Carol – Tossed by the Winds of the Watchtower
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”Ephesians 4:14
Raised in the church…
At the tender age of 9 years old I came to a crossroads in my life. I understood that I was not perfect and I was not the center of the universe. Imagine! It took that long figuring it out! So I walked down the aisle of Northeast Baptist Church in Miami, Florida to acknowledge Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.
I thank God for the influence of Godly parents who loved the Lord, and it was through them, a variety of Sunday School teachers, a caring pastor, and a few Bible verses, I acknowledged that I needed a Savior to take my place in order to stand “not guilty” before God. It would be 27 years later, at a not so tender age, that I imagined this scene as I lay my head down on my pillow to sleep.
It’s a Sunday morning and my husband and children would be walking into our church, as usual. But as for me, I might have to be walking into a local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Does that shock you? Well, it should!
Surely, that is quite a turnabout, and I would like to try and communicate to you the pain and suffering of being tossed to and fro by the Watchtower “winds of doctrine.” Perhaps you will begin to understand that the influence of the Watchtower and other cultic groups are a real and present danger to unprepared Christians and a giant stumbling block to others who are genuinely seeking God.
There were some circumstances which made me an easy prey for what I was about to experience. It is easy to look back now and see what was really happening, but at the time, it was not so clear at all. First, I was once more a new mother. With a newborn, an active two-year-old, no car, and no money to do anything (since my husband and I elected for me to take a leave of absence from my teaching career and be a stay-at-home mom) I was suffering from culture shock. The neighborhood was like a ghost town.
Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door…
When those two ladies walked up my sidewalk, whatever they were selling, I knew I would at least listen. Quickly I discovered they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even better! My prayers had been answered and my desire for witnessing to someone was going to be fulfilled! All I have to do is explain the Gospel, and they, too will understand the joy and peace of knowing Jesus as their Savior! It seemed so simple! But somewhere between our first meeting and about 2 years later, it became not so simple.
The second problem with this scenario was that I was totally unprepared (although I thought I was) to have a Biblical discussion over a wide range of doctrinal topics. Oh, I knew my Christian-living scriptures, but doctrine—well, that was for ivory tower brainiacs, monks, or ministers. Still, I was up for a challenge!
But ever so slowly, there began to be little questions that I could not answer. I was stumped about such things as soul sleep, Jesus’ spirit vs. bodily resurrection, and heaven vs. paradise earth. The Witness ladies pointed to some Hebrew scriptures which seemed to support these teachings.
Unprepared to give an answer…
Actually, I’d never been put in the position of having to defend what I believed. I began to realize that I had accepted many doctrines as true because my pastors said they were, my parents said they were, and everybody in church believed them. I found myself being turned into a “doctrinal pretzel”—not a comfortable position.
So why didn’t I get help from someone? Bluntly, pride and embarrassment! After all, I had been a Christian for all these years, I should know these things! I began to realize that I was indeed, a worker who had a lot to be ashamed of. Things went from bad to worse. I began to think that if I couldn’t explain “my” truths reasonably and logically from the Scriptures, even though they “felt” right, then maybe they weren’t truths at all!
And if what I believed wasn’t true, I would need to bypass my feelings and emotions, leave my church and the people I love there, because I loved God even more. Even if God’s truths were in a Kingdom Hall, then that’s where I would have to be, even if it was five times a week for everything from the book study to door-to-door ministry, to the Theocratic Ministry School!
A strange event…
Somewhere in-between those two years of meetings with Kathy and Denise, a very strange incident occurred. Someone that my husband had known years back tracked him down at work and explained that they desperately needed to speak with him. They told my husband that through the “gift of knowledge” they had a message from God for him.
The message was that God saw my husband as a “sleeping bear” and he was “spiritually dead.” This long-time friend of my husband believed God was giving her visions of my husband in an extremely agonizing state of mind and spirit.
This “message” did not mesh with anything going on in our lives, but what it did do was linger with me, and intimidate me with doubts that I still had about not being able to answer the challenges of these doctrinal questions. If my husband was “spiritually dead”, then I probably was too, and God may be trying to tell us we were not on the right path.
Looking back, I see so clearly that this supernaturally inspired incident was not inspired by the Lord. I believe the intent was to add more confusion, doubt, and fear to my already confused thinking.
My family suffered…
There was such a barrage of information, there wasn’t enough hours in the day to process all of it. And by this time, with a two and four-year old and accompanying responsibilities, my husband was saying, “Where is my Scrabble companion and TV partner in the evenings? WHO is this obsessive-compulsive stranger who sits over in the corner of the living room every night, asks 101 Bible questions and reads until 2AM?”
Gradually, worse went to horrible, and one Sunday morning I lay awake early in the morning after a long night of agonizing back and forth as to whether I might be in “Babylon The Great Whore of False Religion,” or not. I went to another room, but my sobs eventually awoke my husband.
Totally astounded, he never figured my questions amounted to this much doubt in my mind. What was he to do with his wife who was suddenly believing going to church may be wrong, and that our church was part of “Babylon?”
Being the very decisive, and take-action person that he is, first, he was going to take me by the hand and storm the church to get my questions answered by as many people as possible once and for all.
Then, he was going to “set his house in order” and told me he was resigning from his teaching position in our “Husbands & Wives” Bible study class. He was also resigning from teaching the children in “Jr. Church.” That bothered me and the tears fell in greater heaps because I knew he loved that ministry with those children.
Something was happening, and there was no peace within my soul about all of this…but was it just emotions? I couldn’t depend on emotions to direct my life! Then, something hit me almost like ton of bricks. Something was really, really wrong here. Were we being neutralized? With all the emotional restraint I could gather, I managed to calm down, all the while, getting dressed for church, pleading with my husband not to do anything rash.
Our Bible study class had already started when we arrived, and it seemed like the longest Bible study class there ever was or will be in the history of the world. By the end of the class, I wondered what was going to happen. Jim had not gotten a chance to say anything to the other study group leader after class was over when The Ultimate Ivory Tower Braniac Church Elder of the class stepped up to us, and of all things, invited us to lunch at his home.
Lunch with a church friend…
The first thing that popped into my head was his name—Tom Hightower. This man could not talk to you without Bible chapter and verse numbers, and I began to think that talking to him could be useful.
What an afternoon! I surely put him on the “Witness” stand while I fired questions at him. I know that man thought it was time for his medication or mine! Thank God, true to his nature, chapter and verse numbers were rolling off of his tongue one after the other. I’d have to say, that afternoon became another crossroads of my life, spiritually. It was a 180-degree turn about for me!
Stories of former Witnesses…
The following two weeks were like “the icing on the cake.” Leonard and Marjorie Chretien’s testimony (scroll down within link) “just happened” to be on Christian radio that week—they had been lifetime Jehovah’s Witnesses and left because of what they’d found out about the Watchtower Society’s tarnished history and continually changed and flip-flopped doctrinal teachings. After sending for their audio tape and listening again, I was reading the newsletter that was sent by the ministry that aired the Chretien testimony.
Someone by the name of M.L. had recently left Jehovah’s Witnesses because of what they’d found out, and the incredible testimony on the radio gave them the courage to break free and resign from The Society. I had to meet this person—I didn’t think anyone ever left “Paradise on Earth!” After writing a letter to the ministry with my name and phone number, and the request that they put me in touch with M.L., I then met my friend, Michelle Leeds.
A new friend…
Michelle happened to be just starting to attend a support group just for questioning and former Jehovah’s Witnesses. You have to wonder why questioning and former JW’s need a support group! It’s because they lose all their friends and family who are in the Watchtower, and because they are labeled an apostate, especially if they trust Christ as their personal Savior or start attending a church.
Now I’m helping others…
The next Sunday I was there, and I’ve been attending and helping ever since 1988. I feel connected to these people because I went through just a small measure of what they experience when they are in a false religion, but many leave in the sad, hopeless state of believing that “Jehovah” may have turned his back on them as well.
It is so exciting to be a part of all the ministries that reach out to those who depend on a religious organization and don’t have the joy that only Christ alone can give. If anyone had told me some time ago that I would be excited about supporting a support group for ex-members of cults, I would have thought they’ve got to be a few nuts short of a full pouch!
I am so grateful that the Lord used a potentially dangerous situation for good. I learned firsthand, that if you go into spiritual warfare, you had better be well prepared with his Word to be as “gentle as a dove but as wise as a serpent!” The late Frances Schaeffer said in A Christian Manifesto, “Every doctrine is in some way to have an effect upon our lives.”
God said it this way in Hosea: “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”
Carol Barrett Levak—revised-2000
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