A Guest Writer Post

I am extremely pleased and honored to publish this post written by Adam Tull, a reader of this blog.

He has titled it “Grief”.

A few months ago, I was feeling a familiar set of emotions that always seemed to creep up on me around mid to late summer. Usually, around mid-July, I am bombarded with memories and emotions that I have carried with me for over four decades, I just didn’t realize how powerful and deep they were.

To anyone who grew up in the meeting culture, wherever you live(d), you knew that convention or special meeting would inevitably be upon you and that there was so much more to it than the one to four days in which you were immersed. Several months after going through the divorce from my first wife, I remember having a terribly heavy heart . I believe it was a Thursday and it was the first day of convention. Ironically, the house I was renting at the time was less than a mile from the grounds where I spent the majority of my convention days throughout my life. I didn’t really want to be there, but at the same time, I had this feeling that was where I was SUPPOSED to be. It was a truly paradoxical moment filled with a lot of emotional baggage that stemmed from years of coercive and destructive thoughts and what I would later learn to call “emotional abuse” .

I had made the choice to step away from the usual Sunday morning gathering a year or two prior to my “life event” and that in and of itself was a great relief. I was done. I no longer needed to be coerced into feeling guilty about being human and that I was just never going to be“good enough” . We all have those things that weigh heavy on our hearts and minds, they can take the joy out of something that ought to be overflowing with joy and love. I was getting a lot of mixed signals and it seemed that the by rote platitudes had taken their toll. I was in dire need of an uplift and the rules could no longer deliver.

Fast forward two years- I had been through convention cycles and my wife, Paula was starting to notice a pattern. It was me getting depressed on a fairly consistent basis and on the same months of summer.

Summertime, for me, has always been the least depressing time in Oregon because it’s sunny and warm. I live for the long , bright and warm days. When most are complaining about the heat at 80 degrees F. I am finally starting to get comfortable. Normally, the depression hit around mid July because I knew that I would invariably be driving by the grounds on a frequent basis and I would see familiar faces working outside making preparations for the next month. To those familiar with the nomenclature, “preps” were in order. In the past, I did my fair share of Saturdays and the occasional Friday on the grounds. Since I had grown up there, I had a long history associated with the culture and the routine.

Then , toward the end of August, would be convention. It was always at the forefront of my consciousness. One day, she (Paula) mentioned that I ought to talk to someone about my recurring feelings during this time of the year because it was beginning to have a detrimental effect on our relationship. So, I called Liz, our minister from the church we now attend and had a good ninety minute discussion with her about these emotions and memories.

I explained the entire scenario to her from how we would meet in homes, how the workers went out in pairs, the style of dress that was unique to the women primarily, and the conventions. I went into the most intricate detail as I possibly could so she could get a visual of what I was trying to describe. In my description of the meeting culture, I was insistent how I no longer had any desire to be a part of that kind of mind-set. Religious and social xenophobia could no longer be status quo for me.

Finally, the light-bulb went off in her head! She got what it was that I was trying to say. I was dealing with leftover and reoccurring GRIEF. I had never fully allowed myself to say good bye to the old way of life , especially now that I could no longer view the world and the creator of the world with the same eyes.

She then shared an analogy that a friend of hers, a grief counselor, often used to help family members deal with the loss of loved ones. Her words were, “Imagine that you are at the carnival and you see a wall covered with balloons where you throw darts at the balloons and hope to win the prize”. She went on to say, “imagine those balloons as memories or things that you need to grieve, it’s a slow process and it happens on an individual basis”. I pondered that for a minute and the irony of it smacked me on the top of the head. Two days before, I had taken my family to the Benton county fair and we had done that exact thing while there. “Grief is something that you have to allow yourself to process, otherwise you will not heal entirely, you will always carry that around with you until it runs its due course”. “when you finally pop all of the balloons, you are healed from that specific experience”

She explained my struggles to me- here, I was talking about something that had been a MAJOR part of my life and now I was no longer “in the fold”. There were good memories associated with the meetings, there were friendships formed, there was an entire panorama of thoughts and feelings that were a part of me. I no longer wanted the bad things associated with the meetings, but I was missing the pleasant things which were familiar to me. I just needed to keep throwing a few more darts and pop those balloons!

She further explained how adept the conservative church is at drawing in people. That inclusion and “identity” gives the proselyte (especially) a sense of belonging that liberal churches often cannot even come close to offering. I had gone from a very conservative , fundamentalist organization to one that has a different philosophy, inclusiveness! It was quite the epiphany for me. There I was! Weighted down with thoughts that I assumed were just leftover guilt and remorse. No, I was just saying good bye to my past and was not understanding the process. After I had dealt with the grief of a failed marriage, I needed to continue though the process of grief for my old friendships and my “old” way of worship and all of the other experiences.

I will always love the friends , I just hope that they can see that.

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3 thoughts on “A Guest Writer Post

  1. Thank you so much for this guest post. I completely identify with these feelings and it has explained them so well. What a blessing! I deal with feeling drawn to convention every year. Now I really know why and can understand them in a very healthy way.

    It is interesting that my wife doesn’t have this issue at all. After reading this post I understand why. She always felt judged by people and wasn’t able to be herself. The thought of convention just brings this all back so it is very negative to her. She loves the inclusiveness of church now. What a difference for her!

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  2. Adam,
    I have written about some of these very things on the blog and I could totally relate to how you felt in July and August. I deal with those same feelings. I’d like to believe I have grieved my losses but perhaps not because some still feel so fresh. You mentioned how we will always miss some of the really good things about conventions and that is true. You know what I miss most about Saginaw? It’s the beauty of those grounds. The trees, the hillside. Sitting in the sister worker section in meetings and looking out those open windows to our left up the hill….hearing the trees in the breeze. Walking back on those trails up there. Plus, I have memories on just about every area of those grounds. From staying in the dorm as a little girl to a teenager, then in my 20’s a few of my girlfriends and I rented a trailer from Cottage Grove to stay in during convention so we wouldn’t have to stay in the dorm! Spenser Sorensen helped us get it all set up. Then, as a sister worker I stayed in just about every nook and cranny where they put sister workers! And of course, sitting in the “crowd” in the meeting hall with my mom, then friends, the section of the meeting hall where I professed. Speaking from that platform for the first time. The old kitchen down the hill! Cooking breakfast for convention down there at 4:30 in the morning with Dave Nealon. Then being one of the convention cooks up in the “new” kitchen. Memories everywhere. And yes, I miss ALL of that. Tremendously every August. August used to be my favorite month of the year; now I endure it pretty much. (Unlike you, I don’t like the extreme heat!!)

    I KNOW the Lord understands and feels with us in these losses. God spoke to me on those grounds many times; I can’t deny that. I also recognize that some of what I heard was prompted by the beliefs of the group that weren’t of God at all and how easy it was to determine that it was from God when in reality I don’t think it was. The meeting groups has their own “Kool Aid” if you will. The pressure to go into the Work when you are young, the pressure to ‘fit in’ and have the workers approval which they believed was synonymous with having God’s approval. Their definition of the ‘world’ and how utterly evil it all was and how everyone but ‘us’ were going to hell.

    I also know God remembers how extremely difficult it was for us to leave the meetings because of the pressure of the group and how costly it is socially at first to leave. I just believe he wants to hold us close to Him because of what we went through on our walk to freedom in Christ. He will not let us go. I love Him so much for that and more

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