The spirit of beautiful girlhood is alive in the girl who, with courage and fortitude, perseveres through the many challenges of life. She realizes that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” and consequently, strives for the principled course of action.
When we were little, my parents, following the teaching of Michael and Debi Pearl, trained us children to obey their simplest commands. My parents said they believed in house proofing the baby, rather than baby proofing the house. This meant that they would intentionally leave enticing objects within reach of a toddler, and then spank his or her hand and say “no” each time he or she reached for it. Similarly, they would call a toddler to come, spank the child if he or she did not come immediately, and then try it again. In this way, we were forced to submit our wills and learn obedience. After all, my parents told us, disobedience was rebellion against God.
My parents also worked hard to instill their faith in us children. We were expected to spend personal time reading the Bible and praying each morning before doing our chores. After chores came breakfast, and after breakfast, Bible time. My mother read the Bible aloud to us and then we discussed the passage and had group prayer. God was included in nearly every one of our homeschool subjects, including history and science. We learned that God had guided the founding fathers as they wrote the Constitution and that science properly understood shows that God created the world in six literal days six thousand years ago. Before bed, my parents gathered all of us together and prayed with us. God was a given, a part of our lives, and Jesus was a personal friend.
My mother used God to teach us to behave. If two of my siblings were bickering, they would be told to imagine that Jesus was standing right there with them. A child who was sulking would be asked, “do you think you are making Jesus happy right now?” If one of my siblings did his chores sloppily, my mother would quote from the Bible: “Do your job cheerfully as unto the Lord.” If one of my siblings needed an “attitude readjustment,” they would be sent to their bed with their Bible and told to read it. Another frequent punishment was copying down a verse from the Bible by hand, fifty or even a hundred times. In this way we were told a million times a day to make sure that our behavior conformed with what God would want.
Once we reached high school, my siblings and I studied apologetics. I loved learning the fine points of doctrine, and I loved thinking about Christian theology. My parents often discussed theology around the supper table, helping us children understand what we believed and why. I frequently checked out books from our church library and read about a variety of subjects. The more I read the more convinced I was that my parents’ beliefs were right. I was devoted to my faith and dedicated to my Savior. Like my parents, I believed wholeheartedly that demons were real, that the rapture was coming, that the world had been created in six days six thousand years ago, and that anyone who had not asked Christ as their savior was destined for hell. This instilled me with a deep sense of mission – I had a purpose and a destiny.
Looking back, I would point out three things. First, my parents gave us older children authority to spank the younger children. While I meant well, my siblings later told me that they saw me as a bully. It is not healthy to give children the authority to spank their younger siblings, because it has the tendency to turn even a well meaning child into a tyrant and can negatively affect relationships between siblings.
Second, there was one time when the Pearls’ methods didn’t work. One of my little brothers refused to say please for his food or water, and so my parents withheld them. He went almost two days without food or water, and started to get weak and listless, but still he would not say please. This was odd, because the Pearls said that a child would never starve himself to death rather than bend his will to that of his parents. Finally, my mom said God had told her to give him food and water, and so she did. I still wonder what could have happened if my parents had not deviated from the Pearls’ teachings in that instance, and today I strongly disapprove of the Pearls’ teaching for a multitude of reasons.
Third, I laid awake many nights with my eyes tight shut for fear of seeing demons at the foot of my bed. This fear continued into adulthood, and still plagues me today try as I may to shake it. As children, we heard stories of friends’ parents actually seeing demons and of real demons being cast out of people in the present day. Given this reality, my fear was natural. I also feared that the Rapture would happen before I had a chance to marry or have children, or that it would happen and I would be left behind. I prayed the Sinners’ Prayer again and again, just to be sure that I was really saved.
Libby Anne lives with her husband and toddler somewhere in the U.S. She has left patriarchy for feminism and has found freedom. She is a graduate student with big plans for her life. You can read her blog at Love, Joy, Feminism.