Last year, I posted a personal story (A Young Woman’s Relationship with Her Boyfriend is Shattered by Christian Patriarchy) from “Bethany” who was struggling in a relationship with her boyfriend, whose family was involved in the Christian Patriarchy Movement influenced by the likes of Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, etc.
I received a follow-up e-mail from Bethany, almost a year later who has written about what has happened since then. I like stories with good endings and this is one with a good ending, but it took a little bit of maneuvering to get there.
This time a year ago, I was torn down and heart-broken because the man I was in love with had returned to the fundamentalist teachings of Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard.
Having suffered from emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual abuse in this relationship, it’s safe to say I was a mess. I had trouble eating and sleeping. I cried so much my eyes burned all the time and I was constantly worn out from this. I was distracted frequently from thinking about him. After being so close to someone for months on end, I found it extremely difficult to learn to live without him.
I thank everyone at SSB, especially Julie Anne, for being there for me during this hard time. Your comments and support helped me through this break up more than you can possibly imagine. During a time when my head was telling me he was not good for me but my heart was still yearning for him, the daily reminders were very helpful.
Returning to school after the holidays was hard for me. I was scared of seeing him because I knew the pain that it would bring. I was also worried about completing a 19-hour semester while still recovering from the traumatic end of a relationship. When I returned, I decided to make a change in my daily schedule. I figured any change that I could make to my environment would be good for me since I was forced to stay at the same school as him. I stopped going to the campus ministry where we met and were in leadership together. At this point, I had also made the decision to prepare and apply for physical therapy school again. With such a heavy semester on top of my emotional, mental, and psychological baggage, I cut way back on every aspect of my life besides church and school.
Little did I know that his plan was to try to get me back under his thumb.
Shortly after the semester started, I noticed that I ran into him an awful lot for it to not be planned. Eventually I concluded that he had figured out my class schedule and would sit around the campus buildings just to see me come and go from classes. These meetings were also confusing to me because I still had deep feelings for him and his behavior was so unpredictable. There would be days where he wouldn’t dare to look at me and there were days where we talked for at least an hour. I felt like I was walking on eggshells just like I did at the end of our relationship because I never knew what to expect from him.
On the days he decided it was okay to talk to me, he was not even pleasant. He was rude and always said hurtful things to me, which did not help my case given how fragile I was at the time. He mostly talked about how terrible aspects of my life were, from my friends and family to where and how I lived my life. He practically criticized anything he could about me. This caused me to not like him as much and helped me recover from him when I saw how unkind he was toward me. I learned, however, through my extensive study of these fundamentalist religious groups that this was his way of getting me back. I am firmly convinced that his father was feeding him instructions on how to get me back under his control. He was simply using the manipulative tactics on me that have been used on him his entire life: fear, control, and withdrawal of affection. The more I saw into his life, the more I wanted to be far from it.
Throughout this semester, I was still hoping that he would change and come back to me. I sought to meet with a man who was educated and trained to deal with people who have been influenced by churches with dangerous and cultic teachings. My mother came with me to this meeting for moral support. I learned a lot from this man and he educated me on the psychological tactics that my ex-boyfriend was subject to throughout his life from his father. It was a very eye-opening meeting for me but I still held onto that desire for him to see the light and come back to me. This man was more than willing to counsel him, so he asked me to open the door for him. I asked to meet him one day and was very nervous about it to say the least. I knew his response would be a defining moment in my recovery process. What resulted was very disheartening to me. When I first mentioned this man, he seemed willing to think about paying him a visit. It didn’t take him minutes, however, to talk himself out of it, become defensive, and make excuses for why he couldn’t visit the counselor. I gave him the business card anyway and decided that this ship with him had sailed.
By the end of the semester, I had watched him go down hill tremendously. He had dramatically changed his appearance and I knew he was not taking care of himself because he looked sickly. I knew by this point that there was no hope for us, but I wanted some answers and closure from him. I asked to meet with him one last time and he was even more unkind and rude than those little snippets of conversation I got from him throughout the semester. He gave me an ultimatum and said I had 30 minutes to speak with him. I knew he didn’t practice what he preached so I wasn’t too concerned about this time limit he had imposed upon me. I don’t remember the details of our conversation since this was back in April, but I do remember him trying to still put on his charm and act like nothing he did to me was wrong and that our whole situation was all the fault of my parents and me. I could truly see the crazy in his eyes and speech and I knew things were way beyond well with him.
In this moment I finally stood firm and called him out on his poor behavior and that I knew the truth about him and his family. I showed him that I had gained my strength back and he would never be able to control me again. Needless to say he was bewildered by my strength, but it was important for me to be able to call him out on his wrongdoings and show him that I could not be torn down again.
It took a whole semester for me to let go of him, but I saw him be so unkind that he made it to where it was impossible to miss him. I knew that I didn’t deserve to put up with someone like him. The Lord proved to me time and time again, and is still proving to me today, that I made the right choice to leave my life with him behind and start again. At the end of that horrible semester, I was given good news by my adviser that I was able to graduate a year early from college and apply for physical therapy school! By the grace of God, I was interviewed by this school in early September and was accepted just a few weeks later! After being told for months how stupid I was, I was overcome with joy to be one of the first picks into a doctoral program!
As I move forward in my life, I take a lot of lessons learned from this difficult experience with me.
For one, I learned that you can have a desire to help all people but that does not mean that all people will be helped. As much as I wanted my ex to be helped, he wouldn’t let anyone help him. This was incredibly frustrating, but I learned that people can only be helped if they want to. Second, a lot of people can be falsely mislead about you, but that does not mean that a manipulator can fool everyone. While some of the people in my life believed the lies my ex told about me, I still had friends that stood by my side and refused to be swayed by him. Thirdly, there are followers of these fundamentalist leaders that will always remain faithful to their movements, regardless of any evidence indicating that they are not good things to be associated with.
With the failures of Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, and Mark Driscoll, I have watched my ex’s family continually defend their systems and teachings regardless of the abusive findings that have come out. I have also watched them slip further into madness and it horrifies me to know that there are still young children involved in this. I still love and miss all of my ex’s siblings, especially his two sweetest and youngest sisters who are around 11 and 7. Furthermore, I have learned to never put my faith in a religious movement or minister. I have noticed more how a person’s faith is completely shattered when a religious movement falls to the ground or a person is discovered as corrupt.
I have been asked on more than one occasion how I can still be a Christian after dealing with my ex and his people. My answer is simple: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18:2).” On CHRIST the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. I put my faith and hope in Jesus Christ only, not in people or religious movements. When I was told that I wasn’t living for God because I wasn’t serving the man in my life as a slave and having multiple babies, I understood that these people did not speak for God on my behalf. People today are fortunate to have personal relationships with Jesus and I am so fortunate to rely on Him above everyone on this earth.
I hope my story encourages someone who is going through hardship to not give up. More importantly, I hope by sharing my story with you that I can lead someone who has been discouraged by Christendom to find their way back to Christ. The true Christ. Our Lord Jesus who wants us to look to Him and Him ONLY for guidance, strength, and refuge. When I decided to give my life back to Christ and away from my ex and his family, I was amazed at the ways He worked through me to glorify Him. He gave me continual evidence that I was meant to be a light on this earth and that’s not something I can do if I am hidden away to be an eternal breeder. I was also meant to use my passions and talents to serve God’s people by providing them with healthcare through physical therapy. I hope to continue to achieve great things in the name of Christ Jesus my Lord, for I have so many things to be thankful to Him for!