.:THE TESTIMONY OF BETTY – “Smelling Like a Rose”
I come from a traditional Southern Baptist family. Both of my parents were Baptist as well as their ancestors before them. My great grandfather on my dad’s side was a preacher and my dad grew up in a large family with three sisters and two brothers, but this Baptist family tradition changed during WWII. When my dad returned home from fighting in the war, he discovered that his parents and sisters had converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, he and his brothers remained Baptist.
To say the least, my dad was shocked, confused, and angry. Can you imagine what it must have been like for him to return home from war to find that everything his family believed in, no longer existed? His family’s religious beliefs were gone, holidays and birthdays were no longer celebrated, in addition to the confusion and hurt feelings of all of these changes. Needless to say, this spilt in our family’s religion caused some major issues, some of which still exist today.
Although I grew up as a Baptist, I did not attend church on a regular basis and I did not study the Bible. If one were to ask me what I believed in at that time, my answer would have been “I believe in Christ” and that was about as deep as my Christian faith went. At the tender age of sixteen, I married my husband who was in the Navy and we traveled to many different places around the world. Once our daughter was born, I wanted to know more about God and I had many questions that I wanted answered. Instead of reading God’s Word, I depended on other people to give me spiritual food. Sometimes their answers seemed so farfetched that it sounded ridiculous to me. Only later did I find out that their answers were correct, just not explained very well.
In 1980 my husband was transferred to London, England and I was only a couple of weeks pregnant with our second child at the time. I soon began spotting and the specialist informed me that I would more than likely lose the baby. I placed myself on bed rest and prayed to God for a miracle to happen, and it did! I actually felt the hand of God make adjustments inside of my body. Since I was only a few weeks pregnant, I knew it was not the baby moving around. I know God saved our child because almost immediately after praying, the spotting stopped and I eventually delivered a healthy baby boy. I had experienced my first divine healing and to this very day, I will not forget what it was like!
I started attending a Baptist church in England which was highly unusual because most British people had no idea what a Baptist was and this denomination was not well known at the time. To find a Baptist Church in our quaint English town was almost a miracle in itself. However, that British Baptist church did not come to the rescue in my quest for truth, so my searches for that “perfect church” that would answer “all of my questions” continued. Needless to say, I did a lot of church hopping throughout those years.
When we moved back to the United States, I visited a congregation that practiced speaking in tongues. One Sunday morning, a woman was at the altar crying and speaking in an unknown language. All of a sudden, she stopped and looked at the back of the church and waved at someone she knew. Then turned back around and continued the crying and speaking in tongues. Yikes! Please do not get me wrong. I do believe that sign gifts, such as speaking in tongues, still exist for Christians today, but only as long as they are done in a Godly and orderly fashion and is a true gift from God (1 Corinthians 13 and 14).
As time marched on, I visited a lot of churches that had fake people like this, so I was becoming even more frustrated. I was now dragging our two children from church to church, but I did not pray to God for guidance and still I was not in the Word of God. I guess you could say I was one lazy person, claiming to be a Christian.
The truth is, all of us fall short and no one, not even the most faithful Christian is perfect and without blame. In other words, all of us have been fake at one time or another. It may not be the right thing to do, but it is a sad fact of life nonetheless.
GOD IS THE REVEALER OF TRUTH
I now know that as a mature Christian, our questions will not always be answered or revealed to us and here is the reason why. The book of Job asks us at chapter 11 verses 7-8, “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? They are as high as the heavens, what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave. What can you know?”
God is the revealer of mysteries according to the New Testament. One must conclude after reading the above Scripture that our finite minds cannot wrap around our infinite God and Creator. So, if I had been firmly rooted in the Word of God, I would have known that the Word tells us that we cannot understand ALL things because in order to understand all things, we would have to be like God. In this aspect, I think I had a lot in common with Eve!
In 1989, I was visiting my parents in Alabama and my Aunt (who was a Jehovah’s Witness) asked me to go for a walk with her. My dad said in a sarcastic tone “Don’t let those people convert you girl.” Well, that is exactly what took place because that evening, all of my questions were being answered. I had been swept away very quickly by the answers I received. Boy, were my ears tickled. I was quickly taken in, but I did not get baptized right away because I never wanted to church-hop again. My plan was to get it right for the last time in my life. My plan was to be a Jehovah’s Witness till the day I died! We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps (Proverb 16:9).
A few months later, we moved to Hawaii and I studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses for three years. When we transferred back to the continental United States, we moved to Maryland and I continued to study with an elder’s wife who lived on our street. After 4 years of studying with different Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was finally baptized in 1993. Needless to say, my family was not happy. My husband was against it, but he never gave me grief about my decision. My parents were certainly not pleased in the least bit, but they did not stop speaking with me!
At first I was very happy and enthusiastic, but as the years passed, I saw inconsistencies in the teachings but chose to ignore it for the most part. I even ignored errors I found in the Trinity Brochure. My thinking was that just because we may not fully understand a particular doctrine that does not mean it is not true! When I did ask questions to the elders about some of these inconsistencies, they would just say “wait on Jehovah” or they gave an answer that just did not make sense.
For example, one evening after the meeting I asked an elder about doubting Thomas and the conversation he had with Jesus at John 20:28. I wanted to know that if Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the deity of Christ, why did Thomas say “My Lord and My God.” The elder answered by saying that Thomas was in shock or that he was astonished, which made no sense to me so I just filed this “data” in the back of my brain. Why be concerned about it? I was not going anywhere because I thought that there was no other place to go.
When I first started to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I always felt special and part of a special organization, but once I was baptized, everything changed. The dinner invitations and outside associations stopped. After several years, I started to feel alone and not part of the organization. I was spiritually dying because some of the doctrine did not make sense, so I asked help from the elders. I never received a Shepard’s Call or a telephone call from them, not even when my husband and I became seriously ill. I spent a lot of time crying when there should have been happiness and joy in serving God. Things got so bad I started calling myself the invisible sister. When I asked the elders what I did to cause the congregation to shun me, they said nothing at all. I was told that there were sisters and brothers who needed help and I should focus on them, not myself. “But wasn’t I one of those sisters that needed help?” I wondered. Still, I wasn’t going anywhere because I thought, “There’s no other place to go, right?”
As the years passed, things got worse. I did not receive any encouragement and no one wrapped their arms around me to pray for me. I still was not receiving visits or calls from the elders and one door after another seemed to be closed in my face. I even tried the unthinkable. I started visiting other Kingdom Halls. Oh my, wasn’t I a naughty girl? Things got so bad that the elder and his wife who lived on our street stopped talking and waving to my husband who was not a Jehovah’s Witness. I asked the elder’s wife who studied with me to try and get some of the other men to associate with my husband so maybe he would come to the meetings. Her response was, “What is the point. We know he will never leave the military.”
That was one of the most unloving comments I had ever heard. There was absolutely no regard for his spiritual welfare. So why were the Jehovah’s Witnesses ignoring me? It boiled down to this simple fact that our teenage son at the time was going through an awful time in his life. I was feeling pressure and stress from raising two teenagers, a long commute to work, and not doing enough in field service and meetings. I truly believe I was deemed spiritually weak. So instead of the elders praying for us and giving us encouragement, we were being ignored. It was devastating to me and I felt betrayed.
SEEDS OF MERCY
Although I did not know it at the time, during those awful days of spiritual darkness and sadness, seeds were being planted by family and friends. God uses whom HE wishes to use in softening the hearts of mankind (Romans 9:14-18). He will use other Christians, non-believers, and even those who hate Jehovah Himself. God will make the rocks cry out if He wants to.
One night in September 2000, I was giving a talk in the A school at the Kingdom Hall and guess what the subject matter was? I spoke on false religion. After I finished that talk, something came over me and I just about ran out of the Hall. At the time, I had no idea what came over me. I just knew I had to get out of there. For the first time in my life, I humbly prayed to God. I was confused and felt so alone. I knew in my heart I had to serve Him, but where do I go? There was no other place for me to go! I knew I had to either attend a church in Christendom or go back to the Kingdom Hall. Serving God alone was NOT an option! I told Jehovah that wherever He wanted me to go, I would obey, even if it meant going back. After several months, I picked up the phone book looking for churches and asked God to help me because I was lost and confused. I saw an advertisement in the phone book for a non-denominational church and it read, “Come as you are.”
“Come as you are? Can I?” I wondered. “Can I go to God after leaving His organization?” I felt like I was sinning against God for just thinking about going to a church, but I called and spoke to the assistant pastor anyway. I told him that I was a Jehovah’s Witness and I needed help. He then said, “There is a man here who attends our church and he was raised as a Witness. Why don’t you talk with him?”
I was also connected with a wonderful lady in my new church who became my teacher and mentor. Although it took two years of both of them deprogramming me, I knew I had done the right thing because I realized the Holy Spirit took me by the hand and led me out of darkness. YES, there is another place to go and His name is Jesus! Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.”
RELEASED FROM SPIRITUAL BONDAGE
I’m grateful my mother was still alive when I came out. I will never forget what she said to me. “Betty, how were you able to leave that religious cult and come out smelling like a rose?” I certainly did not feel like a rose. I felt dirty because I allowed myself to fall away from Christ. I felt like I had committed spiritual adultery against my heavenly Father. I allowed them to take away the Deity of Christ. Remember the miracle I shared with you earlier concerning my pregnancy? I even allowed them to convince me that miracle did not really happen. I’m so thankful that I have placed that guilt at the foot of the cross because I am now truly free!
When I first left the Jehovah’s Witness faith, an elder’s wife told me she admired me for leaving because she felt like a robot! This woman wanted to leave, but she knew she could not because she would lose her family and friends; this is nothing less than emotional blackmail!
Since I left the organization, I have a relationship with Christ, countless prayers have been answered, my husband goes to church, both of my children and their spouses have been saved and so have several of our grandchildren. I have been involved with teaching bible studies in my home and co-leading for CareNet Ministries at my home church. How awesome is that for God to place me in a ministry where I can care for others? What a contrast from where I once was and considered myself to be invisible. Little did I know back then, God was the one closing one door after another so I could find the way out! All of those seeds that were planted by loved ones and co-workers helped me to grow and to stand firm against obstacles that were put before me.
The Watchtower teaches that we cannot have truth unless we read their bible, their publications, and belong to their organization. The Bible does not tell us we must have “other” books to teach us how to understand the Bible. Proverbs 30:5-6 states: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”
I promise you that there is life after the Watchtower organization. If you pray to our Heavenly Father and study his Word, you will not need an organization’s religious material to find truth. Let the Holy Spirit guide you and you too can come out smelling like a rose!