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White Washed Idolatry

. . for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. 
Exodus 34:14

N orm Wakefield is an author and speaker with a tender heart for men and their families. In his article The Curse of the Standard Bearers: When Idolatry Masquerades as Love, he tells the story about a young man whose parents crossed a very serious boundary. 

Almost overnight, Marty's life changed. His parents decided to become associated with other homeschooling families whose goal was to raise children with godly character. With the new direction for the family came more responsibilities and expectations from his parents. He already felt smothered by their efforts to make him into the type of young person who would give them a good reputation among their peers, but with the change came a tidal wave of standards and goals he felt were impossible to meet.
      Marty didn't make it easy for them. In fact, he questioned them constantly as to why they had to live by all these standards of dress, social etiquette, grooming, facial expressions, entertainment, courtship, attitudes, education, and food. His honest questions brought accusations of rebellion and disrespect, which were not his intentions. Eventually, the conflict became so great that in order to protect their reputation, Marty's parents sent him to live and work with an uncle, hoping God would eventually open his eyes to see the blessing he was rejecting.
      Marty's well-meaning parents were Standard Bearers. Without realizing it, self-ambition (lust for significance and success) and an idolatrous love of man's approval gained ascendancy within their hearts. The curse of the Standard Bearers rested upon them and all the relationships for which they felt responsible. Unwittingly, they looked to standard bearing as the solution to parenting Marty and to gaining significance and acceptance for the whole family. Instead of demonstrating a life lived in a relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and leading Marty to do the same, they were caught in the enticing trap of a form of religion. They quickly learned what standards were acceptable and not acceptable among those with whom they wished to connect and then commanded obedience from Marty.
      At age fifteen and living at home, Marty knew he should obey his parents, but they never led him to deal with his heart relationship with God. Consequently, the parent-child relationship was always about responsibility and expectations. It's no wonder that Marty felt unloved, controlled, and unvalued. Living by rules and standards cannot build relationships based on God's love and grace. A form of outward obedience may occur, but liberty and love that comes from the Holy Spirit's work internally is overlooked.
      Until Marty has a relationship with Jesus, his parents must teach, train, and demand honor and obedience (Eph. 6:1-4). However, once the Holy Spirit indwells him, Marty should be taught to walk by the Spirit in relationship with the heavenly Father. As Jesus told his disciples, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). As a son starts to walk by the Spirit, an earthly father should encourage his son’s decision-making and guidance to come from a personal relationship with the heavenly Father, not himself. To the degree that the father makes the decisions and dictates the lifestyle of his believing son, to that degree he hinders his son’s spiritual life. A father’s role should decrease just as John the Baptist’s role decreased when Jesus appeared (John 3:30).[i]

Spiritual abuse, authoritarianism, fear-based control . . . they all have something in common. As we look at our lives, we women who struggle with exhaustive levels of guilt, shame, confusion, low self-esteem, chronic fatigue, and many other heart / soul / mind / body issues, we need to understand that there is a root under everything—one that connects the externals, the features of our environment and upbringing, with the hidden places inside of us. Where our heart hurts. Where it’s dark. Where we have shame, addiction, depression, and pain. But once we identify and eradicate this cancer—oh, sweet child! We find the joy of the New Way and the journey which leads to life!
            But first we must descend into blackness.

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:26-28)

What about honor?
Wakefield mentions something I want to re-emphasize. Marty’s parents were well-meaning. It’s important to acknowledge that virtually all of our parents meant well. They had the best intentions and most sought the Lord in every way possible while raising us. Seeking the truth of pain and acknowledging your struggles does not dishonor your family. Many hesitate under the assumption that to honor is synonymous with to obey, but this is not the case. Moreover, honor is not always a feeling or giving a feeling.
To honor is to esteem, to place weight, to value. This is not mutually exclusive to exposing the effects of a dysfunctional childhood or sin. Honor is a verb—actively giving weight to your parents’ work, position, and sacrifice in your life. You honor them through not settling into apathy but seeking truth, healing, and strengthening your walk of faith. You honor them by fighting the good fight. You honor them by obeying God, by loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Which is why identifying the root of our pain is essential.

Root of darkness
            My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
            No other cry carries such agony, such grief as these words of Jesus. As He hung on the cross, our Lord who knew no sin became sin for us and willingly suffered separation, abandonment so that we don’t have to.
As humans, we sin and will struggle with sin all of our days. When others sin against us, we have the opportunity to learn humility and show forgiveness, mercy and grace. But what is sin? Sin is unrighteousness; it separates us from the Almighty. It’s breaking God’s law.
It’s what keeps us from obeying the greatest commandment.  
I said in the last chapter that one of the most subtle, spiritually destructive, and yet accidental ways a parent can overstep their boundary is to infringe on the job of the Holy Spirit. That by doing so, they unwittingly place themselves in a position reserved for God alone—and cause their children to commit idolatry.
Think about a garden. Plants need sunlight to grow, to be strong, to produce fruit. Flowers need the sun to blossom and thrive, and yet they are at the mercy of the elements, having no choice over the environment. They don’t ask for clouds to come along and hide the sun. They can’t make them go away. Yet clouds cut off the source of life. Unless they move, the garden will wither and die.
Like flowers in the sun, we are dependent upon our own Source of life. He is our righteousness.[ii] Anything that stands between us and causes separation is sin. Anytime we look to something or someone else as our source, as our justification and righteousness, we commit idolatry.  And anything that preoccupies and keeps us from loving the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind is an idol.
Even if it has been erected for us.

White-washed idolatry
This is serious stuff. Because there are so many good, godly things that look right. That’s why our confusion is practically palpable, and why this particular type of dysfunction is so insidious. But godly things are not God, and when they are held up as our source from which we draw life, what controls us, what we serve with heart, mind, soul and strength, when they become as God to us—a god we can see and measure ourselves by—we become idolaters.
It’s a line so thin as to be almost imperceptible. Often our convictions and beliefs rule us as God. Sometimes it’s church. Dad, mom, even the blessing of children can become idols, cloud-like, obscuring our sun which gives life. Our standards, rules, regulations, the law itself become our sustenance. Often the Bible is elevated to God’s position, and parents, speaking and controlling as God—but they are still not God.
As a perfectionist who read the Bible every day and clung to commands to be perfect, holy, and to sin not, I committed idolatry. How? The truth is, Jesus is my perfection. As I listened to voices—my own and others—to keep trying, to press on towards the prize, to not grow weary in doing good, that he who knows to do good and does not do, to him it’s sin . . . I missed the voice that said Come to Me. Rest.
As a girl who ached to please, I sought and served the approval of man. In a curious twist of “I die daily”, I essentially killed myself to gain approval, acceptance and “well done” which  rarely ever came. But despair did, and guilt, depression, and shame. 
I was an idolater, and our idols—they kill, steal, and destroy.
But we need approval. We need acceptance. We need to feel love, nurture and affection. We need to read the Bible, to have standards, convictions. See again the deceptive nature of white-washed idolatry? We take God and re-create Him into something we can touch, feel, and measure ourselves by. We re-create Him in the image of our parents. Scripture. The law. And by taking God’s gifts, and God-given needs, we worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator . . . 

 . . . Continue reading in "Quivering Daughters" available spring 2010
© 2010 Hillary McFarland

[i] The Curse of the Standard Bearers: When Idolatry Masquerades as Love by Norm Wakefield. Copyright Spirit of Elijah Ministries | P.O. Box 377 Bulverde, Texas 78163 | www.spiritofelijah.com | Used by Permission.
[ii] Jeremiah 23:5,6

Link Love

Thank you for your patience as I continue to focus on Quivering Daughters, the book! Your comments and emails bless me tremendously ~ even if I do not respond right away, they keep me going like heart-coffee, so thank you.

 << X Isn't that a beautiful X? You can find many creative drop caps for your blog at
 Daily  Drop Cap. I use Firefox and the other day opened my page in IE, sad to discover that   for   some reason, the drop caps I normally use don't appear in Internet Explorer browsers. So  when I can, I'll add a little flair from Jessica's site.

Okay ~ some reading for you!

Elizabeth Esther has a great article up right now, titled "How to talk to someone living inside an abusive church/cult group."

Cindy wrote an invaluable five-part series called "Cognitive Dissonance and Bible Study Following Spiritual Abuse." Here is part one.

I am reading Thin Places by Mary DeMuth and will post a review in the next few weeks.

If you have any recommended reading, feel free to leave a comment or email!


The Daughters of Patriarchy | Codependency | Repost

This is edited and reposted from last year. I know it's long, but codependency within deeply conservative lifestyles is a serious issue. It's important to learn how to recognize it and seek healing, because codependency follows us throughout life and affects other relationships.
It is a term that implies that we are dependent upon one another. How is this a bad thing? Of course we need others in our lives. We need relationship, we need the support, wisdom, and encouragement that comes from close connections with others. However, within an imbalanced or dysfunctional environment where there is little to no boundary, codependency bears potential for serious problems.

Closely identified with enmeshment, codependency is one of those vague-sounding expressions uttered by professionals in the mental health industry which, I am sure we all learned, is inherently suspect by many conservatives. "Christian psychologist? Impossible."

I present here an exhaustive amount of material from many different sources. Please remember:
  • Not every symptom will be manifested in every person or situation.
  • Some of these concepts are promoted by those who do not necessarily hold a Christian worldview. If there is anything here that you recognize, that seems familiar or strikes a chord, note that symptom and take it before the Father who loves and ask that truth be revealed to you.
  • I myself am not a doctor, mental health professional, or anything other than a woman who has embarked upon a journey of grace, seeking the healing of Jesus from deep emotional and spiritual pain. Learning balance and becoming aware of the issues I raise {in other words, discovering the truth of the situation} has been a key element in seeking wholeness. For many years I had vague unrest, knowing there were things that were wrong, but unable to place my finger upon the precise element that was troublesome. God showed me that there is wisdom to be found in the experiences of others, and He has used these things to help me immensely. Each of us have relationships with Him that are deeply personal. I believe that this is intentional on His part, for He wants us to know that He loves us and wants us, as an individual soul, and yearns that we know Him in a way that is intimate and for us alone. So, as in everything that I write and present, please weigh the information here according to the heart of Almighty God, and Scripture.

What is it, why is it harmful, and how do we overcome it?

A codependent person is defined by Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, as "one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior." Some codependents have an inherent need to be controlled by others instead. Often, codependent people are preoccupied with the opinions of others, and are overly concerned with what others might think.

All About Life's Challenges features information on Codependency which goes into a little more detail.

[Codependents] often feel tremendous guilt, responsibility or need to "fix" by controlling the actions of others, especially the one who owns the original problem. The codependent develops intense feelings and will try anything to make the family or relationship survive.

It's very common to "cover up" the behavior of their loved one; this is called enabling. By enabling, they are allowing the behavior to continue and cause avoidance of natural consequences. Codependents don't want to "rock the boat." They therefore are willing to do most anything just to keep peace. This too is where other family members learn to function in this manner creating the all too common "dysfunctional family."

The codependent will often accept blame for the situation. For instance, in a dysfunctional relationship the codependent will either accept or proclaim that "It's entirely my fault; it's because of something I did wrong."

This fits the source of dysfunction or dependent just fine since the person looks for others to blame for their actions. The dependent is denying, floundering, and usually very capable of using whatever means of escape possible. They are not beyond threats, coercion, or manipulation to avoid taking responsibility.

We don't have to struggle alone. God has not left us alone in our troubles; He wants to come alongside us and within us to help. His Spirit will empower us. The secret to a changed life, our own and our loved ones, is to submit to His control and let Him work.

Symptoms of codependency/codependent behavior
(for more, click the "Read More" link below)

Take Heart

I've been spending 12 and 18 hour days on my book, Quivering Daughters, and I am happy to report I have a very loving, supportive husband! :-) I'm really excited about my progress and grateful for all of you who continue to check in. I have a couple guest posts coming so be sure to visit again soon!

In other news, No Longer Quivering is hosting a blog-a-thon to help raise awareness for the Take Heart Project, a non-profit organization whose mission statement is "to provide support to women and children who are escaping abusive religious movements, and to provide the public with accurate, compassionate information on the unique challenges faced by the spiritually abused." If you're interested in reading more of Vyckie's experience, please view No Longer Quivering.

As quivering daughters, we all have memories that stick out in our minds ~ words, experiences, even times we were punished unfairly, accused, shamed. One young woman, at 20 years of age, was told by her mother, "If I miscarry after all the stress you've caused us, it will be your fault." These words deeply wound. Left buried in the bones of our soul, they become dark, aching shadows that are carried throughout life and affect what we think, believe, and feel. Ultimately, they can color the way we see God and become stumbling blocks to healing, to truth.

Do you hide words, memories? Are there painful places that beg to be released, brought to light? Let me encourage you to find someone you trust, and tell them. Write them into a journal, and pray that God will replace those scars with grace. Feel free to share anonymously here, or to email if you like. I long for you to rejoice with the freedom that comes through truth!

May God bless you, friends and sisters.


Truth wrung from a heart of pain, melted in the crucible of life and guided by the Healer's hand, is a gift without measure.

A living mystery. 

A quivering daughter writes:

"If there was anything that I'd convey to other women and girls going through or coming out of similar circumstances [it would be] Truth. God's truth is NOT conditional, does not contradict itself. It is not based in hatred. Not based in fear. It convicts and draws our hearts, opening them further to God, not for inspection and criticism. Not so that it's precious contents can be judged, compared or ridiculed. But so that God the Father can have access to express His joy, compassion, care and concern. It's not something He takes from his daughters. There is not one part of God's character that demands.
 While our earthly father's may have misused or abused the power and authority over their daughters, that is not a part of God's character. He doesn't game play or pull the rug out from under us. He does not put us in compromising situations or laugh at us. He does not use our emotions against us. He treasures us, comforts us. Sees the pain and hurt and everything we lock away for safe keeping. He waits, knowing that relationship comes and is strengthened when we seek out His comfort ~ yet even while waiting, He makes known the comfort and protection that He wants to bestow on us. Even while we are in the midst of horrifying situations, the truth of our Father is there, contradicting the experiences we've had at the hands of our earthly fathers."

May you be filled with the healing truth of our Heavenly Father.

image source 
(Yes, I'm still on break, but I had to post this today.)

Blogging Break

My friends, it's time for me to take an indefinite break from active blogging while I spend the next season working on my book. There are a few key articles I'm writing that pertain to the scope of Quivering Daughters, as well as for The Quiverfull Daughter, so as I complete them, they will appear ~ but I must prioritize my focus to this book.

Please feel free to explore the archives, to comment, and to email ~ I truly appreciate your prayers and support, and it blesses me deeply to hear about your lives, your journeys, your struggles, thoughts, and experiences.

You may also keep up with me on Facebook while I'm between paragraphs. = )

Remember, as you seek recovery from the wounds of your past, that it is essential to acknowledge the truth of your pain for lasting healing to occur. Remaining in denial only postpones wholeness. Jesus is with you; take Him into the darkness and let His lovingkindness bring light, and life. His compassions fail not; they are new every morning.

May God sustain you; may His grace and love give you strength and serenity throughout this New Year. He is our healer!

In the shadow of His wings,

Saturday Evening Blog Post | "Best of 2009"

I hope your fingers are curled around a fresh mug of steaming Sumatra because you are in for a treat! Elizabeth Esther, who hosts The Saturday Evening Blog Post on the first Saturday of every month, has graciously invited her readers to choose their favorite blog post from 2009 and submit it to her virtual party! Please visit her blog "Kids, Twins, and Laundry Bins" for an enormous bouquet of inspirational reading from this past year, and enter a beloved post of your own!

I chose "The Myth of Normal."  Many times when we discuss Quiverfull issues or fundamentalism, we think of those who wear dresses only, or headcoverings, or those who never go to college, or who live on a farm. Of course sometimes these apply, but what about those of us who look more mainstream? Those of us not raised as extreme as the ones we hear about? We face many of the same grave emotional and spiritual issues, but don't know why, and feel guilty because "we don't have it as bad as she does." If this sounds familiar, I hope this post encourages you. You might also like: "The Curse of Eve: When Free Will Isn't Free."

Love Song, V — Light Dawns in Darkness

Continued from Love Song, IV—Mystery 

Death. I feared it so much, when I was little. For both me and others. I feared being left behind, hearing the dreaded "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" I feared the lake of fire, of being without Jesus, being without those I loved. I quivered for all the ones I knew, lost and unsaved; I feared I would end up taking the mark of the beast someday because I didn't prescribe to my "family's values" and was headed in a "different direction." I feared that most of all, God wouldn't really love me, and that even if He did, I'd still fall short, for my wickedness was great, and nothing I could do made me better or more acceptable—for all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

Even as a child, my heart cried while Margaret Becker sang,
These are the tears
You never see
They're foolish to you
But they're drowning me 
My soul wore this lyric for years, like a dress that becomes you, until you aren't recognized without it.

A Maiden's Lament

"Hillary, may you come to know the love of God in your grown up life.”

I always shrugged at these words, penned so wisely on the inside cover of my little New Testament. Of course; God loves everyone, I'd shrug to myself and move on to the next thing. Yet this little prayer, written by the pastor who dedicated me to God as a wee little babe, became my lifeline in adult years. My weary soul, wandering within a hopeless wilderness, clung to it fiercely, as a promise and a blessing designed for me alone.

This may come as a surprise to you, but knowing the love of God can be the most difficult challenge a good Christian girl can face.

Especially a good, homeschooled Christian girl. 

And this good, homeschooled Christian girl, raised on Rod and Staff, unencumbered by the ways of the world, wanting to please everyone and agonizing over failures to be patient and kind grew into a woman of sorrow. Weary, sick, in the throes of ptsd, depressed, full of guilt and shame, I gave up. And my journey to discovering the love, grace, mercy and sanctification of God began only after I, or at least the woman I was and wanted to be, agreed to die.

I had to end my life as I knew it. I had to go back to the beginning—to the door.

a strange god

1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10)
Those strangers are insidious fellows. They look so good, so righteous. They come bearing Bibles and proclaiming the name of God and teach Biblical living. They tell us how to become holy. They-who-climb-up-some-other-way quote Scripture and present compelling convictions. Why would we not listen to them? Wouldn't we be foolish—rebellious—to reject their words? Is it not our flesh that cries out, resistant to their voices?

The willingness to give up, to let go, to rest, to stop, to cease striving, to deliberately end a life of doing was born of physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion. But it's a scary thing to die. Its frightening to step into darkness. To throw religion, beliefs, myself upon the altar of the unknown. Everything, in fact, except for the Door. He was a mystery, this Door, but desperation birthed keen willingness to go against everything I'd ever believed, to seek that which I did not know.

Upon this altar I laid my religion.

I offered Him everything I believed and begged Him to kill me. To separate wheat from chaff. Then I stood before this altar, naked and aching, as it consumed everything I knew, everything I felt sure of and held sacred. I watched all become coal and smoke rise from a temple built over a lifetime of labor.

Only when flames simmered, and life smoldered before me like crumbling carbon, could I poke through ash to see what remained. When I did, I threw myself onto that quiet, solid, faithful cornerstone, and wept.

Eyes bled tears while He bathed my ugly, pulsing wounds. While I lay empty, broken, with nothing to offer in my weary hands—no Bible, no hymns of praise, no righteousness—the Lord of heaven and earth knelt into the darkness where I trembled, and washed soul feet.

I drank of His grace.
I did nothing. Nothing.
And He still loved me.
He called me by name, and I found pasture.
He nurtured life with compassion, not condemnation. Re-born, I finally recognized the true voice of God, and the gentle whisper of grace.

For this God accepted me.

Illustration of The Shepherd 
And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment I shall be made well.” (Matthew 9)
Twelve years of uncleanness. Twelve years of sorrow. Twelve years of loneliness and isolation; likely without even the comfort of a human touch. Twelve years of lost wages, dwindling hope, and despair. Twelve years of bearing the oppressive weight of the law:
‘If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening . . . If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean. Every bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her as the bed of her impurity; and whatever she sits on shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. (Leviticus 15)
Consider this Jewish woman. Into her world walked Jesus. Other translations quote Jesus as saying Take heart! Have courage! For imagine her fear—yet also the desperation which drove her to grasp the hem of his robe! For even that small touch would render Him unclean, according to the law, and yet twelve years of agony drove her to seek a New Way . . . the narrow way of life, which few find. But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. (v. 22)

Along with the healing of her body, the True Shepherd healed her soul. Instead of disdain, she was welcomed into the presence of God. Instead of turning away, He made her whole. He looked at her—imagine the love in His eyes! He received her in her shame, when all others would have turned away or recoiled from her touch. He commended her for going against the religious law out of faith that a better way had come. He comforted her, for she still felt trepidation, despite her faith. In one moment, He took away her uncleanness. He brought life to her body and healing to her heart. She was touched by God in the midst of her impurity, while all others in the name of God rejected her.

What a life-giving response! And it is His response to us, too—those of us wrought with sorrow, of exhaustive trying to measure up, of emotional and spiritual abuse. He calls us by name, longing for us to find pasture, rest, and restoration of soul. He makes way for us a new way—a journey out of darkness, sickness and shame which comes from following the voice of strangers.

I died, and grace gave me life.
A love song, indeed.

These are the arms That ache for you
Frightened to push too hard, Frightened you'll slip right through
This is the joy I want you to know
You say it's good for me But leave you alone
Well, I can't walk away Won't leave you here
When I am so sure We could always be near 
I know a place Where we can meet