I was 8 when I began going to the Kingdom Hall. I truly loved God, and I did everything to please Him. I didn't do it because my Mom made me, I did it because it was what I believed I should do, and I wanted to share my faith with everyone else, to save them. I struggled for Him, I stayed away from "worldly influences", and also frequently Pioneered. I was home-schooled from 7th grade on. I also worked full-time for another JW who was a close friend of our family; his wife babysat my sister, and she tutored me sometimes.
When I was a teenager, I had problems with my Mom, for various reasons. Partly just normal teen issues with parents, partly that she and I were so alike that we fought, partly that she was so strict. She will even tell you now that she went overboard with it. She was afraid to let me talk to anyone, to do anything, to even have a normal semblance of privacy.
When I was 15, she married another Jehovah's Witness (JW), and he was a jerk. We had lived in a small town up to this point, and then we moved to a big town (comparably). For the first time, I had friends. Lots of them. They, of course, were all JWs. I turned 16 somewhere in here and things were getting unbearable at home.
Mom's husband (we'll call him J) was very controlling of everything, and Mom submitted to his demands, as the "submissive wife" that the JWs value so much. I had a job for 3 years prior to this move, and I wanted a job when we moved, so I could save for a car. He said I could only work with him at his job, because otherwise I would be in danger of worldly association. I was eventually able to talk them into letting me have a "real" job. I got a full-time job where I had a company car (because I had to run errands between offices). It was very high paying for my age, and the type of work. I loved it! Of course, I still spent lots of time doing the "witnessing work", and did everything that was expected of a good JW.
About this time, I went to a JW youth party, and met a great guy. He was a ministerial servant (a position of responsibility within the congregation, though not an elder), and I knew he was the kind of guy that I would want, and that Mom would approve of. Except for one thing. Even though I was approaching 17 years old, I was not allowed to date. But, I really liked him. So, I decided that if I was "adult and responsible" about the situation, that I might have a chance. I sat Mom and J down, and explained how great he was, and pointed out things like that he was a ministerial servant, and so were all his friends, etc. I told them I knew they thought I was too young to date, and that if they would let me, I would follow all the rules. That I would only see him in social situations, going out in groups, etc. I wouldn't even ask to go on an actual date. To my surprise, they both said ok, and asked to meet him. I was elated!
So, he and his friend drove down (they lived about 90 minutes away) to meet my mom and her husband (J). As soon as they sat down, Mom and J tore into him, about how awful he was for wanting to date someone so young, and how the Watchtower Society disapproved of it. I was heartbroken. They told me not to see him again and not to talk to him. Well, that was just too much for me.
Our family lived in a place where I didn't have a bedroom, so they ran a curtain across the dining room to make my "room". You see, we lived in a two bedroom apartment, and there were three of us kids and I was the lucky one because I got my "own" room and my younger sister and brother had to share. There are more details I could put in here, but in the interest of saving time, I won't. Needless to say, I began to talk to my ministerial servant friend in secret without my parents' knowledge. We wrote letters to each other and eventually a friend of mine went to a movie with me where he met us there. We *gasp* held hands. He didn't even try to kiss me. The next day, I came home and I thought I was alone. So, I called a friend and told her about the night before, and then my brother came out from behind the couch and I was caught.
I called Mom & J, and told them about the night before. I had to do this since they were either going to hear it from me or my brother and I thought it would be better if they heard it from me. My parents came home and I told them. J went through my room! He pulled every drawer out, pawed through my underwear, pulled the sheets off the bed. He looked everywhere possible to find any evidence of my wrongdoing. He found letters from my beau, and later brought them to me to show me how the Devil had misled me. He had highlighted things in the letters to show this – color coded them, even. Yellow was bad, orange was worse and pink was evil. He took me before the elders of the congregation, so that they could publicly reprove me for lying. I could see this killing my Mom. She didn't feel right about what he was doing, but because the JW belief is that she should follow in whatever decisions he made, she let it go on.
I was grounded for 3 months, and this meant that the only things I was allowed to do were go to work - although there was talk that J was going to make me quit my job - and go to meetings. I was not allowed to visit any friends, I could not use the phone, and I could not even go in service (door-to-door) without one of them being there with me. This meant that my Wednesday and Friday evening door-to-door service had to stop, my walks in the park had to stop, and I could not even take my siblings to the movies with me.
I had everything that was not religious or clothing taken from my room. No books were allowed in my room. I was not allowed to even do the crossword puzzles in the paper. And the worst thing J found in those letters was something to the effect of how much I could not wait to get out from under Mom's thumb, and that we would have to wait until I was 18 to officially date. Now that I think of it, I may have said something to the effect of waiting till I was 18 to officially date and if they didn't like it then they could go to hell. (That was really bad for me– I never ever said words like that!)
The elders did not publicly reprove me, but they said that if I was found lying about anything else, no matter how minor, that they would. And they completely endorsed everything that J said. I found out later, Mom went to them herself and was told to do whatever J said, also.
I talked to my friend's parents about my situation, and they agreed that I needed a way out. They recommended that I talk to the local juvenile probation officer about my options. I had two other JW families that were willing to allow me to live with them, so that I could remain in a situation that would encourage my faith.
I talked the probation officer, and she recommended that I go ahead and leave. To do it over a weekend, leaving a note to tell them I was safe, and then talk to Mom on the phone at the end of the weekend, and to make sure she knew where I was. If she did nothing, I was home free. If she told the cops I was a runaway, I was to allow the cops to pick me up, and the following business day contact her, and the court would appoint me a lawyer and that would start the process for me to become an Emancipated Minor. Well, that is what happened. This went to court 2 weeks or so after my 17th birthday.
By this time, we had moved back to the small town, so that I would not be "corrupted" any more. Then Mom left J, because he tried to hit her, and he was not supporting the family financially by choice; she ended up getting a divorce. But it was too late for her and me. And she knew it, so she signed the papers. That day in court, I had about 20 people, my friends, and my friends' parents, there to support me.
In the months preceding this, however, I had become depressed. I always fought with depression. But this was different. I was suicidal, but too scared to go through with it. When we moved, I was allowed to get a job at a grocery store, mostly because they knew they had to - the judge would frown on them not letting me.
The JWs accuse all other religions of brainwashing. And it's funny now that I think of it, because that's exactly what they did. When I left, I felt guilty for a long time, and I *knew* that if I ever were to go back to religion, it would be JWs, since I believed that they were the only ones that could possibly be right. Although somewhere inside me, I knew they could not be. So, over the next couple of years I decided to be agnostic. I did once try to get my then-husband to study with the JWs, when we first got married. But it just didn't feel right, and so we quit. And I will say, I originally left because of corruption of men.
In the 10 years that have passed since then, I have avoided religion completely. The one good thing the JWs gave me was peace knowing that this world was all there would be for me. Hell is nothingness to them. So, I buried it all, and lived my life as I wanted.
Recently, I began dating an absolutely amazing man, who happens to be Catholic. Now, he accepts me completely as I am. He has never pushed me, but he has said some things that really touched me. He is the first man who has ever shown me true love with no strings.
I was talking to him once about finally being able to forgive my sister for something she had done 9 months earlier, and he said to me that I had "more God" in me than most Christians that he knew. And even though I wasn't interested in God in the least at that moment, that comment has become an inspiration to me from that moment on. He recognized good things inside of me, when no one else did, and opened the pathway for me to recognize them, also. He showed me what love really meant. And the love that he has shown me has spread to other areas of my life.
When Pope John Paul II became ill (March 2005), I started asking him questions. It began as just casual questions. And then, by mid April ,those casual questions turned into so much more. I began to come home every night and all I did was look at biblical information, mostly Catholic. I think this change in me came because he showed me that the Church is about love. And I've been raised to believe that of all churches, the Catholic Church was the worst, and the least loving. I had now begun to see things differently.
Prior to this, I had sworn off religion completely. And here I was, looking into it! At first I told myself that it was just out of curiosity - after all, I needed to understand what my future husband believes in. Then I decided that this could heal the healing from all that I had experienced as a JW. And let me say, this learning about the Catholic Church truly has been liberating in that aspect. But, there was a feeling inside of me that this search was becoming more than just informational, and that terrified me. However, I just could not stop searching for more.
I began to notice that Divine Guidance may have been directing my search. It's really difficult for me to say that, because of my past. But, I noticed things that were falling into place too conveniently for it to be otherwise. For example, I wrote my boyfriend an email one evening and I talked about how I was not sure I could ever pray. The next day, when I got online to continue my quest, for some reason, I opened the website for the local Diocese, and there was a new Bishop's Message. I had already been all the way through this site, and there were so many other websites that I knew had information I wanted to read, so I'm not sure why I went there. But, I opened this link and I read that message. The Bishop's message was about prayer and the way he said spoke about prayer really touched me, it sparked a light inside of me. I am stubborn, and even though I knew at the time that it was what I needed to hear,I swore I could not let that happen yet.
One night, I found a site called Catholic Answers. And on the forums there, I read a thread about JWs. And once again, this happened right at a moment where I was struggling with the subject. That thread linked me to www.catholicxjw.com, where I read stories of other JWs who left, and I found a few similar sites after that. I cried over several of these stories, I could feel what the author felt. And it was so healing. I let go of so many things that tied me to the JWs, even when I tried so hard to cut the strings. I knew they were wrong, I knew their teachings were wrong, I knew what they did hurt me and my family to the core. But still, they held invisible strings on my heart. Some of my thinking still needs to be changed, because it's hard to know what ideas were real, and which ideas were not real, since I had honestly studied the bible before, and thought I knew its meaning.
I have done a lot of writing about all of this. I love to write, and so I have been writing about what I'm feeling, and then also writing daily about what I've learned, and what questions I had. I also discussed almost all of it with my boyfriend. But, I realized that I had so totally and completely avoided saying that I had faith in God, and avoided even thinking about prayer. But, it was there. And I decided to sit down without distraction and give honest thought to those two ideas. When I was done, I admitted to myself that I did have faith in God, and that I was going to have to let Him help me with my past, and guide my search into His ways. The only way to do that was by praying to Him. And so I did.
I think I've found God's Church-the Catholic Church, but I know that I have not found all of God's Truths yet. And that need to know just will not be silenced. I am here because I have found the meaning of what the bible says, but the path that brought me here was corruption. Strange, huh? I never thought I would have allowed religion back into my life after these events. But, I am so glad that I have. I have found peace within myself, by allowing the Lord in. I have been able to forgive people, including the ones mentioned above, for wrongs they have done, although I still recognize that they are hurting others, and I wish I could make that stop. Another great thing is that I am now beginning to teach my children (boys, 5 & 7) about God and who Jesus was. I asked them, towards the beginning of this search into religion, if they knew who Jesus was, or who made the world. They looked at me like I was crazy, and that made me very sad. But, now they will be able to know, and that is something to be very happy about.
From Corruption to Catholicism-The Conversion of Saintless