We both entered our relationship broken, but we seemed to agree that I was worse off. I had daddy issues, mama issues, heartbreak, you name it. And he came along and accepted it all.
Later, he introduced me to the Watchtower Society, also known as Jehovah's Witnesses. I had always valued spiritual things and sought out God, but felt overwhelmed and jaded with the idea of churches. The Kingdom Hall seemed like a breath of fresh air and I thought it was exactly what I needed to truly make my spiritual walk real.
But that never happened for me.
For those who are unfamiliar with Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), here are a few facts: 1) Jehovah is God's name and JWs primary goal is to make that known to the world, hence Jehovah's Witnesses; 2) JWs believe in Jesus and that he is Jehovah's son, and consider themselves true Christians; 3) JWs do not celebrate holidays, birthdays, or take/accept blood transfusions. This is by no means the full scope of the organization and my article is not intended to bash it in any way, it is to simply share my experience with it in my life.
I was blessed with exceptional comprehension and communication skills, so I was able to retain the doctrines, memorize scriptures, bible accounts, etc. enough to go out in the field ministry and preach. I was also surrounded by other witnesses who were extremely talented, loving, and passionate about helping people find Jehovah. When I tried to tap into that passion for preaching and going in the ministry and just living as a JW overall, I always came up short.
The feeling like this was where I was supposed to be never really came.
My heart wasn't in it because this was not my path.
Reflecting back on the early years of my relationship with my husband (then boyfriend), we were making typical young adult mistakes. But when we started to deal with the outcome of those mistakes, that's when it really hit, and it was more than we could handle. One in particular was miscarrying our first child. We were both young, crazy in love, and enjoying one another so much that we threw caution to the wind. And then came the positive pregnancy test. Next came panic, stress, and anxiety. Finally, bleeding, and no more baby.
It was heartbreaking for both of us. The response we both had was to cling to Jehovah by means of "his organization" and speed up the timeline on getting married. And that's exactly what we did.
I was 22 when we got married, he was 23.
We had no money saved, no plan to get out of debt, no solid career goals, and we were pretty spotty even when it came to spiritual things. We were stuck in auto-pilot. Going to work, to bible meetings, in field service and home. Occasionally we had date nights, but we never really nurtured or developed ourselves or each other. Our focus was on appearances (even if we never admit it) and because we did pretty well at keeping our appearance shiny and new, no one could see how broken we really were.
In my reflection of that time, I can see that we made leaps and bounds to change the things that are apparent at the surface level. We quit watching horror films or even movies that were excessively violent, had any magic in them, or were rated R. We stopped celebrating our birthdays and holidays and we rarely missed bible meetings or field service. But we weren't consistent in praying together as a family, we went through our weekly studies very casually. It was obvious that even though we wanted to be good JWs and allow "the truth" to touch our hearts, it never really did. .
To clarify, I do believe a lot of what JWs preach. There are just some issues with interpretation that I couldn't move past and that is the same with any religion.
I can remember smiling through awkward conversations about why I didn't vote or why I refused to take blood, or why I wouldn't sign someone's birthday card. It was exhausting, but I was convinced that this was what I needed to develop a relationship with God and sincerely know Him.
Eventually, I stopped believing that.
I started to see that no matter how much I prayed to build that desire to be a dedicated to the ministry and being one of Jehovah's Witnesses, something was holding me back. My heart wasn't in it because this was not my path. I went through the appropriate processes to get help from the elders when the issues in marriage became too much to deal with, but to no avail. The disintegration that I was now seeing in my marriage was parallel to the distance I felt from my newfound religion.
It was then that I knew I had to leave him and the organization in order to be free and finally find peace for myself. I decided that I would not return to the Kingdom Hall shortly after realizing I no longer wanted to be married.
For a few weeks, I felt guilty when I would get text messages from concerned "friends" wondering why I had abruptly stopped attending meetings, but I also questioned where that concern was when I was figuratively drowning.
I knew that as a JW, I could not seek to leave my marriage unless one of us cheated, which we had not. But in my heart and mind, I could not accept that the Creator I believed in would make me remain in a situation that had become toxic for all parties involved.
I have not been to a Kingdom Hall in about nine months and I feel closer to God than I ever have.
This past March, I celebrated my birthday for the first time in seven years. It was amazing to say the least. I was surrounded by new friends and enveloped in a community of love, support, and empowerment. That weekend confirmed my choice to uproot my life and make a sharp turn in the opposite direction -- not only leaving my husband but also leaving the organization we worshipped through.
I meditate on a consistent basis and am more in tune with my energy, as well as how it affects those around me (also vice versa). I'm also more in tune to God and how He is directing my life. I'm doing creative work that I love and making a name for myself. I'm building genuine relationships with strong like-minded women, and learning more about what I want from a future romantic relationship.
The best part of it is, this journey has been more spiritually enlightening than any time I've spent as a JW, or any church for that matter.
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