I found a pay phone and dialed my parent’s number. It rang… and rang…. and rang. I waited and tried again.
“Hello.” I recognized my youngest sister’s voice.
“Hi Martha, it’s Trudy.” I explained my situation and wondered if anyone would be willing to come pick me up. I had no place to go.
“I’ll talk to them. Call back in about an hour and I’ll try to have an answer.”
Time passed slowly as I paced in the cold. I wandered back to the office where the ‘small but mighty’ officer worked. She was still on duty. Back outside I lit another cigarette.
An hour passed. I called home again. Martha answered. Yes, they would come and pick me up, as long as I promised to keep some basic rules.
- No jeans or slacks at home, only dresses
- No swearing
- No smoking
- No alcohol
I agreed to the rules, as long as the dresses didn’t have to be ‘Mennonite’, but would have to come home in jeans. It was all I had.
That covered, Martha said I should expect my brother, Cor and his wife Susan to arrive in about three and a half hours. I dreaded wandering aimlessly on the dock, in the cold, but at least I wouldn’t have to spend the night on the street.
Minutes later, while pacing the dock, I met a tall, handsome gentleman with shoulder length blonde hair. He had gentle eyes and a kind smile, I noted, as we started a conversation. He asked a few questions and within minutes knew my story.
“I’ll be here for at least three or four hours,” he said. “Would you like to wait in my truck? We’ll watch for your brother. Or, if you want, I could try to get you across the border and somehow connect you with your fiancée. It’s up to you.”
A twinge of fear. What if he wasn’t who he seemed to be? I took my chances. It was too cold to stay outside. “Since my brother is already on the way, I’ll wait in your truck. I really appreciate it,” I said.
It was no ordinary truck. The polished exterior told me he took great pride in it. The inside, more like a high-end mini apartment than a truck, was cozy and warm. He turned on some music.
We chatted like we had been friends for years. It had been a long time since I felt so safe with a man. When Cor and Susan arrived, I was almost sad to leave this new friend behind with nothing more than a ‘thank you’ and no plan to stay connected. God had brought another angel to watch over me.
The ride home was awkward. I had abandoned my family for more than two years with almost no contact. Their lives appeared ‘religiously perfect’ and mine was a mess.
To keep them at a distance, I told them I would be returning to Indiana at my earliest convenience and said that I had gotten married. In my mind I wasn’t lying. We had held a private ceremony at the apartment and said our vows to each other but with no witnesses, no judge, no pastor. Just a candle light pre-wedding ‘promise’ that he had said made us married and gave us ‘rights’, so that I would not feel guilty about our living arrangement. The mind is a strange thing, and so easily deceived. The ceremony worked to remove the guilt.
At home life was relatively uneventful. I mocked religious beliefs and practices, not so much to be antagonistic, but to serve as a defense against any religious indoctrination from siblings. By putting them on the defense, I made it almost impossible for them to ‘preach’ at me.
For the most part I kept the ground rules. But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t go for walks and break the rules off site, or leave home in a dress and change into jeans en route. By walking half way back on our seven acre property and stepping onto the neighbour’s field for a smoke, I figured I was keeping the letter of the law.
For several weeks I lived relatively peacefully with my family, leaving home only occasionally to party with my brother and friends. My fiancée’s truck runs took him to the southern states, making it impossible for him to pick me up.
December 26, 1987, my parents were away, visiting my grandparents for Christmas. A chicken dinner cooked in the oven, prepared by older sisters, and my sister Anna’s boyfriend was visiting from Pennsylvania. The house was clean and welcoming.
Mid-morning my siblings suggested we sing while dinner finished cooking. Most of our family had strong voices and sang beautiful harmony, but I wasn’t into that. I declined. I wasn’t interested in their religious hymns and songs. I was into Bon Jovi, Chicago, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and a variety of other Rock artists.
Someone talked me into joining in. It was only Christmas carols, after all. We sang carol after carol, taking turns choosing songs. I remained disengaged. My youngest brother, Abe, innocently chose a song that had nothing to do with the Christmas season. It was based on the story of the woman brought to Jesus for judgment, in John 8, telling the story of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.
Had anyone else chosen the song, my defences would have been high, suspecting manipulation, but my little brother didn’t have it in him.
As we sang the words, “Neither do I condemn thee….” I realized that it was a personal message from God, to me. Jesus was reaching out, offering me a full pardon for the life of sin I had chosen. My heart was home. I was free.
December 26, 1987, I gave my life to Jesus. Completely. And I’ve never looked back. I struggled. I was tempted. But I made a vow to God and, imperfectly, I have kept that vow.
The following day I broke off the relationship with my fiancée. I embraced the Mennonite culture, and for fourteen years stayed in it, serving God in the culture, and developing relationships that would last a lifetime.
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/