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Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Journey Out of Bondage by Lisa Zielinski

*The Truth doesn't change. If it has to change then it wasn't true to begin with. If it wasn't true to begin with then it didn't come from God. If it didn't come from God then where did it come from?*

Contributed by Christian Sparlock Freedom
I found this to be an ever present question I have been asking myself for many years. The more I pushed it out of my head, the more apparent it became that to suppress questions which remain unanswered was not the answer a wise person would seek, so I began to research outside my comfort zone for the answers.

From my first memories I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses by my mother. It all began with that simple knock on the door from a pleasant, middle-aged woman who wanted to teach the Bible to my mother. She was sincere and sweet and began coming weekly to read with my mother, telling her she had the Truth that would change our lives.

My Mom felt her prayers had been answered. She had struggled through life before this change. At eighteen, she married a man that had been taken in and raised by her family at fifteen years old.  He struggled with drugs and alcohol. My mother was smoking at the time and I remember her telling me that was the hardest part of what she would have to sacrifice to be accepted and become a Jehovah’s Witness. Despite the struggles, she knew this was a positive change and embraced it as such. It was then that she took the first action in transforming hers and her family’s life.

My father, though not opposing the things my mother was learning, continued to be fulfilled in his life without his family. My mother’s distraction made this easier for him to do. Many good years continued as my mother learned more and began to make the changes she needed to make, in order to be accepted as a Jehovah’s Witness. This meant no holidays or birthday celebrations, informing family members of such changes, no smoking, no blood transfusions, limiting communication with outside friends, peers and associations to a minimal amount.  My older brother and I were only allowed to be associated with friends who were also Jehovah’s Witnesses.  We were made to feel guilt and shame for wanting outside association with those from school or the neighborhood and were slowly instilled with a fear of this behavior.

From this point, I began to be confused and angry.  My confusion and frustration began to build a wedge between my mother and I. She started to see me differently for wanting things of this nature. She started to see me, her daughter, as one of those haughty ones she was learning about in her studies and viewed me as if I were full of worldly desires.  This is where my story begins…

I remember the first time I really disappointed my mother. I was in Kindergarten.  It was Christmas time and my class was getting ready to exchange gifts.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness, I was not allowed to participate. I did not mind standing out from others if it was something that I understood.  Unfortunately, nothing really made sense to me as my mother explained why I could not participate in harmless acts of giving in my classroom. One little girl came up to me and gave me a little Teddy bear ornament. It was so cute. I was so grateful and happy.

I put it in my backpack and decided I knew what I was going to do with it. I was full of excitement thinking about the gift I would give to my mother, when I got home. Growing up we did not have much. I was told my Dad used all of our money on alcohol and partying, so I knew my Mom would be overjoyed at this gift I was able to bring home to her.

My happiness was quickly ripped away from me once that little girl learned that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and did not bring a gift for her or anyone else to exchange in return. She took the Teddy bear back. I was so mad and disappointed, hurt and confused. My anger won and I decided I was going to steal that Teddy bear ornament and I was going to give it to my mother! When she wasn't looking, I took it and I did just that.

Later that night, my Mom received a call from my teacher. She said “Mrs. Mother of Lisa," would you by any chance know of an ornament that Lisa came home with today?” My mother happily (and soon-to-be-embarrassed) answered, “Yes, she gave it to me when she got home from school…”

This is an incident that my Mother used as an example throughout my childhood to explain the type of daughter I was sneaky...a liar. She would tell me I wanted any attention, good or bad.  By the age of seven, I already had a reputation, which I could not escape without further humiliation.

My next offense was in 1st grade.  My older brother and I never really had many toys or gifts given to us while growing up. I attribute a lot of great childhood memories to growing up with so little, so do not misinterpret my saying so as feeling sorry for myself.  I just want to impress upon you how grateful I was when we were given things.

When I was about eight years old, my Grandmother gave me a stuffed bear.  I cherished it!  It was the 1980′s, so to have this bear was a delight, and to learn that it also sung songs was very special!  My first grade class had show-and-tell, which was an almost daily series, where a few in class would stand and show off an item they had that was meaningful to them.

I was excited to finally have something to show!  The catch?  This bear sang “Jingle Bells.”  Although my mother would allow me to sing this song in the privacy of our home, she did not want me to show this bear off at my school. She explained that it would be assumed I supported Christmas festivities.

If you haven’t guessed already, I took the bear to show-and-tell at school the next day.  My mother took the batteries out of the bear, so that I could not play the song, but I was able to sneak some in anyway, and I finally had a good show-and-tell for the day.

My Mother was faced yet again with a call from my teacher. This time, though, my teacher wanted to tell my mother how pleasant I was at school that day and how the classroom thoroughly enjoyed my Christmas singing bear during show-and-tell!

My mother’s face went pale.  As she got off of the phone, her disappointment in me was apparent.  She told me that my teacher had mocked her by telling her about the day in the way that she did.  Making her first proud of me, only to prove to her once again that her daughter had some serious issues.  She began to tell me that she wanted to get help for me, but my Father did not want to spend the money.  Now that I am older, I am not sure if she was telling me this as punishment or because she truly thought a child who would act as I did was seriously mentally ill, or simply to make me feel small.

As you can imagine, as I fast forward through my teen years and the reputation I built with my family followed the same suit, as a few bad choices in my life would conveniently (for them) define me, and the roller coaster ride of emotions continued with my family.

I was eighteen years old, when I faded away from the Jehovah's Witnesses, by gradually cutting back on meeting attendance and the field ministry.  My mother stopped talking with me for a while....for moving out with no other reason than to pursue a life independent from my family and their beliefs and life, things I saw as positive growths.  

Slowly I was able to honestly and VERY strategically build a relationship back with my family.  I learned how to say things without lying or hurting their feelings too badly.  I also learned to apologize often for the person I was.  

It was not until I found out I was pregnant in 2011 that it became important to me to find out the facts and stand up for the life I was going to give my child.  IF I was not able to explain it, I wasn't going to be able to keep my child from it.  Panic mode kicked in high gear.

Sadly, I became sick in my seventh month of pregnancy and my daughter was born prematurely.  My mother and my uncle (both Jehovah's Witnesses) were with me in the hospital.  My daughter developed an infection while in the hospital and she was not doing well.  The doctor told me they tried everything they could other than a blood transfusion.  I told him to do anything and everything they could to save her.

A priest came in and asked to pray for us and I quickly said, "NO."  My Mother and I later said it felt like a grim reaper floated in and asked us to pray with him.  Our reaction stemmed from having been taught that any other religion is Satanic.  We were both terrified by this and it was something that stuck with me for a long time.  My daughter lost her life and my life was forever changed.

The guilt I felt was so overwhelming that all I could say was I was sorry.  I remember repeating over and over to everyone who tried to talk to me.  I had normal grieving guilt, but also the guilt that I had doomed my daughter and I by giving her blood, because we were taught it was a very grave sin to allow a blood transfusion.  

After I had time to heal and time to really reflect, I was very bothered by the guilt I was allowing to consume me.  Why was I feeling so awful about myself?  I could not get the terror I felt about the priest out of my head at the same time.  It was something that triggered me to start being honest with myself that the way I was thinking was not healthy.  Something was not right.
Contributed by Noel Parsons

It became apparent to my family that I no longer shared the same values and views as they did. They decided to stop communication with me by sending me months worth of emails with out any real communication during the peak of my grief.  I grew angry and bitter.  Little by little, I would get an email from yet another family member who no longer wanted a relationship with me. 

My world crashed in on me and my health was deteriorating.  I drowned myself in everything that I could about the Jehovah's Witnesses.  I wanted to know everything.  Why did my otherwise loving family think God was telling them to treat me so awful, a doctrine I never agreed with and never accepted as loving?  The more I fact-checked the clearer it was that I was suffering from cognitive dissonance.  Once I accepted that and really reflected on it, I was able to start trusting myself because I know the truth.  This is what set me free.  I found so much truth that went against so much that I was raised to believe which made me very uncomfortable, but at the same time helped me see myself for who I really was.  That I am worth so much more than I had ever believed. I was starting to feel whole as the real truth surrounded me for the first time. It was both eye-opening and traumatic. I tried opening up to my family. Each time, they shut me down without any opportunity for conversation, because those who leave this cult are to be shunned.  This only made things clearer to me.

Now, two years after the loss of my daughter and over a year since speaking to my Jehovah's Witness family, I can finally say I have LET GO of the guilt that surrounded me and now experience a profound peace of mind that I have accurate knowledge of this *CULT.*  

I am rebuilding a new family starting with my loving husband and my little brother will be moving in with me once he turns age eighteen years.  He has his own story to tell!  I have mourned many people in the past two years, some still living and some not.  I am not sure what the future holds and I am still suffering from the sadness over all that happened, but I am also very happy to say I am AWAKE!  I am Healthy.  I am Happy!  I am Free!
Contributed by Christian Sparlock Freedom