I was a Jehovah’s Witness for 42 years, literally born and raised. My father was baptized when he was young but fell away then came back to the organization when he and my mother started studying again shortly before I was born. My great-grandmother was one of the 144,000 “anointed ones” (special JW group that goes to heaven) so my background is pretty extensive!
I am the youngest of 5 children. I had a number of cousins who all lived in the same neighborhood, attended the same schools and went to the same Kingdom Hall. This made it really easy to keep an eye on each other and to “tell” on each other when someone wasn’t following the rules. Guess who that usually was who reported bad behavior? No, it wasn’t me! I was terrified of making waves and having anyone find out I wasn’t who they thought I was. (I had seen what happened to those who didn’t measure up!) It was one of my sisters. She was always challenging the rules and the authority given and sneaking out to be with boys. They labeled her “crazy” and someone “in need of medication.”
Even when I was very young I felt like something didn’t fit together in this organization. They would give lip service to concepts like “Children are a gift from the Lord” (PS127:3) but in reality, treat them like they were an enormous burden and quote the scripture that says, “Woe to the pregnant woman and those nursing a baby in those days.”— thus, implying that we should not be having children! Well which was it? Are children a “gift” or a “woe” to parents? I knew that if I asked this kind of question, I would have been pointed out as a trouble maker! So, I tried to keep my questions and doubts to myself, but I always felt like a fraud. I WANTED to be like my friends! I wanted to have the birthday cake and Christmas presents. When I heard the hymns they sang on the Lawrence Welk show, I loved those songs! That music really spoke to me!
When I was 18 years old, I married a man I would remain married to for 24 years. We had 4 sons together, but I also suffered 5 miscarriages. This was not a happy marriage as there was a great deal of emotional and verbal abuse. Something the organization does not outright condone, but does nothing to combat or remedy when it does occur. Eventually, I decided any organization who wanted to support that kind of conduct didn’t need me anymore. I had to leave him. I told him that he could have custody of the religion, and I was keeping the kids!
My husband and the elders had made it perfectly clear to me that I would never measure up to the standards Jehovah had set, so I believed there was no way I was going to survive Armageddon anyway. I questioned, “Why was I beating my head against this brick wall?!” I still believed the Watchtower teaching that all other religions originated with Satan, so I certainly wasn’t going to turn to any of them for help. There was no reason in my mind not to finally start having some fun!
While having “fun” the Lord put a very loving and gentle Christian man in my path who was attending a Calvary Chapel church. After dating for a short time, I decided to “take the plunge” and go with him to one of their services. Amazingly, the roof did NOT fall down on me (as I had been taught demons inhabited churches)!
What they were teaching was verse-by-verse, right from the Bible! They didn’t need 22 paragraphs with footnotes and references and opinions of men to explain a two-verse Bible Scripture the way the Watchtower always did! I was most impressed when the pastor said that it was not the church’s job to be a policeman. It was their job to tell me what sin was, but it was the LORD’s job to tell me to change what I was doing!
For many of us leaving the Watchtower organization, it has taken exhaustive research and long lists of comparative Scripture texts, showing the discrepancies between Watchtower teachings and the Bible’s truth. But for me, it was a little simpler than that. When we were reading John 1:1 where it says, “the Word was with God and the Word was God,” I knew the Jehovah’s Witness Bible says, “the Word was A God.” At that point, a light bulb went on in my head and I realized that theologically, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a problem! If the Word was “a God,” and there is only ONE true God, then Jesus is either a false god and they are guilty of worshiping more than one “god,” or… JESUS IS TRUE GOD! Of course I didn’t abandon everything I had ever believed just because of one verse, but this certainly was the catalyst.
I felt like I had just realized the whole Watchtower religion thing was kind of like a lasagna. I now knew the cheese (the way they treat their members) was bad, the meat (the theology) was bad and the noodles (I lived through failed prophecies like 1975) were bad. Did I want to try to see if I could salvage the sauce? No way! It was time to start over with wholesome life-giving ingredients, based on sound Bible-based teaching and a real understanding of who Jesus is and what He did for me!
It was at this time that I felt compelled to give my life, my heart and all that I had to the Lord. It was the least I could do after all that He had given me! He gave me life. He gave me hope. He gave me freedom from the oppression and bondage I had serving a legalistic religion that had controlled me in fear of all my life! Along the way, he gave me a loving, gentle man for a husband! Every day, I thank him for the Grace that led me to Him!