I visited Grease Spot for a while some years ago and I think I posted “My Story” then, (under a different screen name). Right now I’m back to share an aspect that I haven’t thought of for a while and I wonder if anyone else will relate to it or not.
I’ve read so many posts here in the last couple of days and there is much intelligent discussion and elegant narrative. My post won’t be one of the most interesting or elegant. But I really do need some feedback on a couple of things. If there is anyone anywhere who can relate, they are probably here. If you are patient enough to get through it and have any response, I’ll be grateful. Even if you think I’m just goofy or off the wall.
Like many of you, my time with the Way was a series of crises. The first five years led me deeper and deeper. Then the next six were an oscillating journey toward my final exit. It’s the conclusions I came to at that final break that I really want to know if you can relate to.
As years in TWI went by, the ongoing crises seemed to lead to more personal loss and often to physical danger and violence; bullet dodging, forced abduction, looking down the barrel of a shotgun, associating with murderers, a busted lip, serious car crash, threats, drunken rowdies trying to break into my home and do me harm. Always associated directly or indirectly with witnessing and running twigs or classes. This is pertinent to the questions I’m going to ask later.
I suppose I could have viewed these dangers as signs of the devil’s displeasure with me for my good work, something like the apostle Paul’s list of tribulations. But it never felt that way to me. Some were just weird intrusions that seemed to pop out of nowhere. Some were the result of fatigue. Some from dangerous people I tried to help. Some were threats from leaders I didn’t please.
After the first five years and my second expulsion from the Way Corps, I was still studying the Bible and keeping up a prayer relationship with God. But I had no intention of continuing my path with TWI. As a matter of fact when I was dropped from the Corps for the second time, I went to a rural area where it happened that the nearest Way fellowship was about 40 miles away and I had no intention of participating.
Nonetheless, it seemed that as long as I kept delving into the Bible and praying, people kept showing up in my life that wanted spiritual guidance. At that time I still thought that PFAL gave the basics and I directed people that way. Since there was no fellowship around and no one in the state would come to my area to run a class, I ended up getting involved again, starting Twigs and running classes. As usual, that ended up leading to more personal loss and occasional danger.
Along the winding path I took towards leaving TWI, ironically I actually ended up on HQ staff for a couple of years. I didn’t seek a position. I was solicited and hired by a department head that knew me somewhat and needed my secular skills in his department.
I was at HQ as a summer volunteer on the day that VPW died and then was called back the following year as full time staff shortly before POP. The following two years on staff was enough to convince me fully that I didn’t want to be part of TWI anymore and I quit HQ shortly before LCM started making people vow their loyalty to him. I’m sure I would soon have been fired anyway.
I don’t want to give the impression that my quitting was some kind of noble stand against the big bad ministry. I did feel the hammer coming down and didn’t want to be there for it. I had found it impossible to sit through Sunday nights or stay awake in Twigs for a long time because the teachings had become so full of fear. But I quit just as much because of my own depression and inability to break through any of my personal agonies. I just found it painful to be there and wanted to go.
I had lots of my own personal problems that would have been part of my life even if I’d never heard of TWI. But my biggest one was trying to understand why it didn’t seem that God could help me with any of them after that initial few years.
I left HQ and started trying to pursue personal goals that I had deferred for the past 10 years. But I still kept up my personal relationship with the Bible and God. Sure enough, the more I studied and thought that I was understanding what God wanted me to do, the more I would meet people who seemed to need God and the more personal loss and danger it would add up to for me.
A year or so later I was living outside of Nashville, TN in a small camper, trying to work a bit and become a better musician. I had recently directed one last young couple to the PFAL class. I don’t think I attended much of it with them. I may have even told them not to expect much from the fellowships, just take the class, get the basics and move on (perhaps like I wished I had done).
At this time I was still moved powerfully by the Bible and prayer. But despite feeling that strong inner communion with God, my personal and material life just seemed to deteriorate more and more. I was delivering Dominoes pizza with a car that wasn’t going to run much longer. I was socially isolated. Making little progress towards any goals that mattered to me.
It was around that time that a bunch of rowdy steel workers in the next camper decided to single me out for ridicule and then, one night, tried to break into my camper with me in it. I had never said a word to any of them or interacted with them in any way. I don’t think they had any idea who I was. They were just drunk and drawn to me for some reason; like a pack of wild dogs. It wasn’t directly tied to anything else that was going on (the young man I’d been witnessing to was tangentially part of the incident) – but it felt in a metaphysical way like a direct attack and in my memory like a familiar pattern. As it had happened in the past; 1) my heart feels like I’m in communion with God, 2) I share my communion with people who seem to need God, 3) my personal and material life deteriorates, something dangerous happens.
OK, here’s the part that I really want to know if anyone else can relate to:
Did any of you experience that kind of pattern? Focus more on God’s voice = closer to danger and destruction? If you did, what do you think of it in your own life?
Not long after that incident I took stock of myself. I remembered saying over and over in my early witnessing days that if this stuff didn’t work for me I wouldn’t be preaching it. Internally there was something precious which did work for me – but I felt strongly that the closer I got to that internal beauty the closer I got to danger and destruction on the outside. Maybe I helped some people along the way… maybe.
There was something too rich about the diet. Like too much love for the spiritual was making me sick in the material. I could not balance it. I finally came to the conclusion that although man could not live on bread alone, the time had come for me to focus on the daily bread and let the spiritual diet take care of itself. It wasn’t as much a choice to turn away from God, as it was a choice to live. I felt certain I was headed for bad things if I kept reading the Bible and praying.
I gave all my research books (which took up considerable space in my tiny trailer) to the young couple I’d been witnessing to and from that day stopped reading the bible and praying. Slowly my life began to balance out.
I still had plenty of personal problems. The same ones I’d carried into and through TWI minus a few that actually were addressed in those first few years. But I no longer tried to work any of them out through prayer or study. I don’t talk to God any more. I don’t read the Bible. I don’t try to reach conclusions about the “miracles” and “revelations” I experienced during those eleven years. I don’t try to reach conclusions about the existence of God or spiritual matters in general. I just concentrate on my daily bread.
I think I still live a very spiritual life. Material concerns are still very low priority for me. I’ve never become financially prosperous despite education and much hard work. I think I simply don’t care enough about it. But I feel very rich in spirit and beauty of life.
After a while I got the impression that I was just born with strong spiritual inclinations. Long before TWI and Christianity became a path for me I was a searcher. It seemed in retrospect that the Bible and prayer were like a magnifying glass for a light that I already bathed in naturally. It focused that spiritual energy on my life in a way that was more than I could manage. I felt like an ant holding a lens above my own head and burning myself up. I had to drop the magnifier and just live in the sunshine that was all around me or I would have disintegrated.
Does anyone relate to that image?
Since then my life has become more balanced. Step by step, I’ve made my way through the depression and isolation that always plagued me whether I was in TWI or anywhere else. Finally, in my fifties I’m living a contented life, giving comfort to my family and doing something I’m sure is worthwhile.
OK, one more thing. And maybe it’s kind of weird or silly or just more metaphysical bull pucky. But I sincerely want to know if it rings with the experiences of anyone else here.
When I came to this site five or six years ago, it had been a long, long time since I’d had any interest in what was going on with TWI or any of the offshoots. (Hence, my new screen name). I don’t remember what got me started but I guess I did a little search on the net to see what I might find about The Way. The name of this site was irresistible and once I started reading I was sucked in for at least several days: maybe longer. I don’t remember. But I was definitely obsessed with what people were sharing and entertained by the humor in the Corps forums. I connected with some old friends and got to thinking about lots of things. Possibly seeking out some fellowship in Phoenix.
Right at that time, in the middle of night there was sudden banging on my door and someone shouting, “Let me in”. It took me a while to get out of bed and to the door. By the time I opened it no one was there. I lived in a little cottage on some urban farm property in the South Mountain area of Phoenix, AZ. So, it was a pretty isolated, dark location. The next day I found out that a murder had taken place on an adjoining property and from the details I’m pretty sure that the guy banging on my door was the murderer looking for a place to hide – but he took off before I answered.
Now like I said, I know it’s silly right? But this really shook me. After the initial response, when I had time to think, it seemed like I had reached out and touched that forbidden thing again and weird violent crap just erupted around me.
I called a couple of old Way buddies to talk about it. But it didn’t help. I tried to reach a Christian therapist who had heard my whole Way International story in detail the year before – but she had decided God didn’t want her speaking to me anymore. I’m not superstitious, really; no rabbit’s foot, don’t care about black cats, walk under ladders and break mirrors regularly. But this shook me and scared me for some time.
Eventually I just let it go and moved on. But I really didn’t want to talk about TWI anymore. Then yesterday something moved me to look up this site again. Maybe I was just a little lonely and wanted to see if anyone I knew was around. I started to find topics that intrigued me and began to read and listen kind of obsessively again. And you know, a part of me felt like. Don’t do it. You can’t afford for something bad to happen right now. People are depending on you.
Here it is 20 years after I left that life behind and I still have this little, irrational fear of focusing on it or being near it.
Maybe I’m poking the tiger by sharing here again. Or, maybe I just want to face up to this weird, stupid thing in my brain; the idea that focusing on that part of my life will bring bad things. Can any of you relate, or am I just too weird to talk to?