IF IT'S NOT OKAYMy father was not from the church originally, but joined later on (mainly because he met my mother, who he wanted to marry, and saw that the only way to marry her was to join the religion). So he joined, dated my mother for a year or two, got engaged, and as is typical with OALC (Old Apostolic Lutheran Church) couples, got married a few months later and then nine months after that, I was born. Now what my mother couldn't know and what she couldn't see—because she was so naive and so fully inundated with the message that marriage is what a young woman should aspire to—was that my father was troubled.
He was controlling (which she likely mistook for love), he was arrogant, he was opinionated, but because all of this fit within the ideal that the OALC sets for women—that the husband is the protector, that the woman should listen to him and obey him, that the woman is merely the helpmate—she wasn't able to spot the red flags. What ended up occurring was years of abuse not only of her but of me, her daughter. It was verbal, it was physical, and there were times that he was sexually inappropriate.
Amongst all of this, my brother and I were being raised in the church. I went to high school desperate to fit in with the OALC youth, but just couldn't. Among other things, they were racist, they were rude, they were so concerned with materialistic items and who was dating whom that it made me nauseous—nobody cared about doing anything besides sitting in the Fred Meyer parking lot and smoking a cigarette (or five). It was so frustrating that at the age of sixteen, even though I was abused at home and terrified to my core, I refused to go to church.
. . . even though I was abused at home and terrified to my core, I refused to go to church.
Of course, there was fallout. There was a lot of talks with my parents, who were disappointed. Then there were the meetings with the preachers, several of whom told me that my desire to play sports and to go to college was foolish, and that I should focus on being a good helpmate for my future husband who would, as one put it, "just be paying off your college debts while you raised the children anyway. Why would you want to put a good man through unnecessary debt?"
But the most important thing about my story—and what I desperately want people to know—is that after I left, I went to college. I graduated, and am a nurse, making good money at a job I love. When I left, it gave my mother the strength to leave, too. She now has a college degree and a new husband who is not from the church and makes her brilliantly happy. My little brother just went to his first prom and couldn't have had a bigger smile on his face. The struggle is unimaginable when you are going through it and there is a depth of pain that is almost unbearable. You feel like a failure because you couldn't fit in, you feel embarrassed of yourself and your desires, but the truth is, you were just strong enough to stand up for yourself when what you knew what happening was wrong.
You saw a group that was fervently bent on a religious ideology that was fundamentally wrong in the way that it was executed and you chose not to stand for it. Instead of standing for constant judgement and rigid rules that somehow dictate whether or not you will be saved, you realized that there was a way to live life with love in your heart for everybody. It is terrifying to leave something that was completely your way of life, but now the choice is up to you.
. . . you realized that there was a way to live life with love in your heart for everybody.
I chose to go to college and get a nursing degree. I chose to get engaged to a wonderful man. I chose to be a nondenominational Christian and have never been stronger spiritually. I realized the joy that going to a really good movie can bring. The overwhelming amount of choices you can make is amazing, and though daunting at first, soon you realize that your life is your own.
You can be free of abuse, you can create the life that feels good for you, and you can still be a Christian. The poisonous lie that exists in the OALC that that church is the one way to get to Heaven is just that, a lie. It can be difficult to realize that those you thought were your family and friends will not recognize you and will still be believing that lie but understand this: they cling to it because they were too weak to see that there is good in all people, not just the OALC, and the word of God is good, no matter what Christian denomination you might be.Learn to live free, and remember: "If it's not okay, it's not the end."