I was raised in a “divided” home with four brothers and one sister. My dad had been raised in the fellowship, but he left it as a young adult. When he was away at war, my mom was greatly influenced by his professing family, and she professed.
As a child I never did profess. I almost did once when I was 12. It was at convention. One of the workers told me privately that I would know exactly when it was time, because I’d hear the Lord directing me. So, I decided to wait, since I hadn’t heard anything from Him yet.
During my rebellious teen years (drugs, drinking, sex etc.) I met and married my husband, who became “Dad” to the daughter I’d had when I was 17. We had a terrible time together. He had an alcohol problem and there was a lot of dysfunction in his family. (His is an incredible story of God’s amazing grace!)
We were at the brink of separation when we decided to try one last thing…..God. First, we studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses for a year. My husband had a Catholic background; nominally only for the most part, but he was an altar boy and attended a Catholic boys’ school. I wanted to examine something other than the Friends & Workers (aka F&W). We were quite involved with JWs, but my spirit was not satisfied.
I called the workers and they said to read the New Testament to see if it lined up with their fellowship. I did and then began attending gospel meetings. I professed in 1977. I told the workers I was publicly deciding to follow Jesus, and if I ever found another fellowship that was closer to the truth, I would have to leave. They said, “Absolutely” with confidence.
I quickly embraced the traditions of the fellowship. Having been B&R it was quite familiar to me. My husband professed too, but his grasp was weak. He would start and stop, start and stop. I loved the meetings. I loved convention. I loved the people.
There were many struggles in my heart of course. This is common to all in life. I was always trying to do my very best, but it was never good enough….mostly not good enough for me and my perception of what was required. This perception had been shaped through my upbringing and through the influence of the f&w. But I must say I honor both my mom and dad for imparting what they knew to me. Through them, I received my first grasp of God and living with integrity.
I was so hard on myself, and as a result on everyone else. My children, whom I dearly love, received the brunt of my frustration. One day I felt that I was doing well, the next I would feel completely defeated. I was verbally abusive to my family as this burden, this weight was just too great to bear. Visits with the workers were a strain for me, as I felt so much was expected. I always felt that they watched every move, every word of the whole family, and then judged as to whether or not we were in line with what God wanted.
I always wanted them to come (I believed they were God’s true messengers), I wanted to honor them with my best…but the pressure was too great. However, I continued on, just believing this was my portion in life.
Sometimes I would be greatly disappointed to find that the friends were not as interested as I was concerning spiritual things. At least they didn’t welcome spiritual conversation except at meeting of course, and there it wasn’t really conversation at all.
I trusted God that He would help me change, to be what He wanted me to be. I stifled any part of myself that didn’t seem to line up with the F&W. In this I felt I was dying to self.
I was always happy to tell people about God, the meetings, etc. I invited people all the time…but few came. When I reconnected with an old school friend, I invited her to gospel meetings. Her time schedule didn’t permit it then, but she asked me to attend a weekly interdenominational ladies’ Bible study in the afternoon.
At first, I immediately said “No”. After thinking about it though, I wondered why would someone who believes in the Lord pass up such a wonderful opportunity. There I’d be able to share all about the meetings, the workers, etc. …. how it was just like the N.T. Surely this would lead those ladies to come to gospel meetings. I phoned the workers and asked what they thought….quite certain they would discourage the idea, but…they said go! They said to tread cautiously. I was so delighted, my heart was leaping! At last, an opportunity to freely share my faith where it would likely be welcomed!!!! Wow! And with the workers’ approval! I could hardly believe it!
So, I began attending once a week. The love of God, His redemptive plan, His grace toward us, His mercy were the common thoughts brought out by these ladies. (Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal, and 2×2) Although I spoke of God and His love too, the emphasis always ended up back on the way we should wear our hair, our clothes, meeting in the home and ministry without a home. The contrast was quite stark really.
I could hardly wait to get there each week. The room seemed charged with the energy of love among these ladies. They loved the Lord with all their hearts and were devoted to living for Him. I still kept thinking that they had to change to the f&w way. I would pray on the way to the study, “Lord, please help THEM see the truth.” One day, the Lord seemed to interrupt my prayer and encourage me to pray instead, “Lord, please help US see the truth.”
Finally one day, one of these ladies said, “Linda, you are often speaking about love, but there seems to be a lot of judgment that comes from you.” When I went home, I went to the Lord in prayer. “Oh God, it’s true, isn’t it?” I knew. The conviction of the Holy Spirit was direct and pointed. My heart was pierced. I wept in grief for how I’d been judging the whole world outside of the f&w. In that afternoon, I understood my sin.
I asked God to forgive me and to help me understand life the way He wanted me to. I asked Him to remove all preconceived ideas I’d ever had about Him…and any ideas I’d learned from anyone. I wanted to start fresh. It was extremely difficult to lay it all down.
I said, “Father, I am your child. I know I can trust you. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the Father of Jesus Christ (I had to make sure I was praying to the right God). I know you will not give me a stone if I ask for bread. I lay my ideas about you on the altar of sacrifice…even the workers…even my parents…even my own plans…EVERYTHING. Please bring me into correction concerning your ways, and fill me with your Spirit.”
After that afternoon, I had a new understanding of what it means to be a “new creature in Christ”! Wow! My heart became new….a heart of flesh from a heart of stone! It was INCREDIBLE!! There was such a baptism of love in my living room that day. I sang, I wept, I rejoiced! My life was new. I was free!
At that point, I had no thoughts of ever leaving the fellowship. I still thought it was primarily my own problem, and didn’t relate it to anything in particular to the fellowship of f&w. However, I did know that the f&w didn’t accept these other believers as “true” believers. I found this disturbing because I could see Jesus in them. Who was I to decide whether or not they were saved?
I continued going to meeting, but it was increasingly more difficult to contain the joy and love in my heart. I was bubbling over. It was so liberating to find that God made me to be who I am (albeit raw material that He’s still working with). Dying to self did not mean “not being Linda”; it meant recognizing that I don’t belong to me, but to Him. It meant worshipping Him wholly by giving back to Him everything…including my thoughts, dreams, plans, my body, talents, etc. to be used for His purposes!! How exciting! No wonder Jesus said that if we want to live, we must die! We begin our eternal life right here on earth at the time of our new birth! How awesome is that?!
Anyway, after that, I found it difficult to give my testimony, because I always had to tailor it to the ears of the f&w. They did not like to hear my joy. One friend, in a telephone conversation, threatened to hang up on me if I continued to speak about others being saved outside of the fellowship. That I spoke of their great love for all, was offensive to the f&w.
At convention that year, I visited with a worker, trying to discover the reason that we, in our fellowship, reject other believers. She set up an appointment for me to visit with the head worker. He didn’t allow me to say anything at all, but gave me a tongue lashing as though I were a rebellious teenager.
I was sincerely wanting to understand our beliefs. I was so sad for the way he handled that….not so much because it hurt my feelings, but because it so aptly represented the roots of the fellowship…EXCLUSIVITY. I was sad for the discovery that the sin of judgment was not just mine. I began to grieve over the next while, knowing I would have to do something with this knowledge. My heart literally ached. I couldn’t be a part of a fellowship that actually rejected Christ’s own, but how could I leave? I loved it and all the people so much.
I decided I wouldn’t leave. Surely, if God revealed this to me, He would to others also. I would just stay and pray. My resolve didn’t last long though. I just couldn’t do it. I was so afraid of getting a “visit” from the workers, because of my continued fellowship with “outsider believers”. One worker had asked me to discontinue going to the interdenominational Bible studies. I was still going. Being asked to leave the fellowship was a blow I couldn’t risk taking, so finally, I left on my own.
It was sad and hard. My mom and sister grieved over me “losing out”. My sister is in the work. I couldn’t convince them that I hadn’t left Jesus. He is a real living being, and is not identified by a specific fellowship, but by the love wrought in the hearts of men. I had left the meetings, but Jesus, the real living being, was right here within me, and He would NEVER leave me.
For a while, I didn’t fellowship anywhere. I simply spent time with the Lord. I was so hungry for His word. Sometimes I would spend the whole morning (still do) just reading and praying…seeking His counsel. I would hate when I had to stop and do something else (like cooking or cleaning). Finally, though, I wanted to get involved. I felt there was a responsibility to function as a family in the body of Christ. So, I began searching out churches. I attended a few…but finally settled in a Pentecostal church.
It took a long time to get over some of the concerns I had. Once I ran from the church when I saw a Christmas tree in the foyer. More than a few times, I spoke boldly about things I disagreed with during Bible studies, and even once in an assembly. During private visits with pastors and teachers, I questioned and discussed many details. They were so loving, caring and concerned. They always pointed to the scriptures for every answer. They never suggested that any of my questions were dumb or confrontational. They knew me. I grew.
Once a pastor came out to our home at 2:00 in the morning, during a crisis, to pray with us. And he wasn’t even the pastor of the church I was attending. I was amazed by the love among believers no matter what church they went to.
Five years after I left the fellowship of the f&w, I learned about William Irvine. I was shocked to read about the foundations…but not really surprised. I had learned already that the truth (the living Christ) was real, and of course had gone back all the way to the shores of Galilee, and even back to the time of creation. I already knew that the truth was not a fellowship anyway. Jesus Christ is the truth.
Today I delight in Him more than ever before! Living in Him is living abundantly! My life is full. God has graciously brought me into His plans, and I rejoice. I still love the workers and friends. That’s why I continue to communicate with them as much as I can.
I left in 1980 when there were no computers or internet. I didn’t know a single one who had left and still continued with Jesus (They were out there, I just didn’t know them). In fact, I never met a believing ex2x2 in person, until about 1993, 13 years after I left. I did meet Ruth Miller by mail in 1985 when I ordered the book, The Secret Sect. That’s when I learned about William Irvine. The only way I even found the book was by “divine coincidence”! (But that’s another whole story)
It’s just as hard for me now as it was 25 years ago…to contain the joy and the miracle of knowing Christ. When I was in the f&w, I didn’t understand or fully experience God’s love and grace until that afternoon in my living room when I gave it ALL back to Him.
I hope my experiences bring blessing to you, or at least food for thought. I am a witness…a heart witness for the Lord…and it is my greatest joy to testify for Him!
Linda (McCrae) Tame
Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
Exited December, 1980
Written December 2010