Two years ago, my husband and I prepared for what we thought was going to be a funny piss-take to look back on. And while it served its purpose (to make us and others laugh), it also serves as a reminder to me to never return to this place again. Even if it’s for fun.
For months, my parents had been preaching to us about the end of the world (again) and how someone had calculated the actual date for Christ’s return. Apparently, the rapture was scheduled for May 21, 2011. But this wasn’t the first time I’ve had to sit through a religiously-driven emotional roller coaster ride.
My journey began way back in 1993 when the same man predicted that Jesus would soon return in 1994. At that time, I was attending his church with my parents. And this man was no ordinary man, for he was my best friend’s grandpa. I looked up to him the way she and her family did. We all took his word as truth because, well, he was basing these predictions on Scripture right?
I found out the hard way when the clock struck midnight and January 1, 1995 was here. I remember being at my Auntie Connie’s house for the New Year’s Eve party with all my cousins. A part of me was still holding on to the hope that perhaps Jesus changed his mind about the earlier prediction but that he was going to surprise me during the final seconds of 1994. And when He didn’t and all around me the family was cheering and throwing confetti and exchanging kisses and hugs, I remember questioning whether or not God was real. I thought, “Why would Jesus lie?”
Because He didn’t. A man did. And he had the audacity to do it again. Thankfully, I had discernment this time around. Thank God I was no longer a vulnerable teenage girl under the influence of her parents, seeking religious acceptance and truth while falling into the trap of a false prophet.
But even that wasn’t enough to keep me safe. A part of me still suffered that day and the days following. I woke up the morning of May 22 (May 21 in the U.S.) and couldn’t breathe. My chest hurt and I felt as though someone was pushing on my rib cage trying to suffocate me. The pain was excruciating. Matt rushed me to my GP who immediately directed me to the ER. There, the nurses and doctors wasted no time and before I knew it, they were taking blood samples and sending me to different rooms to get various scans and x-rays done.
Anxiety attack. That was the diagnosis. I’d only ever experienced an attack like this once in my life and at that time, I was enduring heavy doses of stress related to my job. Fair enough, I thought. But this? This was no full-time job. No, this was about a lie. A lie that was being spread to hundreds of people around the world. A lie that was being preached by my parents to me, my sisters, my husband, my Australian in-laws, and even complete strangers! Even when my mom and dad came here for our wedding, they brought boxes of these so-called “Bible tracts” (the ones pictured above) to hand out and distribute to the people of Sydney in the CBD. They believed everyone deserved a heads up on Christ’s return the following May.
But we all know how that turned out, don’t we.
Last year, we all seemed to have swept this issue under the rug which seems to be a common tradition in my family. I guess a part of me tried my best to move past it, too. But then came the random chats where my mother would deny she ever had anything to do with May 21, 2011. She didn’t recall ever having had bumper stickers on their cars and when I reminded her of the fact that it did happen, she denied it.
It’s been over a year since I’ve had any discussion with my parents about Judgment Day, May 21, 2011. The subject never came up again until the beginning of this year, 2013. And I was the one to bring it up. Why? Because during my last Christmas at home with the family in 2010, we asked my parents to make a promise to us. To promise that if Christ does not return on May 21, 2011, they would never listen to or follow this man’s preachings/teachings ever again and promise never to return to the church or the “fellowship” (as they called it).
But they have not kept their word as they continue to return to that place every Sunday, and to be honest, I don’t know what else to do but ask, “Why?”
People often talk about the good ol’ days like there’s something to be cherished about them. Like they should be missed. Like they deserve more attention. But I can only agree with that to a certain point. Yes, they deserve my attention but only because they help me see what I’ve had to live through; they give me a fresh perspective on life because I can look back and see all that I’ve experienced; they show me the lessons I’ve learned since then; but most of all, they give me the strength to let go so I can keep moving forward.
I haven’t heard from my parents since I last emailed them. Other than a few phone calls checking in to say “hi” or “happy birthday,” it’s as if there’s nothing else to be discussed. They refuse to talk about the issue. But I have no doubt that my email remains in Dad’s inbox–untouched, unanswered, and unwilling to be resolved.
Don’t I deserve a response? Don’t I deserve an explanation of some sort? Don’t I at least deserve an apology for having been led astray? Lied to and betrayed? No. I don’t deserve anything–not from my family, not from friends, not from anyone. What I deserve is hell, that much, I know is true. But Jesus came, died, rose again and paid the price for me so that I don’t have to endure the things that I deserve.
Life is too short to wait for someone else’s answers to my questions. I only ever need One, and He’s the only answer that really matters. I don’t know where I’ll be, how old I’ll be, or when it’ll happen, but make no mistake of it–Jesus is returning one day and that’s a promise I know He’ll keep.