“You’re going to die at Armageddon!” my mother screamed into the phone at me.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised by her response…
At the age of 24, I had made the most courageous decision of my life—I chose to leave the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
My family and “friends” immediately disowned me. After being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness (JW), I knew this would happen. As difficult as it was to hear my mother scream those words at me, I knew she had been programmed to do as such. And that’s why I hadn’t left the religion on a whim.
I had spent two years following every rule the JWs had, so that if I did decide to walk away, there would not be a doubt in my mind that I had done the right thing for myself. I knew leaving meant losing “everything,” and I wanted to be really sure that I was prepared for exactly that. Except how can you ever be prepared for something of that magnitude—and at 24, no less?
And then the day came…
I was sitting in a JW meeting—taking notes, as I was prone to do—as the man from the podium spoke intently. I felt exhausted. Not like I needed to go take a nap, but more like—my soul was exhausted. Exhausted from all of the rules, and exhausted from all of the judgment.
I just could not do it anymore.
Suddenly, I stopped writing—I stopped taking notes. I looked up and around at everyone facing forward, nodding fervently as the man spoke.
I realized in that moment that I did not believe what was being shared from the stage. I realized in that very moment that after 24 years of being associated with, and as, a Jehovah’s Witness I did not—in any cell of any part of my body—want to be one any longer.
I stood up. I made my way through the aisle, excusing myself as politely as I could. As I heard the doors close behind me, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I was never going back.
But what—what in the hell—was I going to do about going forward? I didn’t know what I believed in, I just knew deep within me that there had to be a better way.
Immediately, divine forces went to work for me. I was introduced to Joseph Campbell and Eckert Tolle—and to the book Don’t Know Much About the Bible—and to the notion that nature could be one’s church.
What?! My heart and soul was set on fire.
I had been right—there really wasn’t anything to fear. There was some divine mystery taking place that had the potential to lift me into bliss.
I could hear the whispers within me growing louder. This was the way—this was the path. I was (finally) on the right track.
I got cable TV, as if that somehow might further my exploration of the divine, and on cable was a man named John Edwards. He talked to dead people. What? Dead people can talk?
I sat staring at the television, my mouth agape. Reincarnation—the other side—it was all real? I was elated, for the first time in my life, I felt free—and so, I began to dream.
The JWs preach that Armageddon is just around the corner, and so planning for retirement or going to college is totally unnecessary. The only thing to do when eternal destruction is just around the bend is to hunker down, focus on surviving and making it through each day.
Now here I was—Armageddon wasn’t coming—I could dream about anything I wanted.
And instantly, I knew. My soul had been waiting for this moment for so long. A house at the beach—and writing my words, whatever words I felt called to write.
It was not something I had to work to figure out—my dream was right there, waiting for me to see it and find it. And it took leaving behind, something I had been told was true, that I discovered was the opposite of true. It took me having a blind faith to leap. It took me having the courage to admit that I didn’t believe what I was taught, and what my mother and family members believed in, and that I didn’t even want to be the kind of person who would believe those things.
Today I am writing you from my dream house that is located one block from the Pacific Ocean, with a water view and sunlight streaming in and spaciousness and peace. Today, the majority of my work in this world is writing. My fifth book just came out a few months ago, and I’m working on the next one already.
That 24-year-old me knew at the core of her that this was possible. That this—this that I now live—was meant to be mine. She also knew there was no way I was going to get to it, if I stayed following the JWs. I bless that 24-year-old me every day and the wild journey—the JWs included—that led me to the true freedom to be who I really am and live the life that had always been waiting for me.
I know I’ve had this experience because I’m meant to share it and inspire others—like you, perhaps—to do the same. To step into the true freedom of living the dreams that are housed deep within you.
So now the question is—what life is waiting for you? What limiting beliefs are ready to be released, so that you can live the dream that is desiring to be lived by you?
Allow yourself to get quiet and hear that whisper that is nudging you to let go of old limitations and to step into the dream that you are here to fulfill in this one beautiful life that is yours.
May it be so.
Author: Heather Kristian Strang
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Author’s own.