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Ever since our pastor announced that Bill Gothard stepped down, I feel like I have been in a state of shock. I have always been famous for saying, “Ignorance is not bliss.” Now I know just how right I was. I have to reconcile myself to the fact that I was living in ignorance, and it certainly has not been bliss.
My first introduction to Gothard was in about 2000 when friends of ours sponsored a Basic Seminar at what would become our home church. We were taken in by this “new way of life” and excited to see how it would work in our family.
We enrolled in the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) around 2003, and we were part of it until 2011. My husband was not totally on board, and without that piece of the puzzle, I knew it wouldn’t work right. Nevertheless, I plunged into ATI with the grandest of hopes.
Soon, I was drowning in the pit of despair. We couldn’t live up to all the rules, regulations, principles, and high expectations. My emotional personality took center stage, and my children took the brunt of it. I became angry and frustrated, seeing my homeschooling efforts as dismal. I faulted myself, never realizing that I was not meant to carry such a burden.
We spent so much money in ATI: conferences, yearly dues, extra books, CDs, and DVDs that Gothard touted. I thought they would guide us to that perfect place of family unity and bliss. Remembering my full bookshelves now, I just shake my head. All that money. All that time. For what? If only I had seen that I was on a spiritual path that had a dead end.
My children fell behind academically. I simply could not find the balance of ATI Wisdom Books versus actual academics. I have in past years felt guilty over the fact that the Wisdom Books were collecting dust on my bookshelves. I kept telling myself that I should be using them for their great spiritual insight. Now I’m glad that I turned 180 degrees to concentrate on academics and simple individual Bible studies with my children. Still, to this day, I feel like I am playing catch-up with the elder of my seven children.
I had seen signs of this coming storm. I had asked my friends about the book A Matter of Basic Principles when I found an article about it. They were uninterested in any digression from their ATI pursuits. I thought, “Well, if these fine people so involved in ATI are not moved, then why should I be moved?” As I see it now, I have treated Gothard no differently than Catholics may treat their Pope. Not one person has all Truth. Not one person on this earth is infallible when it comes to their spiritual angle—but that’s how we received Gothard’s teachings.
The tipping point was when I discovered Recovering Grace. I voraciously read the testimonials, the history of ATI, and A Call for Discernment. I will never be the same; I have finally acknowledged the fact that I was part of a cult, subtle as it was.
I cleaned off my bookshelves and cleared out my whole house, attic and all. As I removed every vestige of ATI, I felt emotionally and spiritually released.
It is my hope that the Word of God will speak to my children individually and that they will hear the Holy Spirit’s voice, not another person’s regurgitation of his own ideas.
As for me, I will question what others consider truth. I will look at what I call “standards” and question why I cling to those standards. My convictions will be from my relationship with God as expressed in His Word, not those imposed upon me.
I pray that the Holy Spirit reminds me daily, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:8)
-An ATI Mom