The Formula Ruled Above All

by Erika

If you remember from one of my earlier installments, right before we started our first year of homeschooling, I had spent the summer in Uganda on a missions trip with Teen Missions International. It was an amazing summer and everything had seemed normal in my family before I left. I was promised that things wouldn’t change much even though we’d be homeschooling. Of course, reading back through my story, you know that things DID change. I enjoyed that summer away so much. I had amazing experiences and the travel bug had officially hit. More than the travel bug, though, I enjoyed the satisfaction of helping others and telling people about my relationship with God. Hearing the stories of missionaries that went through the churches of my childhood came alive when I was finally able to have stories of my own to tell from the mission field. As soon as I got home from that trip with TMI, I was ready to sign up for another one. I truly had the heart of missions within me. I was excited to go to another country and help more people the next summer.

When the summer trip catalog arrived in the mail, I poured over it and marked off the different teams that I was interested in until I narrowed it down to the one I really wanted to go on. Nicaragua. It was a new team for TMI. They had never been there with a team before and one of the girls that was on the Uganda team with me was planning to go there. We got along really well while on our trip together and I thought it would be fun that we could be on the same team.

I knew that things were changing in our family. We had left the church that had helped to support my trip to Uganda. We were now going to a church that didn’t believe in youth groups or Sunday school or that children and teens shouldn’t be going off in groups to socialize without parents present because “fools love the company of fools.” Peer grouping and age segregation was not allowed as it was fertile ground for the devil to sow his seeds of evil. After all, that’s what all the big names in patriarchy said. That’s “what the bible said.” There was a part of me that was worried my parents would said no to the proposition of going on another trip with TMI. But there was that other part of me that thought perhaps they would say yes because they were so excited about my first trip which I had only come home from just 4 months earlier. They said they believed in missions so why would they deny me the opportunity to minister and for further growth in Christ.

I went to them with my summer trip catalog and approached them with the idea. I was immediately shot down. The reasons I was given were:

  • It’s not right for young people to go off alone without their parents’ presence.
  • Peer groups and age segregation are bad.
  • Remember that “fools love the company of fools?”
  • They don’t hold to the same standards that we do.
  • Short term missions are a waste of time and money because indigenous missions is what’s biblical. Send that money to people that are already ministering to their own kind.
  • Missions trips for teenagers just breeds independence in girls and that’s wrong.
  • Those kids are just looking for a summer vacation and can’t possibly all be interested in God and sharing His love with other people.

To make it worse, they used the case that one of the families at the new church we had started going to had a daughter that went on a TMI missions trip and she had left in the middle of the night to run off with a guy who was married and also the head of the youth group at a church they used to go to. SCANDAL! See? This could happen to you, too. It didn’t matter that there were three other young people at the church that had also gone with TMI with their former churches but were still living at home and doing what their parents wanted. Rather than looking at the three young people that were living “godly” lives, the one negative story was brought to the forefront as the golden standard of what happens when you go off on missions trips as a young person with 25 other young people. “A fool in the company of fools.”

I was heartbroken. I was trying to wrap my head around how my parents could be so supportive of my trip that ended just 4 months earlier, but now, everything about the concept, the organization, the ministry, the people, etc. was all wrong. It was all bad. Here was my family, supposedly getting serious about God. Removing us from public school. Going to a “godly” church with “godly” families and “godly” young people. Trying to be a shining light for Jesus, but the concept of going out and sharing my light and my love for Jesus in the context of a TMI missions trip was horrible and WRONG.I remember crying about this in front of my parents and not understanding and being told that not allowing me to go was the right and godly thing to do.

I cried myself to sleep that night. I remember that being a turning point for my heart at that moment. Having that rejection to go on another missions trip and the reaction and reasons my parents gave me killed a big part of my zeal for my faith that day. It squelched the fire that I had within my heart for missions. I didn’t tell my parents the effect their decision had on me because I knew it would only cause hours and hours of bible reading and lectures from them. It was better for me to stuff and cram the hurt down than to voice it out loud because it would be worse for me if I told how I really felt. Nothing I thought or said was going to change their decision. In fact, if I told them how they had killed that desire in my heart, it would only fuel their belief that they had made the right choice and that the way I felt was a direct result of the peer grouping, the age segregation and the “company of fools” that I had been in during the summer on the missions trip to Uganda. It was years until I got that fire back. And it wasn’t the last time that TMI became an issue of contention. Years later, it would be back to haunt me.

Looking back, I think this rejection, more than any other time in my life, is what made me really see that this lifestyle of living more “godly,” with the rules and regulations and extremes, was a systematic formula. It had more to do with checking off the boxes on a list given to them by a man and making sure they did things according to the formula than to reach out for the sake of reaching out, as well as not thinking how the formula wasn’t working for their family and how it was affecting their kids. There was so much devotion to the formula. I’m sure they fully believed that they were devoted to God through all of this, but that’s exactly how the formula works. It’s wrapped up in a shiny package with God all over it yet underneath, it’s devotion to the formula. Not to God. Not to family. The formula ruled above all.

I remember reading somewhere just recently about how parents in the P/QF lifestyle preach so much to their kids about guarding their hearts and giving their hearts to their father so that they can protect it. The father is supposed to hold onto their hearts to keep them from being broken. This way, they can present a whole and pure heart to their spouse when they get married. What happens instead, though, is that long before a potential spouse is introduced or a crush happens, the parents are the ones that have broken their child’s heart for the first time with all their rules, their legalism, with the forumla. This resonated so much with me.

This is exactly how I felt and it’s exactly what happened to me. The first time my heart was broken, it wasn’t because of a boy. It was at the hands of my parents. The same people that were following all the rules of the formula to keep my heart from being broken….they were the ones that broke my heart as a result of the formula.

Discuss this post on the NLQ Forum.

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NLQ recommended reading:

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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