Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Joke Was On Me (Part Four)

(Consider this your preemptive Church Lady alert...I'm getting into some painful experiences and it isn't my way to polish poop to make it appear as "Christian poop", so the language may be raw and strong...I guess we'll see when we get there)

The Thanksgiving Day exchange made for a less than celebratory holiday. After sending my email to her father, I had to go get in bed. I was physically expended by it. Between tears and a churning, yet rigid, stomach, it was a tough one. I'd never had an "enemy". It was a new deal for me. I was almost positive within myself that my ex would now hate me due to the email I sent in response. I could live with that if my email resulted in a healthier dynamic and more freedom for her. His email to me that morning was, to that point in my life, the lowest thing another human being had ever done to me.

Over time, my ex eventually opened up about what that day was like in their home. She had barely slept the night before herself, still in turmoil over the finality of our email exchange. The next morning, as her family gathered in their living room for their daily devotion/indoctrination session, her father entered the room crying, carrying a handful of papers. He had printed out copies of my email and handed one to her, then handed copies to the rest. According to her, my email hit their home like a bomb (up to that point, I'd been very measured with my words, even in the face of his nasty insults and lunacy). She said her mother was furious (she's as foolish and emotionally abusive as the patriarse, just in her own unique way - I couldn't care less that my email had made her get all out of joint) and that a couple of her sisters became angry and upset that I'd written such an email. Her dad then began playing the victim, sobbing and saying, "We need to pray for Lewis. He's hurt. He's a wounded animal and he's just lashing out. Forgive him and pray for him." What an ass. Then, when I found out my ex's next step, there were few times I've ever been as proud of her. She asked the question that hadn't entered the mind of any of the rest - "What did you send him? I want to see it." He pulled up his email to me, and she read it, breaking down as she did so, asking him and pleading with him, "What have you done?! Why would you do this?! Why would you send him this?!" In her heart, she knew all of this was wrong, and she knew his email was all BS. It made me both proud of her and overwhelmingly heartbroken for her.

Later that night, she sent me an email, apologizing profusely for her father's email to me, telling me that it wasn't his intent to hurt me (she's gullible, but not that gullible - she was just doing all she knew to do to smooth the waters). It eased the hurt a bit to know she didn't hate me for my response, and just in emailing, it let me know that she considered her father the "guilty party", if you will. That helped, even though the situation was still a big ole smelly ball of nonsense. It helped me if no one else. Still, I expected this to be the last I'd ever hear from her.

The next day, I was a mixture of heartbreak and anger, with anger often winning in that tug-of-war. Part of me wanted to get my hands on his weasely neck so bad I could taste it. I couldn't understand why ANYONE would so willingly take something that had been so beautiful, so innocent, and so happy - which the formative stages of our relationship were to a tee - inject himself and his own plethora of bizarre beliefs and personal weaknesses into the equation, with or without an invitation, pee on every bush, fencepost, lightpole, and car tire to mark the territory as his own, and in the process, send the whole deal to hell in a handbasket, leaving lives and hearts scattered as debris in his wake, and think he'd done the right and "godly" thing. Total jackass. Remember, I was new to all of this patriarchy crap. Weird was just weird. I didn't know the parameters and depths of "patriarchy weird".

That night we were to play a concert at a venue about 45 minutes away from where I live, so rather than having to drive to the office to board the tour bus, I drove to the venue. This would enable me to drive back home that night and get one extra night in my own bed before climbing aboard the bus for a 10 day Christmas tour run the next day. Late that afternoon, as we were finishing our soundcheck, my cellphone rang. It was her family's home number. It could've been any one of them, so I just let it go to voicemail, not even slightly desiring to talk to the patriarse had it been him calling. Once finished with soundcheck, I slipped off to a back hallway to listen to the voicemail. I heard her pleading voice saying, "Lew, please call me back. Please? I need to talk to you." I called her back. You wanna guess who answered? I just flipped my phone shut, fending off the desire to throw out a few choice nouns and adjectives before I did so. Within minutes, she called back. I let it go to voicemail again. I once again heard her voice saying, "Lew, I'm sorry. Please call me back? I promise that dad won't answer." So, I returned the call and she answered.

I wasn't angry with her, but I was very direct with her because I was so angry at him. This is what a bit of the exchange looked like...

Her: Lew, I'm so, so sorry about yesterday. Please forgive dad. Can you forgive him?
Me: Maybe. Probably. But not today. I'm fine with where I'm at right now. I'd rather be mad at him for a while today.
Her: I just don't like all of this between us.
Me: What does it matter if we're over? Aren't we over as a couple? Are you still looking at us as a couple?
Her: I just don't want to marry a man when our families hate each other.
Me: What does that have to do with me? What does that have to do with my family? What has any member of my family done to project hate or cause a problem? My family hasn't even been a part of this. We aren't the ones who need to take a look in the mirror. That's on your end of the phone.
(she then began to cry)
Her: Can we make it though this?
Me: I can, but I'm only half of "we". I can't be strong for you in this. To handle this my way, the gloves will have to come off, and I don't think that's what you want. You have to decide what you can handle.
Her: Are you willing to work at this and do what it takes?
Me: As long as that doesn't mean putting your dad in charge, then yes. I'll respect YOUR wishes concerning us, but not his. I'm not a child. Neither are you.
Her: Do you hate dad?
Me: No - but he's workin' on it.

My memory is sometimes a curse. It isn't fun to be able to recall things like this in vivid detail, practically word for word. My heart burned for her that night as we talked. It's burning even a bit now as I've typed up the exchange, despite the bitter disappointment in her of the last few years. The patriarchy stuff was completely foreign to me. In flying so blind, I may have been too harsh with her. I don't know. I was just trying to tread water in an ocean casting off 50 foot waves of insanity. I mean, to me, these were decidedly simple matters of right and wrong, and it was like I was watching a self-centered, intellectual castoff-filled debate team wringing their hands, acting paranoid, taking the long route to nowhere, and then consistently settle on "wrong", making mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains the entire time. Their moral compass had lost the ability to point toward the magnetic truth.

To sum up the phone call between us, we ended with an agreement to call and talk more the next day, and with a mutual hope that we'd find some way to make our relationship work. I went home that night and slept soundly for the first time in a while. And...My email to her father seemed to make him take a few steps back. He actually started being "nice", even if it was disingenuous. He still was considerably less than my favorite people, though, as I didn't trust him at all. I simply got along, as best I could, for her/our sake. She eventually confessed to me that my email to her father had made her respect for me grow. After weeks of her parents constantly and manipulatively telling her that I was dishonorable, arrogant, prideful, disrespectful, divisive, conceited, and the like, to see me fight like a pitbull against something I knew was wrong (and SHE knew was wrong) helped her to block out the other stuff she was hearing.

Once again, I attempted to take the high road. I called her father and offered an apology for any troubles I may have created re: the Thanksgiving incident. His response? "Well, onward and upward." What an ass. I made up my mind, on that day, that I'd never again offer ANY form of apology or concession to ANYONE when I knew, beyond doubt, that I wasn't in the wrong concerning the issue at hand. I value honesty immensely, and I never want to be proven dishonest, even in attempting to take the high road.

The next few weeks were a peaceful time for us, and our bonds grew. I sent her a bible for a Christmas gift, with her name engraved on it, and it was a big deal for her. She'd never had her own bible with her own name on it. She sent me a scarf which she had knitted herself, and included one of her prayer journals from about a year prior. She wanted me to read it because she felt it would give me a better understanding of who she was. I once wrote the following about this prayer journal...

As a Christmas gift in 2007 (her family didn't officially celebrate Christmas - it was "pagan"), my ex-fiance sent me a prayer journal of hers from about a year prior. I thought it was immensely sweet, but at the same time, I knew there was something in it that she needed me to see. About 2/3 of the way through it, I came upon the entry at the bottom of it all. She had once had an impure thought about a man, and spent an entire page of this journal beating the crap out of herself for being such a depraved, vile sinner. The entry began with "I'm a fornicator!!!" It brought tears to my eyes that she had such a distorted view of what "purity" was, what being a human being is, and what God's grace is. The slightest impurity of thought was all it took to send her into an emotional and spiritual tailspin, declaring a Jihad upon herself. A bit of anger welled up in me toward her parents. The resentment lingers today. She was scared to death that I'd read this and change my opinion of her or cease to love her. I told her that she'd never been more beautiful to me, that I loved her even more, and she didn't have to earn my love or prove "worthy" of it.

So very sad.

It was during this period (after Thanksgiving) that her older sister had been sent away, out of state, for several weeks for a reprogramming session prayer vigil and to "hear from God" about a guy she'd gotten involved with and fallen for against daddy dearest's wishes. I honestly don't believe any of them would recognize God if he cut a hole in the roof right above them, repelled down a rope right in front of their faces, and smacked them on both hemispheres of their rear-ends. I mean, what did they expect to hear from God?..."Yo, sup? Obey yo fatha, fashizzle. Peace out."???  I don't know, and I always found it humorous in a very sad way. I'm beyond reasonable doubt that the Peace Game was put to good use ("good" in the sense of the cultic family agenda), and once it had applied its charms and won her heart, they brought her home and love-bombed her. My ex even told me, completely naive to what was going on, "She's so vulnerable and fragile right now, so they're catering to her while she heals." Heals? Goodness. Heals?  I mean, really? They were wounding her, for goodness' sake. Heals?

They brought her sister home right after Christmas, and right after the New Year, her father arranged for a guy who had expressed interest in her to surprise her with a visit for two days. This made me livid when I found out about it. For several reasons. A) She claimed to have been in love with another man less than a month prior. This could be in no way emotionally healthy for her. B) This was all taking place about a week after my planned, and then scrapped (at daddy dearest's dishonest behest), visit was to have taken place. C) It proved the man a liar. Remember his excuses for me not being able to visit? "I'm ashamed of the house" - If the Extreme Home Makeover crew had visited, I was unaware of it, and - "We're too busy that week". The week I had planned to visit was a week off for them. On the two days this guy visited her sister, they did concerts (albeit local) on both days. A lying, manipulative snake. I mean, I wasn't stupid. I'm pretty good at staying a few steps ahead of a situation, and I knew he was lying about the "why" back when he'd cancelled and forbade my visit. This was just the hard evidence. As many excuses as my ex had tried to make to cover for her dad, there was no getting around this.

I SOOOO hated to break the peace and happiness of the last several weeks, but it needed to be addressed. She and I had the following exchange that day...

Me: Do you see a problem or two here?
Her: What do you mean?
Me: I take it that you don't see a problem.
Her: With my sister? Oh gosh no. She's so excited and happy.
Me: Your sister is only part of the problem I'm talking about.
Her: But Lew...This isn't a problem at all. She was so happy she was crying when he surprised her.
Me: She isn't crying because she's happy.
Her: What? What do you mean?
Me: Wasn't it less than a month ago that your sister had "given her heart away" to another guy? She isn't happy. She's wounded. Her wounds call for attention, and she's taking whatever attention she can get because no one seems to care if she genuinely heals. This guy is a bandaid. A BANDAID. It's pretty low rent of your folks to do this to her. They can't fix her wounds with a bandaid. A bandaid will only cover them. You have to address and treat the source of the wound, but no one in your family is willing to do that, because no one will ever acknowledge just what they find at the source.

She grew very quiet.

Me: You know, it was just last week that I was gonna come and visit. Have you guys been doing some painting? Has your dad put down some new carpet?

She got the point, and she started crying. It hurt me to know she was hurting, and to know that I had to make her aware of that hurt, but I wanted so much for her to begin to think, and I could no longer just ignore these things and sweep them under the rug to uphold a tenuous happiness. Some things had to be resolved before we could grow as a couple. We had a couple of very strenuous and tense conversations over the remainder of that week, and as I was out on the road over that week and weekend, I did a lot of tossing and turning in my bunk on the bus. I was beginning to lose confidence in "us", and beginning to question whether it was worth pursuing a future with her that was constantly neighbored by a shroud of emotional turmoil, emotional bandaids, and lies. I hate lies. I hate, hate, hate, hate lies. Her lack of expressed affection also made things difficult. It wasn't that she didn't have deep feelings for me. I knew she did. It was that she was so afraid of them, so afraid of the consequences of acknowledging them, the repercussions from daddy dearest, so afraid of using her depraved, sinful heart as a compass. She'd been so criminally taught to fear her heart and emotions. They were sinful and deceiving. I had told her I loved her, but only on a couple of occasions. I didn't want to create more problems for her, so it became a bit of a game for us when I'd sum up my feelings for her with "I kinda like you and stuff." Emotionally, she remained distant in expression. 

When I came in off the road that week on Monday, I was home until leaving again Wednesday evening. I spent most of that time in prayer on this particular week. You could call my prayer a "fleece". All of this nonsense and needless drama was keeping me chewed up like second-hand taffy. I was pretty sure I wanted to marry this woman, but I needed to know that it was right to pursue it. I poured my heart and soul out to God, reminding him of the rollercoaster of the last several months, and perhaps some will think me faithless, but at this point I needed some kind of sign. Something drastic. Something unexpected. Something that gave me hope. I told God, "If you want me to pursue this, please show me as much. If you want me to pursue a future with this woman, make her emotions for me so deep and so powerful that they burst out of her to the point that trying to hold them in will make her ill, that she'll be unable to deny them, that she'll be unable to 'play it safe.'" My conversations with my ex that week (while home) were still strained, and affectionately unremarkable.

I climbed back aboard the tour bus on Wednesday night. I never carried a laptop out on the road, so my dad, who is retired, always kept a check on my email for me when I was gone, and would alert me if something important came in. I'd usually call him daily just to see if there were important emails, anyway. On Thursday, I called him, got my mom instead, and asked about my emails. She checked and told me there was an email from my ex. I asked her to read it to me. She opened it up, looked it over, and said, "Ummm, I think you need to read this for yourself." I scuttled into the hotel lobby, found the guest pc, and read the email, totally astonished at every word. She was saying things like "I keep looking at the phone, willing it to ring and hear your voice on the other end. I keep checking the caller ID just to remind myself that you HAVE called and you haven't forgotten me. I'm a mess, Lew. Is there such a thing as beautiful pain? I miss you so much! I'm so fortunate to have a man like you even look my way! I'd better stop, because I miss you so, and I'll soon be bawling like a baby with you nowhere near to comfort me!"

Ummm. Wow. That was new.

The next day, I was in Birmingham, AL, and she absolutely peppered my phone to death with text messages. It was "our day to call". Yes, to appease HER, not her father, I was still calling her only every other day. She was constantly hitting me with "Now would be a good time to call. Are you free?". I'd respond "I can't right now. In the middle of load-in. It's gonna be a while." Five minutes later she'd text again, "How about now? Are you free yet?" This went on for a couple of hours, before she must have just decided "Ah, the heck with it! I'm calling him!" She called in the middle of soundcheck, and I couldn't talk for another few minutes. She wanted me to leave the line open, "since it'll only be a few minutes". I laid down my phone, open, on my keyboard, so I guess she got to hear the keyboard monitor mix of another monotonous soundcheck. After I was done, I could still only talk for a few minutes. She was so, well, "longing" might be the best word to describe her. I kept telling her, "I want nothing more than to talk with you, but I won't be able to do so uninterrupted until late tonight." She just kept saying, "That's ok...I just want to hear your voice for a minute." She continued texting, and called me again while I was in my room on the bus getting dressed, and later again when I was at the merchandise table, and she sent me a text right in the middle of our first set asking me to call her at intermission. And then, finally, we spent nearly 4 hours on the phone late that night, and she was still extremely emotional and "longing".

The next day, our "off" day, she sent me another boatload of texts, and the patriarse even felt compelled to call me that evening and ask, "What's going on with the two of you?" I asked him what he meant, and he told me that she had spent most of the day wandering aimlessly around an empty pasture next to their house, and wound up laying in a ball under a pine tree sobbing, before coming back inside the house and laying her head over the dining table sobbing, and saying "I miss Lewis!" anytime someone asked what was wrong. He tried to pass it off as light-hearted, but I think it really got under his skin.

The next day, Sunday, she again peppered me with texts. I couldn't talk during the day, but that night we were in Orlando, so we had a 10 hour trip back to the office, and over 7 of those hours were spent on the phone with her. Her family was at another family's home a few hours away from her home, having done a concert themselves earlier that afternoon, and to find some privacy, she had gone out into the freezing cold van in the driveway to talk with me. I kept begging her to hang up and go inside and get warm. She'd say, "NO! I want to talk to you! I NEED to talk to you!" I'd tell her, "If you don't go inside, I'm just gonna hang up." She'd say, "I'll just call you right back!" Based on the previous few days, I certainly took her at her word on that one. She kept saying over and over..."Lew, my heart is so full! So many things I want to say to you! I feel like I'm fumbling over my words! I know I may have to wait to say these things, but my heart is so full!" Oh my goodness.

The next night, she broke the every-other-day protocol and called me. She told me that she just had to hear my voice, and she went into much of the same mode as the night before. As we said our goodnights, she asked me, "Lew, when you say, 'I kinda like you and stuff', you're telling me you love me, right?" She asked in such a plaintive manner, almost mourning the separation between us that the answer would make even wider, but at the same time willing only one potential and desired response. I answered, "Yes." She began to cry.

The next day, a Tuesday, I bought a ring.

Part Five coming soon. Bear with me, guys, because these are getting harder to write. Lots of memories that have been suppressed, and this is some extremely personal stuff I'm sharing. It all needs to be said, though. People need to know how sickening and destructive all of this is.


  1. Oh, Lewis! That poor, poor girl...I know others have asked you this before but is there any way for her to be gotten out of that mess?

    Will be praying for you as you write the next part.

  2. Julie...She may not be AS neck-deep in the patriatchal stuff as she gets older, but the guy she married went to college at Pensacola, so she's probably some degree of fundamentalist for life now...barring an act of God. She's got a bright, creative mind, but her upbringing taught her to distrust it, so, sadly, pretty much any wind can blow her. She'll go wherever and do whatever the loudest/strongest voice in her ear tells her, and will always side with the "majority". Not a thinker at all (I was actually having to teach her the process of critical thought and reasoning). The classic definition of a "sheeple".

  3. And people...PLEASE know that I'm not saying any of this stuff to demean her. To describe her any other way would be dishonest and defeat the purpose of this blog which is to shine a light on what this crap produces.

  4. Lewis, I read part one of the Joke's On me and didn't get a chance to read the rest yet and it's funny how we are both talking about poop on our blogs at the same time! I just thought that was rather amusing. :)

  5. For so many in the patriarchal cult, hearts are often broken by the parents first. I found that for myself, as well. The first people to ever break my heart when it came to relationships was my parents. So much for guarding and protecting hearts. It sounds like this is exactly what happened with your ex. Her parents broke her heart and then blamed it on you. I know that feeling all too well.

    When my father forbade my sister and I to have any contact with our guys and told us that they weren't "marriage material," my sister took it really hard. My parents packed her up and sent her from Vermont to North Carolina to be an unpaid nanny to a couple of children whose mother was bedridden with Lou Gehrig's disease. This was to be her ministry. She was to take care of the house, cook the meals and homeschool the kids. That was their way to remove my sister from the situation and "heal her heart." I honestly don't think they cared about healing hearts. They just wanted us to ignore our emotions and move on.

    I really see so much of my relationship with David before we got married in your relationship with your ex. My father forbade either of us from saying "I love you" and so we had to resort to the, "I really like you," bullcrap. We were only allowed two phone calls a week and they could only last 30 min. and my dad would disconnect the phone. We didn't have email and were only allowed one letter a week. it's maddening to think about now.

  6. Wow, I just got finished with part four and I am in awe. The yellow section reminds me of my own journals I would write...on those pages I was always this awful sinner who needed to get right no matter how much good I did. I'm anxious to read your next part and Lewis, thank you so much for letting us enter into this part of your life and learn and see and understand your pain. This girl seemed to really love you and the stronghold of the parents just took over...if you only knew to the fullest extent how powerful the parents are in such a spiritually dysfunctional home by having to actually live with them. You'd call the police, cps or whatever or baker acted them away from her. She just wasn't strong enough...when you are a child being systematically brainwashed by two people in such a scenario it takes such fortitude to walk away from it all. Nobody really knows how hard that is until it happens to them. I take great liberty in saying this girl still loves you, Lewis, but when this kind of "power" is over doesn't just come from your parents, it comes from all the people you have known your entire life through. She would have needed enough strength to walk away from parents, siblings, friends, church, and all that she has known her whole life to be with you. Some "Christian" communities just ditch you when you don't "listen" to your matter how old you are. Yes, I know some. My dad treated me like a total outcast when I stopped going to a church of his approving. She had a choice to make I know, but really, Lewis, if you didn't grow up in this type of home you don't have all the pieces to this sick puzzle that goes much deeper than you could ever imagine. I really pity her more than can be angry with her. It sounds like you do, too.

  7. I second everything "Question Everything" said. Leaving my home when I was 19 was the hardest decision of my life. Everything I had known was going out the window. It actually took years to really break away and it is arguable that I haven't yet, being that many of them are still my friends.

    I suffer even today with lack of friendships. I hate church with a passion and despise pressure to go even more. But, that leaves work alone for my friendships, and that pretty much sucks.

    The lasting effects of this stuff isn't as bad as being in it, but it is difficult to wade through.

    Lewis, my heart is ripping apart for you. I am so very very very angry reading your posts. The smoke detectors in my home have gone off once or twice and I have had to put wet rags in my ears to alleviate the smoke-filled room.

    I can't believe that you aren't even engaged at this point yet, she loves you so deeply, and yet there is still more to come where someone, somehow turns her heart away. Pathetic.

  8. That's a very accurate analysis.

    Where I pity her the most is in that she truly believes, with all her heart, that she's "free" now that she isn't in a home with her parents. What she doesn't realize is that it wasn't where she lived that was the problem. It was how she lived. Nothing really has changed, because the core beliefs in one's life - not the core people - are what have to be sorted and scrubbed away to ever heal from a cultic dynamic. The weight of living up to a rigid standard has to become the joy of living in forgiving grace. The lies have to be corrected and replaced with truth. This hasn't happened in her life, and it never will in a fundamentalist, imbibling environment.

  9. So tragically, tragically sad. I am rarely at a loss for words, but reading your story, I find myself exactly there. (((Lewis)))

  10. Wow.

    I deal in words for a living and I haven't got any other words for this.


    (Autocorrect suggests "rothful." That sounds about right.)

  11. Sadly, if she stays on this path your ex will likely meet one of two unfortunate ends. Either she will marry a man like her father, or she will waste the best years of her life for nothing. Let's hope she comes to her senses and gets out before it's too late.

  12. I see how painful this is for you to slog through this manure bog again, Lewis.
    But now, for the first time, I see how painful it was for her.
    She was curled up in a fetal position under a tree, for pete's sake.

    I have no doubt the longing was out of love for you. But I'm also inclined to wonder if it was out of a need to be free, even if she didn't understand it as that.

    I also wonder...
    How many are there, like her, trapped with no (perceived) way out? For each one who comments here who has broken free of the prison stronghold, how many more are there still trapped?

    Isaiah 49:23d Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame. vs25 Surely, thus says the LORD, Even the captive of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued. For I will contend with the one who contends with you.

    I only know to pray for the prey of the tyrant that their eyes will open and that they be given strength and will flee the strong man and the prison of patriarchy.

  13. You're right, Mara...It was an often brutal experience for her, and I don't ever want to in any way diminish that.

  14. "But I'm also inclined to wonder if it was out of a need to be free, even if she didn't understand it as that."

    I was depressed for many years and never realized why. I was "out" and even seeking secular therapy...but, it was the residual guilt left over from wanting to have a life of my own. I was probably one of the most moral people you could ever meet (to the extreme) and yet everyday of my life was consumed by guilt. I wasn't truly free until I was free of the guilt.

    I really feel her pain. I hope someday she can see through all the foolishness and live in the freedom of truth. I'm so sorry for all of your pain, Lewis.

  15. I was nearly weeping myself as I read this. That poor girl and her desperate need for contact with the one person who was letting her be a fully human adult.

  16. Her clinginess to you looks a LOT like my clinginess to Scottie, when I was still with my folks. I'm still clingy, but it's getting better as I'm healing and growing into a "normal" person. I remember peppering him with texts though and wanting him to talk to me every spare minute of every day, etc. (And I did this in secret! Lol)

  17. This series "The Joke Was On Me" hits close to home. I am in the position your ex was. From the day I met him until now, my parents have been treating me with sweetness and kindness -- except for when I stand up for myself. The worst part is, the Bible somehow defends every single thing they do. I can't deny those passages in Leviticus about how the father presents evidence of his daughter's virginity, or that verse about daughters being given in marriage. I can't say they're not true or irrelevant. Legalism is ceaselessly, overbearingly, hopelessly right. The only way my parents will believe me is if I present hard biblical evidence that following my heart is not wrong, and they've positioned themselves to win, because every time the heart is mentioned, they see "mind." I want to stand up for myself. For him. For US. But I feel powerless to do so. I am mentally preparing myself for the day they find out I have not broken up with him like I said I would, because I know that no matter what I say, I will always be wrong.

    Is this what faith is? Trusting God to lead your heart in the right direction, even if you can't see the path? Is that's what's meant by "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding"? I pray to God that this defense, my only defense, will keep them from disowning me, and the guilt they've heaped upon my soul will finally be gone in its entirety.

    I do not want what happened to you and your ex to happen to him and me. I will do everything I can to keep that from being a reality. I almost don't know if I'll be able to read the next part -- I feel your pain and ache for your loss (and yes, I say that like someone has died, for losing the one you love is almost worse than if they had died).

    It is a strange, sad comfort to read your story. I know we're not alone. A few months ago, he asked me if I wanted an engagement ring. I told him I wanted to wait one year. I wasn't sure if I'd be ready to abandon the homeschooling, family-integrated, conservative worldview that had been ingrained in me. Now I know when he asks me again, I won't be leaving that old worldview behind with a heavy sigh -- I'll come running, to breathe deeply in the grace that God has waiting for me.

    1. Lewis, it's been two years since part four and these replies were posted. I've just discovered this blog today and I'm slowly working my way through it. I should probably wait until I've finished reading the whole thing before I reply, but I'm impatient to have my say.

      First, I need to tell you that I admire your relentless love for that girl and the fact that with everything that was thrown at you, you remained on the high ground. I know it wasn't easy, but you did what you knew to be right. Even though I have no idea who you are, I respect you for that.

      Second, I admire you for opening up and sharing your experiences with us. This anonymous commenter to whom I'm replying has said she's going through the same thing your ex experienced. My prayer is that during the two years since her post, your story has helped her to escape the fate of your ex. That alone is reason enough to continue telling your story. God bless you.

      Anonymous, I pray that in these two years that have passed, God has given you freedom to follow HIM, not a man. As an adult, you're still commanded to honor your father and mother, but honoring doesn't mean mindless obedience.

  18. {{{hugs anonymous}}}
    Praying for you, dear one. Taste and see that HE is good. I'm so sorry for your pain.

  19. Anon said, "Legalism is ceaselessly, overbearingly, hopelessly right."

    No, it's NOT! Legalism is only one of many interpretations of the various verses pulled out to support whatever the legalist wants to enforce. Just because something is written in the Bible doesn't mean that it is saying what the legalists tell you it does. People have used the Bible to support favorite biases and prejudices for centuries and for every prejudice "proved", there are just as many ways to "prove" the exact opposite often from the very same verses--all it takes is a good spin doctor.

    If you can, have a look at Rev John Spong "The Sins of Scripture" and "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism". Jack Spong is very much anti-evangelical (likely from the number of death threats he has received from them over the years) but he will give you a whole new way to think about the Bible verse that seem so "obviously" supporting your family's point of view.

    Hold that Grace close. That really is what God is about--not rules and petty, insidious judgmentalism.

    1. I'm not a P/QF person at all. Have never been in a "shepherding" church cult. Etc. In other words, I'm not speaking from the position of residual brain-washing but Spong is a heretic.
      He has denied Christ's divinity. He has denied the physical resurrection of Christ. He has denied Christ's miracles. He has denied the atonement.
      I can not believe you would suggest anyone counter the unBiblical teachings of the P/QF movement with the extremely unBiblical teachings of Spong.

    2. I know this reply wasn't directed to me, but I feel compelled to respond...

      I don't worry myself with the idea of "unbiblical". By most standards, I'm a heretic myself. A heretic of enormous proportions. I see plenty of room for debate on the issue of the divinity of Christ, et cetera, and don't feel at all threatened by it. Most of the creeds and catechisms I consider total BS designed and delivered by men creating and officiating a religious system. I can't blindly accept them or allow other people (or groups/churches/denominations) to accept them on my behalf. Everything deserves real scrutiny.

      If a teaching only threatens a religious system (Christianity), it's MUCH less of a threat than a teaching that harms people (P/QF) in the here and now. We know next to nothing of eternity, so far better to address the harm in the here and now.

  20. Annonymous,

    Just because the Bible shows people doing certain things in their cultures and mindsets, does not mean God is endorsing those things as His divine will for all time. Legalism confuses the descriptive (what people did in cultures that appear in the Bible) with the prescriptive (what God commands). Please read this essay which I wrote, which takes a high view of Scripture but opposes patriarchal ways of reading it:

    Also please read this one, where I show that the Bible itself is against legalism:

    It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. You need not be in bondage to patriarchy. It is a product of the Fall, and not God's divine purpose-- and it is not part of the kingdom of God which Jesus came to bring us into.

    In fact, all of the FAQs at Take Heart Project could be helpful to you, giving you ammunition to fight the legalists with. Christ wants you free.

  21. Also, if you read 1 Cor. 7, you'll see that the New Covenant is different from the Old Covenant in that Christian believers are to make their own decisions with regards to marriage, and not what their fathers say. 1 Cor. 7 never mentions women getting their fathers' permission to marry. Jesus and Paul both undermined the patriarchical structures of the times by insisting that God is our father, Christ our firstborn Brother, and all of us are brothers and sisters-- even the fathers! Jesus said we must all become as little children (who had no status in the patriarchies of the times) in order to enter the Kingdom. He was saying that those in positions of power must give up their status. "Call no one 'father,' for you have one Father in Heaven," He said. Paul said in Galatians that in Christ we are free of the law and must not be dragged back into bondage to it. Levitical laws like the ones you mention were for the nation of Israel, not for the church.

  22. Anonymous...I'd give you and your boyfriend both a great big hug if I could. So sorry for your situation.

    It's ironic that you mention Proverbs 3:5-6. That was my ex's favorite verse concerning our relationship, and the verse she would quote when things around us would get tough.

    The ladies who've responded to you have given some WONDERFUL thoughts and advice (thank you so much, ladies), and I would only tell you to remember that your heart now houses the Spirit of God, your heart has been redeemed, and you can freely follow your heart without fear or guilt. When it houses the Spirit of God, I can think of no better compass than the heart.

  23. Anonymous...I added a new statement near the top of the blog. When things in your situation are difficult, I'd love for you to remember that statement, and come here, if for no other reason, just to read it.

  24. Anon, I agree with Sandra...legalism is NOT right. Lewis says over and over, and I know this is the key - start thinking for yourself. Don't listen to anyone else. God gave us the intellectual, emotional, and logical ability we need to know Him and understand Him. He also gave us His Holy Spirit that will lead us into ALL truth - not part of it, but all of it. When something doesn't "sit well" with you - don't assume you are in sin and may just be the Holy Spirit trying to get your attention that something is wrong, and it may have NOTHING to do with sin on your part. For years I struggled with all the crap described here by Lewis' ex although it was from the cult i was in, not my family. (thank God) But I had an overwhelming fear of getting things wrong. My experiences in a patriarchy culture were the best thing that happened to me - because it did such battle with the conscience God gave me. You see, the Spirit was literally doing battle on my behalf IN MY MIND and heart. He was relentless. He would not shut up. I eventually listened - which is also known as "thinking for yourself" the moment you do that - and it is scary the first time for certain - you will be amazed at what you hear and discover. And then? The amazing peace that passes all understanding comes.

  25. Anon.,
    You don't owe them anything...explanation, justification of your actions, nothing. You don't have to prove anything to them, from the Bible or otherwise. Just saying "I am an adult, and I will follow the leading that God has given me" is all they ever need to know. They can argue and accuse all they like, but in the end, you still owe them nothing except to live in love. And God defines love, not them. Many of us here were given the choice between choosing our families or the man we love. Many of us chose the man we love and we have not regretted it. If he is worth it, don't let him go. There are many here who would love to encourage you in your journey toward love and freedom and grace, if you need it. I certainly would! :)

    In situations like this I often think of the verse where God told His people "See, I have set before you life or death....choose life, that you may LIVE." Choose life, freedom, grace, that you may truly live. The only other choice is death, bondage, and legalism.

  26. Anon., Leviticus is not proof enough that your dad should rule your life. :) I wrote some thoughts about the Bible here:

    Maybe that will help. :)

    I was in the same position as well, and I made the decision to move out of my parents' home, and got myself cut off from my parents and 10 of my siblings for it. My freedom is still worth it.

    I used to think legalism was hopelessly, overbearingly right too. It isn't. It's cherrypicked scriptures. Read the love, the grace. It's there.

  27. Anonymous,
    Hang in there. I feel your pain; I am currently going through a similar situation and it's very difficult. Seek the Lord and delve into His Word. The Bible never supports legalism; it is firmly, firmly against both legalism and licentiousness. True spiritual freedom is not being caught in either of those. :)

  28. @Anonymous.... Listen to Darcy. She is absolutely right.

    @Lewis don't count yourself out yet. Someone is going to come along for you to love you and who you will love back. But you need to completely purge this hurt before that can happen. Keep writing....

  29. Thanks Dorothy...I never say never - except when I say never ;) - but at this point, another relationship isn't something I have much of a taste for. I'd rather just focus my energies on writing, and hopefully, helping people in situations similar to mine and others who've suffered from spiritual abuses.

    By the same token, as driven as I've been to write, boy, has taking a few days break from it has been refreshing. I've actually slept a little this week!

  30. I'm the 'boyfriend' of the Anonymous poster at April 10, 2011 7:01 PM. Well, I'm 'ex-boyfriend' at this point.

    I told her on Friday that I can no longer believe in her God. I was inarticulate (as usual), but I'm glad that I came back to read this post, because it encapsulates exactly why I can no longer believe in the God of the Bible as she is trying to do. We broke up over this exact issue.

    If "legalism is ceaselessly, overbearingly, hopelessly right," then I can't bear to place any trust in a God as cruel, misogynistic, murderous, jealous, and outright morally wrong as this one. That's why I can't believe in God, B -- and that you will not even tell me that you are still mired in legalism is why I can't be with you.

    If the Bible is the 'inerrant word of God' (something which I can no longer believe), then he is unworthy of worship and I would rather burn than recognize him. Thankfully, I don't have to deal with that, because I find no evidence that such a deity exists. I may yet believe in a God, but not the one of the Bible that says women are inferior, gays deserve to be executed, and slavery is a-ok.

    B, if you want to live your life by a 2400 year old text written by half-literate Levantine shepherds, then go ahead - I can't stop you.

    "Slaves lose everything in their chains -- even the desire of escaping from them." -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    - M.

  31. My post above was written in anger and in haste. I'm unfairly blaming you for the conditions under which you have been raised while the other people here are trying to help you work through it. I apologize to you, B, and to Lewis and everyone else here for speaking on CoM inappropriately. You know that my temper and impatience get the better of me sometimes, I shouldn't take it out on anybody, and especially not you.

    I especially apologize to those of you who have maintained your beliefs through amazingly difficult circumstances like those B (Anonymous), Lewis, Darcy, Katherine, etc. have described. You're far stronger than I.

    I just don't think I can ever believe as you do, B, or even as any of the other folks here trying to help do.

    It breaks my heart to read how patriarchy/quiverfull/courtship has absolutely mangled what would otherwise be healthy, normal relationships between people.

    If one accepts the Bible as the inerrant word of God, then yes -- the P/QF paradigm is part and parcel of being a Christian. There's very little way to get around it, it seems. Women are property to be owned by their fathers until they are given away to their husbands.

    However, if one starts to see that the text is simply a reflection of the values of the time and place in which it was written, and not divine writ given by any spirit, then one's viewpoint can change dramatically.

    I'm not totally out of your life yet, B, and I hope not to be.

  32. The doctrine of Inerrancy does not mean that QF/P interpretations are correct. One can believe that the Bible is without error, is literally true in scientific and historical description, and still NOT be interpreted in anything like QF/P.

    QF is a very recent interpretation of the Scripture, even before birth control was readily available, there was no general teachings about "have as many children as possible" or "overpopulate the world for Jesus". Patriarchy was a social injustice for centuries/millennia but Christianity actually provided a gender equality during those millennia--the Church offered a career path of upward mobility for women just as it did for men. During all that time, the Bible was considered both inerrant and literally historically and scientifically accurate and NOT unilaterally denigrating to women or aggrandizing of men.

  33. Are you sure about that Sandra? I thought "inerrancy" was a new approach that the Fundamentalists outlined in their early 1900s pamphlets, The Fundamentals?

    I thought infallible was the doctrine commonly accepted before then, understanding that our interpretations needed to be filtered through culture/author/intended audience/historical setting, as these all affected the earthly vessel doing the writing.

    In my opinion, the fundamentalists position reduced the words of Christ to merely some of 4 out of 66 books, taking away the centrality of Jesus to the Christian faith which the doctrine of infallibility demands it be given. Jesus is the central revelation of God to man. All that came before, and all that came after, is only relevant through the lens of Christ.

    Not so for the fundamentalist. It is all equal to the revelation of Christ, so that they have lost connection to Jesus, and rely more on Moses, and it all fits in perfectly with their inerrancy doctrine because all the Bible is on equal footing. Christ is NOT exalted. He is marginalized, in fact, by the doctrine of inerrancy.

  34. Shadowspring,

    I don't suppose people thought much about inerrancy as a doctrine before there was technology to study the world deeply enough to show up the errors of Scripture--before there was global travel, there was a wide-spread belief in the existence of all kinds of mythical animals, such as seen in many cathedral windows in Europe; before printing presses made Scripture available to the masses (even the masses of intellectuals before often did not have their own texts to study), a very select few noticed the internal contradictions of the canon. So the stories of the bible were considered history as much or more than what secular historical documents existed.

    I think is was more that before the 19th century, no one cared so much one way or the other. There was little to show the errancy vs inerrancy of the the Bible and people who could have shown it didn't care because the Bible's literal meaning was the least of the layers of meaning that early and medieval theologians found and taught.

    It was only by the late 19th century when scientific method had become the gold standard for all fields of inquiry and the intelligentsia began applying that critical rigor to the Bible in a widespread trend that some theologians began to feel their faith was being threatened and, in a reactionary fashion, began vigorously promoting The Fundamentals as make-or-break dogma.

    Currently the doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility are often confused or conflated. A belief in infallibility is to believe that the Scripture contains everything necessary to develop a saving faith in God. A belief in inerrancy is to believe that every word of the Bible is directly from the mouth of God and therefore can contain no errors of logic, science, history, or what have you (usually the catch in an inerrancy doctrine is that only the original manuscripts that were the first transcription of God's dictation were actually inerrant but that some errors have crept in over the millennia through human copying, etc, Not everyone subscribes to the caveat, though, some people actually think that every jot and tittle of a specific version is still God-secured to be inerrant).

    However one iterates a doctrine of inerrancy, it still comes down to a human interpretation: as I pointed out before QF lifestyle dogma was NOT de regueur interpretation of the Bible even when it was commonly accepted as scientifically, historically, literally inerrant. These interpretations are only a few decades old. The oldest dogmas of Patriarchy really only go back about a century, and even then they didn't look in practice the way they do now.

  35. Oh, and I agree that in Fundamentalism--as in most of modern conservative Christianity--Jesus is marginalized. He is relevant simply for one weekend of existence (crucifixion to resurrection) and possibly whatever future apocalyptic mythology one ascribes to Jesus.

    Even the way we today hear the Creeds seem to limit his relevance to Birth, Death, Resurrection. I just recently read/heard/saw something (can't remember the source) about how there was actually so much debate about the relevance of Jesus humanity that those phrases were deliberately chosen for the Creeds to emphasize Jesus' importance as a human being rather than simply being another god walking around as often happened in ancient mythologies. Instead of limiting Jesus importance only to those moments in his life, those phrases were chosen to be shorthand reminders that his humanity was absolutely the essence of his very Being and his raison d'etre. So different that how we think of those phrases now.

  36. "If one accepts the Bible as the inerrant word of God, then yes -- the P/QF paradigm is part and parcel of being a Christian. There's very little way to get around it, it seems. Women are property to be owned by their fathers until they are given away to their husbands."

    I don't believe the Bible actually teaches this, inerrant or not. This reading comes from an overemphasis on certain pieces of the text that have been lifted out of their literal and historical context, and from shared cultural understandings being read as if they were divine mandates. The overarching story of the Bible gets ignored in order to promote passages that give certain people control over other people. It's a sad part of the human condition that some people will use whatever weapons come to hand to give themselves power over others, and the Bible has enough authority in our culture to make a great weapon-- but this is nothing more than a form of taking God's name in vain. God is not to be used as a tool for human power.

  37. I will note that never once did Jesus ever speak of or talk to a woman as though she were nothing more than property. Jesus treated women as full human beings who were capable of understanding and discussing theology, history and culture. Jesus constantly showed the Jewish leaders where their interpretations were in error. This is one place where Christ made it very clear that the good news was for women, too.

  38. M & B... I hope you two leave far behind the smokescreens and confusion of the p/qf world to find truth and love. <3

  39. You nailed what life is like inside the cult of fundamentalism.
    It brings death and destruction to people's lives and relationship.

    This series you are doing made me sick to mys stomach. It is like a snap-shot of my family.

    Ugh. :(

  40. I just finished part four, and it's breaking my heart. As a mother, I simply don't understand why any parent would inflict such HARM on a child! The only thing I want for mine is their peace and happiness, so how can parents see their child suffering from [the parents'] own actions, and still continue to believe in their own righteousness?

  41. Dulce...It's the sociopathy that this belief system produces in parents. Nothing, no amount of turmoil they create, is their fault. It's the fault of the child (even if an adult) for "rebelling".

    If you haven't read it, you may find some of the info in this post interesting...

    1. That... that explains so much about my mother's delusional redefinition of christianity.

      It's never that she's actively going out of her way to do things to antagonize us because she's addicted to negative attention and feeling like a martyr, it's that I'm "rebelling" or aping my father when I'm legally an adult and she's made herself into a laughingstock and a butt of jokes amongst my friends and what friends of the family with whom I still have contact.

      Which is weird because although my father always wanted to go into the ministry and came from a legitimately conservative southern background, he never bought into any of that malarkey, whereas she was the child of more progressive/elite backgrounded individuals and she just ate up just about any lie people care to peddle to "christians" in order to make a quick buck.

  42. I must admit, I did have to wonder why you kept on apologizing to him. My christian background always taught against false apologies, and between what I was told by my parents of bullies to warn me against them and my own personal experiences with them, acquiescing at all to them, even once, just makes them get worse and worse and worse because they think that if they keep it up you'll crack and cave.