Dear Fellow Cycle Breaker,
I want to let you in on a miracle. It’s not a story I tell very often––pretty much only in my memoir. Heads up, friends, this story starts out sad.
It takes place fourteen years ago in the living room of a hundred-year-old house in the Cumberland Mountains. The floors and windows were scrubbed bare, and if I’m honest, my soul was too. I stood staring at the rain completely ashamed. I felt like I was evaporating.
I felt ashamed for being. For breathing. For taking up space in this room. I knew I was failing at the one thing I wanted to do more than anything in the world: raise a happy family.
In my hands, I held the large manila envelope holding my ex-communication papers. On the desk, lay a letter from my only friend at church, admonishing me to obey the elders or she’d have no choice but to support my shunning.
In town, I had homeschooling co-op friends who had no idea (or merely sneaking suspicions) that something wrong was going on at my house. Online, I had secret friends who I listened to and hung on their every word…sometimes arguing, sometimes challenging, sometimes longing with envy. I couldn’t let them know what my life was like behind these closed doors.
Upstairs, were four children napping. I’d served them beans and rice for lunch and we didn’t have any other food except the 3 eggs a day my hens provided. He’d taken the last of the grocery money to put gas in his car so he could go to work that day. The hours he was gone were the only hours of peace we knew. It was winter and I was out of firewood. And it was cold and rainy for weeks on end.
I stood evaporating, crying, weighing my non-existent options. I was exactly how I felt I was: utterly and completely alone.
WAIT. THAT’S NOT TRUE.
I wasn’t alone. It turns out there were (and are) thousands (more?) of women struggling exactly the way I was.
They too believed the preachers and mentors who taught the formula and rules for a happy and blessed life.
They too gave up the second income and tried to live within the means their husbands provided (or didn’t, as often is the case.)
They too read the books by Doug Phillips, Doug Wilson, Michael Pearl, John Piper, John McArthur, RC Sproul, Sproul JR, Falwell, Dobson….an exhausting list.
They too believed the struggle was evidence of their failure.
They too still tithed a tenth of their meager income, giving to the church instead of to their own children.
They too still clung to the hope for timely hand-me-downs, donated groceries, and anonymous offerings sent in the mail.
Maybe we weren’t all staring at Tennesee rain on a bleak winter’s afternoon, but we were all feeling the pain of a horrible lie: YOU ARE WORTHLESS AND ALONE.
I’m so happy to call bullshit on their lying liar lies.
Christian Fundamentalism isolates women and children so that “alone and dependent” is how they see themselves. It means we don’t try to leave. It means we stay in line.
There came a point in my story when I couldn’t bear hell on earth anymore. I couldn’t take another day of watching my children’s needs go under-met or unmet. If alone is what I was, then alone is how I’d leave. It took me a while to figure things out but ten months later I took my kids and escaped.
Fast forward to today. I’ve spent 11 years in trauma therapy. Met husband 2.0 and raised my children in financial stability. Developed my writing career. And last month, I started making videos of content I’d been writing about for years. Traffic soared.
I started asking questions in response to the comments that poured in. I asked what came up for my fellow survivors about:
Gaslighting and high-control teachings
The success of fundie TV shows like 19 Kids and Counting and Bringing Up Bates
Rules over our hair and clothing
Loss of extended family
Sexual abuse and harmful purity culture
Reclaiming oneself after leaving abuse
Financial abuse and control
The answers to these are all saved in my IG Highlights. Here’s the miracle, friends. If you ever felt utterly alone and ashamed for drawing breath and taking up space…these messages provide firm evidence that you are NOT ALONE. Controlling people tried to make you feel that way because it gave them more power and control when you depended on them.
Patriarchal abuse strengthens when you choose against yourself. When you trust suffering is holy. When you require them for the bread you eat, the clothes you wear, and the only happiness you have access to. They needed you to decrease so they can increase.
And when you didn’t think you could take a single minute more of love that hurts….YOU LEFT.
We all did.
When we share the truth of our experience, the gift we give one another is presence.
We’ve been there and we’re changing, growing, healing. We’re breaking the cycles of abuse, even when it’s hard.
It’s true I felt destitute that day in the rain. It’s true I’m ready to tell my story and hold space for others to tell theirs. And it’s a colossal lie that I was or ever will be, alone.
You’re showing me that we’re in this life, together.
Want to know more about what’s really going on in Christian Fundamentalist homes? Grab my free PDF, the FUNDIE CHEATSHEET.