Hello!  My name is Trina and I grew up in the Holiness church.  I left that church in 2013 when I divorced my abusive husband.  I am doing MUCH better now.  So let me share my story of triumph!  🙂

My parents were not raised in the Holiness church.  They moved to Lookout Mountain around 1969 and happened to move into a house across the street from a Holiness church.  They would hear the shouting and the singing and it drew them in.  Also, most of their neighbors were Holiness.  So I guess it seemed like a no-brainer.  Both of my parents were seeking for “something” in their lives but didn’t know what.

This seemed to fit the bill for them.  By the time I came along in 1973, they were pretty well grounded in that church.  5 1/2 years later, my sister was born.

Then Dad decreed his daughters were going to wear dresses/skirts all the time and grow their hair.  Mom actually didn’t agree with that, but in the Holiness church, what your husband says goes.  There was no discussion.  Dad said it, Mom had to do it.  And that was how I was raised.  The man of the house made the rules, everyone followed.

As I grew up, I was taught about a God that had love with conditions.  I was never taught about grace until I left the Holiness church. I was scared into my salvation too.  They would preach that it’s “Holiness or hell”, they preached fire and brimstone, would describe in great detail what hell would be like and I didn’t want to go to that place.  They scared me into the altar.  Then I received the gift of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

You see, in the Holiness church, receiving the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues is salvation to them.  Repenting of your sins and asking Jesus into your heart is only part of the process.  They don’t consider you saved until you speak in tongues.  So that experience did happen to me at 14 years old.

I conformed.  I had to.  I had no other choice.  I went through high school with the long hair, long skirts, no make up and we Holiness kids pretty well stuck together in school. We weren’t allowed to go to football games, movies, skating rinks (which were huge in the 80’s when I grew up)… not even extracurricular activities.  No clubs, no anything.  It was straight to school, straight home and church.

Well, I can play piano, my parents did enroll me into piano class because I was so enthralled over the piano and I learned how to play.  I can also sing and have sung harmony many times through the years. I sing in my current church now.  But since this was all I could do, I joined teen gospel quartets and trios and sang in many Holiness church singings.  This was my “fun”.  It’s how I met boys from other churches was through these singings.

Oh and the rules for dating!!  No physical showing of affection.  Not even hand holding.  No kissing, hugging, some parents might allow hand holding but that was few and far between.  A lot of my dates were chaperoned by my little sister, because she was a big tattle tale.  LOL!  If you sat next to each other on a couch, you had to place a throw pillow or two between you.  You had to sit where your parents could monitor you.

And the purpose was to keep myself pure for my future husband.  So that when I do marry, he would know I was pure as could be because I followed these rules.

Fast forward, I get married at 22 years old.  That was considered an “old maid” by then because most marry in their teens.  Many have quit school because school wasn’t important, it was your walk with Christ that was important.  Too much worldly knowledge can corrupt you.  Can you hear my sarcasm?  LOL!

Well, I marry a man who was abusive.  Not physically, but in every other way.  Verbally, emotionally, sexually. spiritually…. I can’t tell you how many times he used the Bible against me.  He was a narcissistic personality and he frankly made my life a living hell.  I went from some control by my parents to absolute control by my husband.  If I was 5 minutes late getting home, he was yelling at me wanting to know “Who is he?” that I’m seeing that made me late, and all kinds of horrible accusations that were untrue.  Before cell phones, he would call my job 20 times a day (this is literal, not figurative) and nearly got me fired.  I had to force him to leave me voicemails by sending the call to my voicemail and he would chew me out for not answering.  Then I got it when I got home.  His temper was awful.

But, the church would tell me if I just obeyed him, he wouldn’t be angry.  Like it was my fault!  I was a freaking doormat and they were saying it wasn’t enough.  Thank God I never had kids with him.  I wanted children like many women do, but God knew best in this circumstance!

One time he got physical with me and I left him, running to a women’s shelter.  My parents were actually supportive, but many in the church were not.  I was highly encouraged to go back to him but my Dad stood up to all of them, telling them to mind their own business… my Dad was a follower for so many years, so seeing him do this just floored me.  He was a well respected elder in the church and he would keep telling people that until you walk a mile in someone’s shows, don’t you dare judge their circumstance.  You just pray for them.  So he stood by my side, even when I did finally go back to my husband a few years later.  The church elders would pull me aside away from Dad to tell me I am displeasing the Lord by dishonoring my husband and I need to be back by his side again.

Well, things got worse.  But my few years away from him gave me more of a spine and I was able to set boundaries.  When he would start his ranting/raving, I simply walked away.  I kept my cell phone and keys on me at all times, even in my robe when I would be in my pjs, in case I have to make a run for it.  I felt like I had nowhere to turn.  And yes, I was mad at God for a while, crying and asking WHY do I need to put up with this?  Just because I made the mistake of choosing the wrong man to marry?  WHY???

No answer.

But one evening, he was telling me about ways he could kill me.  Just calmly sitting on the couch, I on one end, he on the other, telling me of ways he could kill me and no one would ever know it was him.  That was it.  I left him.  Due to his weird behavior, I had to at least pretend things were normal, but when I went to bed, I locked the bedroom door.  And began packing a suitcase.  The next morning, I loaded up my car while he followed me, begging me to forgive him for what he said… I said forgiveness is not the issue, my life is.  I’m out!  I’m done!

Well I moved back home to my dad.  And he died about 6 months later.  I stayed with my Mom and continued taking her to church.

But I couldn’t get past why I had to be tied to my husband still?  Holiness teaches that God hates divorce and we don’t want to be guilty of doing something He hates.  Therefore, if you divorce, God hates you.

Now they give a pass to those where the unbeliever (aka non Holiness spouse) requests a divorce.  Since they initiated, then the believer (aka Holiness believer) can sign for the divorce, but you still can’t remarry.  Because they believe in God’s eyes, He doesn’t see divorce.  To Him, you’re still married.

My husband was so controlling, he would never give up that control.  Plus I was the bread winner between us.  He just quit working full time jobs and started working part time/minimum wage stuff.  Somehow after I left, he still had me paying for rent/utilities for him and I just couldn’t seem to break that control because I HAVE TO OBEY MY HUSBAND even if I have to do it from afar.

Lord have mercy, my mind was so messed up!

I finally just had to take a leap of faith.  I filed for divorce in 2013, and when I told my Mom, you would think I died.  Because to her I did.  You see, in the Holiness religion, if you commit a willful sin after salvation, you’re hell bound.  There is no coming back from it.  They get this from Hebrews 6:4-6… they take this scripture literally and don’t take into account who Paul was talking to, the time period, anything… and Hebrew 10:26 – “For if we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.”

I am in a wonderful Bible believing church now that has opened my eyes to a lot of scripture and I read it daily and study it.  But at the time I decided to divorce, I didn’t know where I stood.  Because once you leave Holiness, you’re a reprobate.

If you ever go to a Holiness service, look around.  NO ONE brings a Bible.  And they look at you funny if you do.  The only Bible is at the pulpit.  Visiting ministers might bring their own Bibles (KJV of course!), but especially if a woman brings a Bible to church with her, someone will more than likely call her out.  Because the man of God won’t steer you wrong and God doesn’t like a woman trying to usurp authority over a man, and her bringing the Bible is questioning that man in charge.

Oh, did I mention women are pretty much second class citizens within the Holiness church?  Their main goal is to serve God, get married, obey her husband, have babies, in that order!  That’s all she’s good for.

So having said all of this, I now attend Rising Fawn Church of God, and the pastor there has helped me so much.  I am learning more and more about the Bible every day and I am so much happier than I’ve ever been.  Now I feel true JOY in my salvation.  I understand the concept of unconditional love, that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more and nothing I can do to make Him love me less. It just is.  No more trying to earn God’s favor like I did my parents, no more worrying about what other people think of me and my actions, I have so much peace, I just can’t explain it (“joy unspeakable and full of glory!”)… So IFB are not the only ones that deal with legalism.  The church I attended was rather cultish.  The pastor was the authority over us, he was between us and God.  He decided who stayed and who was excommunicated.  The particular I attended didn’t even believe in going to doctors, many didn’t have TVs in their house, no open toed shoes at all, men did NOT wear jewelry, they kept their hair cut short and face shaved, and no sleeveless shirts.  Women, long hair, long skirts (at least knee length, but my church highly encouraged calf length or ankle length), no tights (panty hose were fine but tights weren’t… I know, crazy!), no make up, do dying of your hair (although some did it anyway lol)… the women had more of the rules than men.  And it was very male dominated.

Okay, shutting up now, that’s my story.  Feel free to email me if you like!  I love your podcast and it resonates with me!  I feel ya!!  🙂  I will pray God to continue to bless your podcast!  Take care guys!!