Dan and Margie James
The Testimony of Margie James
I was raised from birth as one of Jehovah Witnesses. I knew of no other way
of living and of course, thought that there was no other way!
As a teenager I was an over achiever always striving hard for Good grades, I loved to learn. I excelled in many areas, like music, art, debate, oratory, athletics, and drama. But I became bitter as a teenage because everything was off limits to me, honor clubs, marching band, dances, softball, any and all of the things that, as children help us to explore our strengths and weaknesses, were forbidden to me. So I was not very proud of my religion and tried to hide it as much as I could. I always avoided all the normal questions people asked, and if possible, I never admitted to being a JW (short for a Jehovah’s Witnesses).
You see, I was tired of being left out of everything, and feeling like I was the weird kid on the block. I was heart broken every time some child in my classroom had a birthday or a Christmas party was taking place. I was always excused from the room to take that long walk down the hall to the Principle’s office. There I had to wait until all the fun was over and then take long walk back as I took a peak in the doorways and watched others eating cake and laughing. I hated the looks by other children when I couldn’t stand up and recite the pledge of allegiance. I dreamed of actually having someone put a valentine in my make believe valentine box. I hunted for Easter eggs in my mind and pretended I had painted beautiful pictures on my eggs that were prettier than any I had seen on anyone else’s egg. One day in the 5th grade I came home crying after a Christmas party. I knew better than to let my parent see this, but they found me in my room crying nonetheless. My mom asked me what was wrong. I should have kept my mouth shut, but I didn’t. I said, “I was just sad because I couldn’t have fun at the Christmas party at school.” I was hoping for my mom to just comfort me and tell me that it was going to be ok. She could have just said that we were doing this for God and we should be strong. That would have made me feel better. But, that is not what she said. She told me that I didn’t love God enough if I could cry over something the devil had invented. She told me that I should be ashamed of myself and that I needed to do some serious praying to ask for forgiveness. So I had few good memories of my childhood. But, yet there are a few, one that I remember ever so fondly happened quite by accident in the 4th grade. We had been having a substitute teacher for awhile in my classroom, and I too had been absent for a few days. When I came back to school, the substitute teacher, who did not know that I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, had the other students make me a box for the valentine cards the each child would bring in. I knew I should have said something to the teacher, but I didn’t. To my surprise I was showered with cards from every child in the class. Could you imagine, kids actually put a valentine in my box, they thought about me, yes, me. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew it was wrong, but I cherished those cards. I brought them home and hid them in my bottom dresser drawer. Every so often I would take them out and proudly read them one by one. It was like Christmas to me, at least how I imagined Christmas would feel. I would hold each one like it was a piece of gold. My parents never found them and eventually I felt guilty enough and threw them away, but I will always remember that as one of the best times of my childhood....a time when I actually felt accepted by the other kids. Trust me, those time were very rare.
Unfortunately I usually dealt with all of this by acting if it wasn't happening. So over the years this became a problem for me as I slowly taught myself not to feel one of the most basic of emotions that we must all have...compassion. I've since learned that most ALL Jehovah's Witnesses teach themselves to avoid feeling compassion just so they can survive from day to day. How else can they cut off a disfellowshipped person without even blinking an eye?
But, as I grew up, I studied hard, graduated with honors, and desperately wanted to go to college (which of course I did not get to do, college was taboo when I was growing up). I desperately wanted my parent’s approval, but I could not feel this zeal for “the truth” that my parents felt. I could not be something I could not feel, to me this felt like I was deceiving myself. And, I just could not be something that I wasn’t. Quite strangely enough I was the sort of child that any other parents would simply have dreamed to have. I was responsible, hard working, could do anything I set my mind to do. And I wanted to do it all. I had serious dreams and expectation for myself. I was the kind of child that you knew would always make the right decision in life, a serious thinker, and I always listened to those older than I because I wanted that wisdom in my life.
None of this, however, meant a great deal to my parents, the only thing they would show an approving attitude toward was whether I was going to be a "strong Jehovah's Witness", or a pioneer (that meant that I would dedicate my life to door to door witnessing without pay). This was not in my plans to say the least. So, it is fair to say that I was always a disappointment to my parents. I desperately wanted their approval, but I could not feel this zeal that my parents had for “the truth” (another word for the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses). And, I couldn’t put my heart into something that I did not feel, to do this was to be dishonest and a hypocrite.
I grew up feeling that something was wrong with me because I could not feel this zeal for the "truth" that so many of my witness friends felt, (or so they said). Yet, no matter what I tried, it was just never there. But, I cooperated for the most part and I did all that was expected of me, and that got me through.
I have always been a very logical thinking person...just born that way, I guess. Things just had to add up for me to believe them. I could never quite put it together, but somehow I knew something wasn't right. I look back now, and realize that my mind was seeing contradictions, yet because my mind was under such mind control I couldn't put it together and make sense of it then. The questions that I had however, turned out to be very valid concerns, and yet I wouldn't even know it for years to come. I know now that the Holy Spirit was with me all of that time, guiding me and helping me all the way.
The earliest experience that I remember that made me question was when I was in the 11th grade in High School. We had to write an argumentative term paper. So, being the good JW that I was (yeah right) I chose blood transfusions as topic. I got the blood booklet put out by the Society (a booklet put out to explain to others why Jehovah's Witnesses do not take blood transfusions under any conditions, even life threatening ones) and strictly used the quotes given in the booklet as my source to backup my argument. Well, I turned the paper in and the teacher told me that I would need to get photocopies of all the quotes I used in my paper from the “original authors” and not a source from a source. So, to the library I went. I searched for hours and I did find some of the original articles that the WT (short for Watchtower Society) had quoted from, there were some from Newsweek, Times Magazine, and others. I had found what I came for...BUT...I made one BIG mistake...I read the articles all the way through. I remember sitting at the table in the library with my mouth hanging open. It seemed as if hours had passed by before I closed my mouth. I realized that in all of the quotes I had found, that’s right ALL, the articles were not backing the WT position, but quite the opposite. They were NOT supporting the WT position, yet, the WT would have you believe that they did. This was a big dilemma for me; I had to now justify this in my mind for me to be able to continue on. How could I possibly reconcile this? I was in speech and oratory and debate as well, and I knew that when a source misquotes to prove a point……well then something is very, very, wrong. So, this is how it went in my mind....I knew that the Society would NEVER lie to me, and I knew that to be a fact. In order to escape the pain my heart and soul was feeling at the time, not to mention the stress on my mind, I finally decided that I just must not be mature enough to understand these articles. The WT must understand this in a way that I can’t. So, I turned in my paper and hoped that the teacher didn't read the quotes from the sources I had turned in. Thankfully, she did not and I received a good grade on that paper. I never forgot that experience, and it haunted me at times, especially those times when doubt would creep in about “the truth”.
My second major experience came shortly after when I was around 16. I had a very close friend, she had only been a JW for a few years, her name was Suzanne. She was very close friend to me and I relied on her friendship for a lot of my emotional needs. One day she came to pick me up for lunch, we arrived at Pizza Hut and I was not suspecting a thing was wrong. We went in ordered and as we picked up our pizza to eat, she told me, all of a sudden, completely out of the blue, that “she was going to be disfellowshiped” (being disfellowshiped meant that you were to cut that person out of your life entirely, not even to say hello to this person in passing, they were to be considered more evil than a mass murderer). She says, and I say “She says”, because I have no actual memory of this event happening. She only described this to me recently. Anyway, she says, that after she told me she was going to be dissfellowshipped that I put down my pizza immediately, walked out of the restaurant, got in her car. She followed leaving everything on the table as it was. She then drove me home, I got out of the car...I never said a word to her, not even goodbye. The only part I even remember about that time is closing the car door when I got home. Can you imagine? What could make a person just stop, just stop, no emotion, no response, just nothing. I was haunted by that experience for years and years of my life. One day I had a close friend and the next day she was dead to me. The pain was simply unbearable to me, and caused considerable quilt rested deep in my heart. I shudder to think what control the Organization had over me that I could do something so painful to others. So painful even to myself that I had to erase it from my memory in order to live with it, and live with myself. I changed drastically after that experience and not for the good. I became withdrawn at home, cold acting to my parents, and began to blame my unhappiness on the Organization. Even so, I searched for friendship with a passion during those years; I wanted true, undeniable friendship. But I was only to find that this was not possible in an organization full of people whose every waking thought was controlled and manipulated. In the coming years my search for friendship and loyalty is one of the things that helped me to leave this organization.
But, through all the confusion and unhappiness, I did grow up, and married a nice young witness boy (as I was expected to do) that was also raised from birth as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. We had our first child and life got busy. I had always sought after friendships and consequently I thought I had many friends, yet I had begun to see something that just didn't fit. You see, when my first child was born a neighbor came over to wish me well. And slowly over the next few years we became very close. As our friendship developed it lead to many eye-opening experiences for me. You must understand, that as a Witness, associating with people outside of the religion was forbidden. It was considered bad association, others outside the religion were commonly referred to as “worldly”, and this was not meant in a positive way. I had to hide this friendship to keep from getting lectures from mom and dad and others. It was a difficult process, as I was ridden with quilt for even having such a friendship. But that friendship became very important to me and I was NOT giving it up.
One of those eye openers happened after my husband and I stopped going to one of the five meetings required of every JW every week, (the one hour "book study"). We went to all the other meetings except for this one; we needed a break. Then, one day a good friend of mine (at least I thought she was a good friend) asked if I would like to go out with her to a club. It was on a night of a "book study" and we were to go out after that meeting. I said yes, and we made plans. She went to the book study, but I did not. After all I hadn't been for several months. I wasn't going to show up there now, simply because a friend and I were going out that same night. She was very late showing up to my house that night, and when I acquired as to why, she said, "I had to listen to a 30 minute lecture from my mother on why I should stop associating with you until you return to the Book Study group." It hit me then like a ton of bricks. Yes, I then started to put it all together now. I realized that all of my friendships, all of my life had been reevaluated weekly except this one friendship that I had with my neighbor. It goes like this, if you didn't make it to the Sunday meeting you weren't invited to the party that week, or you were just plain left out of every thing until you towed the line again. I began to think...was that really friendship???? That night made me never want to attend another meeting ever, but I did, and things just got worse for me. After all, this was the only life I knew, I was trying to convince myself that this was how it was supposed to be. Yet, somehow that day I began to see things differently, you might say, I had a vision of "new light. Well, guess what? I had new light and I was going to use that light to explore a new path in my life.
I kept telling my husband how the children seemed to be neglected in the Organization. There was no schooling provided for them on their level at the “meetings”. I used to say that was like taking a first grader and putting them in a 12th grade class and insisting that they absorb all that goes on. How ridiculous. If they couldn't sit still they were usually taken outside and punished. I received many such punishments as a little girl, mostly in the form of beatings. It was as if the children were in the way (that is until they were old enough to go out in the door to door service and pedal those magazines). Nothing ever centered on the children in this organization, and quite frankly that just wasn't how I felt, especially now that I was a mother. I felt they were the most important things in my life. I didn't want our children to grow up the way I did. I began to abhorrer even the thought of it. This became a central thought for me. I did not want my children to have the same horrible childhood I did.
I grew up with what seemed to me to be a never ending story......my mom told me when I was a little girl that I would never go to school before the end of the world came, and...when I started school she told me I would never graduate high school, when I graduated, my mom told me I would never get married, when I married she told me I would never have children, when I had my first child, she said that my child would never have a chance to graduate....and so on, and so on. I narrowly escaped those years that the Organization encouraged kids age 16 to quit school and pioneer. The Organization had predicted the end of the world in “1975", and Armageddon, was just around the corner when my sister and brother were going to high school. Both of them quit and never graduated high school. I am the only child out of four that received a high school diploma.
I just couldn't stand the rhetoric anymore. Everyone seemed so cold and unloving, yet they SAID there was just so much love at the Kingdom Hall, but I didn't see it. I thought it was ME! It has to be me. I was just not good enough; I didn't go out in the door-to-door service enough, or attend all the meetings like I was required to do. That must be why I was so unhappy, that must be why I didn’t see the love that everyone else said was there. I felt unworthy constantly, guilty for not doing what was expected of me. After all, this was the only source of communication from God in the world, or so I was made to believe. Why couldn’t I see or feel God in my life.
A sister in the congregation that I respected very much once told me, "Margie, can't you just be mature enough to over look the people and just love Jehovah's organization?" I thought about that for quite awhile and then responded, "I guess I'm just not mature enough then, I see the organization as the people, the organization reflects itself in the people. So, at that point I admitted defeat, I accepted my immaturity and slowly stopped going to even more meetings. I began cutting myself off from the only life I had ever known and the only people I had ever known. Life became no more to me than just existing. Barely could I even understand the feeling of happiness, much less feel it anymore.
Not to long after that a young man that was a good friend of my sisters and a person I adored - was "publicly reproved". He has been tried before a committee of 3 elders in the congregation and found to be guilty, even though he had expressed sincere remorse. However, the 3 elders must not have been convinced of his remorse and decided that his actions have to be noted in front of the entire congregation. This is done in order to protect the congregation from the bad influence this person may have on other members. He is sentenced to at least 6 months of having to attend every meeting (this would be a sign that would be seen as remorseful by the elders), however, during those meetings there was to be almost NO interaction between him and other members. A letter is read before the entire congregation that marks this person as bad association, so that others would not invite him to gatherings and such. This is a lighter punishment than being dissfellowshiped. Disfellowshiping is considered the worst punishment possible. It is reserved for those, which the elders believe, have not repented from their sin at all, even if the person has strongly expressed to them of their remorse. The elders may judge this person to be unrepentant if they so desire. It is assumed that the elders are directed by the Holy Spirit and can read a person heart. So even though a person may express remorse, the committee of 3 elders can judge this person, unrepentant. But, let’s get back to my sister’s friend. He had been publicly reproved and he was having a hard time coping. He had been reproved because he had been “drinking” and dating young girls alone (without a chaperone)....he was just being a teenager. After the letter was read before the congregation, everyone began shunning him, of course, and this added to his confusion. He was experiencing a lot of alienation that he couldn’t seem to handle. His IQ was almost at a genius level and emotional trials were hard for him. He asked that my sister sit down with him and talk because he still loved her so very much. He need a shoulder, just someone to lean on for awhile, possibly understand and give him hope that life would get better. My sister asked for my advice as to whether she should speak to him since he was on public reproof. I recall this conversation that I had with my sister very well, as it would turn out to be a life changing event. When she asked me should she talk to him? I said, "Yes, you must, you would owe that to anyone you consider to be your friend!" She said, "But wouldn't that be condoning what he was doing?" I said, "No, sit down with him, maybe you can bring him around, help him to see through the fog that he seems to be in." She then told me that he had confided in her recently that he felt suicidal. He felt that to be the only answer to his pain. I told her it could not hurt to sit down with him and listen. I had her convinced to do just that, but my father (the congregation overseer at the time stopped her before she could talk with him. My father told her that she needed to be firm and show him "tough love" by not even saying hello to him. My father believed that this young man should be taught a lesson. If he wanted his friends back he would have to tow the line and do the time. A few weeks later this bright young man, who I dearly loved, killed himself with a gunshot to the head in his car. As I desperately cried for my dear friend, somehow, I knew that this was the straw that broke the camels back! This left my heart empty and put more questions in my head than I could count. I knew that I could never feel the same again, something had to change. I didn’t know what, but I knew I would never be able to be a real Jehovah’s Witness ever again.
As my friendship with my neighbor grew closer I realized that this friendship was unlike any that I had ever before experienced. I had found a friend that liked me no matter what I believed (even though it was "weird" to her) she accepted me and I had found a friend for life. She did not reevaluate my performance every week. I owe a great deal to this woman; I can never live up to the love and caring this woman showed to me in the years to come. It was really her friendship and experiencing the love that she unselfishly gave to me that was a big part of what eventually lead to my departure from the Watchtower, and I will be eternally grateful.
By this friendship I came to know the outside world and it didn't seem as hopeless as I had been taught. I saw kind, loving and caring people that had more sincerity than many Witnesses I knew. My belief structure in the "Watchtower" remained intact though, because in my mind there was just no escaping it. The Watchtower has to be the only “truth” in the world. There just was no escaping this fact. However, I found it increasingly hard to attend any meetings anymore. I refused to go from door to door. Over the next 5 years my meeting attendance at the Kingdom Hall became nonexistent. My mother, father and two sisters were heart broken, and still tried to bring me back into the fold almost constantly. But, they always hit a brick wall with me. I had closed my heart. I had my dignity and they couldn’t break through with their empty threats any longer. I would not be bullied into going back into something that I saw as cold and heartless. Eventually they learned to pick their battles with me very carefully. Though my mind still seemed incased in Watchtower doctrine, I had pockets of clear thought where logic came through the fog. I did not know at the time how important my logic would turn out to be, but I most certainly used it to win the arguments at hand and frustrate my family incessantly.
Confusion reigned in my life. I couldn’t stand the thought that my children would be alienated, teased, and ridiculed like I was in my school years. So, we allowed our oldest child, who was in first grade to celebrate holidays at school, but we couldn't allow her to do so at home because my mom and dad would find out and we would be "disfellowshiped". I just couldn't bear that either. So we ended up making our children to lie to their grandparents, this was confusing for a small child, she didn’t understand. How could she know what was at stake? We were constantly having to stop her from saying thing to her grandparents...this caused such distress in our lives. I could not bare the deceit, it was taking such a toll on me that I began doubting my entire life. I no longer even had my dignity now. I would not go be a JW because I couldn’t be a hypocrite, but allowed my children to lead a double life.
We all seemed hopelessly confused, and created a very unhappy life. My children didn’t understand what was going on, and frankly, neither did I. We had no world with which to live. The thought of returning to the world I had known all my life was unbearable. Living in the world outside of this was so confusing, and foreign to us that it was unbearable also. We did not know hardly anyone, trusted no one, and believed that we were committing horrible sins everyday by rejecting the Organization. We accepted our doom that we would die at Armageddon because we just couldn't bare going back to that Kingdom Hall ever again. It seemed that we were lost in the wilderness, no direction and no destination.
Then finally we decided that we had to stand up, face the consequences and give our children some sort of stability. We couldn't just sit on the fence any longer and teach our children that lying and deceiving was the proper way to live. I didn’t want to continue teaching our children that our life was something to be ashamed of, so much so that we had to hide what we were doing from the people that we loved. So, in Dec.'93 we decided to make our break and celebrate Christmas openly and wait for the powers at be to declare our Disfellowshiping. We knew my parents would no longer associate with us, or have anything to do with us, but we simply could not continue on the road we were on. We would take this step toward a future even as uncertain as it was to be.
We, of course, celebrated this Holiday with a guilty conscience. My father found out and he immediately announced he must tell the "elders" and he made it perfectly clear that they would indeed "stand by their faith" and cut us off if we were disfellowshiped. We knew that, of course, and it brought us great suffering, but we could no longer live a lie and we could not be hypocrites and go back to the meetings. We began waiting for the decision of the elders. The waiting was so stressful that I began having migraine headaches every other day for 6 weeks....waiting, and waiting for this life changing decision. But, strangely as it was, none came.
We agonized over this situation terribly. Finally in March of the following year ‘94 my brother-in-law, seeing how distraught we still were and puzzled by no response from the elders opened up finally told me that they had made a decision 2 months ago. (I had thought possibly that my father had neglected to inform the elders and thought he was going to try to let it pass.) But he hadn't, my brother-in-law explained that my parents did not want me to know the decision. The elders had decided that since we had not been to a meeting in over 4 years that they would take no action unless we wanted to return to the meetings. So, technically I had not been disfellowshiped. Imagine that, if we stayed away we would not be disfellowshipped, but if we wanted to come back, they would have to dissfellowship us and we would have to spend months with no one speaking to us to prove our loyalty again. Wow, what an enticing deli mea we were in? Anyway, my parents felt that if I knew I would NOT be disfellowshiped, I might "go overboard" and do anything I wanted (more that just celebrate Christmas). This way, if I were kept in the dark, they could continue some control over my family and I. Unfortunately, the rest of the members of the congregation, having found out about all of this made their own decision and began treating us as though we were difellowshiped anyway.
Since we were now out of the “closet” so to speak, I decided to do something I had wanted to do for a long time. I decided to call that close friend, Suzanne, which had been disfellowshiped when I was 16. It had always haunted me how I never got to talk to her again and how cold I must have seemed to her. I know she had to have suffered from that. I know I did. So, I called her parents (still living in my home town) and got her number, she was married and lived Texas. I called her because I wanted to clear my conscience and apologize for treating her in such an un-loving manner...that I had since found out what friendship was supposed to be about and I hoped that she would forgive me. We talked for many hours on the phone and made plans to see each other in a few weeks when she would be in town to visit her mom.
Now at the same time Suzanne and I were friends there was another girl that was our mutual friend and her name was Kathy. All three of us were friends at the same time that Suzanne was disfellowshiped. Now, Kathy had never been baptized as a Jehovah’s Witnesses like Suzanne, but she intended to be baptized soon after Suzanne had been. However, before she could do so, she took a temporary job that would take her out of town for a few months. She came back from this job three months later. She came to my home, where she proceeded to tell me that she had “discovered the love of Jesus” while she was gone. Well, as I had been taught to do, I promptly asked her to leave - I didn't even walk her to the door. I hadn’t seen or talked to Kathy ever since. Now, it came time for Suzanne’s visit, I was so looking forward to seeing her, but it would prove to be a very strange visit indeed. You see, Kathy also lived out of town, but by some strange coincidence she was in town at the very same time Suzanne was, also visiting her parents. Kathy just happened to call up Suzanne's parents to get her phone number. She hadn't seen Suzanne in quite a few years, and wanted to check up on her. Strangely enough Suzanne herself answered the phone. Suzanne said, “You are not going to believe this...but I'm headed over to Margie James’ house”. She was completely shocked! It had been 20 something years since that day I had refused to speak to the both of them. So she surprised me and showed up on my doorstep with Suzanne. Suzanne had brought with her a gift - the NIV Version of the Bible - I quickly told her thanks, but no thanks. Been there, done that! I had that in my life for many years, and I wanted no part of it anymore. Besides, the God I knew wouldn't hear my prayers or see anything I did as Christian. I was already doomed and I had accepted that fact. I did eventually accept her gift so as not to hurt her feelings. But, after she left I tucked it away under a cabinet so I would not even have to see it. I was thoroughly convinced that there was no God for me unless I was a Jehovah Witness. Try as they might that day, and they tried very hard to convince me otherwise, but it was to no avail. I was cold and defensive and anger was always on the tip of my tongue when talking about God and the bible. I tried very hard to keep my anger in check so as not to offend them because I knew they were only trying to help me, the only way they knew how. But, that was the kind of help I simply did NOT want. I did not want friends in my life that was going to push the bible on me again. Our visit ended with hugs and smiles as we said goodbye that day. I did not know it at the time, but a plan was in the works to try and help me to see what I already knew deep down....something was horribly wrong with this organization called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. And throughout the next year we all kept in touch with each other. Now, as I write this, I want the world to know, that to these two women I owe more than words can explain. And for them I have the utmost respect and love, as it was their patience with me and their courage of conviction that has enabled me to finally, open my heart, my soul and mind.
A year passed and we spent another Christmas celebrating while feeling guilty. The day after Christmas I got a call from Kathy, you see, she was bound and determined to help me. She had been doing some research about Jehovah's Witnesses and she was willing to stick her neck out and try and get through to me. And I do mean stick her neck out, as she had no way of knowing how I would react to what she was about to try and tell me. Her voice even trembled as she told me that she was in town. It was very noticeable and I was concerned that something was very wrong with her. But she went on to tell me that she had some information that she thought I would like to hear. She began telling me of - "God's Stone Witness" the Great Pyramid. I was flabbergasted. She told me of the 1925 return of the ancient worthies of old (Beth Sirem), she told me about Christ return in 1874, the prediction of 1914 and so on and so on....... This couldn’t be true. I wanted to know where she knew of this and she told me she had read a book by a man named David Reed that was a former Jehovah’s Witness. Well, I wanted that book...I wanted that book right then. I wanted to know exactly what was going here. Of course, Kathy had expected me to slam down the phone, but instead, the very next morning I went and picked up that book from her. I read it that very night. The book was titled, "How to rescue your loved one from the Watchtower". The very title was offensive to me. And I wasn’t about to take an “apostates” word for anything, but somehow I knew there was truth in its very pages. It was a starting point, and I had begun to understand that there was no turning back now. I had to find out the truth. No matter what it took from me, I knew the chance I was taking, it was enormous…but there was NO turning back, I would find out the truth or die trying. And……I almost did.
Well, I was just devastated with the things I had read in this book, but I couldn't take this one man's word for it. So I told my husband that this was to begin a QUEST for the real "truth" and I was going to find it out or else. I told him if the Organization had the truth I would accept that, but I was still NOT going back. And if I found they didn't, I could lift from my heart this never-ending guilt. So, began a journey I would have never believed could ever come to pass.
I began calling, ordering every book or videotape that I could find and spent hundreds of dollars on research material. I studied nonstop for months. Those were the hardest months of my life as I tried to decipher what was going on in my head. For the first 3 weeks I seemed to be in a paradox that I couldn't get out of. I believed the Organization had prophesied falsely yet they claimed not to be a prophet. Yet, they said you couldn’t question these beliefs, yet they claimed not to be a prophet. Yet, they claimed to be the ONLY channel of communication from God here on earth, yet they claimed they were not prophets....this went round and round in my mind. You see I knew that if they had prophesied falsely then they would be considered a “false prophet”, the bible says to get far away from a false prophet. But, my mind had been conditioned for so many years to believe that the Organization did NOT call itself a prophet. It was a horrible dilemma that I seemed to be in. My logical mind seemed trapped in this paradox that seemingly had no end and no way out. Finally I decided that I would write out each reference to being a prophet, every reference to not being a prophet and see if I could break down the cycle and make some sort of sense out of the illogic. What I finally realized, (after weeks of research and contemplation) that your mind can hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time and believe both of them to be true. Why? I realized that in every thought pattern there were strong thoughts and weaker ones. You can believe both, but in the end the stronger wins out. Each thought is then compartmentalized in your brain and kept separate from the thought that it contradicts. Was the Watchtower a prophet? YES! Though they claim not to be, but, by not allowing you to question their authority, by claiming to be the sole channel of communication from God on earth, (the strongest thought of the two) in your mind the stronger thought wins out. You can believe the Organization is God’s only channel, yet believe it not to be prophet. You can then accept the mistakes the Watchtower makes with out questioning their authority. I would soon learn that there were hundreds of similar paradoxes I would find in my mind, and all of them had to be dealt with in order to release my mind from the trapping of the Watchtower Society. That journey would last for months, and would take many turns and twists, some good, some bad, many hit me hard and hurt deeply, but one thing is for sure – it was well worth it.
But, I was finally out of that paradox. It was as if a bomb had hit me, or a cloud of dust was lifted from my mind. I could see so clearly. I then continued to read everything I could find. The mind control exercised in this so-called religion is so devastating! It is such a complete makeover of the mind that it is almost unbelievable to me. If you could imagine what it would be like to be raped...that is what this feels like to me. Like a raping of the mind, it feels as if I never had a thought that was completely my own. Imagine your entire life taken from your grasp, imprisoned in a jail with invisible walls. This has caused such great pain and suffering in my life, all which I thought had a purpose, and to find out the deception has no purpose - well - it can make one question whether it is worth going on,....and, so I did. Yet, now, to be free....oh, that feeling is wonderful. I feel as though I have never lived. I feel things I have never felt, and my mind feels fresh like a newborn. And though it has lifted such heavy guilt from my heart, it has brought much pain to know that my life had been, well, what feels like wasted. Emotionally, I now had to cope with those feelings, and many more, as I would soon find out.
When I set out on this quest it had begun simply to find out the truth, but the more I read the more I started to want to pray (something I hadn't even wanted to do in the as a JW). It seemed that God wasn't as cold as I had perceived him to be, and realizing that faith in the Jesus as my Savior was such a compassionate idea and feeling to me. I just had to find out more.
Funny thing was....compassion was a feeling that I lacked in my life, but was totally unaware of it until I began to feel it for the very first time. There I was a person who didn't even want a bible in my home, yet I felt so compelled to pray and read the bible. So, one Sunday morning with all my confusion, and sadness, I decided I would do the unthinkable - go to a church. Yes, you heard me right; go to the devil's playground. Now, to a JW, a church is a horrible place to be. You are taught that demons may be flying around the place, and as strange as that seems, you really do believe it to be true.
My now dearest friend and neighbor was a Catholic and I decided to visit her church. I enjoyed it though I was quite a bit lost. I did enjoy the sermon that day as he spoke of the love we should show to everyone around us, how Jesus had such compassion for us. It stuck in my mind that day and through all my confusion helped me get through the next few days. But depression was setting in. All of these dilemmas were taking its toll on me emotionally. It became harder and harder to handle the fall out from all that I was learning. It seemed like a cloud of darkness was surrounding me and I was suffocating. Though there seemed to be light at times, clarity in my life was far from my view. My husband did not agree with what I was doing. I was getting flack from seemly everywhere.
The next Sunday had approached and I was not doing well. My depression was worse and I felt myself beginning to lose touch with reality. I almost didn’t know what reality was anymore. So, I decided to try and go to another church as it had made me feel somewhat better. It was a mourning I recall quite well, as I was emotionally exhausted. I was totally confused, felt isolated and dejected from even my own thoughts. My husband thought that I was crazy and didn’t support my efforts. So I decided what the heck, what do I have to lose? I remember this morning so well because I was also considering suicide that day. I know it sounds crazy, but my very foundation of my life had just been torn to pieces, and I just didn’t have answers I needed so much. It seemed too much to bear. I was tired, exhausted, and I really didn’t have the energy to fight the battle anymore. I had decided that if I didn’t find any answers that day, I was prepared with a bag of pills and had even picked out the hotel I would go to if I didn’t find a church that could help me. It was church, or suicide, what a morning it would turn out to be. Imagine if you will a thinking process like this…weighing on a scale – on one side – Church, the other side – death. You ask, how could anyone feel this way? All I can tell you is, I did. I felt that this was it…it was make it or break it day. I thank God everyday that He heard my cry for help.
I got in my car not knowing where to go. I rode by several churches, but they seemed so intimidating. They all had so many doors and I didn't know which door to go into. The Kingdom Hall has only one door. One door in, and same door out. I didn’t want to embarrass myself and go in the wrong door. I just couldn’t take that on a morning when I felt so alone. I needed something that just came out and spoke to me – this is where you need to be. Well, I kept driving by churches, I stopped by one and even went in, but there was a man there and he said the service would not start for another hour. He didn’t seem too helpful or compassionate to me, and for some reason that really upset me somehow. So I decided I would not wait.
I decided that was it, I would just go to the hotel and give in to my exhaustion. No one had any idea of my mental state at the time. Not my husband or nor my close friend, no one. I headed for the hotel in defeat, as I was almost there I remember a Church that was two streets away for the hotel. I thought I would try one last time. I said to myself, that if I could tell what door to go in that I would stop and go in. So I rode around the corner and came across the First Baptist Church. It too had what seemed like a hundred doors. I was just about to give up when I turned the corner and saw a sign in the corner of the parking lot of that First Baptist Church. The sign read, "Visitor Information That Way.” It even had an arrow pointing toward a door. By now, I had resigned to my defeat, but I had told myself I would go in, and so I thought, at least I will know where to start, so I parked my car and walked into that door. The pastor was there and asked could he help me. I said, yes, I would like some information about your church and explained to him that I had been a Jehovah Witness for 33 years. He asked would I like to join the Sunday school class that was in session at that time. I was reluctant, but for some strange reason I accepted. But to myself I thought, "A Sunday School Class"...isn't that for kids!! I didn’t know there were Sunday school classes for adults. But I followed him anyway and walked into a class of strangers. What happened next was God Grace as it poured out upon my soul. Upon the black board, and above the man teaching class was written, "Spirituality verses Religion, which is more important?" I couldn’t believe my eyes. Could I really be reading this correctly? The lesson went on to talk about legalism in the church and to avoid judging others, that it was the spirit within us that is the most important and not religion, and that man's rules were just that "man's rules". I was so unbelievable excited to hear such a lesson, and when it ended, I told the class that I had been a witness for 33 years and talk about RULES; well I knew them very well. If ever I had doubted that God existed, well I didn’t anymore.
I then for the first time in my life enjoyed a worship service more than I could ever tell you. I began to cry during the song "Your Standing On Holy Ground", as it felt so comforting to me. I really felt like I was standing on Holy Ground. I remember thinking that I had wasted my whole life in a Kingdom Hall and I could have been here. I did look around though, to see if there was any demons were flying about, but somehow I knew that I was in a safe place and God was there. I didn't realize it then, but later I looked back and knew that Holy Spirit had guided me to that Church and right into that Sunday school class.
I began attending regularly there and the people were just amazing to me. Every Sunday I would sit in awe of how spiritual, open, loving, and sincere these people really were. I was taught that these kinds of people did not exist. In fact I was completely taken back, as I had never experienced this kind of love and concern from anyone at the Kingdom Hall.
Well, I continued to study, and I got in touch with many people that helped me, such as David Reed, Bill and Stephanie Blass, Joan Cetnar, Randy Watters, and Joan Kane, who sent me a videos and other material that was a major help to me. I joined the Internet and found a mountain of material available. I even began to converse with other Jehovah's Witnesses on the Internet. I have even helped many others to see the real truth about the Watchtower Society. And many have found a relationship with God that they never could while in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Then on May 1995 I decided to be baptized. It was the happiest day of my life. I had never felt anything so fulfilling. The support I received from this church was so overwhelming and I knew I had found a church home. I still don’t consider myself a Baptist though. I will never profess to be a part of a particular religion ever again. But, I can profess a faith in God and a relationship with Him that gives peace to all that seek it. I attend a Baptist Church, and I enjoy the comfort it gives to me, but my relationship is not with a church, not a religion……it is with my God.
My husband was not too far behind me; at first he didn't have the time that I did to do research. And so he didn't come with me to church. But finally he began attending church with me and his heart was opened and he was baptized only a few months ago.
My children are doing beautifully, they are happy and learning to depend on their own relationship with the Lord. My 5 year old amazed me a few weeks ago. She came into my bedroom late one night and tapped me on the shoulder and said, Mommy, I'm scared I had a bad dream. I comforted her and then told her to go back to bed...she began to walk away, but she came back and said, mommy, will you pray with me first so God will make the nightmares go away. I was so happy to see that at 5 she was already learning to depend on God to get her through her trials, large or small.
I have been quite vocal in my efforts to help other Jehovah's Witnesses and it has begun to circulate throughout the town where I live, which is relatively small. My father is an elder there and has quite a bit of influence. They had begun to hear about my efforts to help other Jehovah's Witnesses and have been terrible offended by it. So, just a few weeks ago, my parents sent me a letter saying that they were severing all ties to me and my children.
The last few weeks have been very hard for me, and almost kept me from coming here this weekend and sharing with all of you my testimony. But, prayers were answered and here I stand. In fact, just this past weekend, an ex-Jehovah Witness that I know called me up and asked would I meet with a young woman that was raised in the Organization, and had been disfellowshiped when she was 17. She is now around 30. I said, of course, and we met at a restaurant to talk. As I talked with her I could see the anger in her eyes, and hear it in her voice. She was so defensive that it was almost impossible to talk to her. At one point she got very upset with me, and at that moment time stood still for me. I realized that I was looking into a mirror, that this was how I was just a few short years ago. It was an awful place to be, it was a miserable place to be. It was at that moment that I could remember, in detail, the deep pain I had felt. I left that restaurant and went home with an uneasy feeling that I could not explain. But, later that night I realized how much I had been blessed by that experience. I had been given the opportunity to count my blessing. And I knew that I never wanted to go back to that miserable place again. And the best part is I know I never have too. So now, no matter what happens with my family, I can see how much I have grown, how much the Lord has changed me and I wouldn't give that up for a million families.
I wish to thank all of you here today, as it is people like you that stay around and help people like me. To all of you I extend my deepest gratitude, because, I have come to know Jesus, and my life is a wonder everyday. I can feel such compassion for people that I could never feel before. Sometimes, I have difficulty dealing with this as it hurts deep into my heart to see the darkness that I have come from and know so many people are still in. Yet, now when I sit in Church I no longer have a foreboding feeling, just a sense of peace that comforts the depths of my very soul. In my life there had always been a source of irritability, I just thought it was normal that possibly everyone felt this way. Now, it is gone.....I have never felt a peace like this.....I wake up everyday and wonder...will it still be there tomorrow....and yet it is still there. I know it will always be there for me now. As Jesus is the source of that peace and he will not forsake me. I have found the meaning of that verse where Jesus said...."you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." I am FREE!
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