I am frustrated. I am hurt. I am mad. Today I have poop on my shoe.
You know how you can step in dog poop, and scrape it off, maybe rinse off your shoe, go about your day, and then randomly later that afternoon, you realize you still smell dog poop?
That’s how being raised IFB / Old Paths is for me (and many others). That’s how being abused (in any way – physically, emotionally, sexually or spiritually) is for many people, even years after the abuse ends. It’s not unique to those raised in cults, but my personal abuse came from being raised in a cult.
I’ll be having a good day, then something – a phrase, an asshole’s tweet, a song – will trigger a memory or a feeling and I’m plunged back into that utter helplessness you feel growing up as a girl, a clever girl, in an “Old Paths” church. Then all day, the smell of poop follows me around. Only it’s not really poop, it’s anxiety and second guessing and self hatred, because that’s what Old Paths “churches” teach their children.
It continues to boggle my mind how people lost in this cult can say they’re doing the “right” thing, be so sure in their own holiness, and turn a blind eye to those their cult has hurt. They seem to continually double down on their self sanctification through works and judgement, and claim that those who are victims of their schemes of self sanctification have brought pain on themselves through “sin”. Those who are “In” at the church are never wrong, even if everyone knows they treat their wife like crap or have a serious porn addiction. If you want proof of how utterly lost these people are, just see how they follow, quote and demean those on social media who would call them out on their lies and abuse. I’ve been called demonic, a Jezebel, a horrible mother, a neglectful mother (because I don’t beat my child AND because she fell off playground equipment and was fine), a liar, a busybody, and the list goes on. I’m sure they’ll add to it soon. Because that’s what they do when someones hurt, they call them names. They show their true colors in their pettiness and name calling, these same ones which profess to be the experts on all things Holy and “Separate”. No, they’re just a different flavor of the same pride and arrogance that befalls most of Western Culture. At least some of us admit we’re a hot mess.
The “sin” for which others are shunned and doomed and degraded is usually disagreement or questioning. It’s quite rare that an Old Paths preacher preaches against actual, biblical sinning. At least, not with any coherency or educated context. They preach that women can’t wear pants, but they themselves don’t keep the commandments within the same chapter. To justify this, they make up some term through their own understanding (upon which Old Paths preachers lean heavily) and twist verses out of context from crappy translations to justify it.
You cannot keep up with these laws. You aren’t supposed to, by the way. They were designed to show us how desperately we need God, not laws, to save us. The Old Testament Laws point to Christ. The entire Old Testament points to Christ and how desperately humanity needs Him. That was the point. The New Testament church is absolutely supposed to be separate – not in clothing, religious boasting or loud prayer, but in their attitude, humility, and how they care for others.
I realized, sitting in church this Sunday, that the church I was raised in would not have flourished during Hurricane Irma. The pastor I was raised with would not have spent his entire week with a chainsaw helping out not only fellow church members, but other neighbors who weren’t related to the church at all. He wouldn’t have canceled services – indeed, many times as a child we drove through dangerous snow to get to church, to show how much we “loved Jesus”.
This kind of Christianity – the get sweaty, get your hands dirty, share your AC with people you barely know kind – is the kind of separate the church is commanded to be. It’s difficult, it’s beautiful, it’s overwhelming and it’s true humility and service, which is different than self hatred and legalism. This kind of “freedom” from legalism demands so much more of a person than I ever expected.
It’s painful sometimes, like the ripping off of a band-aid. THIS is what “church” is supposed to look like. THIS is what was missing. Why didn’t anyone love me enough as a child to take me out of a cult and find THIS? I am so broken and spiritually exhausted, how can I ever contribute to this anyway?
Sometimes I can snap myself out of a funk. Sometimes I can honestly just meditate on how much Christ loves us, how much God loved us to send Christ, that I remember deep in my soul that we are *not* supposed to live in fear. I can play with my child and soak in the gratitude of her life and innocence, and remember that God Almighty loves us this way. Some days, 5,000 repeated plays of “Shake it off” & “Dandelions” can’t help with this feeling, and there’s no way out but through.
It is on these days that I have to accept that I am a spiritual being living in a tainted, abused, scarred and imperfect meat suit, and sometimes the signals my meat suit is sending my soul are just wrong, and I have to survive their war for another day. It’s a fight to be healed, it’s a fight to be healthy, and it’s *okay* to just accept that some days the signals your brain is sending your soul are wrong and you just have to hunker down and survive.
Whatever the poop on your shoe may be today, random internet person reading this, I am hoping and praying that you are overwhelmed with God’s love for you.
P.S. In case you are unfamiliar with the “Dandelions” to which I refer –