I had related the first part of my story in Part One. Thanks for all the responses and sorry for the wait for part two! Part two obviously won't make as much sense if part one hasn't been read.
Here is my continuing story:
For quite some time I had been in the habit of immediately turning to the inside cover of each Awake! magazine to see if it continued to reference ‘the Creator’s promise of a new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.’ I had a premonition that something would be changing though of course I hoped I was wrong. That single teaching had had a profound effect upon the choices I had been making for a long time. I often would share it in the ministry – both formal and informal – as a way to encourage the listener to take action.
Let’s face it: it was pretty exciting! I had even begun to date some letters using a time-of-the-end date system. For instance, October 1, 1993 would be time-of-the-end date 79.000. The countdown was on to eternal life in happiness without ever having to die. I could make do with my present circumstances knowing what was soon to come.
Was I serving Jehovah with a date in mind as the Watchtower loves to accuse some of doing? Perhaps, but where did that date come from? Why, it came through God’s exclusive channel to mankind itself! It was proof the time left is reduced (1 Corinthians 7:29). I really did have appreciation for what I felt was Jesus’ role in salvation and for what God had made. I did honestly want to serve Him but given the brevity of time remaining, I was running a sprint rather than planning for a full life of service.
So, after removing that November 1995 Watchtower from its subscription wrapper, I began perusing it as I did all new magazines when they arrive. I noticed the titles of the study articles referring once again to the importance of staying alert to our times. I thought at first that this would be further reinforcement of the generation of 1914 teaching. Instead, it soon became apparent to me that the Watchtower was slyly using such language to try to ameliorate the effect of changing the teaching in that article. They tried to make it seem as if this was no big deal – just carry on, nothing to see here, keep on cleaning and pioneering and living in your parents’ basement.
The feeling of the rug being swept out from under my feet was so palpable that I felt dizzy. I was stunned and kept rereading it. When the full force of what I read finally hit me, I distinctly remember taking the magazine and hurling it across the room. My parents happened to be away at the time so I couldn’t immediately confront them. It felt like my whole reality was changing right before my eyes.
It wasn’t long before I started talking to my close friends about it. When my parents got home from their trip I unleashed my anger at the organization to them. What could they say? My mother just acknowledged that she had to repeatedly read it herself but that her faith was unwavering and she parroted all the justification that the religion always gives for such drastic changes in doctrine.
I skipped a few meetings, something I had never intentionally done in my life. But then I began to think and reason. What were my immediate choices? I had a part-time job making collection calls which certainly wouldn’t come close to being enough income to support myself. I didn’t know anyone well who wasn’t part of the religion so finding a roommate wouldn’t be very easy. My parents were willing to overlook my initial outburst but I knew they would be very resistant to the idea of an inactive person living in their house.
Then there was the fact that I had already invested so much into this. The thought of not being part of something that gave me all the answers and provided such a wonderful hope was too much to bear at the time. Maybe the Watchtower was right. Maybe nothing had really changed. Maybe. Maybe not. I prayed, I had a “shepherding” call from the elders, I studied. I would carry on as best I could. For a while it seemed to work. I tried to be reasonably zealous again but it really wouldn’t last. It was like trying to patch something that is beyond repair and the temporary fixes were destined to fail.
I soon turned 24 and a welcome development occurred with regards to my secular work. A Witness elder who was close to my family worked for a large company and had some say in who it hired. An accounting team was being formed and I knew some Witnesses who were getting positions. My parents encouraged me to call him and inquire and that’s what I did. He liked that I had had over three years of office experience at that point and said that if I completed an accounting course at a local college, he would see what he could do for me. It was probably as close as he could get to guaranteeing me a position. I had to show him that I had the initiative to take this course and do well but the reward of a fulltime position at a large company was more than enough to motivate me. I was very sick of making collection calls and probably could not have continued much longer doing that anyway.
I took the course and got an A. I felt so fulfilled to be investing my time in something other than the religion and something that would have a definitely positive effect on my present-day future – not some future life that the Bible itself says no one knows when its arrival will be. My heart was still somewhat in the religion and I certainly had to carry out the motions of it because this was an elder who was helping me get this job.
I had always wanted to grow my hair long. Even as a small boy I thought this would be the coolest thing ever. Of course, I could not have picked a worse culture than Watchtowerland to have this desire. Around this time I began to grow my bangs and the hair on top of my head longer while keeping the back shorter. This allowed me to slick it back for congregational activities thus concealing its length but still enjoy longish hair at other times by letting it fall naturally. I have to say that I was part of a “cool” congregation in that I was never spoken to about it. I know such an act of semi-rebellion would never have been tolerated in other congregations. It just felt good to be discovering myself more – the real me – not a sanitized Watchtower version. I began to explore my interest in various genres of music that were prohibited. I even bought a Black Sabbath album at the time. I thought demons were sure to be coming right out of my car stereo! Much of the music buying was of a binge and purge variety. I would buy albums of bands I love, “repent” and throw them away, only to buy them again later!
Shortly after finishing this accounting course, I took a two week trip across the country with a friend. This was my second of such trips and it impacted me even more than the first one. It broadened my scope of what life was like in the “world” as we visited places like San Francisco and saw a very untheocratic slice of the population. After getting back from that trip, I quit my job doing the collection work even though I didn’t know a start date for my promised accounting job. It turned out that there would be a six week gap.
By this time my hair in front reached my lips but I cut it shortly before my first day at the new job. I missed it but wanted to focus completely on getting acclimated to this new opportunity. This totally felt like a real job. It was fulltime and in a much more professional office environment than I was used to. The learning curve was very steep as I had very limited computer skills at that point and the accounting skills I had learned in school were only marginally applicable to my new work. At times I felt overwhelmed but I soldiered on and gradually started to feel more at home.
One of the Watchtower’s favorite ways of guilting its adherents is to ask them if they can justify before Jehovah why they are not pioneering. Well, no, I couldn’t. I was still living at home but now working fulltime and only doing the ministry perhaps one day per week. I felt the guilt but I didn’t care nearly as much as I would have in the past. Not only was I feeling more productive in life but I also felt more hopeful because with now having a decent job I had the prospect of being able to get married and actually have a real life. It wouldn’t be long before such an opportunity presented itself…