I remember wondering if it would hurt to pull the trigger… and wondering if even that would silence the voices in my head that told me that God hated me and I was an awful daughter. And if anyone would even miss me.
I remember trying so hard to look like all the other ATI girls at the Institute in Basic Life Principles Seminar. Because they were so godly, so happy… They must’ve been doing something right.
I remember musing aloud to my mom during a geography lesson that I would love to visit the Bad-Lands sometime because they looked so wild, beautiful, and untamed. And she then telling me I should examine my heart because it obviously had rebellion in it.
I remember being told that godly girls treated their siblings with selflessness and submitted to their parents in all things. And that I wasn’t doing that.
I remember thinking I would never be a godly girl. And I desperately wanted to be.
I remember my mom lamenting, “Why can’t you be more like _____?! I’ll bet she never talks to her parents like you’re talking to us!!”
I remember signing a paper when I went to teach a Children’s Institute that stated, “I believe that my parents are God’s ultimate authority in my life, that they are an umbrella of protection for me, and I will strive to obey them because they are directing me in the will of God,” even though I didn’t believe it. And I felt guilty for a whole year because I had lied on a contract.
I remember standing in front of my mirror in a long denim skirt and button-up shirt that was 2 sizes too big and wishing I could dress in cute clothes. And wondering if I was going to defraud anyone that day. And feeling guilty for all of it.
I remember resenting my best friends because they got to look cute and girly and I had to dress like a frumpy homeschooler. And I hated my parents. Then, of course, felt guilty. Dad said I should be glad I wasn’t wearing pants like them. Guys could stare at their butts instead of ours.
I remember the day I wore jeans and a cute top to college for the first time. I felt elated and fearful.
I remember the day I stopped worrying that my parents were going to send someone to my college to spy on me, who would then see that I was dressing “immodestly” and report back to them. And I didn’t even feel guilty.
I remember crying because they wanted me to shut down my heart and just do what they say. I remember knowing I could never do that.
I remember being angry that a parent could ever ask their child to choose between their way and God’s way.
I remember asking Sky why in the world he wanted to marry me when I was so selfish.
“What makes you think you’re selfish?” he asked.
“My parents always say so.”
“Well, they’re wrong,” he said.
“You’re one of the most selfless people I know.”
And I cried.
I remember them telling me that loving Sky was dishonoring to God. That I wasn’t following God’s will for me. That maybe I wasn’t even saved.
I remember them telling me that no man would ever want to marry me because I wasn’t submissive enough. I was too independent and strong-willed. And I assumed they were right.
I remember not being able to tell them I loved them. Because I couldn’t lie just to make them happy.
I remember one time Mom said, “I love you,” and I replied over my shoulder, walking away, “Yeah right.” She looked like I’d hit her with a two-by-four. She never said anything about that incident again. I felt terrible later.
I remember the first time Sky kissed me. And I was surprised that I didn’t feel guilty. I felt like I was flying and that all was suddenly right with the world.
I remember the day I finally gave up trying to please anyone but God. It was a turning point in my life.
I remember the shackles falling off, one after one, day after day, until I was free and ready to be the person God was making me. I cried for a long time…. for the joy and freedom in my heart, for the loss and pain, for the severing of relationships that wasn’t my fault.
I remember the day that I realized that these memories don’t hurt anymore. That I don’t hate my parents for any of it. That I can remember these things and feel loss, but not bitterness. That God must’ve done this.
I write these things, mothers and fathers, so you may understand that what you say and do when your children are young will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives…for good or for evil. Your motives will not matter; your words and actions will. As a fellow parent, I urge you to daily run to the One who showers grace on you so that you may shower it on your children. What will they write about us when they are grown?? Will they say we stood for truth and mercy, even in our imperfection? Or that we stood for the rules and commandments of men?
I write these things, brothers and sisters, so you know you are not alone. That all manner of hurtful things are done and said in the name of God, love, and wanting what’s best for you. That you’re not crazy–they really did say such absurd things, and it wasn’t your fault. That love cannot be earned by performance. It is a freely given gift. That there is hope for healing, forgiveness, and freedom… even if you cannot imagine it right now. God is in the business of restoration.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed. I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. Isaiah 61