I was the fifth generation to be raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were proud of that. I remember taking pictures on the porch of the family homestead of the four generations that were still alive.
We were all so close. My grandmother taught me how to cook in her kitchen next door when she could. All of us lived on an old farm. It was peaceful and quiet. I spent a lot of time with my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We all went to the same Kingdom Hall. We’d work in the garden together, go in service together, and go to meetings together. The fun I had as a child was either playing alone or playing marbles with my grandparents.
I am sure that it seems like everything was wonderful back then. It seemed that way to everyone else too. I was struggling inside though. I had a very hard time with a few things. First, I never felt like what I did was good enough to please my family or anyone in the congregation. I never felt like I fit in or was included in things. I remember being left out of the things the other kids did at the Kingdom Hall.
I had a hard time with this because everyone liked me at school but my fellow believers did not want to have much to do with me. There was a large family who were all related in the congregation. If you weren’t a member of their family, they just did not ask you to do things with them.
I realize now, even though I did not quite understand then, that I was trying to please the elders instead of trying to please God. I know my mother had a hard time with the same thing. I heard her say many times, “Jehovah God understands my limitations. I think He is more merciful than the elders are.”
Another thing that bothered me was the lack of love. So many of the sisters and brothers were so rude to me. I kept telling myself that they were just imperfect humans and I expected too much.
I also spoke out many times about the motivation everyone had for going door-to-door: It was because they counted hours. I saw many times “pioneers” waste time on purpose. They would go to people who obviously just wanted company and did not care about our religion. They could give them literature and count it on their time cards. They did not care about baptizing people. They just wanted to make their time card look good. I only remember two people getting baptized who were converts instead of being “raised in the truth.” In 24 years there were only those two converts.
Please don’t get me wrong. I was not a “perfect angel” myself. I had my faults. But I kept trying and trying, making new commitments to Jehovah – only to find myself sinning yet again. I would try to fail. I never really felt like I was growing though. I felt more like I was just running and then I would get exhausted. I would run some more, and then get exhausted.
At this point I was 18 years old. I saw many things that I thought needed to improve in the congregation, but never could I imagine or fathom that all of it was a lie.
I graduated from high school May, 2000. I was very tired of being told every single move to make. My parents would not let me date, even though I was legally an adult. They told me I was going to have to pioneer until I started college in the fall. They let me go to college – interestingly enough. I was only the second member to go to college in my congregation in its entire history. I’m glad I was not the first; I remember how much she was criticized. My parents refused to pay for my college. They told me that I would have to work to pay for it myself.
During college I began to learn so much about history and how to logically think. I was bothered that the arguments and logic of the Watchtower Society often made so little sense. Their reasoning was so empty, and their arguments were just not sufficient for me.
I remember during the summer of 2005 reading the Bible and coming to a conclusion about a point in the scriptures. I tried to show my family – but they dismissed me quickly. They would not believe me. Then two weeks later the Watchtower had “new light” and said exactly what I had just told them. When I showed my family the article yet again, they said, “You should have just waited on Jehovah to reveal it.”
That made me realize that no matter how true something is, they will not believe it unless “the Watchtower said it.” I was stunned.
That was a time in my life when things really started to change for me. On June 1, 2000 I decided that I could not take being told every single step to make. I wanted to remain a faithful Jehovah’s Witness, but I wanted to have the freedom to let my own conscience guide me. I left home and eloped with a boy from the Kingdom Hall. We married without having been on a single date.
I did not do anything wrong by getting married. I had some of my close friends disown me at that point. They did not agree with the decision I made so they refused to speak to me. They would say “hello,” but that was about it.
The boy was one that had been interested in me for a long time. He went to school with me, and started coming to the Kingdom Hall when we were about sixteen. He got baptized about 1999. I had suspicions at the time that he only converted because he wanted a relationship with me. I did not realize that he knew the whole time how much of a lie it all was. He pretended for years to be a Jehovah’s Witness until he gave up about a year after we were married. He just faded away. He never told me or any of the other Jehovah’s Witnesses that he did not believe them. He also never told me until after my disassociation that he had decided he was going to Hell for leaving Christ to be a Jehovah’s Witness. Because he had decided he was going to Hell anyway, he treated me any way he selfishly felt like.
While we were married, he slyly put doubts into my mind. He would ask me questions like: “Why do they not welcome people in whatever clothes they have? Why do they insist that they dress differently even if they cannot afford it?” He would never agree that Jesus was Michael the Archangel – no matter what. He actually got me to think and defend my doctrine. I realized how little proof I had for a few of the things I believed. He asked me why a lot, but never attacked me. I do not know how he held back from telling me the truth all that time. I guess he knew that I would shut off talking to him about it if he admitted that he did not agree with their doctrine.
Those times were really hard for me. My husband was selfishly treating me very badly, and hit me on quite a few occasions while we were married. One time was especially bad when he left welts and bruises. Other times he would just push me or hold me down. He would yell and yell to the point where I could not take it any longer. I began to pull my own hair out in frustration.
His yelling and criticism were the worst part of it for me. He had such control over me that he would not let me even go places with my mother. I was constantly being accused of cheating on him; the truth was that I did not even want to look at a man at that point.
I had little money because he barely worked. It really hurt me that his “worldly” family helped me by giving me food while the “friends” at the Kingdom Hall did nothing. I called a pioneer once who lived about a mile from me and asked her for a ride to the Kingdom Hall, because I could not afford the gas to get there. She would not even do that for me. Their lack of love hurt me once again.
After I was done with college and found a job, things did get much better for me. I was going door-to-door and had much better results than the other “friends.” Interestingly, I met a Christian in the door to door ministry – who actually defended his faith. It was a thought-provoking experience; I had never met anyone like him in my life.
During that time, I had two Bible studies. I did not have time for anything else during the week because my husband was so demanding of me. I was taken to the backroom for “counseling” quite a few times because my “service time was too low,” at about 6 hours a month.
I was so hurt because I was studying with two girls and doing some good, while many of the pioneers could not even say that they had two Bible studies. This focus on “hours” and “placements” – and yet a lack of concern for real people – hurt me yet again.
I finally decided that I could not bear to stay with my husband any longer. In June, 2005 I finally left him and went to the elders for counseling. They told me that I should have tried to stay, because now I was “setting both of us up for sin.”
My husband was abusive to me, so I did not care if I set him up for sin or not. The elder’s reaction in the meeting shocked both my mother and me. She was so proud of me. The fact that the elders would say such things to me upset her tremendously.
I decided at that point that I was not going to be single for the rest of my life. I didn’t care if I had to spend the rest of eternity in the silent grave. I was going to live a happy life now.
I made the decision to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I quit going to the meetings except for now and then. I wanted to just fade away. I knew I would be disfellowshipped at some point whenever I remarried, but I wanted to put that off.
I lived a completely reckless life at that point and did whatever I pleased. I did all sorts of immoral things and I hid them all from my parents and the congregation. I wasn’t going to the meetings, but I didn’t want to be shunned – so I lied.
I’d done everything else wrong in the world, so I decided to talk to “apostates.” I began to tell them my story. I met a lady named Mary. Mary changed my life. She told me that the way they had been treating me was wrong. She told me that God still loved me and wanted me to be one of his children. She told me that eternal life was a free gift and I could stop working for it. Mary promised me that if I would give my life over to Him, he would take care of me.
It took a while for all of that to sink in.
I began serious research day and night. Hours and hours were spent as I studied the scriptures with a goal to find the truth. I learned then why they did not want you to go to college. I had learned how to think critically, and could now see that their logic made no rational sense.
It was amazing what I found in my studies. The veil was gone and I could see the real truth. The first thing I realized was that I was going to Heaven. I had doubts during a lot of my early days, but I kept saying to myself, “I’m sure that they are wrong, because the Bible says I’m going to Heaven.”
I realized that my faith and belief in the Lord was the most important thing, and that he would supply all that I needed if I would just trust him. My relationship with God took on a whole new meaning.
In December, 2005 I was called for a “judicial committee” meeting. I thought it was because I had asked one too many questions. I found out that they knew about something that had happened seven years before. They had been digging around in my past and found out something. I’d confessed this sin to them when I was young and had been put on “private reproof” for it. They were saying that they found out more about it that I’d withheld from them. So they would probably disfellowship me for withholding those details from them.
I cried. I had no idea what to do. My father came to tell me “goodbye.” My mother came to tell me “goodbye.” I called many of those I knew who were former Jehovah’s Witnesses who were now Christians. They helped me to decide what to do.
I remember Frankie telling me that I had to make a decision. I had to stand for Jesus and make a decision to follow Him and depend on Him – or else to just give in to the Witnesses.
I followed her advice. I prayed to receive Christ into my life. When I decided what I had to do, that was the moment that my life began to be transformed.
I walked into the meeting room of the judicial committee. They asked me to describe “the details of the sin” to them. I told them that God had already forgiven me seven years before – and that I did not have to justify myself to them. I added that “I no longer wish to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
They asked me to leave the room so they could talk. I waited until it was time for them to call me back in. Then they said that they wanted me to make a donation of $1282.00 for some work they had “volunteered” to do after the Katrina disaster to my great grandmother’s house in which I was living. For some reason I gave them the money. Then they asked me to sign a piece of paper saying that I no longer wished to be “one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It was finally over.
My family asked me to leave my house, and I had no choice but to move. I found a new place to live. I found a distant family member who was also an apostate. We were able to talk and he helped me emotionally. He helped me grow into a Christian. I found a church home and I am busy there.
It has been less than a year since my disassociation from the Watchtower Society. It has been the best year of my life. I can hardly wait to see where God takes me. So far, it has been a ride of joy – despite my losses.
Contact Renee at Reneeisorym@aol.com