I was born and raised in the 2x2s, third generation in both my mom and dad’s families. I was the second of four children, the only girl of the four, and then when I was sixteen, we “chose” my little sister through foster care and then adoption.
I professed at Paris, Tennessee convention when I was 12 years old, lived in Memphis, TN till I was 15. We had Sunday morning meeting in our home until we moved from Memphis to Mississippi in my sophomore year of high school. I moved from a class in Memphis of several hundred to a class that graduated 38 in Nettleton, MS. I recall being thrilled when I moved to this smaller school because it was full of Pentecostal girls, and I wasn’t the only one dressing in long dresses and wearing my hair up in a bun. Glory! I wasn’t an oddity, or should I say, the only oddity anymore. I found great joy in this new school! I was accepted.
I had two paternal aunts in the work, Helen Montgomery and Exie Montgomery. From early on, I realized I was being groomed for the work also. I was “chosen” to wait on the workers’ tables at conventions. I was chosen to work at some preps. I was chosen to visit with sister workers at their digs….chosen, chosen, chosen. My only desire as I was growing up was not to be chosen for the work, but that I would marry someone who would love me as much as I loved him, and to have a family…have children. (my brother tells me he remembers overhearing me in tears telling my mom I DID NOT WANT TO BE A WORKER. I have blessedly removed that argument from my memory).
Life was very strict at my house. No pants, wear the gosh-awful long hair up in a gosh-awful bun, dress had to be, I believe, it was three inches below the knee when I sat down, not a lot of after-school activities, certainly not ball games after school. The only thing I could do for our senior play was promotion and advertising….I certainly could not be in the cast…that would be too much like acting, which would be too much like TV or whatever. I did not get to attend my junior/senior banquet. I did not get to order a senior ring. In the sixties, we had our senior portraits made in black drapes (not the window drapes!) However, my parents felt they were too low cut, too revealing, so I had to take a black blouse to school the day of senior portraits. My friend, Lucy, who also professed, and I were the only ones not wearing drapes in the senior pictures.
I did learn to play the piano and that was pretty much my claim to fame. I did have friends outside the church, but my association with them was based on whether or not there were gospel meetings in our area (area being 50 to 75 mile radius). I recall being invited to visit an old school friend in Memphis after I moved to Mississippi, and I couldn’t go because we were having gospel meetings nearby, and we had to be present so if strangers showed up, they would see the meetings and workers being supported by our presence…..huh? What was that all about?
I left home as soon as I graduated from high school, I rented an apartment in town across from my work. One of the first things I bought was a teeny-tiny radio that had one volume…wide open. So when I turned on the music, I would place the radio in the tea canister to smother the volume just in case someone would surprise me with a visit.
I moved from Tupelo to Dallas and lived with my cousin, then Cherie Berry, for a while. I was sooooooo surprised that the workers there laughed and had fun….they even played ball with us at picnics. That move, of course, was not approved by my parents, and certainly not by my worker Aunt Exie. She visited us and let me know right away during her visit that she came to shame me into going back home. There was such a great need for professing folks in Mississippi and I wasn’t doing my part by moving to Texas, etc, etc, ad nauseum.
Then she called my parents as soon as she left and told them about my worldly hairdo (it was exactly as I had worn it living in Mississippi) and my short dress….(ok, I did take up the hems in my dresses when I moved to Texas). I don’t know what my folks were expecting to see when they surprised me at Texarkana convention that year, but I was the same old mousy me.
Cherie married and after a while, I moved back to Mississippi and stayed with my folks till I could find an apartment of my own, still professing or professing at it. I left the church when I was nineteen or twenty, not by choice, but because I was asked to quit taking part. My mom and dad showed up at my apartment one day, and told me until I decided which side of the fence I wanted to be on, I should not take part in meetings. I had had a few dates with an outsider and on top of that, I had bought a stereo (gasp!!). So with all the worldly things I was partaking in, I should not take part in meeting or partake of the emblems. So I continued to go to meetings, and sat there while there was this great pause to see if I was going to pray or speak or not, have everyone look at me with great pity, etc, etc,., and yet I would come back and face it all over again the next Sunday.
In 1970, I met my soul mate, Jerry Bates. We married seven weeks later. He had been married before and had three boys, the oldest was bedfast and on a respirator. We got custody of all three soon after we married. The oldest passed away in 1972, and our youngest was born in 1973. Jerry and I had 37 awesome years together, and then in 2007, he bumped his head on the ladder on the back of our motor home. Three weeks later, we discovered he had a subdural hematoma. His platelets had dropped so low, that they couldn’t stop the bleeding. The doctors did surgery twice, but he continued to bleed. So September 30, 2007, I lost my sweetheart. It’s been a long two years to say the least.
I’m fortunate to have two of my sons living nearby, and the third lives three hours from me. Along with them and their sweet wives, I have seven grandchildren. By the way, I did get my childhood desire….I never doubted that Jerry loved me as much as I loved him. It was a good 37 years!
During Jerry’s few days in the hospital, I was so blessed by my church family. I am a member of The Orchard, a United Methodist Church. There wasn’t a time during the five days we were in ICU that a part of my church family wasn’t there with me. I joined this church about nine years ago. I was released from the stronghold the “Truth” had on me when Cherie introduced me to “the books”, The Secret Sect and Has the Truth Set You Free. Jerry and I visited several churches and settled on this one. We were some of its early members….it was a church built specifically for the unchurched, and that was me.
I was fortunate to take Disciple I and Disciple II under my pastor. He went online and checked out the 2x2s, so that he could understand my hang-ups, the truth teachings, etc. He had so much patience as he taught the real Bible to me. The day the light went on in my head about “the perfect lamb sacrifice for our sins”, there was a pretty big smile on my pastor’s face.
My dad is still living, he’s 89. He still professes, as do his sisters, Clifford and Helen Montgomery. None of my siblings profess. The little meeting that was 30 people or so in my youth, has dwindled to less than 10, on Wednesday nights only three or four are usually there.
So today I fill the hole that’s been left by Jerry’s death with a multitude of activities. I see after my Dad and his needs; I am a shoulder for the newly widowed at my church, and try to guide them in this new life that’s been thrust on them; I love to sew, making dresses for the mission trips our church makes to Africa, and baby things for Sav-A-Life; I love to travel…I’ve missed our motor home travels immensely. I settle for traveling in my Nissan, as often as I can and wherever I can with my trusty GPS (her name is Jerry-Ann….she tells me how to drive just like hubby did, only she’s more polite about my mistakes… “make a legal u-turn”)
I’ve been out of the 2x2s for a long time, around forty years. I put my Bible away for thirty of those years because everything I read was read with “truth eyes”…it was a bible of condemnation. Now I read my Bible with different eyes…fabulous!! I can actually understand what I’m reading in the New Living Translation…that’s my favorite, but I’ve got Bibles everywhere in several different translations. It’s a joy to read the Bible now, not a chore for preparation for Sunday’s testimony.
When I look back I know, as uncomfortable as my mom and dad’s confrontation was over my fence-sitting, it was truly a “God thing”. I’ve been blessed immeasurably with my opened eyes and my new relationship with Christ. Life is not as I envisioned it, living happily ever after with Jerry, but there is still peace in my soul. I know God didn’t take Jerry off this earth because He was mad with one of us. (I would have thought that in my old life.) He took him because it was time. I also know that God is with me on a daily basis and will continue to be, that He loves me so much he gave his only Son for me…just think, I don’t get to my grave, wondering if I’ve been “good enough” to make it into heaven.
Thanks for reading my rambling story.
By Judy (Montgomery, Bates) Temple
August 27, 2009