Montana in August of 2000 – a new position with Ford Credit- awesome, caring coworkers – and a pregnancy. (Which happened promptly after I decided I was sick of those stinking pills and quit taking them). Then, I was brought completely out with the miraculous birth of my beautiful little girl in 2002. Being a mom was a more rewarding and special blessing than I could have ever have imagined.
Where were the Friends/Workers in this scenario? I mostly just saw them at meetings—usually just Sunday morning meeting. My sales job kept me traveling during the week, so I had dropped Wednesday night meetings. Convention had lost its appeal for both of us. I made it to a few potluck-type events. That was about it. I had my guard up – and I wasn’t interested in getting too close to anyone. Which was sad, now that I think about it, because some of the younger professing wives in Billings were very nice ladies and probably would have been good friends. They were incredibly excited about my daughter’s arrival – even brought us meals and threw us a baby shower.
Now, I might have done more things with the Friends out of guilt. But, Dustin – being (1)a spoiled only child (and I say that in love) and ( 2) large – as in, he ain’t moving unless he decides too (physically or mentally) – he just doesn’t suffer in silence like I will.
He hated “sings” – he didn’t like potlucks. He wasn’t interested in going to the afternoon meeting of special meeting – he’d rather go to the first meeting, eat out somewhere – and go to a movie in the afternoon. When we went down to Cody convention – we combined going through Yellowstone Park on Saturday, with attending the morning meeting of convention on Sunday. If the Denver Broncos played the early football game on Sunday – we usually didn’t make it to meeting. To be honest, he shocked me a little. Our attendance at meeting definitely improved when Dustin’s dad retired and his parents moved to Billings (can you say “hypocrites”!)
Really, Dustin didn’t have a relationship with God. Not that I was one to talk, but with my daughter being a part of my life – I was starting to feel a need to be able to guide her spiritually. Which brought up the question – Do I really want my daughter to grow up like I did? The answer, for me, was a resounding “NO”.
I was already determined that my daughter would be free of all the Friends “rules” that weren’t Biblical. She could wear pants (sheesh –we lived in Montana!), cut her hair, wear jewelry and makeup ( if she wanted to and at the appropriate age). She would be allowed to explore all those unimportant outward things that I hadn’t been allowed to do. I was scared to death of having her ever go to convention to be around the brainwashed little munchkins there.
We had moved to Broadview, Montana in 2003 – and I actually considered going to the little community church that was closest to us. We talked about it – not real seriously – just about going those days when we didn’t feel like driving 40 miles to Billings to meeting. Our neighbors were delightful Christian people – the wife told me one day that there were people from all different religious backgrounds at that church. “We just figured we all were serving the same God, so we might as well meet together”. I don’t know if I accepted that fully, but it struck a chord with me – a harmonious chord.
The Truth about “the Truth”
Or in keeping with the analogy I started this book with:
The “Foundation”– it turns out –is SAND
It was about 2004 I think, when I was having a phone conversation with big brother – and he decided to tell me something. It would change my life. I don’t remember the conversation exactly, but I think I was stating to Morgan that I just couldn’t accept that other Christians were lost! I knew too many Christians that lived for God, loved him and others openly and had a solid knowledge of the Bible. He said something like – “well, the “Truth” was started by a man, just like other Christian churches.”
Turns out, he had read “The Secret Sect” a couple years before, and had just thought it was best not to say anything as he was sorting things out himself. But, I believe he had got on the internet and read everything he could find about Wm. Irvine and the origins. He’s a very cautious and honest person, so I knew that if he was saying it was true, he had proof to back it up! Actually – something I didn’t know at that time – he had asked the elder of his meeting – and the elder confirmed that yes, indeed this sect was started in the late 1800s as his great uncle had been one of the first workers. That sealed it for Morgan.
What’s funny is, in the midst of the shock — I had two thoughts when he told me 1) I felt validated for all the times I had stood up for other Christians to the “Friends” or quoted Dr. Dobson or some other Christian leader to them. and 2) I thought – hmmm – I wonder if this was what it was all about when we were told there was some book out there that we were NOT supposed to read and when the worker Ron-somebody told us that there were a bunch of friends in Oregon and Washington that had gone off the deep end!!
Dustin, Morgan and I laugh when the Friends talk about other people who have left meeting and how they “just wanted to live selfishly in sin and do whatever they felt like” – because the three of us (like lots of other Friends) – did all of our rebelling while still going to meeting!!
However, to have the whole basis of my “religion” shaken – it brought me to my knees before God and I begged Him, “Please show me your REAL Truth – no matter what”. And, He did. And, He brought me to a real relationship with Him and a willingness to please HIM.
I didn’t know that the 2×2 doctrine was so far off from what the Bible actually teaches (or so confused and different from person to person). So, at first, staying at meeting seemed like the best (okay, I’ll be honest… it was the most comfortable, least controversial) thing to do. So, for the past 7 years, God has shown me one thing after another. I’m a slow learner, obviously!! I started, I think like a lot of people do – with rejecting all the silly outward traditions. Then the Holy Spirit really started to teach and lead me when reading scripture into what was God’s REAL Truth as Jesus Christ.
I’m glad now, that it was a slow process – it gave me a chance to learn how to use that sword of the Spirit – God’s Word – to do as Peter said “be ready always to give an answer (a defense) to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”. Not that I feel like I ALWAYS have that answer – but I know who to go to – to get it! It’s been a very humbling process – to learn that almost everything I thought I knew about God was wrong – to have passages of scripture come alive and go “OH – THAT’S what that means!!” after reading them for years and not understanding. It has made me so aware of how great God is…and how much more He has to show me.
Back to Wyoming we go…And start learning about the ROCK
As I mentioned before, convention already seemed very unsatisfying. That feeling started to increase GREATLY after learning about the origins. Sitting in convention and listening to the workers praise their religion was like nails on a chalkboard. When we moved to Buffalo in November 2005 – there were two couples going to meeting that were a little “unorthodox”. They invited us to their homes for meals – and we had great discussions about meetings. They HATED convention and the whole worker hierarchy. (side note-they no longer go to meeting) So, we started feeling justified in not going to convention and we detached ourselves from the Friends “grapevine” – and just went to Sunday morning meetings (sporadically).
We moved to Kaycee in June 2007. My daughter’s best friend once she started school is a little girl named Jade. They would live with each other if we would let them! It was very evident right away that my daughter was safe and well taken care of when she stayed at Jade’s house– and I became really good friends with Jade’s mom, Cassie. Cassie is one of the happiest, most relaxed people I know. Cassie first mentioned that a group of ladies in town was having a bible study about parenting. But, they were meeting on Wednesdays around lunchtime – and when she told me – that was usually my day to work at the post office. So, I didn’t go to that study, but I thought it would be fun.
Then, when school started back up in 2009, Cassie told me that they were starting a new bible study and it was related to health/weight loss. I thought it sounded weird, but intriguing. I was still in my “comfort zone” going to Sunday meetings, but Dustin and I hadn’t gone to a Wednesday night meeting for years (meeting is 50 miles away and Dustin coaches every sport!!) I thought it would be good to go to a bible study – and, hey – I can always stand to lose a few pounds! Actually, I think I started almost more for the weight loss advice, but it turned into SO much more.
Me ~ Rebuilding ~ on the Rock
I thought I was pretty darn Bible smart when I started going to the study. I arrogantly even thought I would be able to “teach” someone something about scripture. I hate to admit that about myself now – what a self-righteous person I was!! I thought I had already accepted that other Christians were on the right track, too -but it gave me a whole different perspective to sit with them and listen to them talk about their walk with God. And, to listen to them pray!! Their prayers were some of those “WOW” moments for me. I realized I could not and should not judge myself as “better” or more knowledgable than any other Christian. And, it started to really, really, really grate on me when I heard people in meeting glorify meeting and the workers– or deride other churches and Christians.
Our bible study is made up mostly of women that go to the two Baptist churches in town, with a few that don’t attend a specific church.
Just a side note to this – I was already pretty comfortable going in and out of the church buildings in town (we have six!!). Grace Mission does a “Vacation Bible school” and an after-school Bible club – and my daughter had attended both ever since we moved to Kaycee. Her piano recitals are at the Methodist church. So, for one reason or another, I had been IN them – just not for Sunday services.
AND, the really funny thing, after listening to workers go on and on about those “worldly churches” being all fancy and expensive and all about the $$ — not ONE of these churches in Kaycee is fancy. Ironically, Albert and Sheri Townsend’s house IS a mansion (Buffalo meeting). Literally. It screams money. All of these churches in town are older, kept clean, but not fancy at ALL – and the Southern Baptist church is a little run down.
Attendance varies a little at the bible study, but, we’re on our 3rd study. Took last summer off and are just going at our own pace during the school year. I love the combinations of our backgrounds because it gives us all different perspectives to share– and yet, we’ve all been brought to the same knowledge by the Holy Spirit. Keri was raised in a church that incorporated a lot of the old Jewish law and traditions – something like the Worldwide or United Church and now goes to the So. Baptist. Trystan was raised as a Mormon. Becky was raised Mennonite – and she and her family rotate between all the Christian churches in town. Heather is the Southern Baptist’s pastor’s wife! Radona and Kari are sisters and were brought up by a father who has informed them that he’s not “screwed up enough to need religion”. It’s usually a little group, but we have such good conversations and fellowship!
The “weight loss” study, by the way, was actually about how God cares about every aspect of our life – the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental. And, it became apparent to me that other Christians didn’t “compartmentalize” God!! They accepted that He should be in charge of EVERY part of their life and that He actually CARES about every part of their life. I didn’t realize until then how much the Friends have taken Him out of parts of their life. Also, I realized that other Christians have practical applications of their faith. They talk about walking with God in everything they do – in their work, their management of their finances, their marriages, their politics, etc., etc. It started to bother me that when the workers and Friends spoke/testified – it was so general most of the time, or they talked in parables – and it just didn’t feed me the way I was fed when with other Christians!!
The last time Julia Brist (the worker in this field) was in our home – we sat down after the meal for the “discussion”. Julia told about some coconut tree from some Pacific island she had “served” on where the coconuts were in all stages of growth on the same tree and that was “just like meeting because there were people of all ages, all getting the same source of life” and that she thought about a one-room schoolhouse like she had gone to as a girl and how there were “all ages being taught and one source of heat from the one stove” so it was just like meeting. Listening to her was like being fed cardboard instead of really good homemade bread!!! (how’s that for a parable!!
Speaking of parables, I have to tell you our friend Dave’s gas station testimony! Dave came to meetings because of a girl – and when the relationship fell thro’ – he went back to his Assembly of God church. We were talking about how the friend’s testimonies are usually “parables” and how you don’t always know what they are talking about…and Dave said, “Oh yeah — have I told you my gas station testimony?? Here goes — I pulled up to the gas pump and saw the sign and thought ‘I would like to have less of self…and more of service’ “!!
Time for real change
It dawned on me that I was going to meeting…and most of the time I was leaving spiritually starved. I was being fed a lot more by reading scripture alone and asking the Holy Spirit to guide me – or by going to bible study. Or by watching different preachers on TV!!
It had already become really easy to find some reason not to go to meeting. It was too cold, too wintery out (50 miles away, so bad roads were a really easy excuse) — we were really tired, we didn’t feel good, etc., etc. In fact, there were times that we went only once a month- and usually, that was when Dustin’s folks were here visiting!! The Buffalo meeting is fairly liberal, so our lax attendance was tolerated a lot better than it would have been in other places. But, I kept having that verse “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” go through my mind. And, I wasn’t sure that bible study was enough for me – I wanted to have REAL fellowship on Sunday too. I was already sending my daughter with Jade’s parents to the Grace Mission Baptist church every Sunday that we didn’t go to meeting. But, Dustin kept balking at going to another church. I went one Sunday to the Grace Mission church – just my daughter and I. It was a little weird, to sit in pews, to sing hymns I didn’t know…but the pastor gave a great Biblically based sermon – very helpful! I completely forgot about the collection plate, so was a little embarrassing when the kid passing the plate came by me and I had to tell him I didn’t have anything. But, no one seemed to care.
Then, things changed for Dustin too (praise God). A friend of his –( we will call her J), who married a worker- was always this happy, joyful, fun person to be around. Her niece is in the Buffalo meeting. Like I said, I was OUT of the loop when it came to the news/gossip of the friends. The niece’s mom (J’s sis) was in meeting one day – and Dustin’s folks were there too. She had a couple of young girls with her. I innocently said, “Hey, maybe those are J’s girls. I don’t remember if she has girls or boys, but they would be about the right age”. Joan, my mother-in-law, frostily said “NO, they are NOT”. I was surprised at her tone and wondered how the heck she would know.
Then Dustin found J on Facebook. He went, “hey – J has her hair down in her picture!” Then, when reading her profile, it was obvious she wasn’t going to meeting. Dustin “added” her – and had a few conversations with her. Found out that Dustin’s folks had talked to J’s folks at Chugwater conv. about her and her hubby “losing out”. Her dad refuses to speak or even look at her.
J tells Dustin in late summer that she is SO excited because, after experiencing her family shunning her, her younger sister was coming out to visit her. They live in Montana and her sister was coming from western Nebraska. And with her niece in our meeting, J’s sister ended up being in our meeting on Sunday morning. J’s sister, in our meeting, speaks about someone close to her that has “lost out” and is all weepy. Then she and another one of the Friends stand behind Dustin when everyone is visiting after meeting and both go on and on about how sick it makes them to think about J and her hubby – how nauseating it is to be around them, etc., etc. Dustin stands there and listens to this…and all he could think about is how excited J was to have her sister visit.
That was the last meeting we went to. We got to talking about it on the way home – the hypocrisy, the hate and the intolerance…and Dustin said “I’m done. I’m ready to do something else.” And, I thought, “Glory Hallelujah — thank you GOD!!”
Dave Largent, the So. Baptist pastor, started a men’s bible study this fall – a couple weeks after that incident. Dustin started going and he LOVED it. And, I saw a huge transformation in his life. Because of Dave leading the study – Dustin was finally comfortable with starting to go to the Southern Baptist church for Sunday services. And, Dustin finally had a real relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Church was weird at first! Everyone is very casual. I wore a dress the first time – everyone else was in jeans (it was very cold out!). Everyone is visiting before the service as well as after. One of the ladies that leads the singing – sings with her eyes closed and hands raised to the Lord and there is sometimes a little dancing if it is a fast tempo, upbeat hymn!! The pastor may, in the middle of his sermon, talk about or speak directly to someone in the congregation, so there ends up being conversation in the middle of the sermon. And, of course, the collection plate being passed is weird – and the praying to bless the gift and the giver. But, everything I have heard lines right up with scripture and has a practical application to our lives.
I wish there was just an interdenominational – plain ol’ Christian church close we could attend. BUT, I haven’t heard the Baptists say anything out of line with scripture so far. Dave actually gave my daughter the BEST explanation of baptism I had ever heard (I don’t think I totally understood it before). He explained that when Christ was baptized, and He was above the water, that symbolized His life on earth. Then the immersion in water symbolized His death. And, being raised from the water – His resurrection. And, Dave made it clear that baptism doesn’t save – it’s a symbol of us giving up our old man and being made new.
Our women’s study is on prayer – and we were reading different verses in the Bible that talked about when, where and what positions people prayed in. Our final conclusion was that you can praise God and pray to him anywhere, anytime and in any position. His concern is the condition of our heart, not the position of our body!! I think about that when thinking about different churches and how they worship –and about Paul speaking about the different gifts – and the differences of administration and organization…but ONE God.
I know there are still false preachers out there – and ones that are too concerned with money and/or gimmicks. BUT, there are some amazing Bible-based Christian teachers that have such a close walk with God and a great testimony. I have learned more in the past few months about what scripture means and what the good news of the gospel really is than in 35 years of attending meetings! (And, somehow – even the preachers who are gimmicky and obsessed with money seem much more harmless than the manipulative, controlling old men and women who speak from the platform at conventions!!)
I finally realized too – that I needed to accept the gift God has been trying to offer me all my life. After all the years of indoctrination -it terrified me more than anything to really believe and accept that I was saved. But, after God showed me that, through unmerited favor (grace) – He had provided for my salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ before I was even born! He knew/knows everything I will ever do in my lifetime – every sin I will ever commit –and He came to earth to die for me anyway. I finally understood and accepted Jesus Christ, my God, as my personal Savior.
I wake up in the morning now, rejoicing in my salvation – with gratitude and humbleness. I’m ready and hungry – to learn more about our great God.
By Melissa (Galloway) Sipe
March 4, 2011