Part 17, A Different God

Though I had experienced my first real encounter with God, my life didn’t just suddenly get better. But it was the first step of a long journey back to God. I had to realize that a relationship with God was something that slowly grew, not something you could bring to instant fulfillment by following the “Rules to Godliness”. I had to get to know God as a person, not a formula to follow. But these are really my thoughts in hindsight. In the moment, all I knew was that I had been given enough gas in the tank to keep going a little longer.

The next step on my journey was my discovery of G. K. Chesterton.  I first read his Father Brown mysteries, and loved his funny little priest. Then I read some of his other fiction, and then…Orthodoxy. I was simultaneously attracted and perplexed by jolly Mr. Chesterton. Everything he said was simple and straightforward, and a genuine expression of his joy in his God. But how could he find such joy and beauty where I only felt dread? I decided he must know something I didn’t, and I delved into his books with the hunger of a starving man.

I found a different God there than the one I grew up with. This God was affectionate, happy, ridiculously pleased with the small antics of His earthly children. This God was a laughing God. Even in His solemnity, He still had a secret twinkle in His eye, like someone pretending to be stern but secretly holding a treat behind his back. I LIKED this God! I could conceive of not being afraid of Him. Chesterton taught about the Romance of Christendom, and I drank it in, because in his joyful God, I found just what I needed to combat the poison of my childhood. I found the same joy running through all of his books and his poems, which I fell in love in. This “joy without a cause”, as he once described it, fascinated and pulled me despite my misgivings. I desperately wanted to believe in this God who prompted such a joy.

In reading Chesterton, I found permission to start to enjoy the little things in life again. To experience the pleasure of a good book, a bowl of dessert, a solitary walk under the stars, without feeling God’s disapproval. Each moment of enjoyment was still couched in the context of my parents’ displeasure. But somehow, despite their rejection of everything I found joy in, despite their calling it  “foolishness” and labeling me “irresponsible and immature” for pursuing such things, I continued to allow myself small pleasures. And in a way, they gave me back both my hope, and God.

Outwardly, over the next year or so, there were also some changes. I was happier. I made a few friends, including a best friend whose friendship I enjoyed for the next 5 years or so. I started college at a state university. I probably argued and debated with my parents even more than before. I no longer accepted their worldview, and the inevitable clash was often intense. I would have 6-hour arguments with my dad till the small hours of the morning, only ending when we were both so tired that our sleep-addled brains could no longer form meaningful sentences.

Inwardly, I came to a new crossroads. I was forced to the conclusion that there was one major thing holding me back from a relationship with God: I didn’t trust Him. At some point I heard or read somewhere a simple explanation of what Trust was. It was compared to a chair. You can SAY you trust a chair to hold your weight…you can look at it, and make all sorts of calculations to decide its load-bearing capacity…but ultimately none of it counts until you sit down in that chair. If you trust the chair, you’ll sit down in it. If you don’t trust the chair, you’ll stay standing.

I was definitely standing. All of my combined life experiences fought with desperate strength against even the idea of sitting down.  I had more than enough proof that it wasn’t safe to trust anyone, especially not God. Not only had all the authority figures in my life either failed to protect me, or taken part in my abuse — but they told me they did so at the bidding of God. Even the thought of trusting God enough to let any control slip from my fingers was enough to produce gut-wrenching, nausea-inducing panic.

My mind rebelled and fought against it on one side, and God gently pulled me from the other. It took me weeks of wrestling with myself. But I did it. I took a mental catalogue of my fears – of everything God might ask me to do, or take away from me, and I went down the list, fear after fear, and chose to accept the possibility of every one. That was really the scariest thing. Once I won the battle in my mind, the rest was just a formality. I sat down in that figurative chair. And for the first time in my life, I chose to trust God.

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17 thoughts on “Part 17, A Different God

  1. I just read this whole series on your blog. I am amazed that you could have gone through so much and still come out with faith, and a healthier faith than the one presented to you. I don’t really have words for it but your story touched me. I wish you all the best on your future life & faith journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fikalo, thank you! I wonder that myself sometimes – and to be honest, I’m still far from where I’d like to be. But perhaps the process has helped strip me of the illusion of being a “good person” (hence the “ex-goodgirl”) and shown me my need for God that much more! It’s not as easy to leave your faith behind when you’re so desperately in need of it all the time!

      Anyway, I really appreciate your kind thoughts – thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. They are hard to read and am sure were harder to write. But the truth must be told about the twisted, bitter fruit that’s borne from these legalistic, abusive child-“training” methods. I think it is the biggest most shameful secret of the homeschooling world. Stories like yours have caused me to rethink the “how” and “why” of homeschooling my 2 older kids, over the course of the past year. The way our toddler is being raised is already different… Thank you, and may you continue to walk in God’s grace and extravagant love. I pray your siblings will find healing too.

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  3. Oh my goodness, crying tears of both joy and sadness for you & your journey. Joy for finding the loving God that truly exists. Sadness for the childhood I share in solidarity with you. While my parents were much too “weak” to beat us as the Pearls, Bradley, & Gothard would suggest, I still remember daily spankings (at age 30 my butt still flinchs at the sight a wooden spoon), homeschooled isolation, and forbidden the basic pleasures of childhood.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  4. I’ve read your blog. Thank you for sharing. The story resonates – especially the “modesty” story. I had the exact same experience.
    From the “worship from Sundown to Sundown,” to wearing long skirts or pants under skirts, my childhood has strong similarities. Lucky for me, I managed to get out of that horrible experience, but I’ve often wondered what happened to all the other kids (we had our own version of Joe L.). I’ve also often wondered if we were the only people going through such a crazy life – now I know there are others. Thanks for sharing. It brought back so many memories that I often try not to think about.

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  5. Pingback: The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Seventeen | Homeschoolers Anonymous

  6. I’ve been following your story for awhile, and I hope you write another update soon. The last two posts have been very hopeful – the story of God answering your cry and the story of God revealing himself as different than you thought he was through GKC.

    I haven’t read much of GKC at all, but I’ve been aware of him for a long time. I’ve become more interested in reading his entire work more recently because of a biography of C.S. Lewis I read recently, “The Narnian.” It spends some time going through Lewis’s life, but spends as much time talking about his books, and the interaction between his life, his thoughts, his letters, his work as an Oxford don and professor at Cambridge, and his books. There’s no doubt that GKC had a big impact on Lewis’s thought when he was a philosophy student at Oxford, still an atheist, and struggling with constructing a coherent story of the world. Anyway, I would recommend the Narnian to you.

    How is it that you discovered GKC, if you don’t mind my asking?

    Thanks for sharing your story. I look forward to reading more.

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    • Tim, thanks for the recommendation! The Narnian definitely sounds like something I’d love to read.

      As for how I discovered GKC, I read his fiction first as a teenager, specifically his Father Brown series, and I always thought they were quite deep. I started looking around for other books that he had written, and found a few other fiction books, and then I discovered his non-fiction Orthodoxy and Heretics. When I find an author I appreciate I pretty much always dig around for more things they’ve written – I was lucky that I found so many resources both online and at the library! I think I even found one one of my GKC books from the CBD (Christian Book Distributors) catalog on clearance – one of the only books I’ve gotten there, doesn’t seem to have authors that interest me usually. But definitely my favorite books of his have been Orthodoxy and a book of his poetry I found, which I consider a literary gem! If you like GKC and you’re into long, epic poems, his Ballad of the White Horse is very good!

      Anyway, I appreciate your thoughtful comments as I’ve been slowly adding to my story. I intend to write more, but my family is currently in the middle of a move, so things are a bit hectic!

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      • I completely understand with regard to life getting in the way of blogging. I hope all goes well with your move, and I’m not at all impatient with the pace of your story.

        I got from your post that you discovered GKC through Father Brown as a teenager and then read his non-fiction, and I’m with you on digging around for more by an author when you come across a book that you really like. That’s such a pleasure, and it’s interesting when an author has written, for example, non-fiction as well as fiction.

        When I was asking about how you discovered GKC, what I was getting at was more the question of where did you find your first Father Brown? Sometimes, as kids, we discover a book on our parents’ shelves, at a school library, a public library, we borrow them from a friend, we’re in a book store, and something catches our eye. Now I’m sure a lot of people find a book recommendation by browsing Amazon or the like. When I was seven, on Sunday afternoons prior to the evening service my parents would leave me more or less to my own devices in the fundamentalist church we attended while they were in choir practice. The church had a library of about 3000 volumes (which I think is probably large for that kind of church of that size) and maybe 300 to 400 were Christian children’s or juvenile fiction. I started working my way through that with nothing else to do, and one day came across The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I cried when I came to the end of the book because it was over and there wasn’t any more and there wasn’t anything else like it. I don’t know how it ended up in that library seeing as how it had magic in it, but it had an impact on me almost as great as real-world events that were shaping my life at the time. When I was nine, I found, in a Christian school library, that there was really a whole series of books on Narnia, and, in fact, that a few of my classmates were already familiar with the series and sort of took them for granted. And I read them all and loved them. That was a good year. But finding that first book on my own was like stumbling upon an ancient hidden treasure whose existence was never even contemplated, and in retrospect has caused me to think that the circumstances of how we’re introduced to a book can have a significant impact on the way we receive the book. I think God is the author of all these kinds of events and can speak to us through them even if indirectly and mysteriously.

        Certainly, in your story, the Father Brown books had a big impact on you, and I’m just curious as to whether the circumstances of the way you found them had something to do with that impact. Or maybe not. Anyway, I’m looking forward to more of your story whenever you get around to it.

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      • Tim, you know, I had to dig deep to try to remember where I first came across Chesterton! But I finally remembered – it was from our library – we were allowed to get mysteries from our local library, as many as we wanted in theory (only 10 at a time though, I think, my parents thought we entertained ourselves with too much reading, hehe) – anyway, my older sister and I would troll the shelves looking for anything that looked old (because old meant it likely wouldn’t be inappropriate) – so Chesterton fit the bill! It’s also how I discovered Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, and several other authors that remain favorites! After reading a collection of Father Brown stories from the library, we looked online (this was back when it was brand new!) and found Project Gutenberg, I think, where we would copy whole books worth of text, and paste them into word documents for later reading. We found the rest of the Father Brown mysteries that way – and I didn’t even realize he wrote nonfiction until much later when I went back to look for more books by him!

        But yes, it was the library gave me that first access to him – I’m probably one of the last people who will be able to point to the library as the beginning of a love of books!

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  7. Thanks for that story about the local library and “old” books. Perhaps it was grace that your parents allowed you the freedom to browse the local library, even if they were wary about inappropriate books and about how much time you spent entertaining yourselves through reading. Certainly it was grace that you found those particular books and God was able to speak to you about who he really is through them.

    I’m predicting there will continue to be libraries and people will continue to learn to love books through them. I guess there’s no way to know for sure. But either I or my wife take our kids to the local library every Tuesday. There is a librarian there whom we love dearly who runs a “story-time” program where she introduced a few children’s books on a topic, maybe has a drama or a some music to go along with it, and then a craft project. It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but even my 12 yo still enjoys it. That takes about an hour or so, and then we let the kids just browse for another couple hours. We check out about 60 to 80 books each week. I think my kids will probably say, when they get older, that they learned to love books through the library.

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    • Well, thank you! I think I will. It just so happened to have been a very busy year. My husband and I are buying our first house this summer (yay!) so things are a bit hectic! But I’ll try to get back to blogging after the craziness dies down! 🙂

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