This is the story of my last bout as a witness. Nothing extraordinary. Probably not interesting to most, but it amounts to the biggest change to my life I've ever made. It's been on my mind lately, so it seems logical to share it. Even if no one reads it it's still theraputic to write.
I had been a borderline but consistent witness for most of my adult life. When I divorced, I was really lost for a while and couldn't face the stress so stopped attending meetings for a long while. Then I fell in love with Keith, a "worldly" man, and knew I couldn't go back at that time. When we decided to get married, I figured I would go back to the meetings after the wedding and "face the music".
Funny that I never even considered going back before the wedding, when I would have had to blatantly disregard their advice not to unevenly yoke myself to an unbeliever.
So about a month after the wedding, my son and I walked into our new kingdom hall. I had two goals for being there. First, to find an elder to judge my status as a witness (and I did this voluntarily, no less). Second, to find a sister to study with me. My second goal was reached the moment I stepped inside. Sister Exuberant bounded over to me and within 2 minutes we had plans for our first study.
As I sat listening to the meeting, I was very aware of conflicting emotions. On one hand, I felt doom and dread at what I knew I was walking into. The stress, the meetings, knocking on people's doors, giving talks. But just as a young child longs to return to his abusive parents, I also felt at home. The words were so familiar, sound of Bible pages being turned, the feel of the chairs, even the air I was breathing seemed to reassure me that I was where I was supposed to be.
Then after the meeting I sought out a kind-looking elder and asked him for a few moments. He got another elder, and then we were sitting on opposite ends of a huge table in the back room. I told him my situation, the divorce, my new husband, wanting to come back for my son's sake. They decided that under my particular circumstances, they didn't think a judicial meeting was needed, and welcome back.
I was surprised, but took it and ran with it.
What relief! All my family are in the organization, and I thought I might lose them all that night. Thank you, Jehovah! I'll try to become a good witness for your name, I prayed as I drove home that night. Although I think if my situation was run across two different elders, I might be in trouble. I knew that was always a possibility for the future.
Feeling cleansed, I started my study and faithfully attended meetings. It was so hard doing it on my own. Keith wasn't opposed to me going the meetings; it was understood before our wedding I would go back. But we were newlyweds, and I hated leaving him alone.
We discussed the blood policy quite a bit, as we planned on having children. It was a very sensitive subject, and we both were sure we were right. The blood issue is what got me thinking.
Now Keith is a pretty smart cookie, and I always value his opinion. I had done my best witnessing to Keith, showed him all the scriptures, explained Jehovah's will to him, but for some unknown reason, it didn't make sense to him. He looked into the religion a lot on the internet, which I told him were all lies.
He seemed to have an argument for every one of my arguments. I couldn't understand how someone could have the "truth" right there in front of them and not get it. But he, an intelligent, level-headed guy, was as sure it wasn't truth as I was that it was truth.
How could that be? Was there something wrong with him? I didn't think so. Was there something wrong with the "truth"?
Whoa . . . what did I just ask myself? Did I actually just question the "truth"? I quickly put that thought out of my head, and avoided any questionable television the rest of the day as my penance.
But the thought kept bugging me, and our discussions over the blood issue weren't getting resolved, so . . . I decided I needed to be sure. If I was to risk losing my extended family over possible future judicial action for marrying out of the truth, if I was going to risk my children's lives over the blood policy, if I was going to put stress on my marriage by my involvement at the kingdom hall, then I had darn well better be sure I was right.
Okay, where to start? I needed something concrete. Let's start at the obvious and work backwards. How do I know I should I submit to the Society's requirements? Because they have Jehovah's backing. How do I know they have Jehovah's backing? Because Jesus appointed them as the f&ds in 1919. How do we know that? Because Jesus began to reign in 1914 and then choose his earthly channel in 1919. How do I know Jesus came in 1914? . . . . . . . that one was a litle harder. None of the "signs" were concrete enough. Let's stick with numbers.
Math is constant. We know Jesus became king in 1914 because of the "times" calculations based on Jerusalem's destruction in 607 BCE. How do we know it was destroyed in 607?
Aha! There's something concrete. That should be easy enough. I decided to research 607 and the calculations that ended in 1914.
Keep in mind that all this is happening within weeks of getting married and that first meeting.
So began my quest. Hmmm, this source discounts the 607 date. What do they know? Let's move on. Well, this one must be wrong too. Next I ended up accidentally on an "apostate" website about the 607 date. I read every horrible, gut-wrenching word, then checked it against the secular proof.
After a week I was very discouraged. I had started the research to convince myself that the hardships I was putting my family through, and what I had been brought up to believe, were really what Jehovah wanted. I had to be right! I just had to! The alterternative was unthinkable.
After another week I had to put it all away. It was too overwhelming. I'll pick it up in a few weeks and then it surely will confirm that I'm right about the "truth".
In the meantime, my study in the Knowlege book was becoming a dreary chore. I was a grown woman, a part of the organization for 30 years, conducted studies of my own, auxillary pioneered, and here I was being asked the most elementary questions and being tested on my answers.
In addition, what I had researched was eating at me. I couldn't stay in limbo; I had to finish what I started. So I hit the books again. This time, in addition to 607, I widened out my search. I became obsessed. I spent months tracking down this book or that article, writing for fact confirmation, reading, reading, reading.
I wasn't finding what I was looking for. I was finding the opposite. Those months were just horrible. Many times I would be up all night, tears streaming down my face, as my reality crumbled. I once flung a book across the room because it was confirming my worst fears.
How could this be happening? You're telling me the sky's not really blue and the grass isn't really green.
My husband knew what I was doing, but I was not yet letting him in on what I was finding. I had to be sure. It took about six months of intensive (for me) reading and studying before I had to admit, I had been wrong. And it was a very hard admission.
Jerusalem wasn't destroyed in 607. 144,000 is not a literal number. Blood transfusions aren't evil. The Society doesn't speak in Jehovah's name.
I voided my No Blood card. I started missing meetings. I let Keith give me a birthday gift, after properly researching the issue of birthdays, of course.
I was still having my study with R. The sister who couldn't speak a sentence without the word "Jehovah" in it. But it was pure torture by now. I was submitting myself to this every week and making comments I didn't believe anymore. It had been about six months.
How was I ever going to get out of it? If I hadn't started that study I could have just faded. But what good excuse can you have for just stopping a bible study? None! I continued for a while longer because I dreaded the implications of quitting.
After about a year, I had come to the undeniable conclusion that the religion I grew up in was just another religion, and for me it was doing more harm than good. It took about a year because I felt it was an important decision that I had to be absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt sure about.
Finally, I was ready to break free. Keith was estatically happy. NOW, we could finally be a normal family.
I knew disfellowshipment was always possible, but I decided to try to fade away. We were moving to a nearby city, so it was finally a good time.
I really dreaded telling R I won't be studying anymore. I'm not a confrontational person. And I knew she would feel so sorry for me that Satan had me in his clutches. She would see my everlasting life slipping away before her very eyes.
When time for my next study, I bit my lip and went out to her car, without my study book so I couldn't chicken out. Knowing I'd never be going to the kingdom hall again, I knew this was cutting the last string. I told her I wanted to talk to her. I explained, just as I've written here, why I began my search. I told her how thorough I was, so there could be no doubt. I kept the conversation to the 607 date, as I certainly didn't want to discuss all the other "apostate" material I'd run across.
Having no intention of arguing, or going into details, I simply said I've discovered that 607 didn't mean what I had thought, and so neither did 1914 or 1919, ruining any claim of authority of the WB&TS. I thanked her for the time she's spent with me, but I need to stop our study to do some thinking and more research.
She asked some questions about what I had found, offering typical JW reasons for the discrepancies. Trying to steer the conversation away from a debate wasn't working, though she was never anything but polite. The conversation showed me she knew nothing of the 607/1914 issue, except that it is correct.
R said she can't explain why secular history doesn't agree with the Bible, but she just KNOWS it's the truth. It doesn't matter what anyone shows her, she KNOWS it's Jehovah's organization in her heart, and will follow them forever. I told her I would never try to persuade her otherwise, but just thought she deserved a reason why I was ending our study.
She wished me well, I got out of the car, and that, as they say, was that. I never went back to the kingdom hall again.
As I walked away from that car, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. With every step, I felt freer.