Giving Yourself Permission
Being Accustom to Performance
It’s one of the most difficult things to do when you leave The Message. You’ve been so accustom to marching to the beat of what your church demands. You’ve been so structured in the do’s and don’ts. You’ve been holding it all together, trying to not melt down emotionally. You don’t want to show emotional weakness to the Message people – because, those of us who’ve left know, it will be used against you.
I know when my wife and I first left our church, we felt so utterly alone and uncertain of what to do with ourselves that we just wanted to shut the door to the world, and hide.
Giving yourself permission is a very good thing to do. What do I mean? The Message is what is known as a “performance-based religion“. That is, you are perpetually struggling to attain a standard of perfection. Every church has it’s own measuring stick for what ‘perfection’ is, so it will differ from church to church. But if you were part of a Message-Believing church – you were performing to meet a standard.
When you leave, you’ll suddenly be really afraid. That’s because you’ve been performing so long that you’ve developed fears associated with failing to meet “the standard”. This goes from theological understanding and church attendance, to what kind of shoes you’re allowed to wear and who is safe to receive counsel from (friends, teachers, preachers, books, etc).
Giving yourself permission means something like this:
- You’re allowed to be human.
- You’re allowed to make mistakes.
- You’re allowed to admit “I don’t know”.
- You’re allowed to cry.
- You’re allowed to be afraid.
- You’re allowed to be angry.
- You’re allowed to take a time-out from church attendance.
- You’re allowed to go to a (dreaded) denominational church.
- You’re allowed to be curious.
- You’re allowed to think.
- You’re allowed to want to be alone.
- You’re allowed to reach out for help.
- You’re allowed to take time – and lots of it – to think, to pray, to be curious, to ask questions, to learn and discover, to change, to grow.
- You’re allowed.
Here are things that I learned with giving myself permission:
- I didn’t want to be around Message people. I wasn’t mad at them. But they couldn’t contribute anything to my well-being – and they demonstrated no interest in what had happened. There was no conversation beneficial to me, or to them. I needed distance.
- I didn’t immediately have answers to define my theology. It was uncomfortable, sure. But I simply couldn’t trust that what I had been taught was inherently correct – nor was I willing to trust anyone ‘claiming’ to have the answers. I needed time to digest what I thought I knew, and what I was now learning.
- It literally was a step of allowing myself to say “William Branham was a false prophet”. But to actually say it helped break chains. Fear crumbled with those words – because I could begin to think and look honestly at his ministry. I could do it at my own pace, at my own decision and based on my own study and prayer.
- I didn’t know what to think about the teachings of Message modesty. I was against legalism, but I was in favor of modesty. So I was in no rush to change anything.
- I was willing to allow my wife room to discover her feelings about modesty on her own. It was her vessel, her mind, her heart.
- I didn’t have to become bitter or angry – even when I felt anger. Anger was necessary as a stage and a tool for releasing pressure as I realized how much I had lost and been hurt. Venting was natural for the things we were learning and detaching from. But it didn’t have to become my state of being and heart.
- God didn’t forsake me. He didn’t strike me dead. There was no fear God – and I realized the only fears I held were in people’s opinion of me. I didn’t want to be hated by my old friends. I feared being forgotten and discarded – and misunderstood.
- My heart didn’t turn to evil-doing. I had no desire to ‘do evil’.
- I began to dream again. I had feelings in me that I had forgotten when I converted to the Message. Suddenly – I became excited about life. It scared me – because I tried to kill my interest in the world, and people. But here I was….caring.
- I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix *gasp!*. I was quite faithful in how little I watched as a Message Believer. I never went to the movie theatres, nor television. So in the months after I left – I allowed myself to watch something I enjoyed prior to my Message conversion. And – I liked it. Nostalgia was something I gave myself permission to experience.
- I missed people. I missed church people. I thought about them often – and I remembered how much I loved them.
- I missed my family. I had pushed them to the perimeter of my life when the Message came into my life. I wanted to rebuild and reconnect with them.
There’s much more I could write. There’s a process to it all. Giving yourself “permission” is something you need to do as a natural course. It’s like a prisoner being released from years of isolation and incarceration. You don’t know how to function without the strict boundaries that defined your routines and patterns. It’s a new world, a new frame of reference and a new sense of freedom that’s frightening from the onset. You need to recalibrate your life and your paradigm.
From my old message view, I would have called it “backsliding” to step outside the box of expectations. The fear of going further than God’s grace was good medicine. But – in leaving the message, you’re no longer dancing to William Branham’s song. It will become very clear how man-made those boundaries are.
The idea isn’t to go wild and become stupid. Especially as someone who maintains a Christian testimony – you’re still seeking to do well. But those steps you begin to take involve learning, healing and growing. You won’t redefine your boundaries in a day – and so, expect to make mistakes and to be human.
Give yourself permission to need grace while you grow and transition.