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From a very young age, I have wanted to know about God. My stepfather was Catholic so most of elementary school, I went to Catholic schools. After we moved to Utah and my mother and stepfather separated, I attended the Mormon Church until I was 15. Then we moved to Washington State and I attended any church that was close by. Shortly after I was married, we moved to Hawaii, and I started studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I liked the Witnesses because they were the first ones who used the Bible a lot, and I loved learning.
I started studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in late 1959 and was baptized in late 1962. I was an active, strong Witness for the following 16 years. Although I was a woman, I was assigned the positions of temporary Magazine Territory Servant and temporary Book Study Conductor until a qualified male became available to take over these positions in our newly formed Congregation. I vacationed pioneered (door-to-door ministry) whenever I could. My oldest stepson went to Bethel and later was sent to Japan as a missionary. Two of my older stepdaughters were regular pioneers.
Although I was always asking questions of the elders and sometimes disagreeing with their answers, I never doubted that the Watchtower organization was Jehovah’s organization. At times, I wasn’t happy with the way things were going in the congregation, but I believed those in leadership would be accountable to Jehovah. I thought that we must bear with the problems because I still believed that this religion was the only place that had “the truth” and this was where Jehovah wanted us to be – for better or for worse. I liken the situation to the days of Israel when God’s people had to stay and bear up under bad leadership. There was no place outside to go to. Jehovah was only with the Israelites. So, I stayed. But for me, I always saw those in leadership, even the Governing Body, as mere men who could be wrong. In my mind, Jehovah was always separate from men and their imperfections. I never had a problem disagreeing with something they taught if I thought there was no Scriptural backing to it. Looking back now, I feel that this attitude was my salvation.
In 1979, a brother from Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, NY came into the congregation. He didn’t have much use for women-especially those who were comfortable questioning the elders, even if it was done sincerely. The local elders in the congregation were intimidated by him, so he pretty much controlled things. One day, he disfellowshipped my friend, Joan, who was married to Doug, an elder and our Book Study conductor. Joan and I were very close and I knew she had done nothing wrong except that she was honest about how she felt. Because she was not intimidated by this elder into keeping quiet about her feelings, she was the sort of woman that this elder could not stand. She was completely “unrepentant” and had gotten to the point that she didn’t care if she was disfellowshipped or not.
Then, later that year, her husband Doug was also disfellowshipped. After Joan had been disfellowshipped, he had stepped down as an elder and had stopped attending meetings. Nevertheless, he was shocked at being disfellowshipped and so were all of us who were close to the family. I asked him, “On what grounds did they disfellowship you?” He said that he didn’t know because he had not had a hearing. So, I asked the elders how they could disfellowship someone without a hearing. They lied and said that he did have one.
This series of events put in motion my journey out of the Organization. When some of us spoke up about what this elder and the other elders had done by disfellowshipping Doug without a hearing, I went to the Watchtower Branch office and explained the situation to them. They eventually sent the Circuit Servant to get to the bottom of things. He learned that indeed they had disfellowshipped Doug without a hearing, but we were told to keep quiet about it and not to discuss the matter with anyone. So, the elders had lied, gone against the Society’s disfellowshipping policy, maligned me and the others who spoke up against what they had done, and silenced us by warning the congregation against those who were “questioning the holy ones” in the position of leadership. We were black balled and avoided as if we carried the plague. The things that the elders had done were not to be spoken of, the congregation was never told the truth about what had happened, our names were never cleared, and what the elders had done was completely swept under the rug.
Neither the men in positions of leadership in the congregation, nor the men in leadership at the Branch office saw any problem with what had taken place. As one elder later told me, “Doug didn’t want to be a Witness anyway.” That was his rationalization for what they had done. The members of the congregation who had known me as a faithful Witness for years, simply closed their eyes and ears to what was going on because it was more important to them to stay “safe,” than to stand up for what was right. At this point, I saw the whole Organization from top to bottom as a farce. All the words they used to support their claims of spiritual authority suddenly had no meaning when held up against their actions. I realized this could not be Jehovah’s organization. Jesus said, “So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20, NASB) “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35, NWT). I knew then that my time in the organization was over. From that day forward, I stopped attending meetings.
When I learned that Joan and Doug had a Bible study in their home and were studying the book of John, I started attending their study. I was seeing so many things in the book of John that it seemed like I had never read it before. One time, the pastor of the church fellowship that Joan and Doug had been attending since they left the Organization, came to the study. I had many questions I needed answered. But all the things he told me about Jesus, I already knew. I knew He was our Savior and our King, and that He paid the ransom for mankind. I knew I was imperfect and a sinner. So, according to all I knew and what he shared with me, I should have been “born again.” However, I didn’t feel born again, and I couldn’t see how just saying or even believing those things could make me any different than I was right then. It was very frustrating for me because no one could give me satisfactory answers to my questions.
Finally, I went to a source of information that I hadn’t used much as a Jehovah’s Witnesses. I went to Jehovah in prayer and prayed that if He wanted me to be “born again,” that He would make it happen. He was the only one who could answer my questions, so it was up to Him. Before that time, I hadn’t known what “faith” really was. Scriptures like, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7, NASB), “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NASB), came to my mind and I believed them. No matter how long it took, I was determined to get answers. And I did! Coming to Christ is experiential, not something that can be fully explained, and it is not the same for all people. But, I can tell you this, when it happens, you know it.
Joan had given me a book that she really liked and she thought it might help me to understand some things. The part that really spoke to me in that book was the idea that Christ did not die just for our sins, he died for us as sinners. It was not so much that my sins were forgiven, as it was me, the sinner, who was forgiven. That may not seem like much of a difference to some, but it meant everything to me. When I woke up the next morning, I was different. I felt a sense of love for everyone, which was strange for me because that was something very different from my usual personality. Sure, I would love my family and some of my friends, but I did not love the people I didn’t know or people, like the Witnesses, who believed lies about me and had passed them on. And amazingly, this new love I received for everyone has not gone away, even 29 years later! I know now that the change in me was the Spirit of God in my heart. I knew then I was reborn, or born of the Spirit.
Walking with Christ has been an adventure! At first it was hard because I had so much to learn. There were a lot of things in me that needed work and that meant lots of learning experiences. I was put in places that I didn’t like at all; yet, I knew what I was supposed to do. God always showed me the right way, but it was up to me to take His path. When I didn’t want to do it His way, I would stay on the fence going neither way. But that didn’t work, and I would just be more miserable. So I had to decide, over and over again, do I do it God’s way or my way? I decided it was better to do it God’s way, not because I was so obedient, but because I knew if I didn’t do it God’s way, I would get the same test over and over again until I did it right. I knew that God wouldn’t let me go any further in my walk with Him, until I passed the tests He gave me. The pain of doing what God wants is always less than having the same test over and over again and not being able to move on. The more I do things His way, the stronger my faith and my spiritual walk becomes. I still have tests and trials, but now I look at them as opportunities to grow, learn and become stronger in my faith. When a person comes out of a test victoriously, not in his or her own strength, but in God’s strength, one changes for the better. We know more, understand more, our insights become deeper, and the rewards are great!
As for my “day to day” walk with God, I just live my life. When God wants me to do something, he lets me know and I do it. I don’t work at finding things to do because if God is not behind it, it’s a waste of time and energy. God works with all of us in different ways. What He has for me is not what He has for someone else. We are each unique, have different gifts, and are used in different ways. Christ is our head and we are His body. He directs each part according to His will and not according to what we think we should be doing.
I don’t view hard times or trials as something from Satan although he may be the one causing them. Whatever God allows or arranges is His will, and whatever He allows Satan or life to put in my path, I view as from God. I know the outcome of the trial depends on my faith in Him. Faith in God is not faith in what He will do or not do, but in who He is. I know He protects me, loves me, and will never allow anything in my life without a good reason. It’s not up to me to know that reason, but to just trust in who He is and to walk through it in His grace.
For me, life without Christ is a life of bondage and heavy loads. It’s walking in a sort of darkness where I can’t tell what is real from what is imitation. It’s a life cut off from those I cannot love with a mere human love. It’s a life trying so hard to do things in my own strength, and knowing many times it’s an impossible task. It’s being unable to see my own weaknesses and faults, yet judging others for theirs. Without the Spirit of Christ within me, I live in a different place. I walk the earth but cannot go beyond it.
The good news is that when Christ is in us, He brings light, life, strength, love, wisdom, truth, and freedom. The Spirit of Christ within us gives us “wings”!
Visit Midge’s Website at: www.jwhelpandsupport.50megs.com
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