They Broke Our Hearts
By Bob W.
The reception area to his office was very plush with a couch and several overstuffed chairs. The pictures on the wall were reminiscent of a world of hope and peace. There were fresh cut flowers on the table. Under most circumstances one would feel very comfortable in such a peaceful setting. But for me it did not help, not one bit. For deep within me I was feeling, a gnawing and an aching. It felt like my insides were being twisted and every ounce of strength was being squeezed from me.
I stood at his door for the longest time just staring at it. Running through my mind at a frantic pace were the events of the past year that brought me to this sacred and awesome place.
My mind was in a turmoil unlike anything I had ever experienced. Uncertainty, doubt and fear gripped me like a vice. I was terrified to go in and horrified to what might happen if I didn't.
I knew that on the other side of the door was a man of God , someone who held the destiny of my life in his hands. I had come to trust him because he at one time was a man of integrity that genuinely cared about God's people. But somehow as the years passed he became hardened, almost brutal. He had lost the focus of the ministry, that being one of service. It was as if his whole purpose anymore was that of ruling and administering, controlling the lives of those that came under his authority, and the advancement to a higher office. This only added to my already overwhelming discomfort.
I stood there for what seemed an eternity. With hopeful expectations I contemplated what the outcome of the meeting would be. I had every confidence that his advice would be based on principles of love and caring. There was a certain amount of comfort knowing that his god would inspire him to help me. But in all honesty I did not know how it would turn out. So I entered his office feeling the full burden of what had transpired, especially during the week before. I was deeply troubled about a series of events that brought me here to his executive office.
He greeted me with somewhat of a scowl which had become his trade mark. As his cold blue eyes narrowed I felt as though he could see right through me. It made me very uncomfortable and uneasy. For a moment I felt a twinge of uncertainty about this meeting. After a moment of the usual exchange of meaningless niceties he began to drill me with questions about some very private and personal matters. He was trying to discover some secret sin in my life that was causing his god to punish me. There were no secret sins, this flustered him greatly. I almost felt he was going to accuse me of deception or lying. I was neither deceptive nor lying. I knew for certain at that point that the outcome was going to forever change my life. I just did not have a clue that it would be so very destructive and damaging. Even now after more than 30 years the memories still bring a great deal of discomfort, and deep inner sorrow.
If ever a person felt like a lamb being lead to the slaughter, it was me right there at that point in time. My heart felt like a big lump in my throat. I found it difficult to hold back the tears, none the less I did, as I unloaded the deepest hurts and grief in my life. I had no idea which direction to take. I just ached and wanted someone with a direct connection to God to tell me what I must do and the course of action I needed to take. I was desperately looking for loving kindness and support. What I received was totally unexpected or anticipated.
I related to him how serious and upsetting this latest development was. He knew about my plans for marriage. In a previous meeting I shared with him our hopes and dreams. Now somehow this dream that young lovers have was turning into a nightmare.
I began to relate to him how it all started....
One of the things that made that Feast of Tabernacles that year special was my meeting a young woman from Canada. WOW!! She was one of the sweetest young women I had ever met, and good looking too! We immediately became good friends and spent the rest of the Feast together.
Over the next several months our relationship began to develop via the U.S. mail. It had reached the point where we felt it would be the most wonderful thing if she would come to Pasadena. Then we would have the opportunity to further explore our relationship and to see if perhaps it would develop into a life long commitment. So she came and lived with my sister and her husband. This gave us the time we really needed to get to know each other better. It was a wonderful time to be young and so much in love.
We were headed in the right direction and it was wonderful, with ministerial approval we became engaged. We were king of the mountain. We thought we had the world in the palms of our hands. It was the happiest I had ever been, at that point and time in my life. But then something unexpected happened. Her mom became seriously and mysteriously ill. It became necessary for my love to fly home and help out. Our parting was sad, but we knew it would not be forever. Little did either of us realize how our lives were about to forever change. What was to follow was almost like an adventure in the "Twilight Zone".
The situation with her family became difficult and complicated, very complicated. Her father beat her. He accused her of coming to Pasadena to have an abortion, which was totally untrue. Although like any hot blooded young man I was tempted; our relationship remained pure and true. His accusations and treatment of his daughter were irrational and irresponsible.
Her family became embittered about Worldwide Church of God and its ministry over unknown situations, unknown at least to me. They quit attending church and forced her to do the same. They threatened to kill me if I ever showed up or interfered.
(I need to pause here for a moment, it is not easy to talk about what was to follow. Even after all these years it still hurts.)
I was frantic about what was going on. Not knowing what to do I asked for ministerial advice and help.
I sat in his office explaining the details and hurt. This minister had been a long time friend of the family. When he was a local elder he was tender hearted, he had a compassion for God's children that was to be admired. But somehow as he moved up in rank he became more and more militant. Years later he was finally fired for his militant behavior. He even admitted with deep regret that he was both hated and feared by many in the ministry.
I was there in his office because I needed his permission to go to Canada and bring her back...."No, you should call her and if she has left the church you must tell her it is over and the marriage is off." He said that I should tell her that I will never speak to her again until she repents. The serious of the situation did not matter, only the fact she was either in or out of the church.
I was horrified and taken back by his advice. "No!!, I can not do that to her!" I told him. He rose up, his hands flat on the desk, towering over me he looked me straight in the eye, almost glaring, and told me that if I went after her, he would see that I would be fired from my college job and he would personally disfellowship me from the church. He knew what I was thinking and in one swift and powerful move he crushed my hope and broke my heart.
This cut and hurt me deeper than anything I had ever experienced. It was far worse than the death of my mother (see my story in Worldwide Church of God horror stories). It was like a vital part of me was just ripped out. I was very much dazed and disoriented. I wanted with all my heart to obey God. I also desperately wanted to rescue my love who was in the deepest distress. The ache inside was almost unbearable.
It makes me sick at heart to think about it. I was stupid; like a good and obedient church member I called her. The situation had gotten worse. She feared for her very life....Then I related to her.... it is hard writing this..... that our marriage and relationship was over. In a very mechanical manner I told her not to write or call until she repented and started attending church again. It broke her heart. She wept with bitter tears and told me that she loved me and that she would never forget me. The conversation went on a little longer with words that expressed the feelings of love, sorrow, hurt, and utter despair. I then said good-bye; it was over. I could not believe it was over. I put down the phone and stared it for what seemed hours. I was in an emotional state of shock.
I cried for two days straight. It was a good thing I was able to work outside by myself where no one could hear my bitter cries of anguish. A few friends knew something was wrong and sincerely asked if they could help. But I hurt too much to even begin talking about it. So I carried the emotional load alone.
I have always deeply regretted what happened. Not because we didn't get married but because I turned my back on a dear friend that desperately was reaching out for help. Sometimes I hate myself for having been so heartless and causing her untold hurt, no one deserves that kind of treatment, no one! I abandoned her when she needed me most. I was a good little soldier and did what I was told to do....it was wrong, all horribly wrong! Jesus would never have treated anyone in this manner. Yet in the name of Worldwide Church of God Christianity I did, it makes me sick at heart to think about it.
I recently found out, I didn't know at the time, that I called her just after her mother committed suicide by jumping down a well...and I had the unmitigated gall to tell her to repent. How utterly and totally this religion of HWA had engulfed me. And now I am embarrassed and bitterly ashamed of what I allowed it to do me and a wonderful a young woman I dearly loved and cared for.
I am trying to locate her even though I know the odds are not in my favor. If I ever do find her I want to tell her how deeply sorry I am for being such an ass and ask for her forgiveness. So far the leads have been slim.
We implicitly trusted and almost worshipped the ministry as being great men of God that were divinely inspired. It was almost as if the only real contact with God came through them, and our only hope for wisdom and understand would be through these men. Most of them took advantage of their office of service and turned it into the office of a taskmaster. One minister told an individual, "Do what I tell you! If you do not, your salvation is in my hands, and I will crush you!" Rather scary to believe that they thought they had that much control and power over the lives of their brother and sisters in Christ!
All too often I have seen through the hate mail I receive, not near as much as Ed, the attitude of damn you all for telling the truth about what has happened inside Worldwide Church of God and how much damage they have done in the lives of so many of their innocent victims.
What some fail to understand is that our lives in Worldwide Church of God were under the constant scrutiny and control of the ministry. Perhaps you were fortunate in your area, however in Pasadena we were constantly being watched, evaluated and corrected. They looked at it as grooming us for eternal rulership. They were constantly in our face. They invaded our homes, searching, looking, observing what we ate, what we read and how our homes were kept. They questioned us about our jobs, they evaluated our personal integrity. They kept up to date and accurate records of our tithes and offerings to see if we were being faithful. We were free to live our lives as long as it was within their frame work.
It was our fault for allowing it to happen, that's hind-sight. In reality the only thing we did was to place our hearts and lives in their hands. What did they require of us? Unquestioned obedience! Herbert Armstrong once in a sermon made the statement and asked the question, " If I were to ask you to kill me would you do it?" As god's minister, he went on to explain, if I ask you to do something even if it breaks god's law, you MUST, without hesitation or question obey what I tell you. Your salvation depends on it! He went on to explain that he, and the ministry, were divinely inspired and that they spoke for God. It was scary then and even more so now.
If indeed they spoke for a god it was not the God of the universe, the One that loves you so much that He allowed His Son to die for you. Their god was one that they imagined in their own wicked and perverted minds. We wrongly believed they were our only contact for us to know his will. Our lives were truly not our own. Whatever the ministry said we did. We feared to disobey. Losing one's salvation and facing eternal separation from God was a frightening prospect. They were masters at using it against us.
If you have never been in Worldwide Church of God or other ironfisted cults, I think you will find it difficult to understand and believe that we actually submitted ourselves to such harsh rule. For us to explain it to where you really feel and grasp the overpowering oppression would be a nearly impossible task indeed. It would be comparable, in principle, to having someone smash your finger with a large hammer, if you have had this done to you then you know how painful it is, and then trying to explain the pain to someone who has never experienced the situation or felt the pain. It is an almost impossible task. While you might have the greatest amount of sympathy and a heart for reaching out you can not truly identify with what had taken place. The only ones that can truly understand are the ones that have actually experienced the pain and hurt.
The irony of it all is that some have blamed the hurt individual, or even the hammer, when the blame squarely falls on the one who wielded the instrument. It doesn't make any difference if the ministry did the hurt with the best of intentions of trying to help or whip us into being and having righteous character. It does not help if they did it with a heart-felt concern. It was none the less a perverted love and compassion. It doesn't make any difference because the pain that resulted and the damage that occurred was not a respecter of intent but only one of the action.
I know that Jesus forgives and does not hold this foolishness of my youth against me. I do feel however I must at least attempt to rectify a hurtful situation that I caused. The church, the ministry and members have caused a mountain of hurt during the past several decades. If change is indeed to come then it must start here with me. All of us are responsible to change what we can, and what we can't the Lord will take care of.
Some have harped about; oh no, not another story of pain from the past! Let it go, come the annoyed and irritated voices of the hard hearted. They do not understand nor can they. For true healing to take place I must admit first of all that I was wrong, that I allowed myself to be manipulated. And it is I and I alone that bears the final responsibility for my actions. I also need to come to terms with what I have done. For this ugliness has been buried deep within me for over 30 years. I also need to try, and hopefully find this young woman, now probably a grandmother, and tell her what I have learned, tell her I am sorry, deeply sorry for being such an ass . But most important of all, I have turned the matter over to Jesus. That does not absolve me of responsibility and blame. But it does put the burden upon the shoulders of a Savior that can handle it. Healing will never come from denial or covering it over by some slick religious and sanctimonious frame of mind. This is why Worldwide Church of God as an organization, as a church will die. They refuse to take responsibility for what has been done. Oh sure, they mouth the words, but their actions speak so loud we can not hear what they are saying! Their actions are not to heal but to cover up. I think Jesus said it best when he described such individuals as awesome looking, very impressive on the outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones! Rotten and putrid to the core.
Now, to say we were never under the control of the Worldwide Church of God would be utterly untrue. But we allowed it to happen. They held the gun of their divinely inspired words to our head, they made it clear that if we failed to obey they would blast us into the hell of eternal separation from their god. Some of you are too proud, too arrogant, far too stubborn to admit the control they had, and in some cases still have over your lives.
You will never truly understand what they have done to you until you come to know the real Jesus. Only then will you see the measure of your worth and value to the true God. So many of you know what the Bible says but do not have a clue as to what it means. For if you did understand you would not be chiding those that have been hurt. We have a Savior that is tender hearted. He is not a worrier King just waiting to crush you.
I wanted to take time to relate to you this very personal story. For a moment I have let down my guard and lay before you my heart-felt feeling about one situation that forever changed my life. It is painful for me to bring this back in focus and look at it again. I feel it is worth it, for some of you will truly understand and identify with what I have written. Some of you will scoff and blame me for what happened. I do bear the responsibility, I made the decision. But I did not wield the hammer that smashed and destroyed the hopes and dreams of young love.
When I turned my life over to, not Jesus Christ, but the Worldwide Church of God ministry, I did it completely and I trusted explicitly in their ability of their god to speak to me through them. I know now how stupid and ignorant I was.
Perhaps telling this story will help some few. It is my hope that it will be of value and help to you the reader.....
Life on campus and in the church was not always fun and games. Sometimes it was an absolute nightmare. And for many of you it is not over yet.
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