by Stephaniah, aka Stephie Goldfish aka Stephie Bigheart
The hurt of one woman is the hurt of all women.
The honor of one woman is the honor of all women.
~ A Native American Proverb
I am known among the congregations as "The Lady In Red!"
I have been disfellowshipped three times during my era of being one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and privately reproved twice. I am writing this, not to be bragging or boasting of having the title "Most Disfellowshipped." I am not writing this in honor of being left out of the Year Books of JWs.
Lately, though, I have been having these thoughts, thoughts that fluctuate back and forth, from... Humbly returning to the fold... or to... forever being OUT.
Even after reading Crisis of Conscience (latest version). I even know and have personally met some of the fellows Raymond Franz was talking about. Even after reading through so many posts, stories, and news articles, and identifying with so many experiences from others, and having the major issues that have always bothered me reaffirmed and reconfirmed. Even after seeing, reading, and hearing all the surrounding events out regarding the Pedophilia within the organization and all the disfellowshippings of the innocent victims stemming from this.
Yes, even after all the things that I personally have experienced within the organization, and even after all that my family has experienced within the organization, I am still in limbo about where I belong. In or Out.
"Why?" I am asking myself, "Why do I feel the need to 'go back', each time trying harder and harder to reach an even higher and higher level than I was at before the beginning of my downfalls and being ousted. When each time I was let back into the flock, I worked zealously at trying to be a better Witness than before... but, always, I realized my limitations, that I could not maintain this level or endure for very long in their strict adherence, because even what I considered to be my peak, my whole-hearted service, it did not meet the expectations of the loving shepherds or even of certain sheep within the flock. Some who recommended Regular Pioneering, even though they knew I had real physical limitations and was working full-time to cover my expenses and to pay off debt. Some who would not recommend me for Bethel Service, when I was specifically offering to use my "gift from Jehovah God", which is a true natural talent in Art, because, they said, I have a disability. I was then and have, up until the last 8-10 years, worked a steadily 40+ hours a week out in the world.
I've began feeling that the mark that has been labeled upon me is becoming ever and ever so bright red, and will never be made "white as snow", as they would have me believe every time those on the various elder judicial committees would have me read Isaiah 1:18.
During the times I was not working, laid off, receiving disability, or drawing unemployment, I was a regular meeting attendee, studying for the meetings, being fairly regular in the Door to Door Ministry and Street Witnessing. I was criticized because I was not working. I was told, "Christians should be working."
Well, I have always tried to work. Even during the times when I worked steady, I tried my best to be at all the congregation meetings. Even when I went halfway across the country to work as a freelancer I made it clear to the owner of the company I went to work for that I must leave work on Tuesdays and Thursdays to attend meetings, with a congregation that did not know me from Adam (or Eve), and then I would go straight back to work and make up the time. I must have given at least some kind of "Witness", made a good impression to the company, and left there being known as a hard worker, because the owner invited me to come back, being allowed the same opportunity to attend my meetings. At one job, I even arranged my schedule so that the nights I had off work would allow me to attend the meetings, which, may have been a little inconvenient for me, because I worked Saturdays, when most of the brothers and sisters would have their "get togethers", never remembering that I worked on this day, so it would allow me to be at all the meetings. And I had to decline a lot of invitations where I could have possibly been "built up by the good association." Even my doctors have always encouraged me to attend my meetings, when some in the congregations probably thought I was being told otherwise. But my doctors knew how important this religion or more importantly how strong my faith in God has been for me throughout my life.
What human can determine or be the judge of another person's true loyalty or measure anyone's godly devotion?
Should it really be determined by someone's total years of "squeaky-clean" long-time or full-time service to the organization?
Should it really be determined by whether or not one goes to see "R" rated movies? When it was reported to a Bethel Elder and Presiding Overseer of the congregation I was attending at the time that I see "R" rated movies, I was told by that Elder that if any Bethelite was known to see "R" rated movies, that they would be dismissed from Bethel.
"What?" I exclaimed, "For seeing "Schindlers List"? But, yes, it did have nudity in it.
Should true loyalty or godly devotion be based on whether all of our associates are only Bethelites, former Bethelites, Special Pioneers, Pioneers, Regular Auxiliary Pioneers, Elders, Elder's wives, children of Elders, Ministerial Servants, Regular Publishers who "report at least the national quota of Field Service hours every single month", or members of the congregation who actively participate giving talks in the "main hall" every two or three months?
It was also reported, while I was attending that same congregation, that I associate with "worldly" friends.
One of these worldly friends I invited to one of the Sunday public talks and Watchtower study, while attending that congregation, and I was so surprised that she actually attended. She still to this day talks to all her Baptist relatives and friends back home about being friends with a Jehovah's Witness (and she lets them know that I was not an "Orthodox Witness" or I wouldn't even be talking to her). And she talks about going on a grand tour of the late World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses formerly located in Brooklyn and was absolutely amazed at how clean these buildings were kept, especially the floors. She told the guides that she was so impressed because she cleans peoples homes, she knows how much work it must have taken the workers to keep it so clean. We were even guests for lunch while touring Bethel that day (she didn't know this, but we actually sat at the Elder's table, who had questioned my associates). This friend also once told me, "Being friends with a Jehovah's Witness," (being from the South where she was raised), "was just as risqué, as say, being married to a Black person." Ironically, this is also just another well-known feature of my amazing "Black Sheep" history.
Another of these worldly friends (who was also there on the tour of Bethel and had lunch with us that day) later on had been battling cancer (Leukemia)! I visited her a few times when she was undergoing treatments. Later I found out that she had hid from me the fact that she had to have blood transfusions. I could not believe this. She hid this fact because she respected my beliefs about not accepting blood transfusions. She did not bring it up until I asked her about it. She said that she had wanted to discuss it with me, but respected me and felt that I may not want to talk about it.
And another friend of mine went with me and my sister one year to the Memorial of Christ's Death at the last congregation I was a regular attendee and the congregation where I was last disfellowshipped. I asked her later after the Memorial what she had thought of the service and everything, and she said, "I never felt further away from God as I felt in that place. The people," she said, "seemed so sterile!" I also thought that night that everyone seemed fake. It was probably one of the most eerie Memorials that I have ever attended.
In the years since 2000, when I was disfellowshipped for the third (and last time), I have spent some considerable effort trying to return, trying to walk me home. I wrestle with remaining in this disfellowshipped state, forever remaining on the outside. And I often wonder about how it will be in the end when I walk me home? I want to ask myself the same questions Raymond Franz asked, questions he asked at a much older age than I ask now, "Where then do I go? What do I become?" And he answered in response to his own questions, "I feel no need to 'go' anywhere. For I know the One who has the "sayings of everlasting life."
These statements just hit home to me when I read the book back then. And his concerns are still as valid to me today. The answer seems so simple, yet so hard.
I basically feel that all the air has been kicked out of me; that this battle that I have been fighting for so long has won out over me. I feel that I cannot climb back up this time! Their last punch, I'm afraid, was "just another TKO!" The last punch that they will ever strike at me. I don't want it to happen again, nor do I feel that I want to ever give them the chance to do it again. "I don't want to fight no more."
Yes, I am the woman who wore that lovely red wool suit where the skirt went just above my knees and I have to admit that it did have a long slit in the back that "revealed" my thighs when I walked across the floor of the Kingdom Hall. The red suit that (I later came to know) was apparently giving the whole congregation "somethin' to talk about". I did throw that suit away when I moved from that congregation to the last congregation I was an active member in, because I didn't want to have any cause for 'opening any brother's eye' (or fly), whichever came first, didn't want to cause any brothers 'jaws to drop' (or drawers), whichever came first! But, wait, damn, there was that time at that last congregation, while I was going out in the field ministry one day, a sister asked, all of a sudden, "Do you have on a bra?" I was so embarrassed, I said, "Yeah!" I was kind of mad too. I thought, "Oh, No! Not again!" I was CITA — caught in the act.
I guess those "little body members" weren't being kept in control.
When it comes right down to it, when I do walk me home, I only want to have been known as a woman in love, having chose to dance.
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