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Puzzlement : Introduction

Hillary's note: Starting today, the next several Tuesdays will feature a guest contributor, Eliza, sharing her experience with a conservative organization prominent within the homeschooling subculture. You may remember Eliza from this article by Sarah Posner.


Puzzlement

by Elizabeth Wyse Cook

Iwas bewildered.  A friend of mine, whom I highly respected, was being “sent home”.
     (Fired.)
     I was hurt.  I was upset.  I just couldn’t understand it.  How could this be happening?  It sure wasn’t what I expected. He worked for a Christian organization that promoted godly living in all areas of life.  He had faithfully performed his duties.  He cared for his co-workers.  He cared for the people he served.  He worked hard.  He lived above reproach.  He was loved by those who interacted with him.  Now he was leaving, and not by his choice. 
     What was his crime?  Had he failed secretly?  Had he neglected a critical duty?  Had he done something inappropriate?  No.  None of those.  
     He had disagreed with the leader. 

     Not even really disagreed, just refused to say that he agreed 100% with the leader.  He agreed about 95%, but that wasn’t good enough. 
     After seeing how my friend was treated, I seriously thought about leaving the organization but he urged me not to.  He said that God was using this event in his life, and that I was still needed there.  I watched him in the days following his dismissal.  I saw how he handled such a painful rejection.  I saw something in him that I wanted - something I couldn’t define.  Something that assured me that God was indeed very close to him.  He had a relationship with God that I had occasionally seen before, but had no idea how to get. 
     So I stayed. 
     I stayed long enough to see more of the same type of thing happen. 
     I stayed long enough to see the leader for who he was.  A leader that I once respected so highly that I believed everything he said. He was a leader who was easy to respect.  He talked about having high ideals.  About not giving in to weakness and sin.  The stories he told were impressive; how people had found answers to life’s problems through following his advice.  It all looked fairly simple.  He made things seem so clear.  He really cared about people, listened to them, and sent them away with changed lives.  At least, that is what he said.
     When things didn’t turn out so well, he would wait until he figured out what went wrong and how to fix it.  Then he would share the story.  Until then, knowing the unsolved problems wouldn’t help us, so he wouldn’t bother telling us.  He only wanted to share things that would be beneficial to us, not things that would discourage us. 
     I wanted so much to be a part of the wonderful things that were going on.  I wanted to be able to help other people the way he did.  Who wouldn’t want to help people solve their problems and live a successful life?  I hated seeing people struggle with hard things in life when the answers appeared to be so simple to implement.  Not easy to implement, my friends and I told each other, but definitely simple.
     However, getting to work in the organization didn’t happen when I first wanted it to.  Since working there happened pretty much by invitation only, I thought at first that I just wasn’t good enough yet.  God must have things He still wanted me to learn at home.  I was taught that if I couldn’t get along with members of my family, then I wouldn’t be able to get along with anyone else either.  So I focused on trying to get along with those around me.  But I did it in a non-relational way.  I hadn’t yet learned that when you are trying to be perfect, you can’t relate to other people.  That would come later – a long time later. 
     When I finally did begin to work in the organization, things didn’t wind up being how I expected.  The leader tended to get really big ideas and expect everyone to put all their energy into those ideas until he got the next big idea.  It was hard to do my job (which I loved) while keeping up with all the new ideas. 
     Another discovery was that if you were trusted, you could get away with almost anything.  But if there was any suspicion about your character, you wouldn’t be able to get away with anything.  Every detail of your life would be subject to scrutiny until you repented sufficiently to be trusted again or until you were sent home. 
     I did learn some good things while in the organization.  I learned how to serve people and not despise menial jobs.  I learned a lot of practical skills that I still use today.  I learned to be less shy.  And I also learned that rules are not the answer to all of life’s problems. 
     I’d like to tell the story of how I became involved with this organization, how I left, and how God isn’t who I thought He was.  Actually, He is so much better.  So much bigger.  And, yes, so much harder to understand. 
 ___
Eliza is a young woman who was burned by legalism, but then discovered that Jesus already kept the law for her.  Her desire is to get to know Him better.  You can contact her at elizabethwysecook(at)gmail(dot)com. 

7 comments:

  1. Sounds a lot like the kind of place I left too. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. "I was taught that if I couldn’t get along with members of my family, then I wouldn’t be able to get along with anyone else either. So I focused on trying to get along with those around me. But I did it in a non-relational way. I hadn’t yet learned that when you are trying to be perfect, you can’t relate to other people. That would come later – a long time later."

    Profoundly true. Posting as FB status...

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  3. I look forward to hearing the rest of the story. Too many Christian organizations make it all about the leader, rather than all about Christ. It is important for us to learn from such organizations so that we know how a Christian organization should NOT work!

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  4. "...then discovered that Jesus already kept the law for her." Beautiful and freeing! I was a part of this organization for 11 years and it has taken a long time clean out my perspective of God, His Word, and the world around me. But He is faithful and full of new mercies every day. It's nice to see what God is doing in the lives of others who have come out of this kind of upbringing.
    God Bless!

    ☆¨´`'*°☆.¸.☆¨´`'*°☆.
    (: ․☆´`'*¸.☆¨´`'*°☆.․:)
    `☆.. ♥♥ HUGS ♥♥~ ¸☆
    ․ ․`'☆.¨´¸☆¨¸.¸.☆¨
    ․ ․ ․ ․ `'*☆.¸.☆

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  5. Thank you everyone!

    @ Dr. Wile - I love watching people who know how to lead gently, like Jesus did. So different from the way I have often seen things done.

    @ Donna - Yes, it is a process, a journey. But one that is well worth it!

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  6. @Eliza, "Another discovery was that if you were trusted, you could get away with almost anything. But if there was any suspicion about your character, you wouldn’t be able to get away with anything. Every detail of your life would be subject to scrutiny until you repented sufficiently to be trusted again or until you were sent home."

    this quote is so characteristic in destructive abusive groups/cults. I am so glad you are learning from all of this that you still have a relationship with God and that you have found freedom from the law!

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