16Sep

The Hope

Part III
(Preface here, Part I here, Part II here)

As I reached my teenage years and my privacy began to be invaded in increasingly traumatic ways, I reached out to friends I had met through our on-again-off-again homeschool group. My parents found out and cut off my contact with them, my lifeline. I plunged into a depression so severe that only my dysfunctional view of God kept me from suicide. I knew that God was on my parents’ side, which meant that he was against me, which meant that I had a one-way ticket to hell waiting for me just on the other side of death. No matter how unbearable my life seemed, it was still preferable to being burned alive for eternity.

Around this time, I started being sent to seminars and camps where I was taught how to debate with anyone who might try to sway me from my parents’ beliefs. My desperate knowitallitude was in danger of growing insufferable, but it was during one of those courses that everything began to change for me. I was fifteen and going through a class that fit the entirety of history into our fundamentalist worldview. I had heard it all before, but something clicked in my head that year and I realized with startling clarity how limited our little group of God’s elect really was. We were so adamant about being the only right ones that we were proudly dooming all other ethnic groups, political opinions, religious affiliations, and even hairstyles throughout all of time to a hell that was already overpopulated with abortionists. It just didn’t make sense anymore, and the most startling thought of my life took hold of my mind: What if God isn’t exactly how we believe?

Within a year, I left home to go away to school. Looking back, I regret that I didn’t do anything to help my siblings at that time, but thinking for myself was still so new that I was feeling my way in complete darkness. There was hope in the darkness, though, and that hope was worth pressing through every doubt and fear to grasp.

Hope that I wasn’t some sort of cosmic mistake.
Hope that God loved me.
Hope that God loved other people too, even people with mohawks.
Hope that the pain I had gone through wasn’t my fault.
Hope that doubts wouldn’t destroy or doom me.
Hope that I would be beautiful one day.
Hope that peace and authentic happiness were waiting in my future.

I’m still finding my way, and I probably will be for the rest of my life; formative years are not easily replaced. However, every one of those hopes has proven itself true—and not just true because an opinionated author said so but because I’m living it.

(To be continued…)

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8 comments

  1. These are some of the bravest posts I’ve ever read. Keep hoping, and keep writing.

  2. I’m so glad you’re sharing, B, even though it breaks my heart that you had to live through any of this – or that anyone has to do so.

  3. May I infer that that fateful “click” was God trying to get you out? Don’t you think that there are a lot of those “clicks” that are ignored, that people talk themselves out of? I sure am glad that you listened. That was the first miracle. The next one? That you actually took action. That must have taken such courage. I can only imagine how your parents reacted to your new thought process. And, look at you, one authentic divine exchange and you are living the life that you never dreamed possible. Such a blessing. How are your siblings now? I can totally understand your regret, but it is the first step to save yourself. Otherwise there wouldn’t be anybody to do the saving, right? Just like the oxygen on the airplane. I am happy that you are living the life you lead today. And I am thankful that your girls have you as a mother. More hugs sent directly to you…

  4. I’ll echo the cheers for the bravery. I think most people go through midlife crisis because there are so many inner injuries that they refused to deal with when they were younger that it finally comes out during their mid life. Perhaps that’s why the older you get the better life is, you start to really love yourself for all that you are! May God continue to heal all the inner places of your soul along with your family.

  5. Profile photo of Bethany

    Jennifer – Thank you, and I don’t think I have any choice but to keep writing. :)

    Q – Hopefully, talking about this will help keep some others from having to live through it. Hopefully. It’s hard to fight brainwashing, but hope is a powerful force.

    Meg – I am SURE it was God trying to get me out. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that disowning God two years ago was his idea as well; I couldn’t have begun to see things so differently otherwise. There’s a bit about my siblings in the next post. There were quite a few miserable years of adjustment after the abuse ended, but most of them seem relatively happy now. I don’t think more than one of them has honestly dealt with our past though. Maybe this will be a sort of kick-off?

    Steph – My goodness, am I ever grateful that I don’t have to live out my life subject to my childhood. If I’m going to have a midlife crisis, I’d rather it be over my refusal to deal with spiders. :)

  6. I’m amazed you had enough self-awareness to even QUESTION what you were being fed. How did you manage to “go away to school” ?? I suspect there is a lot of pain and frustration behind that simple statement.

  7. Sometimes, we can only save ourselves. And that’s all anyone (or Anyone) could ask.

    I know it must have been incredibly overwhelming, all of it, especially to think that God could only love you if you followed every rule. Even more overwhelming must have been to think of the World at large – all damned. I love the way God works – through questions, through doubts, through seasons of disbelief.

  8. Profile photo of Bethany

    Liz – I don’t really know how I had enough self-awareness either, but I’m beginning to suspect that each time I’ve started really, earnestly doubting religion was God’s idea all along because each time has led to a drastically better life. Perhaps I’ll share the school story in the future; I have a feeling I just unearthed a lot of blogging material. :)

    Sam – I have one strong memory of walking through the grocery store as a child and thinking about all the other shoppers as they passed, how they each thought their religious beliefs were right and were damned as a result. Those are such heavy thoughts to carry; I could not be more glad to have found a way of believing that doesn’t condemn everyone whose opinions are different from mine!

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