Doing What I was Told Transformed Me into the Very Thing They Hated.

Verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book. –Calvary Chapel

I grew up in a church in rural California. What this means is every Sunday we went to church. We participated in a variety of “ministries” to support the church. I attended youth group Bible study and, later, college Bible study. I helped with worship team set up. My parents made copies of the services on audio tapes and sold shirts on behalf of the church (tape ministry and shirt ministry). For a number of years, we hosted home prayer meetings and Bible studies. We rubbed elbows with various church leaders and influencers. The church was an extension of my family to whom I was to go with every issue and question I had.

“Valley of Shadows” by M. Brewer Jr., 2022.

I grew up in the church.

It was very important to our community that we all live in a Christ-centered manner with our ears ever pressed upon the murmurs of the Holy Spirit. We asserted, if not so blatantly, that we were one of few truly Bible centered, Christ focused, and biblically sound churches left in the world. We were the Acts church! The church of the New Testament! Christ was our centerpiece, but Moses was our model.

Who we were in reality–in practice–was (and remains) far from any resemblance of a biblically centered or Christ centered church. It was our boast to proclaim that we studied the Bible “verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book” (Calvary Chapel), and we did go through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, but to call it studying is only marginally true. For all our high mindedness of Scripture, we never really gave the bible an opportunity to speak. We were eisegetical in our approach. We read into scripture the things we wanted out of it. We threw out the entire literary approach to the Bible and approached it in the vein of Charles Finney–we approached the text as lawyers reading a law book. As a result, we became legalistic and insistent that our understanding of religious law be made the law of the land in order to save the world for Jesus. We walked with some of the earliest evangelicals to initiate the raging culture wars being fought today.

Our leadership, our pastor and his inner circle, asserted that we held the real and true, Holy Spirit inspired, understanding of the Bible, and as a child, I believed them. Right knowledge of the scriptures along with a prerequisite magical prayer inviting Jesus into one’s heart, assured our place in heaven and our superiority as God’s children on the earth.

Over the next few months, I am going to share my story. I am going to name names. I am going to share how divine intervention rescued me from a cult of personality and led me on a path to deconstruct the lies of my pastor and his church, spend over a decade in deep theological study that was both spiritual and scholarly, and how I came to save myself from becoming what they meant for me to be.

This project will not just be a work of essays but will incorporate various forms of art and media to convey my story. This work will be linked together using the “Valley of Shadows” category and tag.

I don’t expect this project to go smoothly, but after nearly twenty years, it is time to tell my story.

Today I was Diagnosed with BPD: And I Found the Words I Have Spent Decades Searching For

Two hours going over issues of severe dysfunction resulted in a diagnosis that changes my entire treatment plan. Not only will the change in plan completely transform treatment, but the current mode of treatment has, in fact, made the issue much, much, worse.

The words “type 1” and “rapid cycling” were used. My disordered sleeping patterns marched in lockstep with what he’d come to expect. A number of other markers came to light, but the “oh!” he exclaimed came as the precursor to an explanation of severity for which neither us foresaw.

Towards the end of the assessment he asked how I was able to have a successful career in the Navy for 15 years, if I had been experiencing “all this?”

I sat for a while with his question. I rolled it around in my head, wondering at it. Instinctively, I wanted to say “because I had to.” That answer, however, was only a symptom of a greater wound.

I said, “sir, I am an expert at masking. I am deeply in tune with the unspoken language of others. It troubles me how accurate my assessment of a person’s current state, and the outside influences affecting that state, often are. I developed this skill from a young age, where I—a child—was responsible for the moods, actions, and reactions of the ‘adults’ in the home.”

I said, “my sperm-donor would fly into a fit of violent rage at anything that disturbed him. A noise unintentionally too loud, a distraction from the endless hours spent pretending to be the pilot he never became, or simply words he didn’t like would drive him to unpredictable violence. I spent a long time afraid for my life.”

“His attention” I continued “when it wasn’t violent was often cruel. He belittled us, shamed us, bullied us—and if we protested, violence would accompany cruelty.”

I told the doctor, “I had to learn how to read people for my safety, and for the safety of my younger siblings. I had to mask and not bring the adults my worries, my hurt, or my suffering. That was not what parents were for—it was the job of the child to carry the burdens of the adults—or so they had taught me.“

Finally I said, “this is why I am good at knowing how to provoke and draw attention to myself. It was the only tool I had to protect my siblings when the monster stirred to life. It is the reason I am quick to react when I see the defenseless being harmed by the dumb and powerful. It’s why I am quick to come to the aid of the defenseless because I can bear the hurt and the pain. I can give them opportunity to seek safety…

“…Honestly, it is what made me especially good at what I did in the Navy.”