Dolven, Christie, 1993

The Testimony of Someone Raised in the “Truth”

I grew up in “the truth.” I spent years in the truth” feeling worthless, dejected, unaccepted, rejected, depressed, oppressed, repressed, distressed, discouraged, hopeless, helpless, unhappy, and struggling to have the fruit of joy. I spent years in unrest and struggling for peace. I spent years sacrificing—I’d heard that “the more we sacrifice, the more joy we have.” I spent years uncertain every moment of my soul’s salvation; taking comfort in my devotion to reading, praying, going to meetings, taking part, modest appearance, being spiritually minded—only to find out that I based my soul’s salvation on the wrong things.

I was taking comfort in the fact that I’d found what is called “the truth” because of its structure (homeless ministry and home churches). I trusted in “the way” because it as “from the beginning” and “unchanging” and scriptural” and that there was “unity” and “love” between the friends. I felt sorry for all the poor deceived people in “false churches” and “worldly religions” with their “false peace” and “false joy.” I loved the people in the “truth” and always felt a strong bond to them (even though I never felt inside that I quite measured up to their standards). No matter how hard I tried, I felt I was missing something.

Other people claimed to have joy and love and peace. I was restless and angry with my family much of the time, I felt trapped as a wife, mother, and in a life-style that I believed to be right, but which I resented. I didn’t openly confess, even to myself, these feelings until just before I quit professing. The harder I tried to be what I should be, the worse my lacks (and especially, my anger) became.

I began to listen intently in meeting to find out what I was doing wrong, what I wasn’t willing for, what the illusive “key” was. I read self-help books, psychology books, positive-thinking books gleaning bits and pieces that helped but never cured me. It was like treating the symptoms but never discovering the cause of the problem. Positive thinking books led very subtly and with deceptive use of scripture and “scientific” terminology into the occult, meditation, self-hypnosis, etc. The power there was very scary. Finally, I figuratively beat on God’s chest and said “Keep me from Satan and self-deception! Give me love, and peace and joy ‘ere I die!'”

And then one day, I was at the library and I found Beyond Ourselves, by Catherine Marshall. I realized as I read it that my view of God was awful and, suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t born-again. That was it! That was the cure! Now, how to be born again? That became my new quest. I listened even more intently in meeting, read my Bible with even more diligence, subtly asked the workers their opinion but couldn’t seem to find the answer. In meeting, I heard only that we were supposed to be born again, but not how. When I asked the workers, I got a put-down—”You mean you’ve been to meetings all these years and don’t know?” It was agony. Why did God have to make it so hard?

Finally I decided to read God’s infallible Word from Matthew to Revelation: 1) pretending I’d never heard of “the truth” before; 2) reading on a literal level, not spiritualizing or adding “understoods” to passages; and 3) keeping a notebook of topics and questions under which I would write verses that applied to those topics. I promised myself that I would be completely objective and I prayed for God’s protection from Satan and self-deception.

I was astounded at what I found. Everything I had been taught was diametrically opposed to what I found that the Scriptures taught. To make sure I wasn’t mistaken, I listened attentively in meetings and went over convention notes. I was sure that, since I’d learned most things by osmosis, I must have learned them wrong. I was scared to death to go to Hell and also felt the weight of responsibility for my family if I should lead them astray. I began to pray for a revival among the workers.

I found out HOW to be born again. I began to discuss my finding with my sister and a trusted friend. The trusted friend immediately “told on me” to the workers, who were immediately over to visit with very short notice. People in meeting began to notice the change in my testimonies and began to be uncomfortable around me—I was “different,” I had joy. My husband was taken aside and questioned as to “what has happened to your wife?” He was innocently unaware, as I hadn’t shared with him.

Our marital relationship improved drastically. I was no longer restless or feeling trapped, or angry, or like I was missing something. I had the assurance that I was going to Heaven and that gave me peace. I learned that salvation wasn’t something I could earn, it was a gift through faith in Jesus Christ—that He had lived a perfect life in my place and took the punishment that I deserved in my place. I learned that God is too interested in my natural life, not just my “spiritual” life; that He did too want a personal relationship with us. (I had been taught the opposite.)

I was born again before I found out that “the way” DOES have a beginning, DOES have a man for a founder, it HAS had many changes in doctrine and structure since it was founded in 1897, it IS scripturally unsound in many areas, the love it claims is conditional even among the friends (and more so towards those who leave), and that the unity is superficial and based only on appearances. When I learned these things, I felt free to share with my husband.

It was over a year after I was born again, that we decided to leave the “truth.” It was a wrenching decision—we loved the people with all our heart, we had no “outsider” friends, we knew our whole structure of life would change, and we knew we would be ostracized. Also, at the ages of 3 and 5, our children were too young to understand why they couldn’t see their friends again. I’ve already related the painful rejection by the friends when we did leave, and the stories that circulated.

However, if we had it to do over we’d do it again. Our lives are so much more whole, full, content. Our children are enjoying a normal and happy childhood, without fear and guilt over every tiny little thing. I’m free of depression. My only sorrow, and it is great, is that we have lost our friends in the “truth.” They are too fearful and suspicious of us to chance disobeying what they’ve been taught, and maintaining a friendship with us.

I forgot to relate a few things. When we left, a close friend had a baby about 2 weeks later. I called to congratulate her and asked when would be a good time to come see the baby and bring a gift. She was too fearful of me to allow me to come or to receive the gift.

Another incident: When my son was 4, he went to an eye doctor who used Disney and Sesame characters to help with the exam. My son had never watched TV and didn’t know who or what they were. The Doctor was incredulous when he wanted to know if it was OK to like them. I didn’t know what to say for sure, but couldn’t see any harm in liking them. Another instance of an abnormal childhood.

By Christie Dolven
Spokane, Washington

Click Here to read Noel and Christie Dolvin’s Exit Letter