All beautiful the march of days, as seasons come and go; The Hand that shaped the rose hath wrought the crystal of the snow
by Shelly Cruz
There was so much to read about this man; I didn’t even know where to begin. I stumbled across a message board that had a whole bunch of people who grew up following his teachings. They were adults now. The thing that perplexed me the most, was that these folks were calling him a religious cult leader, and that did not seem right to me.
Cecilia and her family were very strong, mature Christians. They would never get involved with something cultish, would they? The time I spent reading about this man, seemed so déjà vu to me. Everything I was reading from these strangers, was stuff I had heard before, from Cecilia herself, and it all began making sense.
Some of the things I was reading were things that I had no idea about. Things such as: there were 100+ chosen ones that were taught under this man back in the early 70’s. They signed up voluntarily, and some paid a small sum of money and were ministered too. They were given books, and literature to take home and study with their children. This was the first generation of Bill Gothard followers.
A lot of these former followers were very anti-Christian nowadays. Some were even atheists! This did not make any sense to me. Some were confused, and just strayed from religion altogether, yet some, managed to find their way back to the Lord, and were ministering to the ones that left the warped teachings of this man.
I could not spend more then several minutes at a time reading all this. I kept taking breaks, and then would go back and read some more. My heart wept so much while reading the stories. These poor helpless children had been taught that God was harsh and unloving. Who would ever want to worship a God that demanded such harshness? Who would want to remain faithful to a God that was just waiting for his children to mess up, so that he could punish them?
I was still somewhat confused myself, on what a true, God loving Christian ought to look, and act like. To me, Cecilia’s family still fit the mold of Christian perfection. They seemed so righteous, and holy. They were so set in their ways, so uncompromising to the world’s corrupt, “Hollywood standards”. I still managed to admire them.
Night after night I turned to Gods word, praying fervently, asking God to show me the truth. Each night I returned on-line to read more about Bill Gothard, trying to understand how Cecilia’s family operated, and why they did things the way that they did.
I was more confused than ever. Was I seeing legalism in it’s worst form? Or was it just righteous Christianity? There was so much scripture, diagrams, and illustrations to back up everything this man taught. I was no Bible scholar, how would I know what was true and what was false?
For a while, I decided to try to conform to Cecilia’s ways, just to see how it felt. I tried different things, but nothing ever felt right to me. So I stripped away every thing that I ever enjoyed doing. I stopped all my hobbies, fasted, prayed throughout my day, and placed scripture cards throughout our house. I purchased a couple of Bill Gothard’s red books on-line, as well as the three big brown “Character” sketch books, to use for Bible for the kids. I began teaching my oldest girls, everything that I was learning. I showed them all the diagrams, and illustrations in these books. One page even had a layout of how a Christian lady should style her hair. Pictures on how to wear scarves in a modest way. It showed different skirt lengths. How to act in different situations. How to look even!
I was strictly skirts only now. Not just any skirts either, floor length ones, that I sewed myself. I stopped wearing sleeveless shirts, and even short sleeve shirts. I wanted my new name to be “Modesty”. I gave all my pants and shorts to Goodwill. I even began wearing a head covering full time, insisting that my oldest daughters do the same. I told them that we needed to set the example. I packed all my jewelry away, even my favorite pearl earrings. I took my wedding ring off, because I felt that it was too worldly to wear anything gold. My girls were also following suit. They were both becoming mini-mes. We got attention wherever we went. People would stop us at Wal-Mart to ask me what my religion was?
One morning while at our new church, I had a lady come over to me and whisper in my ear, that if I wanted to make any friends at the church, then I best remove the cloth on top of my head, as well as my daughters’ heads. She told me that she looked just like me a couple years ago, and was just recently released from the Religious bondage.
I took a deep breath, and told her, “What a pity, but I am not looking to please anyone but God.”
She was right though. I was the outcast. No one said much to my family during the 6 months that we were there.
Months passed, and nothing seemed to change. I started getting impatient, feeling depressed and emotionally drained. I would share all this with my husband, and he felt helpless, he would tell me. He did not know how to help me. He told me to just be myself. The truth of the matter was though, I did not know who I was anymore. Somehow, I lost my entire identity. Being Religious, is hard work. I was so miserable. I hated who I’d become. I finally earned Cecilia’s friendship. I was just like her now! Wouldn’t she be proud of me!
A couple years of utter torture passed by, and one morning, I woke up from it all. I can not even remember the exact day it happened. I was praying and felt the Lord himself, tell me that it was all going to be all right. That he loved me regardless, and it did not matter how I looked, or whether I was in pants, or a skirt, had make up on, or off. It even did not matter if I had jewelry on, much less, my wedding ring. He loved me just the way I was. He created me in fact!
And it was by me being myself again, that the Lord began to work his power within me. I needed to do nothing at all, just trust the Lord. The Lord would work in my heart at his time, not mine. I did not need to do anything to earn God’s favor. Nothing I could do would make God love me any more then He already did.
Time Heals All Wounds by Shelly Cruz: