Saturday, October 2, 2010

Some Days It's Just a Monster Mash

In an interview with Focus on the Family author Frank Peretti explained his motivation for writing about monsters. As a child he had a medical condition which turned his tongue an oozing black.

As children are often the cruelest beings on the planet, Peretti suffered through taunts of being a “monster”. Choosing the positive aspect of a bad situation, he decided to see monsters as “cool” and himself as special in being associated with them.

This post is in celebration of choosing the positive, and yes, even the humorous aspect of feeling like a freak.

After living in a fundamental cult for twenty plus years, I escaped into what I thought would be stress-free living. I survived hell on earth- now it was time to lay back and relax, right?

That might be right for some. And if you are part of that some, congratulations- you have the good life.

For me and many that I have spoken with, coming out of the cult is the easy part. Living outside of the cult is the true challenge.

For many, the challenge proves too great and they return to the cult, though it be harsh and unforgiving, at least they understand how it functions.

I grew up inside the cult, attended the cult’s school, and after graduation was told that I needed to volunteer my time in return for the all the cult had given me.

When I escaped, and left behind the twisted, haunted laboratory of mind control I discovered that, surprise! I had stunted social skills, an amputated sense of self, and a macabre understanding of what my future would be.

Like Frankenstein, I raged (mentally, at least) at the perverted mind that amputated my sense of self and hijacked my devotion to God to serve her evil empire.

I stomped about for a year, howling with anger at whoever I could. I hated parties; they reminded me of a “get-together” at her house. These often included being yelled at in her bedroom (if you were lucky) and in front of everyone (if you weren’t).

I hated searching for a job. How do you explain away a decade plus that you gave away? How you never finished college because you were too tired to think after forty hours of volunteering, five nights a week of church, and twelve plus hours a week of cleaning on her cleaning crew?

Honestly, I felt like a Picasso painting walking into a job interview that said, “This is me. My nose is on my chin and my eyes are in my forehead. I don’t know how to make decisions, I think my worth is below minimum wage, and I will never speak up for myself. So, please hire me (if it’s not too inconvenient) I know I’m a freak, just let me scuttle around in the background quietly.”

Here lies the dividing line. Some well meaning but utterly clueless soul might say that I should believe that God was ‘working a good work’ in my life and in the middle of it all and I should praise my way into joy at this knowledge.

This is foolish thinking. God did not and never will plan abuse to ‘work His good work in you’. What is at work here is the fact that humanity has free will and a pastor chose to use her position of leadership to satiate her need for control. She placed herself as a god and will, unless she has the good sense to repent, one day stand in judgment for deeds.

What I do know is that God gives ‘beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning’.

And so for the Frank Peretti moment of deciding to embrace the experience (not the abuse), acknowledge where I am because of it, and take stock of skills I learned in the proverbial fire.

As for where I am:

I spent years wishing to know the joys of marriage, for as Luther said there is nothing more comforting than a marriage.

I met and married a wonderful man a year after leaving the cult. Our paths would not have crossed if I had lived a different life.

What I have learned:

I am resilient, having lived under extreme stress and oppression.

I have empathy for others who have experienced abuse or slavery.

The skills I have acquired:

Endurance in the workplace and a willingness to go the extra mile.

One ex-cult member showed beautiful perspective in dressing up as the pastor for Halloween. Their motivation was she was the scariest character they could think of.

It was a perfect statement. She is scary, she is monstrous, but it is she that is the monster, not me.

I think I will make my statement one Halloween by making a scarecrow that resembles her and hang a sign that reads “This would scare anything”.

Am I making light of the abuse or the fact that a pastor is in dire moral straits?

No. I am doing what many people do with Halloween: Put on a monster mask, confront what you fear, celebrate it for a day and then, move on.

Till next year. Maybe I’ll dress up as the witch she always accused me of being. After all, I know the hat fits and I’ll wear it.

On the other hand, is she brave enough to wear her hat?


RandomThoughts said...

I just found your blog thanks to your post on Jon Acuff's "Shameless Saturday!" thread. All I can say Just wow. You are an amazing woman, to have experienced what you have, and to be so eloquent and so straightforward in writing about it. Thank you for being willing to share your extremely hard won wisdom.

The Cult Next Door said...

@ Random Thoughts...Thank you for your means so much!
you posted my favorite part of Jon's book on your blog...My husband would break into a cold sweat too if I started knitting :)

Widsith said...

This is an inspiring, well-written post! Thank you :)

The Cult Next Door said...

Thank you so much, Widsith! I have enjoyed reading your blogs...good stuff!

Tereasa said...

I am really, really enjoying your blog. I absolutely love this post! You know? I totally agree that living free is harder than escaping. I wrote that myself this week in a post title, "Life is Hard." I didn't go this far in the post, but maybe I should have. I have had one moment of even thinking it would be better to go back. Then I remembered that I never wanted to be touched by that man again and I thought maybe it would be better to just die. Yes, I thought that for a wee moment. (Don't worry. I have a counselor.) I really appreciate the fact you have not given up on God. Neither have I. In fact, this experience has taught me that Christ is everything. It has also humbled me to the point of (maybe?) being useful.

The Cult Next Door said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Tereasa! It is true....Living outside is hard. The abused person has been meticulously groomed by the abuser to dwell in the abuser's world. It is hard, so very, very hard to break that mentality.

I am looking forward to reading your blog! Please keep writing!