How I Survived Homeschooling in Gothard’s Cult: Part Four
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Norbert Posselt.
HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Alexa Meyer’s blog Life of Grace and Peace. It was originally published on June 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.
In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Conclusion
After the trip to Russia I was excited to finally go home. My first sister was soon to be born, and Thanksgiving was almost upon us. Once home I thought my HQ days were behind me. I told my parents and a few ATI parents we knew about some of my experiences (good and bad). When asked by these parents if I thought it a good idea for their daughters to go to HQ, I emphatically said NO. Between the silly rules and legalism, which have nothing to do with a relationship with Jesus, and the strange, uncomfortable manner of Bill, I thought it unsafe and not worth it. I again expressed my wonder at people following a man who had never left home, married or had children. As a parent now, I can see where my comments would seem arrogant and offensive, so it’s probably no wonder no one really listened to me. At the time I truly, genuinely wanted to know what all these parents saw in the program – I didn’t get it. My parents didn’t have much to say to all this, at least in front of me. I’ve often wondered what they said to these parents when I wasn’t around, since I saw no action or talk against Bill or the organization. I do know that the children (mostly around my age) of these parents started to treat me a little bit coldly after this.
Life seemed to move forward and settle back into what was normal for me – the almost daily “family time”, soul searching/self-analysis, guarding my heart and mind as well as my body from my dad.
In December of 1991 two important events happened for me. The first was meeting my future husband, Chris, who was in medical school and occasionally helping in the youth group at the time. When I first saw him across the church parking lot, my spirit leapt inside of me, literally stopping me in my tracks. My mind thought it strange but let it go for a while. The second event was my sister being born – what an adjustment for us all! But wonderful all the same. She was the first of six more living siblings over the next ten or so years. I think having a large family is wonderful when the parents are doing so because they just want and love to have a passel of kids. I think it sad and unnecessarily stressful on the parents when they do so because they think that God requires it of them. Any rule or law is now unnecessary because Jesus fulfilled the law and brought Grace and Peace to all men.
Fast forward to early March of 1992. I had spent a small amount of time with Chris when the youth group got together (and I was allowed to go), but he never paid any special attention to me or anyone else. He basically helped out when we had events and he could get off from his studies. I liked what I knew and saw of him but knew to keep it to myself. Evidently I was giving off signals since the youth pastor’s wife called me one day to tell me that Chris was engaged to marry someone, that she didn’t want me to get hurt. I thanked her for her warning, but I determined that I would ask him myself. So I called him to ask if it was true. (I had his number because I had recently injured my wrist working with my dad, and asked his help with it.) He said it was true, but that he was having doubts about it. We talked some more of it and other things, then we hung up. As soon as the phone hit the cradle, I heard an audible voice tell me that I was going to marry him. I looked around and saw that no one else was in the room – my mom and sister were taking a nap. “Well,” I said to God, “You’ll have to work it out, and I’ll have to be patient.” Later I told my mom, who took the news calmly. Then I did a stupid thing and told my dad. I guess I was too excited to keep quiet about it. My dad flipped out and forbade me to ever see, talk or have anything to do with Chris. He talked about Chris being untrustworthy, like a snake in the grass, stealing me away. I thought he was way over-reacting and treating me like I had been caught doing a bad thing, like sneaking out to see him and whatever else his imagination came up with. I had only ever seen Chris at church functions or with my family.
I later realized that my dad thinks everyone else thinks and reacts like he does. I understood early in life that doing things or being different from my parents was bad, almost akin to evil. Which was why I usually kept quiet and told my parents what they wanted to hear.
At sixteen and a half my facade/charade was beginning to crack – I was speaking out more often.
I was tired of being oppressed and treated like a sinful slave.
Unbeknownst to me, my dad quickly contacted Gothard about me. Next thing I know we’re heading up to HQ for a job interview. We were there for a couple of days, and I don’t remember much of it, only the last few hours before we left for home. Bill, my parents and I were all in his office. Bill looked at me very gravely and began to quietly berate me for breaking my vow to my parents in regards to courtship. I felt sick and confused, plus very betrayed by my parents. Bill proceeded to say untruths about a man he’d never met – Chris was wrong to have met with me in private (which never happened), to encourage a young girl to disobey her parents (which also never happened), he was a danger to me, etc. In conclusion, I was commanded to renounce Chris, renew my vow to courtship and commit myself to following my dad’s authority. My parents watched all this in approval – they never said a word – as I was made to prostrate myself by getting on my knees at the Couch and repeating all that blasphemy. I was left hurt, shaken, shattered, betrayed in my trust, love, respect, anything towards my father, and I could only wonder at the lies they had spread about Chris and me. My last shred of attachment to my dad broke that morning in Gothard’s office. And my dad wondered why I wouldn’t talk or look at him the rest of that long 12 hour day. But I was the dutiful daughter that they seemed to want.
At home my parents asked me what I thought about moving to HQ, so I told them one last time, “No, it didn’t seem right.”
I never understood why they ever bothered to ask me anything since they never heard a word I said.
They certainly never took the time to get to know me as myself and after I was married claimed that Chris had changed me. They have always failed to understand that Chris gave me the love and freedom to be myself.
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I decided to wiki this Bill Gothard character. Ironically, when you type “Bill Gothard” on an iPhone it will correct it to “Bill got hard.” Well I guess that is his name.
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I understand what you said about your parents thinking your spouse has changed you. My husband was the first person to encourage me to find out who I really was, too. My parents can’t accept that – they want me to be the person they tried to make me into.