Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Training up this child – Part 19 – Meet me at high noon

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I spent a few days thinking about the little hint my mother gave me. Close to an engagement? My mom didn’t say that just out of a mood. No parent in the movement says that out of a mood. They don’t give us any idea of what’s going on until the last second. When a guy is interested in you, but they don’t like him, you’re not being told. If a guy has interest in you, and they tell you, you can be sure that they have been in contact with him for weeks and sometimes even months, examining him, and actually giving him permission to enter a relationship with you. As a daughter, you are usually the last to know about your own love life.

Now, the fact that my mother said something about a close engagement meant that Harry must have asked for permission from dad already, and that dad agreed and gave him permission to ask me. My mother would be involved in this process of evaluation at a very late time, about when dad had already decided to give Harry the permission to ask me, then he would ask for my mother’s opinion before telling Harry what his decision was. I now knew that Harry had permission to ask me, and he’s probably had it for a while. He might have even already bought a ring.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Within the next few days or weeks, I would be asked to marry him. Engagements were typically kept very short, and Harry’s and my courtship has been pretty long due to the big distance. Just to give you a short reminder: Harry and I’s courtship started when I was 18, almost 19 (I’m born in March and the courtship started December before I turned 19) so we were courting for over 3 years. That’s a crazy long time in the movement. I know it might have felt just like six months or something when you read my posts about my courtship, but they were condensed, not bothering with the time between the visits and big events were effectively nothing happened except for my daily routine of being a stay-at-home-daughter while Harry was on different mission trips and preparing to make a living and save up some money in order to be fully prepared to support a wife and a baby within 9 months of marriage. I didn’t even describe all of Harry’s visits because they were simply uneventful. So let’s get this back on track: My mother made the remark about the engagement some time at the end of March.

I knew I didn’t have much time left. Engagements are typically short. A three-month engagement would be a long time in our group. The average engagement time is around 4-6 weeks, and all of that time is used for marriage preparations as the majority of the “falling in love” and “making the decision” was supposed to be made prior to engagement. My insides were in a constant state of burning, my mind rattling. I saw the beginning of the rest of my life right in front of me. Once I was married, there was no way out anymore. I’d have to be obedient to my husband. I’d have to have kids, if I wanted or not. I realized that within the time of just one year at that moment, I might be sitting at home with a 2 month old. The thought alone made me dizzy. I was NOT prepared for any of that.

On the other side, I also started seeing things that were wrong in the movement. The engagement remark which left me so helpless, and feeling strongly in a position where every decision of my life was already made and agreed on didn’t suit me at all. I started dreaming of what I would do if I had the choice.

I wouldn’t get married for now. I’d started to regret hating school, so I also wished I could somehow go back to school and learn something useful. I always loved art, history and geography. I loved the universe and watching all the stars, wondering what they would look close up. I always loved big masses of ice and cold climate. I started to think that if I didn’t get married and wasn’t in the movement, I’d become a Nasa person, observing and calculating stars, thinking about big events in the universe. Or maybe I could become a geologist somewhere cold, like Antarctica, and research the processes in the ice and what happened a long time ago. I even considered becoming something like a paleontologist and study dinosaurs and climate way back. That was a thought unheard of in our family. All of these three professions were ungodly and against the bible, utterly humanist and naturalist. I was so curious to know things that are veiled to humanity, like times way before our time. But I was bad at math, I thought I might not be the right person for each of those three. If I couldn’t do it, I might just settle for some ancient culture studies. Egypt maybe, or south american ancient history.

During this process of thought I realized that I’d never make it anywhere close to that. I’d never be allowed to consider whether there’s life on other planets, or if the big bang is true. I’d never be allowed to think that humans and dinosaurs didn’t meet. I’d never be allowed to think that an old culture was anything but ungodly behaviour which died for a God reason – because God hated their unspeakable blasphemous acts.

I was getting frustrated with the life ahead of me. I knew I would die stupid and unhappy if I followed that road. The narrow path got really narrow, like walls coming closer and closer to each other, crushing your chest, leaving you unable to breathe. I decided that I had only one chance to escape this life. And that chance, funny enough, seemed to be Harry.

I went to Tiffany’s house with a plan in my mind. I needed to call Beth and ask for her help. After all, she was Harry’s sister, so she knew him much better than I did. Tiffany gladly agreed to let me call her. Beth was happy to hear from me after a rather long time of silence between us. She asked me a bunch of small talk questions but finally got to the point where she asked how things were between Harry and me. I explained her what my mother said, and she agreed with me that Harry proposing to me was very near, just within a few days range. I told her about my thoughts, that I wasn’t ready to be a wife and mother, that I wanted to be something else, that I wanted to decide some things on my own. Beth immediately suggested running away. I didn’t think of running away as the only chance for me yet, so I disagreed.

I told her about the plan I had come up with: I would ask Harry to leave the movement with me. We would keep the act up for our families, as I didn’t want to be cut off, but we’d live like the other people did. Normal. I’d tell him that he would get so many benefits from that lifestyle. That I’d make money, that we wouldn’t have to have that many kids, that we could have so much fun together as a worldly couple.

Beth didn’t sound convinced at all. “You know, Harry is deeply rooted in his beliefs. Some things he believes are outright stupid, but he believes that he loves Jesus more than anyone, that the movement is the only way to be saved. I don’t think he’ll give that up, no matter how much he loves you.”

“I can try. Maybe he secretly feels the same way.”

“Yes, Lisa, maybe, but then what? You’d still marry a man you don’t love. Do you know what that means? You’ll have to put up with his little faults every day. You’ll have to care for him in sickness, in poverty, and all that without love? Is that fair to you, or him? Can you really sleep with somebody you don’t love – every night? And act like you love him? That’s just a horrible thing to do.”

I hated how right Beth was. I was deeply ashamed that I had already acted like I was in love. My cheeks burnt at the realisation that the damage was done and I’d have to keep up this terrible act for the rest of my life. Out of sheer frustration, I told Beth:

“Well, then I’ll tell him the truth. And that he can have a girlfriend on the side who really loves him, so he gets the love he deserves and we’re both out of the movement!”

“Lisa, that is possibly the dumbest idea you’ve had since… ever. You know that won’t work. He could never do something like that. Not even worldly people do something terrible like that. That’s absurd and so crazy, I can’t even tell you just how stupid it is.”

She was right, of course, and I saw that I could never ask for such a thing from Harry. Too far was too far. But I still couldn’t give up.

“Yeah, you’re right.. I just don’t know what else to do. I’ll have to try to ask him though, that’s the least I can do.”

“Sure, go ahead and try, but you won’t get what you want. Just don’t break his heart more than you already have to. And if he says no, just run away and come to me, please. I’ll help you out.”

Beth gave me her address just in case, but I was sure I wouldn’t need it. I didn’t feel like I could sacrifice my family on the altar of my own desires just yet.

The next few days flew by, weekend came around. But something was different. Something was going on. My mother bought some expensive groceries and things we usually eat only for important events. She baked a lot of stuff and let me eat it. She kept hugging me constantly. My dad was nagging a lot about how I looked, how I acted. That it didn’t suit a grown woman. He’d never call me a grown woman. I knew the weekend would bring a change. Mom spent all friday cooking, preparing, baking, decorating, cleaning. She asked me to wear something pretty for dinner. Yeah, my parents were always terrible at surprising us kids. I knew that Harry and his family were coming over for dinner, even if they tried to keep it a secret from me.

Around 6 PM, the doorbell rang. In my mind, it sounded much shriller than it usually did. My mom asked me to open the door. I walked to the door in nervous, short-breathed steps. I slowly opened it, my face frozen in a helpless grimace, as if I had just watched an elephant eat sushi, and then fly away with his umbrella. In front of the door was Harry, flocked by his entire family. All of them had huge smiles on their faces and, almost simultaneously, they yelled “Surprise!”. I looked at Harry. He was wearing a rather fancy outfit. Dress pants, sparkling shoes, a white shirt and a tie. I stepped to the side in order for them to come in, still with my shocked expression on my face, murmuring something like “I didn’t expect you at all…”. Harry came in, looked into my eyes and gave me a little bouquet of flowers. Lillies. The ultimate engagement flower. I stood frozen until everyone found their way in. I pushed the door closed and the clicking sound of the lock reminded me that today was the day my sentence might be sealed.

46 thoughts on “Training up this child – Part 19 – Meet me at high noon

  1. Good Lord! You need to be a novelist! I know this is your story, but you could sell it in book form, and people would buy it!

  2. I’m with Jesse on this one! Now, two things struck me:

    First, you realizing that you could have done anything. You could have been a scientist or an astronaut, etc. This is what hurts me most about this whole thing – girls not even knowing that in today’s world they can be ANYTHING they want. I didn’t realize either. There were doors closed to me before I even realized there were doors.

    Second, this: “I didn’t feel like I could sacrifice my family on the altar of my own desires just yet.” Yes yes YES! But it’s not your family versus your desires, however much they might think make you think it is. It’s your family versus your freedom. And that was a choice I had to make too.

    • It’s a shame when people have to make that choice. Although I was raised in pretty strict fundamentalism, I never knew, till just recently when I heard of Michael and Debi Pearl, and some of their radical associates, that this really happened. I now know some girls who are faced with choices such as this. Some of them are ready to walk away from God altogether, but some just want to live for God without all the antiquated rules put forth by their “movement”, as Lisa calls it.

      • Or some, like me, first turn to a more open and love-based version Christianity and then later leave religion altogether for independent reasons. I actually haven’t met any girls in this situation who have simply walked away from God, actually. Usually because of how they were raised God means everything to them, and they don’t just throw that away because they got burned by legalism. From what I have seen, those who leave religion entirely – like me – usually do it after time spent in love-based religion, much reflection, and question after question, not merely in response to being hurt by fundamentalist religion.

        • Yeah I agree with Libby on this one. Though I do know of some who completely walked away from christianity, a big majority sticks with some form of christian faith. I also can’T walk away from something that has been the center of my entire life to this point. I don’t think I ever can, and I don’t want to. That’s ok for me and I’m taking my time figuring out what to believe. I think the ones who walk away do so only temporarily, as a reaction to the shock of leaving, but come back later at some point in their lives.

      • “the movement” is what I use because they aren’t an actual church. They usually can be find in baptist churches, but also in other ones. They are church-hopping a lot too. But the movement isn’t one big mass, It’s much rather a collection of different groups with varying beliefs. Some believe holding hands is ok. Other don’t even allow girl-boy contact. Some believe NFP is ok, others don’t. Some stick to a part of the laws stated in Leviticus (but aren’t messianic jews), others abandon them completely. Some find that a woman must be blindly obedient to her husband to a point where she’s not allow to disagree with him or question him in any way, others encourage open communication in marriage. So when I talk about the movement, don’t think all of them are like that. I’m just putting some light on the particular group I come from, but others who consider themselves QF/Patriarchy families as well might be totally different.

    • The fact that I had those “subversive” ideas came mainly from Tiffany, who had a TV and I sometimes watched some of the shows she liked. She was also pro working women if it was necessary or if they just felt “called” to do it. Plus, I ALWAYS loved geography and history topics and read many more or less scientific books on it. I was also an avid reader of the answers in genesis materials and I always envied the men there for having such exciting jobs.

      “But it’s not your family versus your desires, however much they might think make you think it is.” Yeah, I can see that now, but we both know that in that situation, you can’t see it as clearly. Selfishness is a word they throw around way too much and growing up, you are so scared of selfishness that you feel like the devil’s right hand when somebody calls you selfish.

      • Ok, so, try to help me understand more fully. Do these people actually refer to themselves as qf, or patriarchy in belief? I mean, do they have rallys, and such things to bolster their way of thinking? One of these days, I will tell you about a few families that I suspect of having this mindset, and how they joined up with our church, and almost poisoned our members with their way.

        • Good question hehe. MOST refer to themselves as QF and/or P families, but not all of them do so officially. They are very well organized too and have different meetings all around the world. You can find them at Visionforum.com, aboverubies.org, billgothard.com and many many other places. As you can see on the gothard’s page, they organize a lot of get togethers (see also http://www.iblp.org/iblp). Bill Gothard is one of the most admired personalities in these circles and his teachings (read some articles on his page if you’re interested) are generally accepted by all QF/P families.
          I personally have been to several ones, I think I’ll write more detailed about this in a post soon.

        • Mine didn’t. In fact I only learned a couple years ago that there was a name for my family’s beliefs and that it was in fact a thing, the same thing the other big homeschool families I knew had. Mine just referred to themselves as “bible believing Christians.” Needless to say it was kind of mindblowing to find this discriptive term and learn that others already knew what it was even though I’d actually lived it.

      • “But we both know that in that situation, you can’t see it as clearly.” Oh, AMEN! When I talk to my mom she can STILL somehow twist my brain into those old patterns. And you’re right, somehow they turn “submission” into a virtue and “selfishness” into a sin. The reality is that selfishness can be a very good thing, though of course with some moderation.

      • Jesse – I think the movement is more bound together by a loose collection of teachings by homeschool leaders such as Michael Farris, Doug Phillips, Michael Pearl, Bill Gothard, and Doug Wilson. Each of these leaders have their own organizations and their own niches, but each has a varying deal of influence in hoemschool circles. A family need not call itself “patriarchy” or “quiverfull” to be part of the movement, though some do. It’s more about being in the sphere of these bigger names and being influenced by their teachings. I honestly think the central beliefs are that women’s place is only and always in the home, that wives are to submit and husbands are to lead, that adult daughters remain under their fathers’ authority, that the world is an evil place, that homeschooling is the only truly godly method of education, and that children are always a blessing from the lord, even in very large numbers.

  3. Also, Lisa, you are way too good at ending your sections at cliff hangers! I want to know what happens next!

    • Yeah, I got the cliffhanger thing down by now! I just can’t resist to end there every time, because to be honest, cliffhangers annoy me like crazy and I’m getting a good laugh at the fact that I know the readers will feel like that too, HAH!

  4. Since I am new to your blog, this is only the second story I have read in this series (I read part 18 a few days ago). The thing that gets me with this courtship thing is that some families seem to make a very big deal out of it, like the two parties involved are going to get married. I’ve heard stories like this unlike yours, where the marriage would be coming in the next few days, I’ve heard of families making this much fuss over the beginning of the courtship! I always think, “What if it doesn’t work out? Won’t that just mess with the hearts of the two people involved?” Anyway, I look forward to reading the next installment. Can you put the links somewhere on your blog of the first 17 parts? I should probably read those too at some point (grins).

    • Hey, thanks for your comment!
      Yes the idea of a marriage in some groups of the movement is not that two people will be joined but much rather two families. So each member of the family actually gets a say in the issue. Obviously, that may lead to a lot more trouble than you’d think. If, say, the families have been friends for years and a courtship between two members of those families fails, the friendship would end up damaged in some way. A typical train of thought is that the woman’s family loses a daughter, so they need to carefully pick her new family to make sure she’s happy. And the man’s family is adopting a new member, so they want to make sure that everybody is happy with the choice.

      I put links for the entire series together in the “Get to know me” tab on top of the blog, right next to the contact tab and such. But I need to update it cause I was slacking on putting the links in there!

  5. I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist background with lots of legalistic rules but no quiverful families or courtships run by the fathers so I hope that eventually you will describe an actual wedding. I can’t imagine putting together a wedding in 4-6 weeks.

    And you are a wonderful writer. Your story needs to be told.

    • That’s a great idea for a post! Though I haven’t had any weddings in my own direct family, I’ve been to several and helped sometimes, too. I’ll try to put together a rough overview!

      • Thanks. I would appreciate it. All the weddings I went to growing up were just typical of what I’ve seen in secular families. They usually take months to prepare for. Also no one around here did Courtship in any form. It was always left to the couple to decide on their mate. But, then, I’m probably older than your mother since my second son is a couple of months older than you are.

  6. Is there a part 20?

  7. Just wondering if there is a part 21? Your story is so interesting, please do put the other posts up!🙂

  8. I’m riveted! I hope you will get a chance to finish your story.

  9. amazing and very sad story, its beyond me that anyone would think a baby is evil because she cries –

  10. Please write some more!! I simply must know how it ends.

  11. I want to finish your story! Please write more! I grew up with QF/patriarchy families. Most of them couldn’t find QF mates for their children though so it died with that generation…or here’s hoping it did. Lots of miserable single women though left in the aftermath. I think you are very smart to not want to jump right into marriage. One needs some time to recover healthy perspectives on marriage after being raised that way.

  12. Please finish! I have to know what happens! Great writing! You should write a book!

  13. I really want to read the rest!

  14. I really want to read the rest as well!

  15. I would love to read the rest too.

    + you are born in March? Did I read it right in an earlier post that you are also born in 1988? Then we’re around the same age (I am born March 20, 1988)
    Still what a contrast, in a way you feel so much older and mature on points where I still have some “growing up” to do to me. I just found your blog and started reading. So far I noticed you live in Germany now and have a boyfriend ^_^ – correct me when I’m wrong I just skipped through the latest posts really fast I’ll read in depth later whenever I’m in a blog read mood it’s early morning now – I live in a neighbour country of Germany (in NL), but I am both Dutch and German (father is Dutch and mother German and we kids – my 2 younger siblings and me are both).

    Some things you write about still feel very familiar in a way too…
    (Yet my life is sooo different really).

    • Haha yes we are just a few days apart actually! Oh my, milestone birthday coming up soon huh?
      I have heard that a lot, that people *think* I’m oh so mature when they read my posts – let me reassure you that these posts on here possibly reflect me in a different light. I am aware of this and I know that readers can’t tell easily that I actually have to concentrate and think a lot to come up with my posts. I think we all have our mature moments, and we have childish ones, and that’s a pretty amazing thing. If you and I were talking in real life, I’d probably feel like a child, like I do most of the time when I talk to people my age. I missed out on a lot of things you maybe experienced.

  16. Hey, I grew up in this sort of lifestyle as well. I live in Texas and would like to start some sort of ministry to others who have gone through this sort of spiritual abuse. Does anyone have any ideas on how to reach out to these girls? Getting to brainwashed people is very hard.

  17. I just read parts 1-19, and I’m really hoping you’ll finish your story, if and when you choose. You’re a great writer and your story is compelling.

  18. You have an amazing story to tell! I have enjoyed reading it and my heart breaks that God has been portrayed this way in your life. In my faith walk and journey I have learned that man skews who God is — sometimes to his own benefit of controlling others with fear. When I read the Bible in its fullness and put my ideas and “teachings” aside, I find a God who loves me, and a story of how He wants to redeem our relationship. I hope you can find the same without all of the baggage and brainwashing that has hurt you so far. Let Him pick up the pieces and show you who He REALLY is!

    I also agree that you need to write a book, you are very talented.

  19. I’m a newbie. Where is Part 20? Don’t leave us hanging!🙂

  20. Hi Lisa,

    ich wollte fragen, ob du mit dem E-Book fertig wirst (vllt. diese Semesterferien?)…
    Es interessiert mich schon sehr, wie du da rausgekommen bist…

    VG Carolina

  21. Like so many others, I’d love to read the rest of your story.

    I am an ex-QF mom of 9dc, 6-27 yo. Thankfully, my dh was never drawn into the Patriarchial movement. Actually, QF was more my idea after reading Mary Pride’s first book, and I convinced dh to get a reversal. When I got pregnant 5 weeks post surgery we took that as a sign of God’s pleasure! Now I cringe about the slippery slope we were on towards QF, how sincerely gullible we (I in particular) were, all just because we wanted to be pleasing to the Lord.

    Now honestly, most of our children are either atheist or agnostic. My dh and I in some way still believe in a God of some sort, though not at all in the way of our Pentecostal upbringings.

    I realize we are extremely fortunate that we left the QF movement and institutional church quite a few years ago, and our family relationships are still intact. I regret much of how we raised our kids, not as strict as the home you were raised in, but still I cringe about using an actually rod, how much I was convinced after reading ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ and was leaning into Vision Forum lit. Our older 2 girls were well indoctrinated in our brand of Christianity.

    Anyways, I congratulate you on your vocalization about a dangerous movement, and being confident to stand up for yourself and your future, even against the very real loss of precious familial relationships. I wish I could reach out and hug you, as a mom and friend, to envelope you in accepting arms and encourage you on this journey you are on.

  22. Have you written any more of your story? If so, where can I find the links? If not, please, please, PLEASE write more soon! Yours is a riveting story.

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