Saturday, September 03, 2016

Close to the Bone: Barbara

Hi, folks, this week I'm going to write my version of The Valley of Dry Bones in the first of a series called Close to the Bone.

When I was in my twenties, I joined a cult. It was a short-lived thing that was all about religious propaganda to control others. This propaganda was wrapped up in a big quilt called the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Of course, there was a booming preacher (a modern day apostle) called Brother because we would not want to be too familiar. He had a direct line to God; everyone needed to hear his message to be part of the true church. He answered to no one but God.

Under his guidance, we learned important truths. Church had to be attended at least four times a week. Friends outside the Church weren't a good idea. Birth control wasn't a good idea. Sending your children to public school wasn't a good idea. God had big plans, and you needed to be in the Ship of Safety.  Demonic forces were roaming around out there that would take you down...Trying to live up to this holy propaganda was sort of like having all the flesh ripped from your body and leaving you as a pile of dry bones.

So I stuck to this mess for almost eight years. I never did leave; the cult imploded around me. I wish I had left, but I was shredded instead. There is nothing noble or redeeming about my story. Toward the end, my friend Barbara was losing weight. Too much. She was probably under a hundred pounds. I'd found it all. I had gained three children and seventy pounds in three and a half years. Barbara, like me, would give large chunks of her money to the church. We didn't need anything; God was on our side. I'd saved up some extra money from collecting aluminum cans (five dollars) and took the money over to her house to help her meet her rent.  I also wrote a little poem about how on the other side of life we would find peace. Barbara took the money. I hugged her and said goodbye.

A few hours later, I was at church when I was told Barbara drove her car onto a train track and stopped. Beautiful Barbara was crushed by a screaming train on her way to pay the rent. I cannot express the panic that I felt when I learned how she had died.  We were God's chosen people. Weren't we? I was numb and bleeding inside. I kept saying the same old religious propaganda but my belief in the ABSOLUTE TRUTH died with Barbara. I am crying while writing this. It was 25 years ago, but part of me always lives in that moment. My friend took her life and where was I?

I had my part in it. I'd tied myself in knots trying to support an unsupportable vision of God brought to me by an uneducated self-styled apostle who I should have declared as wrong.  Who knew there was so much power in just standing up and saying something is wrong? Everyone but me. Here is my message. If there is something you need to stand up for, please do. Please. Please. Please. Even if it sets the world on fire. I am standing here, handing you the torch.

Thanks for dropping by. I will continue with Close to the Bone.  I hope that my story will inform yours.

Instead of a doodle I'm posting a picture of Barbara.  A light lost.

Paraphrase from the book of Ezekiel 37: 2a-3:

I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. The Lord asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”


April Russell said...

I miss her too and think of her often. It still hurts bad. ( I'm glad you see it for what it was. Some people still don't.) Prayers and hugs sent your way. RIP Barbara.

Faith Pray said...

Oh, Molly! I'm so sorry about Barbara, and those tragic eight years. I hope many people find courage and help from your powerful story. Thank you for sharing this.

Karen V Smith said...

Love this. Thanks for sharing.

Janet Lee Carey said...

Molly, this is so sad and honest and moving. I'm so sorry for this loss. Thank you so much for sharing this. I've written a song--Ezekial's Bones -- perhaps I'll sing it to you next time we are together. Jannie

Mirka Breen said...

Devastating to read.
Many years back I had someone very close to me go the cult-route and follow a false prophet. I was called "proud" and "wedded to the profane world" for questioning their direction. I wondered if indeed I am those things, (I probably am somewhat guilty) but I'm grateful my skepticism kept me out of the clutches of such entities.
I deeply appreciate your truthfulness. Know you may not have called "Brother" on his machinations, but you loved and stood by a friend as best you could at that time, while you were both in a compromised state.

Rachel Starling said...

I cried while reading this. This was my life...24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I witnessed all of this, but through the eyes of a confused child. I felt like I was part to blame for this agonizing hardship because, well, I was part of "him". My heart was so devastatingly broken the day Barbara passed away. I still question a lot of what happened in those 8 years and I still hold on to a huge amount of resentment, bitterness and anger towards the culprit. I'm trying so hard to forgive but I just don't know how because of the heart wrenching, seemingly irreversible, damage that has scarred and hardened so many of us. May we all find peace. May we all find the strength and courage to forgive someone, who claims to have only done the "best they knew how"...even if they're not sorry. May we all come to know the unconditional, unreserved, non judgemental, patient, never failing love of the true God. My heart is heavy and I am sorry that we all suffered such a detrimental trauma. I have a hole in my heart that will never heal and I still feel unhealthily emotionally detached. Rest in peace sweet Barbara...I miss my good friend and sitter. My heart aches when I think of all of our meaningful heart to heart talks. They were often labeled as my "guide" so that I might "spare the rod" that was administered by said brother. I miss her immensely. Thank you for sharing this.

Molly/Cece said...

Hi, April, glad this resonated.

Love you, Kare-Bear. Probably haven't heard that in a while.

Janet, I so want to hear your song.

Mirka, the one gift of those days was resonating love we had for each other. That was the real.

Hi, Rachael, forgiveness is the answer, but it is a process. I'm sorry about the hole in your heart. Be kind to your self. Cling to the good, let the rest go as much as you can. I send a hug your way.