When I was a little girl, living on a rock farm in Muskoka, my mother would drive into town to pay her bills and do her shopping. She would find a nice quiet street to park the car, and leave my brothers and I while she ran to do her errands. Usually she would park beside a big beautiful church, where there was very little traffic, and it was quiet and safe.
One hot day in June, when I was seven, I was sitting on the lawn of that beautiful church, listening to the birds singing and enjoying the breezes, when a piece of paper fluttered up to me. Being an avid reader, I picked it up and began to read. “John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall have everlasting life.” I believe in him, I said to myself.
There was a little prayer and an invitation to pray for forgiveness of sin and to accept Jesus as my lord and savior. I prayed that little prayer. Then I let the little piece of paper flutter away again, because I knew that my mother would never approve of me reading that stuff. You see, I had been born into a powerful cult, that taught a different Jesus, a different Gospel.
I was steeped in Bible learning from before I could even speak. Every week, three days a week, for five hours a week, my family attended meetings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I believed that I knew the Bible, because of all that time spent studying it. I didn’t know that I was actually studying Watchtower literature, and not the Word of God. I didn’t know that scripture was being twisted, taken out of context, and made to say something God never intended it to say. I didn’t see that when we went to a “Bible Study” we were actually studying one of the publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. We were taught that the Bible alone is not sufficient. That God’s word is impossible to understand without the aid of the Watchtower. It was all I knew, and of course I accepted this false gospel as truth.
I thought I knew who Jesus was. I was taught that he was the archangel Michael, the very first thing that Jehovah God created. That he was made into a man and died on a torture stake to atone for Adam’s sin. That three days later his spirit was recreated, and he ascended into heaven to become King of Spiritual Israel. I was also taught that only 144,000 would ascend into heaven to live and rule with Jesus. I, and many thousands of others like me, could only hope to live on a paradise earth, under the new system of things, which would be set up and ruled by God after Armageddon.
Armageddon was fast approaching. God would destroy every wicked thing from the face of the earth. The beasts of the field and the birds of the air would eat the dead bodies of every man woman and child who was NOT a Jehovah’s Witness! This terrified me. Furthermore, no Jehovah’s Witness is ever sure of his or her own personal salvation, because Jesus death was not sufficient. One must work out their own salvation by perfect obedience to the dictates of the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society. Just ONE DAY of less than perfect WORKS could be your last, since a vengeful and angry Jehovah, could strike at any time! Meanwhile, there were demons, howling about the face of the earth, seeking to devour us! Jehovah had given the earth to Satan, and He was residing on a star in the Pleiades System until the Great and Dreadful Day!
I was completely incapable of perfect obedience, of course. Every day, my mountain of sins grew. Worse yet, I was asking far too many questions! I saw in the Bible that the disciples WORSHIPPED JESUS. I asked why, since it is wrong to worship anyone but Jehovah? I was told that the Bible had been “misinterpreted” by evil people who believed in a three-headed god, just like the Babylonians of ancient times, and, that the disciples were merely bowing before their king.
Maybe too many little girls like me were asking questions, because the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society soon printed their own translation of the Bible. It was different from other Bibles. It was in modern English, and it changed the wording and meaning of scripture after scripture. The most significant (to me), was John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God and the Word was a god.” Jesus had firmly and with the stroke of a pen, been stripped of his Deity. I just could not understand it! Why did Jehovah create another god, breaking his own law that there was to be “NO OTHER GOD”?
I was really starting to feel betrayed by Jehovah. He made laws he knew we couldn’t keep perfectly – and He would kill us for not keeping them. Then, just in case we MIGHT be able to obey, he broke his OWN law, putting us in a double bind. He gave us another god, told us to believe in this other god or die, yet told us to have no other God besides Him – or die. I was doomed, and I knew it.
I was nine when my mother left us. She was disfellowshipped. This meant she was to be completely shunned by one and all, even her little children. We were commanded to treat her as someone dead. (Unlike a natural death, however, grief was also forbidden). I never saw her again until she was re-instated a few years later. By that time, I didn’t even recognize her, and actually had to be re-introduced to her!
I was nine when I first attempted suicide. I was dirty, dressed in my brother’s hand-me-owns, rejected for the resemblance I bore to my mother. I was unwanted, unloved, and consumed with grief at the loss of my mother. I stopped eating – and no one noticed! My terrible fear of demons caused me to wet the bed at night. THAT, THEY NOTICED!
But no matter how much I was punished for my nocturnal failures, I feared the demons more than my dad’s fury. Jehovah God hated me, the demons wanted to devour me, and I saw no way out except to die – but I didn’t die. Instead, the Children’s Aid Society stepped in and I was placed in the home of a Jehovah’s Witness family in town. There I learned to eat again, was dressed in clean clothes, and finally stopped wetting the bed. But I still wanted to die.
My mother’s parents attended the same Kingdom Hall as we did. I had always enjoyed a special relationship with my grandparents. I could count on lots of hugs and kisses, and a sense of approval from them. But when my mother was disfellowshipped, all that changed. I had to attend that Kingdom Hall for four hours every week. I’d see my beloved grandparents there, but I was not allowed to speak to them. In fact, if my father caught me even looking at them, I was severely punished. All natural affection was denied to me. The emotional pain of this torture is still with me to this day.
I was sixteen when the Witnesses predicted the end of the world would come in 1975. I remember thinking, “I only have eight years to live.”
I knew there was no way I could survive Armageddon. I was not perfect, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not please God. I could not keep up with the regimen of “works,” and I was exhausted by the effort, which I knew in my heart was futile.
My father found a brother who was willing to take me off his hands. He was eight years my senior, and was looking for a wife. I was obedient. Two months after I turned 17, I was married in the Kingdom Hall.
My new husband wasted no time letting me know that my life before had been a picnic compared to what my married life would be. He beat me mercilessly. I went to the elders in great distress, and was coldly told to “learn obedience, and be submissive” to my husband.
I tried so hard to be a good wife. My husband had several mistresses, and even fathered a child with one of them. But as head of the house, he had the right to do as he pleased, while I was to be submissive no matter what. My son was born when I was just 18 years old. He was a sickly baby and spent much time in hospital. My husband did not like fatherhood, finding the baby to be tedious and time-consuming. When my son was a year old, his father decided enough was enough. The baby got sick again, and when he was ready to be released from the hospital, my husband ordered me NOT to bring him home.
I pleaded to him that this would mean the Children’s Aid would take the baby. He said he knew that, and he didn’t want the baby to come home. I took the baby to my mother’s home.
The elders wasted no time. They told my mother that if she continued to harbor me, she would be disfellowshipped. It was February, in Muskoka. My own mother put me and her grandson out of her house. None of my relatives dared step in and rescue me.
Finally, an aunt who was not a Jehovah’s Witness let me and the baby stay with her until my husband relented and let me and the baby come home. I was tired and broken, and decided not to attend the Kingdom Hall any more. I had never been baptized, and thought I could just walk away, especially since my husband said he didn’t want to attend anymore either. We moved away to British Columbia, and started a new life.
One day, a JW came to my door. I thought….perhaps….I could find true Christian love in a new congregation. I asked this man, “Do you think God will actually kill little babies in Armageddon?” He assured me that God most certainly would!
He pointed to my tiny son, and said, “While humans see an innocent little child, Jehovah sees a baby rat, vermin!” Yes, according to him, this child would soon be carrion for the birds of the air!
I shut the door in that man’s face, and vowed from that time on that I WOULD NEVER AGAIN WORSHIP THAT UGLY, HATEFUL GOD! I had my craw full at last. I turned my back on the only god I knew, and decided to walk a long lonely road without a god.
But Jesus was not done with me…
When my son was three, I had a baby girl who died shortly before birth. It was a very difficult pregnancy, and I nearly lost my own life as well. My thinking was so twisted that I actually thought the baby’s death was my punishment for turning my back on the god of the Witnesses.
I had a near death experience. I left my body and went towards a light of perfect peace in the upper corner of the room. The nurse who was attending me was much alarmed, and began to call my name. I turned to look at her, bent over my body. I could see her back and she leaned over me, and slapped my face, calling frantically. I had to let this woman know I was all right – so I went back to reassure her. I would just tell her I’m OK, and then go into the light. Immediately, I was back in my body, and after that I was unable to get out again. The light disappeared.
I was puzzled and filled with awe. I had been taught that when you die, you cease to exist. Yet I had seen the veil lifted just enough to know that there is more. I did not understand this.
A scripture came into my mind. “And Mary stored these things in her heart, and pondered over them.” If Mary needed to ponder things she didn’t fully understand, surely it was OK for me to do the same. I was so deeply grieved by the loss of my child.
Then a week later, an alcoholic friend of mine sobered up for a day. He told me he was compelled to tell me something, and could not have a drink until he did. When I offered a small tipple to settle his nerves, he refused. Then he drew himself up as tall as he could, shaking with fear, and told me that in one year’s time I would hold a baby girl in my arms.
With that, he grabbed his bottle, climbed back into it, and I never saw him draw another sober breath. He refused to discuss where the message came from, or why he could not drink alcohol until he delivered it. It was a closed subject. Period.
One year to the day later, in 1974, I gave birth to a healthy daughter, named Anna. I wondered, “Why would God send me this beautiful child if the world was going to end next year? There’s more than oblivion after death. Maybe the world won’t end next year (which, of course, it didn’t).”
And I continued to ponder these things…
I never picked up a Bible again until Anna was two. We were living in the middle of a wheat field in Saskatchewan. I was listening to the radio when I heard a program that sounded like a Jehovah’s Witness broadcast. I paused to listen, and heard this man say that “Jesus was the God of the Old Testament!”
I was shocked. He challenged his listeners to prove him wrong, using just a concordance and a Bible. I studied every day for six months. I could not prove him wrong – which of course meant that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were wrong! I was eager to embrace whatever other truths this man had to offer. But alas, this turned out to be another cult, based on “Salvation by works.”
I could not keep the laws of God perfectly. So now, instead of Jehovah hating me and my children, it was Jesus. I thought this was very sad, since of all the characters in the Bible, Jesus was the only one I really liked. Again, I gave up on God.
But He did not give up on me…
Over the years, Jesus sent me messages. Once, a dying aunt comforted me with the words, “Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous, he came for sinners like us!” I saved this saying in my heart, and pondered it.
I met my present husband when Anna was twelve. He was a recovering alcoholic, and he encouraged me to read his AA literature. I was greatly drawn to the concept of a higher power, One who was willing to help even the most down and out. I envied alcoholics, because they had access to a loving, forgiving and GIVING God. I wondered what I had to do to connect to this source of love and forgiveness.
I still would not read the Bible, since it was a source of pain and rejection to me. I would pray, but was never sure that my prayers were being heard, and always felt abandoned.
It was in September, 2002 when I read an article in the Toronto Sun about a woman who was suing the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for the abuse she suffered. There was a website listed in the article and I logged on to the computer to check it out. For the first time, I knew that I was not alone!
Thousands of others who had been abused by this cult were speaking out! I contacted some of them, and began to build a relationship via the Internet with them. One woman mentioned in an email that she was drawing much comfort from a certain website. I immediately checked it out. While there, I listened to testimony after testimony of Ex-JWs who were now “born again” Christians.
I got out my Bible again and began to read. At last! I found Christ was there all along, revealed in the pages of his word. He offered true forgiveness, true compassion, love – and redemption!
In January, 2003 I once again prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” and begged my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ to live in my heart. I was broken and discarded by man, but God saw something different in me. He chose not to throw the clay away. He remade me into a vessel of honor, and filled me with his Holy Spirit.
It was February 2, 2003 when I felt so drawn to this little church, that I fought back my fear and stepped inside to worship my God for the first time in my life. I took communion that day – also for the first time. When I left, I wore a smile so big that people were stopping me on the street to ask, “What is so wonderful?” And I told them “Jesus is my Lord and Savior! Today I belong to HIM!”
John 14 :6 says that Jesus answered,”I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Not through an organization – not through a charismatic leader…
Jesus is the way!
Jesus is the truth!
Jesus is the life!
Now I love the Bible. I have discovered that this book – which had been used to abuse me – was not a “book of hate” at all. It is a “LOVE book.” It is a Jesus book. It’s a “love letter from God.”
John 10: 27-30 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I KNOW THEM, and they follow me…No one can snatch them out of my hand…No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”
Jesus took me by the hand when I was only seven, and despite everything, He never let go! He was patient and kind, sending messages of hope and encouragement through the years, until at last, he led me HOME. I didn’t know Jesus, but He knew me!
I used to be a bitter, angry woman. I resented my parents for their failures and for choosing to obey those cult leaders in Brooklyn, New York – rather than show natural affection for me, their child.
Now, I pray for them every day, because I understand how blinded they are, and that they don’t know any better – because they are lost people. I have been filled with compassion for them. They grew up in the same miserable cult that I did, and undoubtedly have endured far more abuse than I did. May God, in His infinite mercy and grace, lead them out of slavery into freedom.
I also have brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews still caught in the Watchtower Society’s web of lies.
I pray for them too…