Friday, June 3, 2011

thriving outside of a religious noose PART #5

To read "Thriving Outside Of A Religious Noose"
in order, you will want to start at my
March 13, 2011 post and scroll up. 
Okay, you’ve recognized it.
You got out.
Now what?

They were raised in a normal America. They had children and then, in reaction to the symptoms of societal misdeeds, they were drawn to an organization (Institute in Basic Life Principles) that held a checklist of answers to life’s every question. (clothing, hair style, vocabulary, music, activities, pets, education, culture, friendships, dating, marriage, raising children, finances, etc.) “If you do A, B, and C, the results will be success. If you fail to do A, B, and C, the results will be heartache and chaos.” And so these seeking individuals joined the exotic inner-sanctum of this IBLP which is now called the Advanced Training Institute, subjecting their young children to the ideals and “standards” of the organization.
These children did not grow up in a normal America. They grew up in the homeschool/ATI culture chosen by their parents. Many of these children reached an age where they finally were able to get out.
So when these children finally leave, (get married, get shunned [see my post on PART#2 from May 10th] get counsel, or just walk out due to overwhelming oppression or finally seeing the truth) they are leaving their first culture. Remember: Normal America is their secondary culture. Therefore, recovery is going to be a process!

In the beginning, I think it’s pretty normal to feel guilty. You’re opposing the only thing you know. On one hand, you're sure that getting out is the right thing to do. But on the other hand, you feel like a rebellious child. In my latest post, I referred to Tangled’s depiction of this type of confusion.
Rapunzel’s dialogue after her first taste of freedom was as follows:
“I can't believe I did this.”
“I can't believe I did this.”
"I CAN’T believe I DID this!”
“Mother would be SO furious.”
“That's OK though, I mean what she doesn't know won't kill her.”
“Oh my gosh. This would kill her.”
"I am a horrible daughter. I'm going back.”
“I am never going back!”
“I am a despicable human being.”
“Woo-hoo! Best. Day. Ever!”
Not only are you afraid of being wrong, but you’re afraid of hurting the ones you love who are still involved in the system: leaders, friends, parents, pastors, relatives, God,… Yes, I included God. Because, although God has not been properly represented in this religious sect, all you know is to connect Him to it. If we have swallowed false teachings about God. And if we’ve been fed a misrepresentation of his character, (especially throughout childhood and the teen years) then a lifelong task lays before us to get to know the real Him. A genuine, simple, sweet relationship can be developed with the true, loving Heavenly Father. At first, however, it is natural to think you might be running from Him as well as from the cult. What a terrible, terrible feeling. The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” comes to mind. Damned if you do. And damned if you don’t.
The next phase many of us reach (perhaps not in this order?) is the questioning phase. It can get pretty confusing as to what exactly needs questioning. You question the “standards” of the organization. But maybe you also question the existence of God or the truth of the Bible. Unfortunately, I’ve seen former cult members stop and plant their feet here. They’ve turned to a lifestyle opposite to their upbringing merely because it’s the opposite. The thing we need to remember is that the families who bought into the cult did so just to be different from normal society, while hoping for promised success.
For more information on the pendulum swing, refer to the beginning of my article dated March 31st.
I’ve seen ex-cult members become atheists, claiming that there is no God. Or, some become agnostic. Because “If there is a God, then why would He be so cruel?” To them, IBLP meant God. To them, the beatings they received to comply to the family standard was received as coming directly from Him. So, really… who needs God? Who wants to voluntarily invite that kind of heartache and pain into their lives?
The physical stress that goes along with pre and post-recovery varies in form. I know of grown-ups who still carry literal, physical scars left by the whippings handed out under the approval of the IBLP organization. Other stress-signals have come in the form of frequent sickness, anxiety, nightmares, emotional problems, attachment disorders, marital problems, sexual confusion, divorce, suicide, hostility, anger, nausea, clenched teeth, or other signs of stress. The longer or deeper the person or his family has been in the group, the more painful these symptoms can be.
The final stages of successful recovery from a cult (such as ATI and others) comes with the realization that you are precious to your Heavenly Father. It comes with taking hold of the true meaning of grace in your life and making it personal. The key is learning to lay yourself out there naked to Jesus,
knowing that you don’t measure up. And you never will. But it’s still understanding that, to Him, you are to die for. You’re priceless. It’s integrating your old personality -the one who was trained to please, and to hide imperfections, and to fit a mold- into your new personality –the one who sees your Creator for all He is. The one who “gets” that grace makes everything okay. The one who is learning, day by day, to keep centered in Jesus. The one who rests in Jesus, learning to live fulfilled, growing, thriving, and loving others to Him along the way. This is recovery.

NOTE: A friend of mine commented on my article from March 31st, "Okay. I see what grace isn't. I see that we learned an incorrect definition of grace. But what IS it?" So in the next few weeks, I'll be posting on the Biblical meaning of grace and my understanding of living a “centered” life.
For a glimpse on keeping centered, refer to my post on June 29, 2010.

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