That’s why I hide here in the dark
So no one has to see my pain…
But can You bring the keys to my heart
And help me find the way? – TFK, In My Room
My growing independence unsettled my parents.
The fear crept in subtly.
I buried myself in 15 credits fall 2011. Several nights of the week, I stayed in the Math Center on campus doing calculus homework with tutors.
But Dad freaked if I didn’t respond to his texts or calls right away, threatening to call campus police to check on me. I explained I got absorbed in study and didn’t check my phone often.
He taped an index card that said “Campus Police: 719-255-3111” to the kitchen microwave.
The landslide started. I was 22 years old.
December 2011: I started seeing a Christian counselor because Mom took my sister.
I told him how controlling my parents were, and he encouraged me to set boundaries. I wrote in my journal that he told me to stop thinking in terms of “shoulds” and “musts” and more in terms of “wants” and “your reasonable heart’s desires,” because the former is living under the law, and the latter is “where freedom is and where Christ wants you to be.”
We met regularly until his retirement in April.
After finals, my parents raided my room, confiscating all Harry Potter books I owned and other fantasy they found objectionable. And two Harry Potter DVDs I’d checked out of the library.
Mom opened my bank statements. Said I spent too much money at Christmas. Opening any mail or packages addressed to me became a requirement for living in their house. I objected. They grounded me from attending a white elephant gift exchange party with my online writers’ group. Dad drove my sister instead.
January 2012: Dad said my hair had to be cut off because women with longer hair are more likely to get raped according to a book Mom read on self defense. I fought him for three weeks, gave in and donated 14 inches to Locks of Love.
My parents took away internet and cellphone access and driving privileges the last two weeks of winter break. I chatted with my friend Anna G. in Dallas on my mom’s iPad in the morning and on the landline with Cynthia B. so I didn’t hurt myself. I felt so trapped.
They threatened to prevent me from driving to campus for classes and work unless I signed a written contract. I didn’t like being manipulated, so I agreed to the chore list and asked them not to pay me.
My curfew was 7:30 p.m.
February 2012: I discovered my study buddy Racquel and Cynthia B.’s numbers were blocked on my cellphone. My mom said Dad told her to block them on our family plan since they’d encouraged me to move out. So I called them using campus phones.
March 2012: Dad and I fought at midterms because he wouldn’t let me study. I was enrolled in 17 credits (Organic Chemistry 2, Chaucer, Bacteriology, an English senior seminar, and a Merck honors research lab class) and tutoring on campus part-time.
I told him I wanted to move out after finals. He cried and told me he wanted to be a hedge of protection around me as long as possible.
April 2012: I bought tickets to go to New Life Church’s Easter production, the Thorn, for the first time. My dad said he didn’t approve, I went anyway.
May 2012: After finals, we took our last family vacation together to Camden, Maine. Mom and Dad said they had an idea. They would send me to Bob Jones University.
I didn’t want to leave UCCS after three years and attend an unaccredited school. I read the 2012 BJU student handbook and told my parents I wasn’t comfortable with rules like “on and off campus, physical contact between unmarried men and women is not allowed” and “Headphones may be used for educational purposes only and may not be used to listen to music” because it sounded Orwellian.
I didn’t want to leave one box for another.
They allowed me one phone call to Nia, a writing mentor. She said prepare to move out ASAP.
June 2012: Mom and Dad laid hands and prayed over me, saying I had been given to them as a loan when I was born and they were giving me back to God. They said determining God’s will for my life was up to me now.
I went with my writer’s group buddies to a 10:30 pm showing of Snow White and the Huntsman. I texted my parents before going. I came home, everyone was asleep. I woke up and the car keys were gone for a week as punishment.
July 4, 2012: I visited the Bob Jones campus with my family. I wasn’t allowed my laptop or cellphone so friends couldn’t sway me. I still didn’t want to transfer, even though Dad said I didn’t have to be a dentist if I went.
July 22, 2012: Met with my parents and my pastor after church. My pastor asked if I was being physically or sexually abused. I said no, my dad was just controlling and I wanted freedom to follow God on my own. He said the only way to honor my parents was to transfer to BJU.
July 23, 2012: I told an English professor and my chemistry research professor, Dr. Owens, what was happening. They listened to me, helped me sort my thoughts. Told me independence was part of growing up, that virtue in a closet is not virtue. Said to listen to my heart.
I told my parents to give me another week to decide. The next day, I got an email from BJU saying my registration fee had been paid. I called my mother and asked her to explain. She said they figured I’d go.
My parents tracked my location using the GPS on T-Mobile’s Family Anywhere feature. They checked multiple times a day and knew from the satellite map of the building if I was working in the research lab or standing in my professor’s office. So I was scolded for driving to a mentor’s house for advice.
July 27, 2012: I walked to investigate apartments near campus since my parents took the car. My mom told me they’d emptied my savings account of nearly $10,000. The funding I was using to leave. Money I earned working for Dad and money they gave me as my college savings.
July 29, 2012: Another meeting with the pastor. I said God’s will seemed muddled. He said I was letting Satan confuse me. He said BJU was the only Scriptural way to honor my parents. I twisted my hands in my lap, said I couldn’t do it. He said, “Then I’ve got nothing more to say to you,” and walked out.
I sat in the pew sobbing. My mom came in.
I said, “Do you realize I can never come back here for church now?”
July 30, 2012: Dr. Owens picked me up and took me to the bank so I could remove my parents from my checking account, which only had $200. I drove her car from campus to a downtown branch, but the bank couldn’t transfer the money back to my account.
I signed up for my own cellphone plan. And my friend Mary W. and her mom gave me one of their bikes, a helmet, and gloves for transportation.
August 1, 2012: I signed a lease for an apartment with my roommate. Dr. Owens gave me $500 towards the deposit.
Mom and Dad said my possessions must be out of the house by 5 p.m. Around 3 p.m., I texted friends for help. I dragged furniture and boxes out onto the front porch in pouring rain.
Five carloads of friends came, carrying my punk pink-haired friend Kat, Ivy, Adaeze, Elsie, the Peveto twins, and Kristi and John.
Mom took my housekey, but she couldn’t kick me out in front of all my friends. We pulled up at the apartment complex around 7 p.m.
And I was out.
Or so I thought.
8 thoughts on “#WhyILeft Fundamentalism, Part 3”
My gosh, this is a horrifying account. Love manifests itself in strange ways…
I can’t wait to read part 4; I’m interested to know what part of your journey you were at when I met you. You were such an infectiously happy person!
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Oh my freeking goodness!! They make me so mad. I have an 18 year old and I know you only drive them away by acting like that. How obsurd!! Jesus would not even act like that.
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Gosh. This story resonates more and more.
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You are beautiful and wonderful, and I love you, friend. I am here to support you as you need. Thank you for being open.
Anticipating the next installment(s), as you move out of the darkness and into the light.