It was a warm spring day in 1995, when I sat in a Worldwide Church of God worship service for the last time. My husband and children had gone out of town for the weekend, so I had driven from my home alone, 45 miles, to attend Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and sat by my parents during the two hour service. As I listened to the sermon, one like I had heard many times over the past 37 years of my life, I had an overwhelming sensation of needing to flee.
The room I was in was large, well-lit and filled with many people. Among these people were not only my parents, but also my two brothers, their wives and children, and many life-long friends and acquaintances.
Not wanting to upset my parents, or cause a scene, I waited for the final amen before standing to leave. I gave my dad a quick kiss on the cheek and hugged my mom goodbye. As I walked toward the door, my body felt as heavy as lead, and time slowed to a standstill. I remember stopping once, turning around to look back. Here was the world I had always known, family and friends I was so very close to. I looked at their faces, faces and lives that were so very dear to me. I could hear familiar voices and laughter of a people who had touched my life in so many ways. How could I leave them?
As I stood watching and listening, the bright room seemed to grow dim and fuzzy, the din of happy voices became muddled. Again, this overwhelming urge to leave came over me, and I turned, and literally ran through the doors and out to my car.
It was several minutes later when I looked down at my speedometer and realized I was going well over the speed limit, and could not recall the distance I had covered. I also realized my heart was beating 90-to-nothing, no match for all the thoughts flying through my head. I found myself driving around on the unfamiliar streets of downtown. I headed west toward the river and forced myself to pull off on Riverside Drive and found a place to park along the water front. I sat on the banks of the river, demanding myself to calm down. What are you doing? I kept asking myself. What happens now?
I felt as if a tornado had hit my world, leaving it in pieces, and even tearing out its very foundation. Now, seven years later, I realize that that is exactly what happened. My world, as I knew it, was destroyed forever.
Overall, I have recovered well. But some days, like today, I feel a sadness so deeply inside me. And when I search my soul to find out where it’s coming from, well, it goes back to WCG. And on these days I have learned to just let myself be sad. After all, I’ve earned the right to be sad. Seven years of freedom from a cult has taught me that the sadness doesn’t stay around all the time. There are days, yes even days on end, that I am truly happy and at peace. But I wonder, will I ever be done with this mourning? Maybe not. Maybe we’ve been hurt so deeply that being well means grieving and purging as needed.
By Lacy – Child survivor of WCG