I cannot believe I’m even typing this right now. My heart is racing, and my stomach is turning.
I grew up in the IFB. The KJV was the only Bible, southern Gospel was the only music allowed, and knee length skirts and covered shoulders were the norm. Oh, yeah, and the teased hair circa 1965… on preteens. As I write, I’m not even sure where to start. As a child, I remember driving past an Episcopal church and asking why we don’t go to church there. My mom told me it was because they didn’t preach the Bible the right way, and they were all going to hell. That’s the first time I ever remember hearing that people didn’t believe like me and were going to the lake of fire. I remember hellfire and brimstone preaching that made me cry and hide under the pews. I remember crying as I was dragged to the front of the church and prayed over, as well as anointed with oil, because I needed to be saved from ADHD. I was 5.
At 7, I “got saved” at Bible school. I was scared to data that because the pastor was yelling and running around the church screaming that if we didn’t get saved, we would leave the building and be killed in a car accident like the teenagers leaving the revival meeting (yep, that story). Later that year, I “got saved” again. That time, it was my mom scaring me. I do think that was the first time I felt conviction, but I absolutely was not ready. I cried and cried and asked my mom to stop yelling at me, so she said she would if I prayed to receive Jesus. She prayed over me, and that was it. I was “saved” twice in 6 months.
Flash forward to 12 years old. I was the typical preteen girl that butted has with my parents often. Up to this point, I was certain my church was right about everything and couldn’t possibly be wrong. After all, the IFB was the only church, God’s church not consisted of people around the world that believed exactly like me, and we held the monopoly on truth and scripture. When I became “too much to handle”, my parents, at the advice of a lead family at our church, began to beat me relentlessly in the name of Jesus. They were told that if I was not compliant, I needed to be beaten. I was backed into corners, screamed at, told I was not really saved if I acted like that, and constantly belittled. The wife of that family began to “counsel” my mother and me after services. One Sunday, after a particularly difficult week, this woman pulled me into a room for two hours after service and told me that my grandmother, that had started going to a community church that didn’t read the KJV, was a heretic, and I needed to stop spending so much time with her. She then told me my attitude was due to Satan and hormones, and if I wanted to be saved from being a female, I needed to pray harder. This was the first of a long year of counseling session. I now go to actual therapy to unlearn what that woman indoctrinated with me. Even then, as a young girl that wasn’t really saved, God showed me that this woman was wrong, and I never did comply. I listened to contemporary Christian music, went to a Bible study formed from a youth group that used the ESV, and even dated guys that weren’t Christians at all. Still, something was obviously missing. I searched high and low for someone to show me some kind of love, and sadly, I found what I thought I wanted in multiple boyfriends throughout high school, falling prey to Satan’s real traps.
At 16, an evangelist came to our church and preached against a large church that was just down the road. The entire sermon was about how they were full of hell, God haters, and no better than pagans. He said we were the only ones with the truth, and basically said they could all go to hell if they wanted to. Another time, a missionary to a group of people of color in Somalia said the people in Somalia were all a bunch of jack asses. I left the service crying. I just knew that wasn’t right.
It was not until I was 17 that I truly became a Christian and began following Christ instead of the IFB. I was truly justified. I worked at the Christian store in town, and I had some wonderful spiritual parents that I leaned into for the next 5 years. When I went to college, just 15 minutes down the road, I went a loosely CBF affiliated church. I never told my parents that our chaplain was a woman or that I lead prayer sometimes in Bible Study. During my first year there, I met my now husband, and he was astounded the first time he stepped foot into my IFB world. He didn’t know what to say or think when the pastor preached against everything but actual sin – Christian rock music, short skirts, shorts on men, the NIV – you know, the usual. When we left there, we got in his car and he turned to me and said, “If we are going to keep dating, we have to find a new church.” I agreed and sobbed the whole way back to school. We searched for churches that week and had picked one. That same week, someone from that same church approached me and asked to play in their church orchestra. They were a small church plant and were meeting in the gym of a nearby school. We knew God was leading us. May parents were livid. Actually, that’s an understatement. I was 19 years old, and all summer, I endured beating after beating, but because I felt like I had no where to go, nowhere to live, I stayed. I stayed until I was 22. I moved hours away, alone, to take a job I felt God calling me to. I interviewed for the job on a Wednesday, got it on Thursday, and had a place to live by Friday. I moved in two weeks later. That same year, my husband and I were married. He interviewed for a job on a Wednesday, had it on Thursday, and Friday, he proposed. We were married less than two weeks later. We are not members of a wonderful SBC church, and we have never looked back. Because my husband never grew up in the IFB world, he doesn’t understand when things literally cause me to have CPTSD attacks. Certain wordings, certain scriptures, and even certain songs cause me to walk out the back of the church and sit outside in prayer, asking God to take the flashbacks away. I am grateful to God that our children Will never grow up in that world. They are almost 4 and 2, and they are learning the New City Catechism, as well as seeing their parents live out their faith in their community, whereas my parents never touched their Bibles outside the Sanctuary, and when they did, it was to make us copy down “Honor thy father and thy mother” x100.
I know I’m leaving something out, some torture I felt. Some lesson I learned then had to unlearn. I can absolutely say this: you guys are a huge blessing. God has continually sanctified me Over the past decade that I have been saved, and it is so encouraging to know that all I have gone through – which I have not even tipped the iceberg of here – was not in vain. To God be the glory, great things He has done! What many meant for evil, God worked for good. As for my parents, we hardly speak. They worship a Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, and the IFB, and we pray for them daily, that their eyes will be unveiled and God will lead them to the Truth.
Thanks guys. You’re shining a light on spiritual abuses everywhere, and I’m sharing your podcast like crazy.