Telling My Story & Naming the Master

On Friday I told a little bit more of my story over at A Deeper Story. Here’s an excerpt:

Coming to terms with emotional abuse often requires a catalytic experience of some kind – a hardship, a betrayal, a tragedy, a death. It’s the cold water awakening you from the slumber. It’s the shift that triggers a sudden, inescapable eruption of the Real. It’s the heat that brings the truth to a boil.

Pretty early on I knew that what I was experiencing was not right. But I suppressed that knowledge in the name of love, of self-denial, of loyalty, of getting over the “sin” of doubting. I thought it my burden, perhaps even my life’s purpose, to endure the pain I was feeling for the sake of keeping it all together – the family, his ministry, the fledgling home churches he kept founding and destroying. Most of all, I felt a guilt that became a kind of guide. It kept me in check, kept me from running.

He had put it there, the guilt. And the guilt did its job.

There was a woman who began following him in the early days, when I was quite little. She was young, creative, fun, intelligent, alive. She was part of a group of twenty-somethings he had mentored in one way or another as a rehab counselor, now the core of his new church. He held total sway over them, but especially her. After the church service on Friday nights I was allowed to tag along with her and her friends for pizza. She would drive with the top down and play Christian music and everyone would sing. And even though I was little, I felt like a part of this amazing, vibrant group of cool grown-ups.

She was a fashion designer in Miami with a promising career. But she gave that up to follow him when he moved our family to be part of a little known Pentecostal church in Texas. She followed him to New York after that, where she moved in with us. Then New Jersey. Then, finally, Vermont.

She was always there, like a big sister. And she was so much like me at first – creative, independent, an intellect. She understood me. She listened to me. We talked about books. We had a connection.

But gradually, along the way, he broke her.

Just like he broke me.

When I watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master for the first time, it was nothing less than a revelation.

In a very literal sense, it was almost an apocalyptic moment. What I saw on the screen was simply my life revealed – and, particularly, the end of my life. At least, the end of the first half of my life.

See, I grew up with the Master.

Read the rest at DS.

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About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter was released in 2012. Twitter & Facebook.


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