So here I am in the middle of relocating my family (or as Jar-jar would say, “Meesa Flamily”) back to Arizona and on the first leg from Houston to Ozona, TX, made a side trip to the legendary Smitty’s Market in Lockhart, TX. Now this was my first BBQ trip to Lockhart so can not as of yet compare them to Blacks or Kruez, but will say that I never liked brisket until I came to Texas. Brisket is practically a religion here.
So we leave Smitty’s and the Nuvi starts pointing the way. As we continue on we see a sign on the 35, New Braunfuls 17 Miles. Sore subject, not the town, but family and a situation in it.
My wives Mother Priscilla lives here with one of her Sisters Lisa and her Husband Sam. When I was…must have been 7, my parents announced they were becoming Jehovah’s’ Witnesses. If you’re unfamiliar with the group, they do not celebrate holidays, no Christmas, birthdays, Fourth of July; some do not even celebrate their wedding anniversaries believing that it takes away from their devotion to God by centering anything on a person. I used to wake up every Christmas morning hoping it had all been a horrible nightmare and that they had come to their senses and bought a tree and presents, they never did.
My wife and I met through the church and we were eventually married in it. We struggled for years, I tried and tried having moments of great spiritual experience followed by periods of darkness and despair. Being a member nearly drove me to suicide it made me so profoundly miserable. They believe that God only asks you to do what you can, nothing more but…BUT if you have fallen short, it over, all or nothing, this was too much to live with.
Finally after moving to Oregon in ’96, we had an interesting conversation. Apparently she had continued going for years because she thought I wanted to go, I was going for her. In an instant the facade fell away, the naked truth was apparent. I grabbed the car keys and together we went to the store to buy our first Christmas tree and ornaments.
When you leave the Witnesses and have family in it, to say it is a major deal is a major understatement. You might as well shoot your mother in front of the entire family. You are disowned wholesale, dead to all your witness family members, dropped, lock, stock and barrel.
My Mother was the only remaining Witness in my family but my wife had her Mother and two sisters she was very close to. One wrote a letter saying goodbye and announcing that she was dead to them.
Shortly after this my wives Great Grandmother passed away, I was in LA so attended as my wife was stuck in Oregon and money was too tight for a plane ticket. Flying from Medford to anywhere was insanely expensive, about the same as flying from LA to London.
As I sat in my wives Great Grandparents house, Sam and Lisa arrived. He walked by, I nodded hello, or attempted to. He passed by and acted like I was invisible. This went on for…at least an hour. If I commented on something, he acted as if I simply were not there.
Their reasoning, they are absolutely and exclusively correct in their interpretation of scripture. Now that alone is not unique, many religions will confess to this. Their reason for abandoning those that leave can be found at one of my links at the end of the article
I cannot recall the specific passage in scripture that says it so will paraphrase, “If anyone loses a father or a brother for my sake, they will be blessed”, that’s the gist of it at least. “Loses”, what is loses, in my mind this is if you have a family member that is taken for their faith as occurred in Rome, you have “lost” them because of their faith. We were not lost, we were discarded.
So back to todays’ trip, we are quickly approaching New Braunfuls where my Mother in Law, Priscilla, resides with my Witness Brother and Sister in Law. In the time that she has lived with them, she has not been allowed to visit with my wife because Sam will be angry and will harass her. His wife, my wives sister is also forbidden to speak to her own sister. It’s not worth the grief they will receive from Sam.
My wife calls, Priscilla says she would love to see her daughter,granddaughter and grandson she has only seen a few times, but no, “he” is home. A few miles apart, but the religious divide might as well mean we’re on Mars. Sounds like both mother and daughter are in an abusive relationship with the same self righteous man.
I remember when we left, they kept believing that we knew we were wrong but simply being stubborn and rebellious. Hello, I was 34, my wife 31, we were not stubborn and rebellious children when we left.
It took a while but eventually all but Lisa and Sam came around and the rift was healed, that was until we found another church after 8 years of searching. Again the rift healed with time.
What bothers me so much was that on that day that I sat in my wives Great Grandparents house after the funeral, my brother in law was an Elder, their name for one of the group of leaders for a specific congregation. Even if every other Witness family member shunned us, he was the one that should have reached out to help, find out what was wrong and try to bring us back into the fold. As I said, I had periods when being a member brought me the most profound joy. Sams’ actions that day sealed the door of any possible return with the first nail. His every action since has added nail after nail, today for me was the final nail. To prohibit a woman that in all likelihood is in one of if not her last year of life from seeing her own daughter and grandchildren, well that is unforgivable in anyones’ book.
I thought of driving to the house and standing there, waiting to see if anyone would come out. My wife said that Sam would come out and demand I get off his property. At least he’d have to face me and talk to me for the first time ever.
So what if Sam is right, what if his is the one true faith? They don’t believe in hell as most other Christians do, they believe that evil persons will simply cease to exist, I can live with that. Better a happy goat than a miserable sheep. I could never return just so my kids can talk to their grandmother, I’d feel like I sold out, I was a whore.
God and faith are about bringing families together Sam, not dividing. You have driven a wedge so deep that, I cannot begin to fathom the action that could remove it. I am glad that we both believe in a God that is so forgiving.
He believes that someday he will stand in paradise, resurrected, I also believe that but, I believe he, because he does what he does out of the most profound faith, he will stand there with me. Won’t he be surprised if I’m right. I will be standing there, the first in the greeting party, ready to extend the hand of welcome if only to see the look on his confused face.Al this grief, unnecessary.