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Archive for the ‘From the Heart’ Category

By Starfury

“I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (KJV)

I grew up in the midst of the “purity culture.” Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” had been out for five years when I first read it. Encouraged by my parents, I latched on to this. It seemed to be the ideal way to achieve “Beautiful Girlhood” and “Godly Womanhood.” I received my first purity ring at 13. That year also saw the release of Leslie Ludy’s “Authentic Beauty.”

I was very eager to follow the strictures set forth by Harris, Ludy, and others—along with my father—when the time for my own courtship came around. After all, if I did this, then I would be sure to have a beautiful relationship and a fairytale marriage.

There was a rough start between February and June of 2006 and it all occurred online. However, in June 2006, official permission was received by “R” from my father. He called me “Miss” and used my last name when he asked me to court me, and sealed my “yes” with a kiss on my hand. We held hands, and I gave him a brief hug at the airport before he left for the other side of the country. Yes. We held hands. We were so very liberal.

As our relationship went on, and I went off to college, however, I realised that someone was trying to dictate my relationship, when they weren’t actively involved in it, and did not know how we interacted, or what went on between  my “beau” and myself.

Disaster struck in the form of an all too helpful family at the church I intended. Concerned for my spiritual growth, they contacted my parents and urged them to end our relationship, because they were concerned we were moving to a “physical” level. I came home in May, and my parents informed us of the one year moratorium they were placing on our relationship.

Nevermind that I was eighteen. Nevermind that they never asked us for our side of the story, or for our input, or tried to discuss things with us like the adults we were. Nevermind that a year earlier when he asked for permission, my mother had told me that they would say yes in part because I wanted them to, because I was almost an adult and should make my own decisions.

Playing the dutiful daughter, I—and he—agreed. I transferred to a different college and moved in with friends. The entire summer and early fall I was very depressed and stressed. I was angry over the forced restriction on my relationship—especially because it was due to false accusations. I missed the man I was in love with (so much for guarding my heart’s emotional purity, though I tried, and felt like a failure when I realised I did care for him).

The one decent thing that occurred was that the priest I spoke with told me that marriage was between the man, the woman, and god. Latching onto that, I took matters into my own hands, and resumed communication with my “beau,” informing my parents of my choice and the reasoning behind it. This ultimately resulted in our wedding in 2008.

My fairytale marriage did not occur, however. Things were awkward and hard. There was anger and yelling and controlling. It was far from the picture perfect marriage I had been promised by Leslie Ludy and Joshua Harris. In early 2010, however, we realised that it could no longer continue. I was miserable, I was hurting, and he had no great happiness, either. I, at least, felt obligated to remain married:

“For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” Malachi 2:16 (KJV)
“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Matthew 19:9 (KJV)

And so I tried my best. I tried to make it work, and the harder I tried, the more strain that was put on. It was a rare day that passed without shed tears or harsh words. I didn’t know what to do. I knew that divorce was a sin. I knew there was only one way out of marriage.

“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:39 (KJV)

I tried to fight the realisation that it couldn’t work anymore, and for my own sanity–let alone other factors–I needed to get out. I remember that morning I told “R” that I wanted a divorce. I remember going into work and crying in the back room. I remember being terrified to call my parents and tell them.

I had failed.

I was a month shy of turning 21, and I had made the decision to get divorced. I was a failure as a daughter, as a wife, and certainly as a woman. I had a stigma, a black mark, my own version of a scarlet letter. I was certain that no one would go out with me again — I was divorced, after all.
Even today, several years later, I find myself doubting. It is hard to accept that anyone could love me, when I am a broken and failed divorcee. Rationally, I know I am not. Rationally, I know I am a strong woman who stood up for myself and did what was right for me, and what I had to do. Rationally, I know that the disdain upon which fundamentalism shows those who get a divorce is wrong.

But, that’s the thing about fundamentalism. It doesn’t speak to the rational mind.

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Two of the most common fears are being alone and failure. There’s a great big world out there, and it can be a scary place, even for those who didn’t grow up in a sheltered environment. Combine the unknown with a lifetime of black and white standards, and it’s no wonder that transitioning out of a fundamentalist worldview can be one of the hardest experiences one faces.

 

It is sometimes difficult for those who have not encountered similar situations to relate. Often, questions are asked as to why someone would stay, why they would put up with it, how they could have lived like that for so long. It can be hard for those who have lived it to explain.

 

It’s not easy.

 

We won’t pretend it is.

 

But, knowing that you’re not alone can help. It’s good to have a support group built up, especially when you’re slowly discovering all the colours (and grey-ness) of the world.

 

This is for you, to tell your story. To share your hopes and your dreams, and to bring all those who are hurting, and those who want to support, together. After all, when Willow told Tara she couldn’t do this, Tara’s response was “We can do this.” We’re strong like Amazons after all… it just sometimes takes some sifting to find that inner strength.

 

 

Let’s move past the black and the white.

 

We’re rooting for you.

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I and my family converted from Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy when I was almost 15. I was certain it was the right move, that God was calling us toward it, and we had finally found the One True Path. I was also secretly excited about having female role-models who I could commune with.  I didn’t know the stress it was going to place on me.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reads, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I liked the familiarity that ritual provided. I liked the candles and the incense. I liked the icons. I liked feeling that all of my senses were involved and stimulated, and the idea that I was worshipping with the whole of myself.

I followed Daily Prayer to some extent. I did Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and when I could, I did Afternoon Prayer. I kept my prayer rope on me to say the Jesus (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) prayer whenever I could.

All the lessons growing up of submitting to authority and a world of black and white had sunk in. I had to be perfect – anything less was a disappointing reflection on me, my father, eventually my husband, and my faith.

And yet, I still struggled with depression. I was trying so hard to do what was expected of me. Everything was supposed to be easier with prayer. I had God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Theotokos and a whole slew of saints I prayed to – what more could I ask for?

The answer was always the same. You’re depressed? Go to Confession. You’re stressed? Go to Confession. You’re hurting? Go to Confession. You’re confused? Go to Confession.

So, I went dutifully. I would go about every other week, and every time the priest would tell me the same thing (whichever priest I confessed to, it did not matter). Pray. Pray more. If you’re stressed, pray. Say the Jesus Prayer. Have faith. Be patient.

You’re moving across the country? Pray! You have no friends, pray! You have no job, pray! You don’t know what to do about school, pray! You think your spouse is controlling – you need to pray and acknowledge his headship.

I prayed.

Oh, how I prayed. I wanted to cry, to scream, to ask why it didn’t make a difference. I wanted to know why nothing changed. I confessed my sins. I prayed, and I fervently meant every word. I didn’t sit back and expect things to be magically better – I worked at being a better person.

Did I not pray enough? Was there some sin I was hiding that I did not confess?

I exhausted myself trying to make things work, and telling myself I just needed to trust in God, to have more faith.  I felt frustrated and confused. I tried going to my priest with problems, and yet, I was told to just pray, and all things would be revealed in God’s time.

I was working two jobs, and failing a full college load. I was scared of my husband, and scared of what that meant. I felt like I was in a spiral dwindling down, but I didn’t know how to break free. And so I prayed. Nothing changed.

I was falling apart, and I didn’t know what else to do to hold myself together. I slowly stopped praying as much as I had been – I didn’t see how it would make a difference. I don’t remember when exactly I stopped altogether; I only know that I did.

I grew up with the belief that prayer would make things better. The realisation that nothing had changed whether I prayed or not – and trust me, I believed it would – was terrifying, and gripped me in a way nothing else could.

As I broke out from the chains of religious fundamentalism and spiritual abuse that bound me, I realised there was a freedom when one took personal responsibility into their own hands. I realised that it was okay to feel hurt and depressed and stressed – it didn’t mean that I was sinning and had to go to confession. I was able to turn to people who could look at the issues and help me see the roots of them, so I could address them. Someone in pain doesn’t need prayer, they need help. Kyrie eleison, indeed.

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On some occasions I find myself typing in the url for Stacy McDonald’s response to Hillary McFarland’s Quivering Daughters. It may not be on of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made, but, nevertheless, it provides food for thought at the very least. I was reading Christy Stouffer’s review of the book today, and one segment in particular jumped out at me:

In one of her diary entries, Hillary says, “I wish I was perfect.” She wishes their bills were paid, that her dad’s back didn’t hurt, and finally, she wishes that she were in heaven. These are the writings from her journal at age 12. But, I couldn’t help thinking, isn’t this life? I could not fathom how daily trials could be considered abuse.

Back pain, bills needing to be paid… yes, these can be considered “daily trials” as Christy puts it. Yes, they are a part of life. That said, Hillary was 12. She was still a child. This is one of the hypocrisies of the fundamentalist movement. Children are mature enough to be faced with certain “daily trials,” but they are not mature enough to make their own decisions.

According to Quivering Daughters, although the intentions of patriarchal parents are noble, and although they do the best they can, in the end, they damage their children (specifically their daughters) and send them into a dark pit of depression, hopelessness, and despair that leads to suicidal tendencies.

Why is it okay for a 12 year old to worry about whether her parents can pay the bills, but not okay for an 18 year old to decide if she wants to go out with someone before finding out if Daddy says yes? Why is it okay for a 12 year old to feel stressed to the point where she wishes she was in heaven (let’s face it – wishing you were in heaven was the fundamentalist equivalent of being suicidal… only it was painted in a “pretty” light to make it more acceptable), but if she wanted to go outside the home to work (in most cases, admittedly not all), she couldn’t, because it’s not her highest calling?

Our family has homeschooled for over 15 years. Throughout the years, we have known many homeschooling families and are still in contact with them. We see strong families who thrive. The oppressive environment that Hillary paints in Quivering Daughters is foreign to the families I know.

I come from one of those “strong families who thrive.” I was one of those girls who talked the talk and “walked the walk.” I argued vociferously on subjects such as women wearing headcoverings and the practice of courtship as opposed to dating (as if I had ever dated and knew from personal experience!). As far as those around me knew, I wanted to write my own curriculum and raise and homeschool my children.

 

Fundamentalism is all about appearances. Whatever happens behind closed doors stays there… as long as the face you present to the world looks good, you can pretend it is good, and there are no problems. We’re all masters of the mask; we’re all terrified of seeming weak. Besides, it’s okay to wish you were in heaven.

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We are the same people, wiser than before

 

Growing up, children relate to their same sex. They are drawn to what they know, because they seek comfort in the familiar, even when the curiosity and mystery of the unknown pulls them. Whether intentional or not, boys and girls often choose role models of their own kind, be it the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, or Henry V and Jeanne d’Arc, or Arthur and Guinevere.

 

Spending my childhood in a fundamentalist Protestant Christian home, however, I was faced with a God that was solely masculine. It was hard to grasp the concept that there were things that boys could do, that girls could not. My mother tried to smooth the rough edges for me, encouraging me to be what I wanted… insofar as the ultimate goal was wife, mother, and homemaker.

 

I wondered as to why men were special… why women were best suited to be supportive. I looked at figures such as Elizabeth I, and wondered why she was such a renowned queen, or even Deborah, in the book of Judges. The only reply I received was that women were used when the men failed, to shame them, because there was no other choice. My secret dreams of being strong like Princess Leia never revealed themselves as more than fantasy stories. Still… I wondered.

 

When I was about 14, my entire family converted from Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy. At last, I was given female role models whom I could go to, pray to, and who I thought might understand me more as a woman, than a masculine God and his Son would. In the Theotokos I found a mother figure, one whom I believed to not judge, but rather accept, listen, and let me pour my soul out to… and so I did. When I picked a patron saint, I picked one out of a miscommunication, and to whom I had no real ties. I wanted St. Katherine, the Great-Martyr… a woman who died at 18, but out-debated many older, and male, philosophers. I wanted to be like her.

 

Truth be told, I spent more time in prayer to the Virgin Mary than I did to God or Jesus. I would spend time crying to her, asking for guidance, and pouring my heart out. Whenever I looked upon her icons, I firmly believed she was smiling at me. It did me good.

 

Still, there was something unsettling in my mind. There were still clear lines defining what a woman could do, as opposed to a man. I felt guilty going into church, for wanting things that I shouldn’t want, for not being content to stay at home, to be a loving wife. I felt guilty for wanting something more. I wanted to go out and be me, to make the world more beautiful, to not constantly worry over whether I was sinning.

 

I began questioning. Instead of praying, I found myself fleeing to what parks I could find in the sunny metropolis of Los Angeles. I spent time at the beach, just listening to the waves lapping at the shore, the breeze rustling past, and the call of the gulls. I found respite taking long walks through the rolling bumps that passed for hills at a park, watching the long grass bend in the wind. I questioned why I believed what I believed. For the first time, the girl who’s gift was faith, started to find herself without it.

 

I slowly left my religion, and for many months, I tried to free myself completely from its, and any other religion’s, grasp. I felt as though I had jumped off a cliff, and didn’t know what lay below, or even how far up I was. Somewhere, however, I began re-reading the myths that I had loved so much growing up. I remembered the Celtic fairy-tales, the Nordic myths, and wondered what was really driving Morgana le Fay.

 

From thence, I slowly began reading books on paganism, Wicca, earth-based religions, the Wheel of the Year, and magic…

 

The moon, the stars, the forests, the mountains… the music and the dance… they are my temple, they are where I feel at peace more than anywhere else. Fleeing to the world of nature was something I did when highly emotional from a very young age… now… it is second nature.

 

Learning the tales and beliefs of those who recognize the Divine Feminine in the world just as much as the Divine Masculine provides me with a sense of feeling at home. I am proud to be a woman… I am equal to men… there is a speck of the divine in me… and I found a world rich with symbolism that I could relate to and find meaning in… not a religion that forced me to fit into a box, nor a religion that I made up as I went along, but rather a spirituality that was a reflection of who I really am.

 

I sing to the Goddess within my heart

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(apologies for the audio quality, I intend to fix that in subsequent videos)

(I also realize this pretty much gives up my anonymity, but I’d appreciate respect for my privacy in that you would not go blabbing who I am out and about… my parents are still on the down low for now)

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A brief bit on where I am *now,* whilst I sort my life out and start posting again. 🙂

This may come across to some as… blunt, ignorant, unwilling to listen to others’ opinions, intolerant, or what not. It isn’t meant that way. If something makes you happy, by all means, go worship or not as you see fit. 🙂 These are my personal beliefs, and what I am okay or not okay with ME doing. The beautiful thing about the world is that there’s room for all of us… and as long as we are all doing what is best for ourselves… then it’s all good.

I guess I should first of all state that I in no way, shape, or form, believe in a “personal god.” When it comes to mythos like Zeus and Hera or Thor and Freya or Isis and Ra, I think they’re all crap.

Likewise, I don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God. For one, there’s no real “proof” to it… and yeah, people claim miracles, etc., but you can find the same thing other places. And for a supposedly loving god, the Christian god has no problem wiping out all these people, including women and children. And what is the point of making these people, if only to condemn them to an eternity in hell, etc.?

I believe in balance, as I’ve said. But I don’t believe in a personal god who is up there controlling your future, or some such. For one, how could we even know, for another, why should they even care about us? We’re not that important. Also, if they truly are all-powerful, etc., any attempt on ours to “classify” them is putting them into a human box and confining them within.

Now, this is not to say I am not into… for lack of a better term, mysticism, but I believe this is all psychological. I have no problem lighting incense, lighting candles, listening to certain music, meditating, etc., but I don’t believe the incense or the candles or whatever have any sort of magical properties. It’s all about associations made with/in your mind.

For that matter, I don’t believe prayer to be anything more than a crutch. If you don’t know, or don’t have an answer, or are faced with something difficult and/or problematic, it’s easy to go pray about it, and thus it isn’t in your hands, so psychologically, you don’t have to worry about it as much… you’ll let the god of your choice do so. Whilst this could be good, I think it is dangerous because there is not enough focus on taking initiative and responsibility in one’s life.

So, this is why I ask about the meanings of god and goddess, of lord and lady, for there are so many possibilities, including a way for the human mind to categorize some sort of psychological benefit or attempt at understanding in a way that their mind can grasp… in the box that we can wrap our head around. It’s just like the fact that it is not possible for us to really grasp the concept of infinity… there’s always some finite edge to it, somewhere.

 

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