Monday, November 4, 2013

There Is No Spoon

In the early days and weeks after I left the Church of God I attended, I experienced horrifying guilt for having promoted that belief system. It is a monumental collapse of reality when the weight of what you have involved yourself in is shown in the light that is God.  

The friends I made in the church had become like family to me. I had begun speaking about their doctrine openly with my now grown child. He had even contacted a minister in his area at my encouragement, and downloaded every sermon on iTunes at my direction. He was relying on his trust in me, and following my lead. He believed me because I was his Mother.
Upon my exit, I felt an overwrought sense of responsibility for dragging the people I loved into all that.

A friend, who was very insecure about the teachings and shy of committing, would come to me for comfort. I would overload her senses with COG doctrines; not aware what I was really doing. I had become one of the deceivers. When I left, I felt keenly the words of Jesus in Matthew 15:13-14.
Later, this same friend confided that her true motive for coming to Sabbath services was to see me.  

Other women I spoke with shared this in common.
Another friend called me, asking if I was leaving “The Church”. “Yes. I’m leaving," I replied anxiously, "I’m sorry for hiding that, and if that has hurt you. It was the only way I could keep myself safe.”

It seems that without my having any idea of it (I was ever plagued by feelings of inadequacy, always striving to be a good example and someone the people could lean on) the other women felt they wanted to be like me. They felt I was the one they wanted to model themselves after. I thought this was the craziest thing I had ever heard!
I make mention of it to point out a few things: that you can fool yourself and others about who you are quite effectively, and to emphasize just how committed I was to the church transforming me.
When I left, I was petrified that God was going to hold me responsible for what I had done, and those "I had ensnared".  I felt their blood on my hands. So, for a while, I was caught in a cycle of pseudo-penance, trying to atone for what I had done, and working to break the chains that enslaved others in every opportunity I saw.

I lost much sleep talking with Church of God followers, studying, and trying to win arguments with current members. It gave me some small sense of relief to know that at least God saw me trying. He could see my guilt, my regret, because I was now soldiering on for grace in Christ! Yes, God was witnessing my conversion!

Was that really true?

No it wasn’t. 

I used those people to hone my skills in defending the lies and false claims that they believed. I wanted them to come out of it, of course, but there was definitely an element of using them to better my degree of penance. If I could just perfect my reasoning, then I can defend the truth, and God can use me to free them! The very fact that I can argue the truth more effectively is proof of how ashamed I am of what I did, and how God is converting me, in a similar fashion as the Apostle Paul.  (Galatians 1:13-14)

Except that one day I realized that penance was not grace.

Freeing them, no matter how unbearable for me, was not my job (Philippians 1:6)! The only thing I could actually do was to proclaim the truth, express the fruits, be a light, and live in the freedom He died so horrifically to give me.

The best things I can do are step out of the way of God's work, and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered. That is the work being wrought in me; trust, faith, and hope in Him, for Him and in all things.

I realized that I was still performing. Trapped doing works to please God. The same coin, only the other side.

I now focus on my own trust issues with God, and my faith. I pray for the people still in Armstrongism, but leave it in God’s hands. He will always do a much better job than I could anyway.

When I rest in Jesus, I have to be both my weakest and strongest. I have to be brutal in my honesty with Him about who and what I really am, and leave myself vulnerable to Him in a way that perfectly speaks to striving.  In doing so, real change can come about.

It's about Him, not me. His perfection, not my inadequacies. His triumph, not my penance. So then I set down those works, and instead walk toward Him; knowing for the first time, "there is no spoon".

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11


xHWA said...

That's beautiful, Penny. I can relate. Needed to hear the part about penance.
Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I can so relate Penny!
I crinch every time I think as a painfully naive teenager (after I'd come across the PT & avidly reading WCG literature & believing it to be true) I was in Math class & telling a couple of my friends (who were girls) all about WCG & PT & that I believed it to be "the true Church." They asked about subscribing to the PT & I got a subscription for them. To this day this single event demonstrates to me how so ignorant I was! I wasn't even a member of WCG & yet here I was trying to convert new members for this cult! I feel so like a fool every time I think about this--even more so after I discovered 20 years later that another student in my year actually WAS a member of WCG, but I didn't know him or was friends with him so I never knew this! How's that for a coincidence eh?! If only I could turn back time. I even recall the Math teacher pretending to not listen, but I could see a wry smile on his face as though he was thinking exactly how I feel every time I think of this episode in my life now i.e. "How naive & stupid this kid is!"

Penny said...


I think it would be safe to say that virtually everyone who has a history with WCG or one of it's present day offshoots shares the experience you describe. At least knowing we are not alone in that, somehow makes it more bearable. The wonderful thing about youth is the passion with which we do things. This can be exploited by people who are far more aware of our naiveté than we are. Thank you for sharing, it helps so much!

Anonymous said...

The authenitic guilt should be felt (but won't be) by those who contrived, published, and distributed the literature of the Worldwide Church of God.

How many families did all of that destroy? How many lives? To what end (you will know them by their fruits -- which are all rotten)?

I sure wouldn't want to, as they will, have to "give an accont."

These theological crimes are on the same level with the "scriptural requirement" (not so) of paying up to three tithes. If some well-dressed and clear-speaking thug came up to a WCG member on the street (say, at a Feast) and demanded all the money in the person's billfold or purse, everyone would regard that as an executed crime.

But requiring tithes (and a bunch of other things, too) to attain salvation in "God's only True Church" was Ok.

But those ministers and officers in the WCG who required these payments will have difficult explaining to do. Realistically, it was theological thugary equivalent to being mugged on the street. Extortion with a contrived theological requirement.

I'm embarrassed to have failed to see that for my 13 tradgic yrs in the WCG. What a fool I was.