They Broke Our Hearts

broken heartThe reception area to his office was very plush with a couch and several overstuffed chairs. The pictures on the wall were reminiscent of a world of hope and peace. There were fresh cut flowers on the table. Under most circumstances, one would feel very comfortable in such a peaceful setting. However, for me it did not help.  For deep within me I was feeling a gnawing and an aching. It felt like my insides were being twisted and every ounce of strength was being squeezed from me. I was emotionally crushed, battered and beaten.

The receptionist informed me he was ready to see me. I stood staring at his office door for the longest time just staring at it. Running through my mind at a frantic pace were the events of the past year, and especially the disaster of the past week.

I was in turmoil unlike anything I had ever experienced. Uncertainty, doubt and fear gripped my heart like a vice. I was terrified to go in and horrified to what might happen if I didn’t.

I knew that on the other side of the door was a man of God, at least I thought so. He was a man that would hold the destiny of my life in his hands. I had come to trust him because he at one time was a man of integrity that genuinely cared about God’s people.

Somehow, as the years passed he became hardened almost brutal. He had lost the focus of the ministry; that being one of compassionate service. It was as if his whole purpose anymore was that of ruling and administering; controlling the lives of those that came under his authority so he could advance to a higher office. This only added to my already overwhelming discomfort.

With hopeful expectations, I contemplated what the outcome of the meeting would be. I had every confidence that his advice would be based on principles of love and caring. There was a certain amount of comfort knowing that his god would inspire him to help me. Nevertheless, in all honesty I did not know how it would turn out. So I entered his office feeling the full burden of what had transpired.

He greeted me with somewhat of a scowl which had become his trademark. As his cold blue eyes narrowed, I felt as though he could see right through me. It made me very uncomfortable and uneasy. For a moment, I felt a twinge of uncertainty about the meeting.

After the usual exchange of meaningless niceties, he began to grill me; of all things, with questions about some very private and personal matters. He was trying to discover some secret sin in my life that was causing his god to punish me. There were no secret sins. This flustered him greatly. I almost felt he was going to accuse me of deception or lying. I was neither deceptive nor lying. I knew at that point that the outcome was going to forever change my life, and not for the good. I just did not have a clue that it would be so very destructive and damaging. Even now, after more than 50 years the memories still bring a great deal of pain and deep inner sorrow.

If ever a person felt like a lamb being lead to the slaughter, it was I right there at that point in time. My heart felt like a big lump in my throat. I found it difficult to hold back the tears; nonetheless, I did, as I unloaded the deepest hurts and grief in my life. I had no idea which direction to take. I just ached and wanted someone with a direct connection to God to tell me what I must do and the course of action I needed to take. I was desperately looking for loving kindness and support. What I received was totally unexpected or anticipated.

I related to him how serious and upsetting this latest development was.

He knew about my plans for marriage from a previous meeting in which I shared with him my hopes and dreams. Now somehow this dream that young lovers have was turning into a nightmare.

I began to relate to him how it all started….

While at Lake Tahoe in California, I was attending a church convention (which lasted 8 days). The first day I met a young woman from Canada. WOW!! She was one of the sweetest and kindness young women I had ever met, and beautiful too! We immediately struck up a friendship and spent the eight days of the conference together.

Over the following several months our relationship began to develop via the U.S. mail. It had reached the point where we felt it would be the most wonderful thing if she would come to Pasadena where I worked and lived. This would give us an opportunity to explore our relationship and to see if perhaps it would develop into a life long commitment.

When she arrived, my sister and her husband provided her with a place to live. Her living close by gave us the opportunity we really needed to get to know each other better. It was a wonderful time to be young, alive and so much in love.

Now headed in the right direction, it was beautiful; we received ministerial approval to become engaged. We had the world in the palm of our hands. It was the happiest I had ever been, at that point and time in my life.

Then something unexpected happened. Her mom became seriously and mysteriously ill. It became necessary for my love to fly home and help her family in need. Our parting was sad, but we knew it would not be forever. Little did either of us realize how our lives were about to forever change. What was to follow was like a nightmarish adventure into the “Twilight Zone”.

The situation with her family became difficult and complicated, very complicated. Her father beat her. He accused her of coming to Pasadena to have an abortion, which was false.  His accusations and treatment of his daughter were irrational and irresponsible. Her dad and two older brothers beat and raped her….

To make matters more complicated, her family became embittered about the church and its ministry over unknown situations, unknown at least to me. They quit attending church and forced her to do the same. They threatened to kill me if I ever showed up or interfered.

I was frantic about what was going on. Not knowing what to do I asked for his ministerial advice and help. So there I sat in his office hoping for wise guidance and understanding.

Church law and protocol required his permission to allow me to go to Canada and bring her back….”No! Came his firm, dogmatic and authoritative reply! You must not go! You must call her and if she has left the church, tell her it is over and the marriage is off.” He commanded me to tell her that I will never speak to her again until she repents. The seriousness of the situation did not matter, only the fact she was either in or out of the church. So just like that, he wanted me to put her out of my life, forever!

I was horrified and taken back by his advice. “No! I can not do that to her!” I told him. He rose up from his desk, placed his hands flat on the desk, towering over me he looked me straight in the eye, almost glaring. He told me that if I went after her, he would see that I would be fired from my college job and he would personally kick me out of the church! He knew what I was thinking, and in one swift and powerful move, he crushed my hope and broke my heart.

This cut and hurt deeper than anything I had ever experienced. It was far worse than the death of my mother. It was as if he ripped a vital part from my innermost being. I was very much dazed and disoriented. I wanted with all my heart to obey God. I also desperately wanted to rescue my love; she was in the deepest of pain and distress of her life. I desperately wanted to protect and rescue her….The ache inside was almost unbearable.

It makes me sick at heart to think about what followed next. I was stupid; like a good and obedient church member, I called her. The situation had gotten worse. She feared for her very life…Then I related to her… it is hard writing this… that our marriage and relationship was over. In a very mechanical manner, I told her not to write or call until she repented and started attending church again. It broke her heart. She wept with bitter tears and told me that she loved me and that she would never forget me. The conversation went on a little longer with words that expressed the feelings of love, sorrow, hurt, and utter despair that are impossible to express in writing. I then said a final good-bye; it was over. I could not believe it was over. I put down the phone and stared it for what seemed like hours. I was in an emotional state of shock.

I am not an emotional man but I cried bitterly for two days straight until I was numb with grief. It was a good thing I was able to work outside by myself where no one could hear my bitter cries of anguish. A few friends knew something was wrong. They sincerely asked if they could help. I hurt too much and to deep; talking at that point was not an option… So I carried the emotional load alone. I felt abandoned and betrayed by my God.

I have always deeply regretted what happened. Not because we did not get married but because I turned my back on a dear love that was desperately reaching out for help. Sometimes I hate myself for having been so heartless and causing her untold hurt. No one deserves that kind of treatment, no one! I abandoned her when she needed me most. I was a good little soldier and did what I was told to do…it was wrong, all horribly wrong! Jesus would never have treated anyone in this manner. Yet in the name of Worldwide Church of God, I did; it makes me sick at heart to think about it.

Shortly after I the relationship ended, I found out her mother committed suicide by jumping down a well…and I had the unmitigated gall to tell her to repent. How utterly and totally was I engulfed by this church! Now I am embarrassed and bitterly ashamed that I allowed a minister’s advice to destroy me and deeply hurt a wonderful young woman I dearly loved.

We implicitly trusted and almost worshipped the ministry as being great men of God that were divinely inspired. It was almost as if the only real contact with God came through them, and our only hope for wisdom and understand would be through these men. Most of them took advantage of their office of service and turned it into the office of a taskmaster. One minister told an individual, “Do what I tell you! If you do not, your salvation is in my hands, and I will crush you!” Rather scary to believe that they thought and we believed they had that much control and power over our lives.

If indeed they spoke for god it was not the God of the Bible. He is the One that loves you so much that He allowed His Son to die for you. He took a horrible beating and He died in your place! Then on that third day, He rose and gave us His eternal life.

In contrast, their god was one that they imagined in their own wicked and perverted minds. He was one that judged, condemned and punished. He was one that was slow to forgive…..

We wrongly believed they were our only contact for us to know His will. Our lives were truly not our own.

Whatever the ministry said we did. We feared to disobey. Losing one’s salvation and facing eternal separation from God was a frightening prospect. They were masters at using it against us.

The church, and it ministry has caused a mountain of hurt and misery during the past decades. If change is indeed to come then it must start here today with me. All of us are responsible to change what we can, and what we cannot change, the Lord will, in His time.

I wanted to take time to relate to you this very personal story. For a moment, I have let down my guard and lay before you my heart-felt feeling about one situation that forever changed my life. It is painful for me to bring this back in focus and look at it again. However, I feel it is worth it, for some of you will truly understand and identify with what I have written. Some of you will scoff and blame me for what happened. I do bear the responsibility, I made the fearful decision. Nevertheless, I did not wield the hammer that smashed and destroyed the hopes and dreams of young love.

When I turned my life over to, not Jesus Christ, but the Worldwide Church of God ministry, I did it completely and I trusted explicitly in their ability of their god to speak to me through them. I know now how stupid, foolish and ignorant I was.

Yes, I have tried seemingly endless times over the past decades to locate Janet. Not to resume a romantic relationship but rather to deeply and sincerely apologize for the way I allowed the church to manipulate me with threats of death (spiritual) and being fired. More importantly, to apologize to her for the harshness in which I broke up the relationship and the hurt and sadness it caused.

I am left with the wondering and uncertainty as to what became of her. I would like to think that she found true love and she is now a gracefully aging grandmother surrounded by her loving family; she deserves a life of love and kindness.

For me, after more than 50 years I now have just recently found peace. For I have turned it over to the Lord and Savior of all who will trust in Him. His shoulders are broad, and His heart is kind. He is more than willing and up to the task to bare my sorrow and grief. Now that it is on His shoulders, I no longer feel the oppressive guilt. When I now see the scars, I see His abundant grace and mercy.

I know for a certainty that He will deal with those involved, but He will do it in His time and in His way…

Life on campus and in the church was not always fun and games. Sometimes it was an absolute nightmare. For many still trapped in various cults it is not over yet.

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