|Posted by Natacha Tormey on 21 May, 2015 at 12:25|
Living by Faith was a term I heard constantly throughout my childhood. It represented the cult’s belief that true Christians should live as Jesus’s disciples did – by trusting God to supply their every need.
As much as the principal was commendable, the reality was far more depressing. We relied on donations of food, clothing and money to survive which meant that on one day we could have a full plate in front of us, and the next, we could be back on a meagre diet of rice and eggs.
You did not choose your clothing, but wore whatever had been donated and allocated to you. When one child grew out of an outfit it was passed on to another, and another, and another, until it was in tatters. I am all for recycling materials but dressing your children in worn out clothing out of choice seems less honourable to me.
I didn’t realise the impact that ‘living by faith’ had on me until I received my tax return a few days ago. As I stared at my tax bill (that was far higher than I had expected) I felt a sick, nauseous feeling in my stomach. I felt the ice cold tingle of anxiety creep over my body as my stress levels shot up into outer space. For hours I paced around the house, my eyes moist and my hands clammy. My entire day had been thrown into disarray and I couldn’t focus on anything else.
By the time my husband came home, I was positively frantic but his response was to laugh at the state I was in. After a ten minute conversation, I realised why he was laughing.
There was nothing to worry about.
Yes, I owed Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs a lot more money than I had put aside, but really, as I am not a millionaire (unfortunately) we weren’t talking about an astronomical, jump-off-a-bridge sum. The amount was painful but by saving each month I had ample time to pay it before the deadline, which was 7 months away.
I found myself thinking about my OTT reaction in the days that followed and I realised that I was imitating the reaction that adults in the cult would have whenever an unexpected bill came in or a fundraising event was not as lucrative as they had expected it to be.
And it was then that I understood just how stressful this ‘living by faith’ environment was for the children growing up in the cult. Every moment of every day was filled with uncertainty. We never knew what would be in our plates or if the electricity would be cut off. Even at the youngest age I felt the anxiety around me. If finances were low, we would be made to pray for a ‘miracle’, preferably with tears streaming down our face to show God how desperate we were. The adults went about their daily chores looking stressed, as if they were about to fall apart. Worry was etched on their faces and it stayed there until the next ‘miracle’ arrived. When it did we would rejoice and celebrate, but we always knew that it was a matter of time before the next desperate moment arose.
The older I got, the more affected I was by this unstable lifestyle as my understanding of the severity of our situation was clearer. By the age of 12 I was as anxious as the adults around me. Never knowing how we would pay for next week’s food shopping kept me awake at night and it made me feel sick when I riffled through charity clothing to find outfits for my younger siblings.
Living by faith is great in principal and I actively encourage any adults to adopt the lifestyle if they so wish to. But for heaven’s sake, leave your children out of it. You may think that you are earning an extra jewel on your heavenly crown but really, all you are doing is dumping a truckload of anxiety on your children. Kids need stability to thrive and I would know that because I had absolutely none growing up. Parents cannot always provide material stability but through their behaviour and words they should reassure their child that they are in control. The child then feels safe as ‘the adult is handling it’.
As with the tax return, every so often I am reminded of these little ‘issues’ I still carry around because of my past. I am just lucky that I have a great husband there to bring me to my senses and remind me that the world is not about to end.
Our cult leader, David Berg, wrote us long letters instructing us to ‘live by faith’ – he wrote these from large, expensive houses where he had fine dining, a harem of women, swimming pools and crates of fine sherry at his disposal.
Guess who paid for that?