Growing up I never realized what was wrong in my family. There was a lot of stress, anger, fear and negativity, but I never realized why until I left the movement.
See, as a kid and teen, I was very into the movement. I was proud to be part of a group of people who was following the Lord. Even though you’re not supposed to feel superior to anyone on earth, you still do, secretly, inside your own four walls. Yes, of course we were all sinners, but at least we were saved. We weren’t so much on the lookout for other people’s sin, but much more pitting people who weren’t “saved”, who would surely go to hell. Yes, we were better than them. Jesus didn’t love us more, but he used us as an example. We were Jesus’ pride, because we weren’t going to hell, we tried to follow his commands as best as we could, in short, we were superior to the people of the world. The people of the world, that was everyone, religious or not, who didn’t live the same way we did.
I took immense pride in that. Four years ago, there wouldn’t have been a chance for me to even think of leaving the movement. I pitied the leavers so so much. I pitied them, looked down on them, saw them in the fires of hell. Quivering daughters? Those poor, idiotic girls who left the right path for something that was not God’s will. Whenever a daughter left her home and the movement, I was the first to pity her. I was the loudest among the girls who felt the need to curse that woman, making sure everybody knows that they can’t leave the movement because we were right and the others were wrong.
And though I longed for what the other girls outside the movement had – free time, girls nights, nice clothes and friends – I didn’t allow myself to want any of that. Instead, I got angrier and angrier with them. They were so wicked, it made me want to cry and pray. And praying I did. I remember praying many many nights that these girls would see the light and come to our side, be saved and live by our rules.
I remember a day at the supermarket, one of the very few occasions I could leave the house for, I saw a girl in skinny jeans and a tank top, lots of cheap but pretty jewelery on her, and a very nice hairstyle. I stared at her. I tried not to but I did. I don’t think she saw me, but I remember how I thought that those jeans were looking great on her. That her hairstyle looked so summer-y and messy and nice and the jewelery accented a kind of vintage look about her. She had nice make up on too. As soon as I felt the jealousy creep up inside me, I started an inner rant about her, how bad and wicked she was. The hair was much too short for a woman! Doesn’t she know that short hair is a shame to women? And the pants, so manly, she isn’t supposed to wear a man’s clothes. Especially not when they accent her backside! And the jewelery? She certainly isn’t humble and quiet! She’s wicked in her way to show off her richness. Yes, that girl at the supermarket was the walking incarnation of satan. I talked myself into such big rage that I threw around all food for the rest of the supermarket visit.
Not until I was 18 I realized where all these feelings came from. It was because I was not free like scripture promised. I was not filled with inner joy even though I believed to be filled with the holy spirit. Everything my parents told me to be true for women seemed a lie.
This girl at the supermarket was the image for everything I’d never be. Free. Happy. Filled with a healthy self-esteem. Being worth something without ankle-length skirts and a husband to submit to. This girl at the supermarket would live a good life without all the “rules” I had to stick to. She could choose whom she would marry one day. She would choose to have her kids and when. She would choose whether she wanted a job or not. She could choose what to wear, how to cut her hair, what shows to watch and books to read, when to go out with her friends and whom her friends were. I could not. I would get married to a man who would tell me all these things and more. I would have to keep the budget he would allow me, too low and always yelling at me for spending a dime more than he would like me to. A man who would not care whether I wanted sex with him, and if I refused, he would “take what is his biblical right”. I would lose everything – my soul, my body, my mind, my spirit, my dreams and wishes – in order to be all consumed by him, to be part of his body, to function as nothing more than a third and forth hand for him, and once a year an incubator for his seed.
It hit me. There I was, sitting in the tiny cage of christian fundamentalism, looking at all the birds free to fly away.