Neither one of my parents wanted me to go in to the Work (ministry) and yes, they both professed. They never actually came out and said that, but their reactions to my offering to go were obvious. I think both of them did not want their daughter turning into a frumpy, straight laced sister worker because that was all they had ever seen. (Even the best dressed ones) And I can’t blame them. I had a wonderful Aunt who did her best to keep me in nice clothes the years I was in the Work so that wouldn’t happen! I also think they just didn’t want me becoming a worker (minister) period. We didn’t worship the workers when I was growing up; in fact, we were always pretty relieved when they weren’t around so having a worker in the family was not a great thought. The area where I grew up, the workers didn’t bother us much, so we weren’t under a super tight thumb but I know now of plenty of areas where that was not the case.
My mother always struggled with being a bit ‘worldly’. Yeah!! I love her for that now! She was always perfectly groomed and, gasp, wore a little rogue. She would have worn more makeup if her Self Righteous Worker Daughter (aka Me) wasn’t on her case. I have asked forgiveness from her and from God for the times when I pressured and guilted her into being someone she really wasn’t just to make me look good. Ugh.
We had a TV and kept it hidden in a bedroom closet on a rolling cart. We always had a Christmas tree growing up until the late 60’s when the edict went up and down the West Coast from the workers that suddenly they were outlawed. I remember the last year we had one. We had it up and decorated and I looked out the window and saw the older sister worker in our area walking down the street heading to our house. We lived just down the street from some of the friends. Mom and I panicked and literally picked up the tree and carried it into one of the bedrooms! Probably leaving a trail of tinsel behind too! Mom said, “Never again” and that was it. Our house used to be so pretty during the holidays but we never had decorations again after all. CRAZY RULES that became doctrine.
My dad did not like it when I started wearing my hair up all the time…or any of the time for that matter. He hated “buns”. My folks had divorced when I was about 4 so I didn’t see him very often but he was quite verbal on this issue. They both thought it was ridiculous when I stopped wearing jeans and only wore dresses. I know they hated seeing me becoming more and more ‘religious’. If only I had listened to them and we could have talked about it more. They knew a whole lot more on those subjects than I ever gave them credit for. They just didn’t buy into the crazy making rules because they were old enough to have known both the before and after of those rules. My mom had always worn slacks to do yard work or wash the car etc until the “rules” changed. Yes, women in general wore dresses most of the time when they got married, and yes, she did her housework in dresses and HEELS but that was the era. It had nothing to do with being professing.
When they got married in the 40’s, she didn’t wear her hair “up”. Her hair was never past her shoulders in length. She wore it curly; I can’t tell from pictures whether it was pinned up in the back or not. We girls (there were 3 of us) all had short hair until again the early 60’s. I had short hair until the early 70’s.
Why am I telling you all of this? I’m not sure exactly but I am thankful my mother (my father was a zero parent in my life) didn’t raise me with a bunch of silly professing outward rules. I imposed a few on my own self in high school. For instance, I made myself wear a dress to school one day a week to ease my conscience. I only regret not talking to my mother about these things and finding out what she truly believed.
My folks feared God but I don’t think they were ever told they could love God and they certainly never heard anything about having a personal relationship with Jesus on a first name basis. Both of their folks heard the workers in the early teens of the last century and believed they had found the “truth”.
After I was in the Work a few years, mom became aware of her new status as a worker’s mother and it gave her a sense of esteem in the fellowship, which I know she appreciated. She deserved it after years of greatly suffering reproach from the group because of the divorce. It was hard on her when I left the Work but she was very grateful I had come home to care for her. I probably would never have left the fellowship while she was still alive but I know now she understands completely and I cannot wait to talk to her about these things ‘from the other side’.
I know one of the things that prompted this post and got me to thinking about my folks is because of a book I am currently reading that just came out last week. It is called Girl At The End of the Road by Elizabeth Esther. The author is telling her own story of being raised in a fundamentalist cult and how she finally escaped from that. Her experience is far more extreme than mine but also more liberal at times. My heart aches for her and what she went through growing up but I rejoice with her now where she is at.
I am free now from all the outward rules I knew most of my life about dress and appearance. The only rule I adhere to now is the one the Bible tells me to and that is to be modest. I love wearing make-up and earrings; I feel so pretty and feminine. I wear skirts and dresses occasionally but only when I truly want to for the occasion. My fashion goal is to be classy. I know for sure that frumpiness is not godliness. It is far more of a challenge now to have a pure heart and to love others, to let God refine my character.