When Whisper woke up the morning after praying the Sinner’s Prayer with her parents, she didn’t really think about it much.
Nothing was different. Life at the Rain house went on as usual. Homeschooling every day, changing clothes to go to friends’ houses, and yes, church was still scary. Her parents and brothers and sisters were her favorite people in the world. Second place went to the Orwells, the family who had moved south with them. The Orwells came over a lot, they were Whisper’s family’s best friends! The children were close enough in age that everybody had somebody to play with.
Around this time, two new things started happening. Whisper started noticing Mama Rain getting a lot more serious about certain things. She would get up early so she could spend time reading her bible. She had started listening to tapes of a preacher from up north… a preacher with a funny, almost german-sounding accent that struck Whisper as interesting. She had never heard an accent like that before. That preacher shouted a lot, but his shouting was different. He used King James English a lot too- he said things like, “heritage,” “covenant,” “godly seed” and “as unto the Lord” when he wasn’t even quoting the bible. His messages seemed to have less to do with fire and damnation… which was kind of nice. One day a tape came in the mail from this preacher, and after Mama Rain listened to it, she tied a bandanna on over her hair. Whisper caught something in passing about “submission” and “authority.” She didn’t think about it much though.
The other new thing that started happening was that Mama Rain’s best friend, Mrs. Orwell, started calling a lot more often. Mrs. Orwell always seemed to be upset. She needed someone to talk to, but the things she said were happening seemed unthinkable. Mama Rain wasn’t sure what to do… and the next thing they knew, Mrs. Orwell had left her family. She filed for divorce. Now she didn’t call Mama Rain as often… and when she did Mama Rain didn’t know what to say.
The little southern town started buzzing with gossip about the Orwells. Most of what was said was unkind and hurtful. They stopped coming to church, and Mr. Orwell didn’t really want to be around anyone who reminded him of the past… Whisper’s best friends were suddenly gone. The Orwell children were put into public school. Their lives were upside down, and all of a sudden Whisper had nothing in common with them. It hurt to be pushed away like that. Whisper was a teenager by this time, and it really upset her that she couldn’t be there for these people she cared so much about. The Orwells and the Rains grew apart, but Whisper and her family never stopped thinking about them, and hoping they were okay.
Thankfully, the little Baptist church started having problems and split in half right around then, and in the confusion, the Rain family stopped going & nobody noticed. Soon after that, they moved away from that little town, up into the mountains. Angelica Dietz faithfully wrote letters to Whisper after they moved. The girls had less and less in common, but Angelica still kept writing regularly, and Whisper felt obligated to answer.
Angelica was a model daughter. A contented follower. She loved being gentle and feminine, and taking care of babies, and wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother of many on a farm someday. She was secure in her belief in God, and that he had saved her when she was very young.
Whisper, on the other hand, had never had much use for feminine things. She liked being strong and independent, and enjoyed building things and fixing things with her Dad. She was fascinated with anatomy and biology, and wanted to learn to perform surgeries and heal people someday. Her thoughts about God were sporadic and uncomfortable. She was still afraid of God and hell, but she told herself that the Prayer she had prayed all those years ago was all God wanted. Now she was safe from his wrath… she hoped. So she put it out of her mind as much as possible.
As a teenager, Whisper needed to figure out who she was. She started wearing black a lot. She enjoyed the challenge of doing heavy work outside and lifted weights until there wasn’t an ounce of fat left on her body. She had a couple of friends nearby, but no one who understood why she wanted to go to school to study “blood and guts.” She joked about it, but honestly, she felt like a freak. Angelica wrote her letters about faith and contentment, but Whisper wanted logic and hard evidence. And way down deep inside, she was still terrified of God and dying.
Her parents were getting concerned about her. She started hanging around with a boy who lived in a trailer down the road. He smelled like cigarettes, had long black hair and piercings, and he was one of the only teenagers Whisper knew who seemed like he knew who he was… not because his parents told him, but because he was free to figure it out himself.
He was probably one of the reasons Whisper’s parents started to crack down on her. They had never been “family rule” makers, but now they decided they needed to start, presumably before Whisper’s little brothers and sisters got old enough to follow her example. Whisper was not allowed to go to that boy’s house. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to have a “skirts only” rule. More and more often, tapes of that northern man preaching were on around the house… his name was Denny Kenaston, and his “Godly Home” series was played over and over. Michael Pearl’s books were gotten out and some (but thankfully not all) of his advice was put into practice. Whisper’s Mom may have been getting the magazines for awhile, but Whisper only really started getting worried about them now. “Above Rubies.” “The Heartbeat Of The Remnant.” “No Greater Joy.” And yes, once or twice there was even a “Patriarch” magazine sitting around the house.
The Rod and Staff reading books that Whisper read stories out of for her little brothers and sisters always had a token chapter about a girl who was tempted to be “immodest” and do something shocking like make a cape dress out of fabric with medium sized flowers on it instead of small ones. Those stories had always seemed so far out that they were funny! Until Whisper’s parents sat down with her and had a talk about the importance of dressing more “modestly” and being “feminine.”
Now Whisper was really freaking out. It seemed like she was surrounded by voices telling her that who she wanted to be wasn’t good enough. That God must have gone back on the agreement… he didn’t only want to be “invited into her heart,” now he wanted to tell her how to dress too… and it was the polar opposite of what appealed to her. The tapes from Charity droned on and on about “taking up your cross” and being “a peculiar people” who were “under authority.” It made Whisper feel sick.
After the family sit-down where Whisper was told that it was unacceptable for her to continue to wear jeans, she reached a breaking point. She went outside and cried. She wanted to run away from this new regime that was taking over, but she loved her family! She had never been talked to by her parents that way before… There was no room for discussion. No room for questions. She was expected to go to her room and change her clothes, simply because they said so. Growing up there had always been discussion! Questioning had never been “bad.” Ever since she was little, her parents had been her friends and advisors. They gave advice, but her decisions were hers. She felt scared and angry that suddenly… those friends were getting further and further away… replaced by “authorities.” And that now, when she was only two years away from being a legal adult, she was expected to rewind her development and be treated like a child.
There wasn’t any help for it. Whisper had never been expected to give up thinking for herself and “just follow” before… the very idea disgusted her. “Submission” was a word she had heard, but never taken seriously. She knew how to think for herself. She had been making her own decisions for years… and that wasn’t something she could just flip off like a light switch. She would not even if she could. Even if her parents demanded it.
It was time to fight back.