I have struggled for a long time with the idea that my experience as a Jehovah’s Witness was one of inevitability. Naturally, my outcomes were a byproduct of the thoughts and desires that drove me. I’ve had a thirst for truth all of my life. I’ve wanted a close, personal relationship with God for as long as I could remember. I’ve craved answers for all the unknowns in this world, whether they be the injustices that seem to occur on a daily basis, or the vast expanse of space and all the unknown worlds that it cradles. When I was very young (just three years old), my parents’ choice to mutually dedicate themselves to Jehovah’s “earthly organization” was something that happened to me. At some point, I crossed the line of demarcation, and my own baptism as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was something that happened because of me.
Like two dance partners finding themselves moving in sync with each other on the floor, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were always there, always right in front of me. Even though my mother left the organization when I was just eight years old, my father’s fervent desire to follow “Jehovah’s commands” never waned. His unwavering stance made me believe that there must have been more to it and so I decided to investigate further. I liked what I saw. I wanted more. I became powerfully addicted to the idea that I was someone in Jehovah’s organization. I was no longer this lost teenager trying to find his way in a world I didn’t completely understand. I was finally satisfied that I had found a place that provided all the answers, a stark contrast to the life I’d known, where almost nothing was predictable. I became fastened to the congregation with a strong, powerful glue. The bond was so powerfully secure and so firm, that separating with it later nearly tore me apart for good.
For too long I regretted my decision. I lost the connection I once had to my father and my many friends. Everything that I identified with, all that had made me me, was gone in an instant. My safety net vanished into thin air and I fell. I fell hard. I didn’t immediately bounce back. Like a fighter who suffered the knockout punch at the hands of his opponent, I laid face down on the mat, blood trickling out of my ear and the corner of my mouth. Somewhere, off in the distance, I heard the count. Long after the count was complete, I remained on the mat. After the bloodthirsty fans were gone, I finally, slowly, made my way up. First to me knees, with my head still hanging low, my neck unable to support it. I used both of my fits, still encased in my boxer’s gloves, to hold me up. I stared for nearly an hour at the patterns and stains that my blood left on the mat. I was unaware of the world outside of that spot, and certainly not fully conscious of the fact that I remained alone in a vest arena, which itself was at the center of a sprawling metropolis. I was a speck among it all, a lonely, solitary figure, left to die on my own.
I did not die. Hours later, I lifted my head slowly and with much difficulty, the muscles tight and tense, unable to permit quick movement. My eyes, so used to looking down, finally found the means to lift themselves up, allowing me to take in all the empty seats, spread out in every direction as far as I could see. Yes, I was alone. I screamed. My scream echoed off the walls over and over again. It was maddening. My own voices began to curse me. What had I done? How did I allow this all to happen?
For much of the thirty years after, I’ve pondered this cataclysmic event. I’ve tried to understand how I got from there to here. I believe I understand now. I chose to be one of Jehovah’s Witness. I chose to believe what I was told. I made the choice to leave. I have the power to choose. I have free will. I am not a victim.