Why did we continue to stay?
Here is how it went with most of us;
We met brothers and sisters, were led to Jesus by a brother and/or a sister.
(or maybe we saw the "Art-Show") We came over to a fellowship house full of brothers and sisters. We were attracted to Jesus and the brother's and sister's love for him and their happiness,joy and togetherness. They seemed to have something we wanted or something that we ourselves were lacking. We kept coming around and eventually moved in with them for various reasons, but mostly because we wanted to follow and be close to Jesus.
We became part of the group, learned Christ, went witnessing.... We learned to live together with brothers and sisters, we worked hard. But at "Big Meetings" or "Center Meetings" we may for the first time have encountered "the pastor" of the church of bible understanding. And as time went on we came more and more under his influence, either directly, or by the "trickle down" effect. I don't know the early days, but I heard of "center leaders" having to mysteriously return back to NYC, or that anyone that had a disagreement with the "pastor" didn't fare so well, was demonized and belittled and more...Few had the sense to leave early on, by the Grace of God, but a lot of us remained, convinced it was God's will for us....that this was the only place for us to be faithful to Jesus...
So why did we stay and "put up" with all this? We really believed that it was for Jesus, that it probably was our fault that things were the way they were......that we had to try harder... Now what do we exactly sound like? What is this an exact reflection of?
... An abusive Relationship!
Think about it, how does an abusive relationship work? At first, everything seems wonderful. The person gets courted, all the good things are shown and presented. You go through a time of tranquility and happiness. Then slowly come the demands, the belittling, the blaming, the "you are just never good enough". The "it's all your fault". No, not necessarily open or direct but subtle and sublime. And they increase as time goes by. Yes, there are breaks in between, of relaxation, times of God's love being at the forefront, or God's Grace, but they are brief, and usually "it" gets worse afterwards....you feel like the rug is getting pulled out from under you, till eventually it gets just to hard, till you can't do it anymore and your leave in despair, all the while blaming yourself and seeing no hope for yourself in ever being faithful to Jesus Christ.
While some find the Grace from God to just leave and run to Christ and to remain with him, most of the rest of us ran away from Christ, thinking there was no hope for us, that we blew it. Blaming ourselves for our mess we hopelessly wandered around in the world trying to find some decent existence. Some of us, probably most of us, tried to forget and took measures (mostly bad measures), to make sure we forgot our our experience in the church of bible understanding. But for some of us and that not being a few, at the right time God in his Grace found us in the desert and bestowed his love and Grace upon us by reminding us that he never leaves us and forsakes us and that he had died for us and by his Grace he restored us to a real relationship with him, He as a Father and we as his children. And he reminded us; that the work he had started, he would finish.
So why did we stay? Stay for that long?
Why did some keep coming back?
Remember Pilgrim's Progress? This is how I think our experience in the church of bible understanding is represented in Pilgrims Progress;
after Pilgrim began his journey of escaping the city of destruction, he met with all kinds of obstacles among them he met a man; WORLDLY WISE-MAN who gave him advice and directed him to the TOWN OF LEGALITY, there he would find answers to all his problems. But that TOWN OF LEGALITY was up a steep hill, and his climbing got more and more difficult and uphill, until the mountain (the law) was ready to come crashing down on pilgrims head and he would have well perished in his foolish listening to WORLDLY WISE-MAN had it not been for the EVANGELIST who came and found pilgrim and set him straight and directed him back unto the path toward the celestial city!
Also I came to think of our church of bible understanding experience as the same as one who is in a abusive relationship. First time I realized that was when I read Ann Burkharts account on Mike Montoya's angelfire website. How stewart made her his half-wife, (or attempted to), made her totally feel like that she needed him, that she wouldn't be able to be happy without him....( now these are my own words, better if you read hers, if you have the stomach for it)
So I came to think of our experience as the same as some one in an abusive relationship. The parallels are just crazy, how alike they are....
Just like in an abusive relationship, everything starts out good and very promising. But sooner or later, we were caught. "The man of God" could do no wrong, we justified a lot of things, were made to feel no good, were come down upon etc.. just like in an abusive relationship. I think of it like more and more stewart postured himself in front of Jesus and more and more we only saw stewart and our view of Jesus became blocked. Stewart became bigger and bigger and Jesus became smaller and smaller....(but of course all in the name of Jesus) And just like a lot of people find it extremely hard to break free from an abusive relationship, so we also, it was extremely difficult for most of us to leave.....and we always blamed ourselves and not the abuser....
Jesus is not like that!
Jesus is the good Shepherd, who layed down his life for his sheep, who said; my sheep hear my voice and they follow me, and I give them eternal life.(John 10)
Jesus said I will never leave you nor forsake you!
the apostle Paul said; and I am sure that Jesus who began a good work in you will bring it to completion when he comes back!
Where the Spirit of the Lord is; THERE IS FREEDOM!
Christ Jesus died to set us FREE, FREE, FREE!
Jesus said; MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT!
Come to him, remain with him, he will never let you down!
Jesus said; all that the Father gives me, will come to me; and him who comes to me I WILL NEVER CAST OUT, NEVER!