Our church group became more prominent in our lives and demanding of our time and resources. We were spending more time in meetings than any time as a family. I began complaining and begging for more family time together to no avail. I thought if we moved we would break free from this control over us.
I hoped that if we were to move to my hometown things would be better. When our daughter was nearly a one year old I desperately begged to move home. Jonathan finally agreed and found a job there. I was thrilled to think that I would be near friends and family again. The elders of our home church influenced us to start a church in our home. We met neighbors and connected with others who were doing the same. Shortly after we arrived I found out that I was pregnant again.
I still didn’t have any desire to spend time with my family of origin; I still didn’t know why they caused me so much emotional turmoil. So we created a new family within our church group. We began to grow as a group and bring in many members. We were still in contact with the elders from our previous group; they came and spoke and continued to influence our decisions. Though our faith was growing in God’s love for us we were in conflict because we felt constrained and somewhat controlled by the group. At this time our second daughter, Hope was born. Now we had two beautiful daughters which brought great joy into my life.
During this time a subtle shift was taking place within our group from practicing love to incorporating legalism in the form of lifestyle. We were told that we were too worldly because we had recently bought a new car. I was told that my dresses needed to be floor-length so as not to cause any men to sin. The judgment evolved into blatant accusations; rather than being encouraged we were being reprimanded.
We became increasingly disillusioned with our church. Jonathan was blamed for conflicts within our group. Other elders came and started preaching condemning beliefs. We began talking about the possibility of leaving the church we helped create. Before we did, an elder prophesied that I would have a son and that he would be a healer; I was only 23 and didn’t have knowledge available for distinguishing the gender of my unborn child.
After the birth of our son I began to have panic attacks and nightmares about demons; I couldn’t sleep. I was told by elders that I was sinful and needed to be delivered. I began to feel worthless and nearly stopped eating altogether because I was disgusted with my body. I felt that I needed to be perfect in every way so that my husband would pay attention to me. He was too busy creating a career in architecture to notice that I was dwindling away. Between caring for three children, cooking, shopping and attending meetings, I couldn’t rest without constantly cleaning our home and everything in it.
As my life was falling apart, Jonathan was building a successful career for himself. We moved to a larger home and were able to live a more affluent lifestyle. He finally told the church group that we were leaving; they condemned us. Jonathan began spending less and less time at home, going on business trips with clients; one in particular was a woman. I felt intimidated by her power as a business woman and suggested that he was having an affair with her. He told me that I was crazy; I believed him. A high school friend said that I was too trusting and that I should look out for myself by getting a job in case I needed to support myself one day. I applied at a large company and was immediately hired in the personnel department. I began to feel a little better about myself when I realized that I was proficient at many things.
Then one morning something terrible happened to me to change the course of my life . . . .