I want to start off by saying how thankful I am for this podcast. The last 2-3 years has been a brutal journey for me with many questions, confusion and fear. I was not raised in an IFB church but I was heavily influenced by the IFB due to the private school I attended that was ran by an IFB church. I attended this school from K4 through 12th grade so I have had my fair share of the environment. My family actually attended a Free will Baptist church. You can imagine the confusion as a child. I sat through many chapel services with preachers raging about the false doctrine of other denominations yet my whole family was Free Will Baptist. This caused me to be embarrassed of the church I attended and felt the need not to tell my friends or teachers where I attended church due to fear that I would be considered not truly saved. I remember “rededicating my life to the Lord” at a revival and the preacher called us all up on stage and made us tell the crowd where we attended church. I was so scared of what their reaction was going to be that I left “freewill” out of the name and only said “Baptist.” I began to notice things that I didn’t agree with very early. I can still see the preachers faces who came for chapel every Friday. Red faced, screaming, angry and mean. The teachers and students of the IFB churches always thought so highly of the Men of God & they were not to be questioned. The environment of absolute control dominated the school. I strongly feel that this authoritative environment is what caused me to rebel as an early teenager. I hated being at the school. Every student that attended the IFB churches were always dressed like they were going to church every day. I would purposely wear jean skirts(because skirts were required), a baggy hoodie, tennis shoes, no make up, and a bun pulled up on top of my head everyday just to defy their teaching on how women should dress the part. I remember getting into an argument with the Pastor of the school/church’s son over women wearing their 10 layers of makeup, huge hair and flashy jewelry. He informed me that women should dress their best because, for better terms, they were auditioning for their next husband. At age 15, I was so ready to get away from the kids from my school. I became friends with some kids from the terrible “public school kids.” I attended a party that ended up having older aged kids that brought alcohol. This got back to the principal that me and 5 other students had been in an environment where alcohol was present. We were called into the office where the principal lectured us and gave us all the Bible verses about alcohol. We were suspended for 3 days from school. Upon our return, we had one punishment each day of the week that we returned. On Monday,We were made to write a 2,500 word essay on why alcohol was a sin, using the Bible verses he gave us. Tuesday the principal sent us to the local homeless shelter/soup kitchen to serve the homeless people. This was to show us where the effects of alcohol would lead us. I guess it was to scare us into thinking we would be homeless. Wednesday, we had to clean the black scuff marks off of the gym floor with our fingers. Thursday, the principal brought his pontoon boat to the school and we had to wash and detail his boat. And lastly, on Friday, we had to stand up in front of our entire school, confess our sin and apologize to everyone. From this day forward, I was considered a trouble maker and most students in the school were no longer allowed to hang out with me. Things like this were so embedded into my mind that I had no clue the damage that was being done to my heart. I had a rebellious streak out of high school mostly due to having issues with authority because of the legalistic environment. Years later, After my husband and I married and had our first child, we decided it was time to get serious about the Lord and become regularly active in church. And that’s exactly what I did. I became so focused on working myself to death to gain acceptance from the “church crowd” because that’s the only idea of “church” that I had. We made sure we dressed the part. We went out and bought my husband his suit for church so that everyone would know we were serious about the Lord. I became the most judgmental, critical, religious, self righteous person because that is what I learned that church was. I had no grace for anyone who messed up because I had never experienced true grace for myself. I had became the legalist. 3 years ago, I went through a terrible time of depression and severe anxiety. I was so mad at God because I didn’t understand why he was allowing me to go through this since I was doing everything right. I couldn’t take the image management anymore, the pressure and feeling like a fake. I began to contemplate suicide and the Lord met me there in that brokenness. I admitted that I couldn’t do it. I vowed in that surrender for the Lord to take my life and do whatever he wanted to with it but I could not live another day with the way I was going. It was after that surrender that the renewing of the mind began. My husband and I both had the blinders fall from our eyes and we began to notice the depth of legalism and religion that we were in. We decided last year to step away from the church we were in. We are now at a contemporary church that is biblically sound but this has been the hardest season of our lives. I feel like no one understands when we try to explain our reasonings and it has been very lonely. So many times we’ve felt like we’re the ones wrong and maybe we should just go back. But once you’ve experienced truth and freedom, you become hypersensitive to anything that even looks like legalism. I know that’s wrong but the trauma from that school and all the indoctrination from my time there had severely affected me to where I could not tolerate the environment anymore. My heart has been in a healing process for the past few years and boy has it been hard. I resonate with everything you guys are saying on this podcast and it has helped me more than you will ever know. Thank you so much for your ministry!! Sincerely, a fellow recovering fundamentalist!!