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A Glimpse of a Twenty Three Year Wilderness Treck
by Sherry Norton
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Here I am standing on the start of a twenty-three year wilderness treck. I was eighteen at the time and talking with my best friend from school I can recall saying something about not seeing any future for myself, see at that time I had no hope. Quitting three weeks before I was to graduate, I left school and went home.

The reason I left High school was because I had about a week earlier tried unsuccessfully to end my life. My nerves and emotions were in a wreck, I was in a wreck at that time. I felt I needed to get away for at least a week then come back and finish, but that didn't happen. They said no. I was confused, ashamed, embarrassed, and scared, filled with fear, fear of living and fear of dying, needing help but not knowing where to turn or who to trust.

So as I have already said, I went home though I did not remain there long; I guess it was about two months before I left because my dad was soon to come home, see I loved my dad, but I also feared him. He was a stricked man, and I wasn't ready to explain why I quit school three weeks before graduating. So from there I moved to the big city nearest to where we were living and moved in to a room I was supposed to share with someone I thought was a friend. No job, no income, no skill, no source as well as no future and no hope, to avoid my dad, what a mess I got into. This all happened in 1976, and I haven't come to the wilderness place yet.

I felt pretty bad and after being in the boarding house for a couple of weeks my thought was, where I didn't succeed in ending my life before this time I would this time. After making that declaration I sat there and waited, waited for what I didn't know, but I waited. Now I know, but at that time I did not know. Sometime later I decided to go on up and get it over with, but before I was able to move the two other people who lived upstairs where I lived in this boarding house came around the corner with bags of groceries and one of them asked me to have a Fourth of July supper with them. I remember thinking, I guess I will, I'll wait a little longer for what I had planned to do for after the dinner, I can wait that long at least.

So I went up with them and stayed with them while she cooked supper and we talked, the three of us. I don't remember all that we had to eat, but chicken and corn on the cob. I found out that after our supper one of the people was going to church that night, that interested me, this person interested me and I got up enough courage to ask if I could go with her. She said yes. Now begins my twenty-three year wilderness treck.

I was excited at the prospect of going to church. She said, I should wear a dress, well I only had about three or four dresses the rest were tops and pants or shorts. I chose an orange dress that really belonged to my so called friend, it was pretty to me and she was gone so I wore it. It was a long sleeved, v-necked dress that came short above the knees that I wore with black hose and white sandals. I felt pretty in my outfit and long hair half way down my back. I filled the dress out very well. I never have been a small person as far back as I can recall except when I went from over 350 pounds to about 200 pounds in a little over a month after a bout with cancer, I truly felt thin then, but that is another story.

The first time I went to this church I wanted to be apart of it so I joined. I felt drawn in even though I didn't know anything about churches or how they were run or what to expect. I just know I felt excepted and wanted and I needed that. Reader you might think I was foolish, and you might say that, but I was in ignorance. and there is a saying that says, "Ignorance is bliss", well I disagree, it is not. At the time I did not
really understand all this and more until after I felt released to leave twenty-three years later. But July 4th 1976 was when I stepped into the wilderness place at that church. And February 1999, was when I left to my next training ground which was also a healing and growing place where I have been so far for twelve years and counting.

Don't get me wrong I learned and grew some while I was there, at the old church, but nothing like now, at the new church. It's almost like walking out of the darkness into the light, what a difference.

Going to the old church was like stepping into another world. One I had never encountered before. It was not a very big church for one thing. I had not been to many churches, but I don't think that of the churches I had gone to that any had about the same amount of children as adults in them. Another thing I learned was that the women were expected to wear long dresses and surprising enough I liked wearing long dresses or long skirts so that was not much of a problem for me. Another thing I learned through the time I was part of the old church was that there was never an altar call that I can recall, but didn't realize that until I left the old church and went to the new church.

After being at the old church for about two months, I was informed that I had a perfect mate, and should get married. Well I was ok with that until I found out that he was seventeen years older than I was then I said nothing doing. See I thought I would marry somebody about my own age. Then I was told that if I did not marry God's perfect mate for me, I would be playing right into the devils hands and be out of God's perfect will for my life,

wanting God's perfect will for my life, I said ok. and about a month later he came from his home in another state to where the old church and I were, and a week later we got married. It was an arranged marriage and I felt I didn't have a choice in the matter.

For a matter of fact the assistant pastor drove to my husband-to-be's home to get him and bring him back to where the old church and I were. He came on one Wednesday and we got married the next Wednesday evening. During that week we only had supper together one time along with the person I was living with at that time before we got married.

The night we got married, I was so unprepared, I didn't even have a wedding dress, the dress I wore was the dress I would have worn to my senior prom if I had finished out the school year, it was a long soft pink dress with silver around the squared neckline and sleeves and ties ,which my mom had made, someone also let me borrow a white wedding vail, anyway back to my wedding evening, I cried buckets, See I didn't know that we were going to get married that evening until that morning so that is when I notified my dad and mom that I was getting married that night. My dad refused to come to my wedding and that meant that my mom and youngest brother didn't come either.

I didn't find out until later that one reason my dad did not come to my wedding was because he thought I was marrying a black man, because I didn't tell them earlier he thought I was hiding this fact. Sadly only about two years before I had found out that my dad and mom were pregedist, which I had not known up till then. When at the school I was going to I had boyfriends that were black, which didn't matter to me because I didn't like them for the color of their skin, but for themselves.

We didn't have rings to exchange, but bibles. Instead of saying until death do you part, it was until Jesus comes. So four days after I turned nineteen I was married in October 1976, only a week after my husband-to-be came from his family home. We were strangers to each other being "married on a shoestring" I've heard someone say,

Well my husband moved in with the person I was staying with and myself into an apartment, which was owned by a couple that belonged to the same church that we went to as well. I didn't have much other then clothes and shoes and a couple of personal items as well as a trunk. My husband had some clothes and shoes and a couple of quilts he had brought from his home and his big bible, and of course the two bibles that we exchanged at our wedding. .

I remember my second best friend as an adult saying once that my husband was ruggedly handsome. I do know that when we got married he was puny. I also remember thanking god for a Godly man, he didn't smoke, drink, or gamble or stray, he was a good man and he loved God and children as did I. The only thing was that we have never had children, though at one time we looked into adopting even though it did not happen. As much as we loved children I am glad in a way it didn't happen because at that time not knowing better I would have raised them to look to the pastor as second to God and I am not sure but think that we would have lost them to her.

We also loved animals and during our marriage we had several dogs and cats and even rabbits, yes we raised rabbits for a period of time until people started breaking into the cages and stealing the babies. That might not have been so bad, but we found out that one person was taking the babies and throwing them up and letting them fall to the pavement to be busted up, and that was to much for me, so we decided to give them up, and stick with dogs and cats.

I found out later that the Pastor had sent my husband-to-be a picture of myself which she had gotten from me earlier. After he received it he said he kept looking at it every chance he got and fell in love with me even though he had never met me yet. see he had been hurt by another and had almost given up on marriage, but then I came into the picture so to speak. I also found out later that he thought we would get married and then move back to his family home, He didn't even go home for his dad's or mom's funerals, though if he had been able to he would have gone back.

His mother came one time to visit us since we hadn't come to visit them. She was upset with the old church and also blamed me for my husband not going back home especially for his dads funeral. She believed that I was pretending to be almost blind and in that way I was holding him there with me. She had planned to stay two weeks, but after being upset she left after only a week of staying with us.

it wasn't till years later that he first went back for a visit and the next time I went with him to visit. I reckon we went back four or five times. See we couldn't go back until after we were released from the old church. I was not able to go to my mom's funeral either.

One of the things I remember is how we were encouraged to cut ties with family and friends if they were not in the old church. We were encouraged in not reading our bibles because we went to church so often that we had plenty of word. I remember also about not listening to other pastors and programs because they were wrong.

We also were taught that we were part of the chosen Son's of God a part of the hundred and forty four thousand, believing that would live and never die, that we would be here until Jesus came back to get us at the resorrection. And if we left we would be son's of perdition instead. I recall that the pastor never allowed anybody else to preach behind her pulpit. She seemed to be bringing forth the word of God, but I didn't realize until later that a lot of it was taken from different parts of the Bible and twisted together to say what she was teaching us.

Another thing I remember is that we were not encouraged to go to the doctor unless we didn't have the faith to be healed only by God which was all right for me because I had had enough to do with doctors when I was a child with my family and did not really like to go to doctors anyway. Especially eye doctors and especially shots were what I disliked most.

Through all this time and until Leaving I believed I was in God's perfect will, though I had such a hunger to know God more and be closer to Him. Something always seemed to be missing. I wanted to please God so I tried to please the pastor, since the pastor had the direct line to God. See we were suppose to go to the pastor to find out God's perfect will in everything. But I didn't always do that so I was sometimes called rebellious and stubborn. The pastor had been put up on a pedestal and I looked at the pastor that way as well. Second to God. I didn't know that that was wrong till later.

Yet I believe that the old church was a good place for me, after all I learned to not quit, to be determined to finish what I started, and be faithfully committed and sincere, though in other things I was sincerely wrong. I also began to learn to turn to God in time of need and not as much to man shortly before I left the old church.

See towards the end of my time there I had alot of pressure on me and I felt like I was going to drown in it, until I cried out for God to help me. I thought I could be the one in control and I found out that it didn't work that way. God was in charge and that's where the poem "Nothing Without You" came from. It seemed like everything was closing in on me and I was not in control, but out of control. From the very beginning I was messed up. After I got married I was told you'll have to take care of all the finances and things like that . Then later I was told I was wrong for trying to be in control. What confusion. Sometimes I didn't know if I were upright or the other way around.

During my time there it was not all bad and hardship. I did get my GED 11 years after I had quit the three weeks before my graduation from high school, Which helped me later. For about two years after I left the old church to go to college and gain a double major in Business Administration and Marketing, but that is another story for another time.

While a part of the old church throughout my time there I had duties. One was to man the cry room during service or help a couple of mothers with their children when needed. Another was to clean the woman's bathroom before the end of service for the pastor to have a clean bathroom when she came to use it. Another was to teach a Sunday School class. To do this I had to memorize scriptures that would be used in my Sunday school class, so unbenounced to anyone I listened to the bible alot which I believed helped in the outpouring of poems that came after I left the old church.

I also had duties that I did away from the church. I baby sat, helped Home school, helped one my husband and I called momma get her two grandchildren ready for going to school, and I was a phone solicitor for a cleaning and supply company owned by a brother in the old church as well as calling around the city for contributions and items of food and drink in giving our children nice functions at certain times of the year.

I also enjoyed making things like baby blankets and booties or slippers and ponchos, vests and even little girls dresses, for the children and adults in the church.

I recall one particular time when I had started writing poems and the two I had written I let the pastor read and was told that I was wrong, that they were wrong and so I destroyed them and was crushed expecting encouragement though I received the opposites and it discouraged me.

The very next poem I wrote I did not let the pastor read until I was leaving and I put it in a card with a picture and gave it to the assistant pastor to give to her. The poem was the first poem in the poetry book "Chains Broken" and it was entitled "Nothing Without You".

See for around five years the pastor had been going downhill physically and was not able to continue and the assistant pastor tried to step in to her shoes and take up where she left off and my eyes were openned and I felt it was time to leave, like I had been released, set free to go.

Soon after I decided that it was time to leave my second best friend there asked me to come and help her that night at church with her children she said her husband had to work and she needed help. I said, yes, but if you don't go let me know so I won't come without you and your children being there. If you don't need me to help you, I'm not going to be at church. I believe within a week or two after that they also left the church along with another family or three. It was an exodus. And most all of them seemed to wined up at the new church.

I really didn't know where to go from there, but I knew it was time to leave the old church. I first tried going to the church down the street from where we lived. I believed I went there twice. Don't get me wrong the church was good it just wasn't for me. It was hard going to another church without my husband because he still went to the old church.

I believe it was about a month or so later when he stopped going to that old church and came with me to the new one of which I before that time had joined and had rededicated my life back to God, because at that time I felt it was very important, for nobody told me to do it.

It was not easy, severing ties and at first after finding out certain things about the leadership in that old church and myself I truly struggled and was in need of healing. I felt anger, at myself and them, though I chose to forgive them after that, yet I for a long time was not able to forgive myself until one day when it was truly made known to me that God really loved me. Though at that time I felt betrayed and lied to and used, and I felt stupid. I did feel grateful to God for bringing me out from trying to live under the law and opening my spiritual eyes even if my natural eyes did not work. Yes, I was considered blind, legally blind that is and I yet can say, God is good blessed be the name of the Lord.

I also struggled with feeling inadequate, never truly measuring up to what others expected of me. Though I believe I was harder on me than anybody else was then or later. For sometime I hated me, but no matter what I did I could not change on my own, thank God, that later I understood differently and learned to like myself.

I also recall that while going to the old church we moved quite often. I thought being part of a Military family we moved alot, but nothing like after I got married. I guess for the twenty-three years we were involved in the old church we moved fourteen times, whereas in the military we moved twelve times to the best of my remembrance. I know that it was only two more times while part of that old church, but it seemed like we had moved more than that. I guess it was because moving while apart of the old church my husband and I had to do all the moving, whereas when I was with the family dad and mom had all the problems of moving.

I remember one of our moves was when we had no transportation and we were moving two streets over from where we were living at the time so we used what we had which were a couple of shopping carts to move what we had to the new place. At times it was challenging but we plowed through one way or another most all the time.

While recollecting this part of my past I can see that regardless of the hard and bad times God was with us especially when my spiritual eyes weren't open yet and I did not see Him. There were times we struggled, but there were times we couldn't account for getting through that month at the time, though now I know it was because of God. There were times I wanted to give up, but something happened to encourage me to keep on going, I guess that is where I learned that determination to hang in there. See before my experience in this Wilderness Treck, I was one to quit and give up to easily. I'm not saying I never persisted in getting what I wanted but if it got to hard I would give up and try something else more easily obtained.

As far back as I can remember I had a lot of fear to deal with until sometime after I had been released from the old church and there were times when it was quite limiting. Sometimes this fear would turn to anger or boldness especially if I knew that the person with me was more afraid than I was. One of my greatest fears was to die because I really didn't know where I would end up , at least not like now since I have been in the new church, praise God, that is no longer a fear to me, thank You Jesus.

You know even though there were bad times, there were also good times. I used to think that if I knew then what I know now things would have been better, but that not so. To become mature we have to go through times of learning and discovery and struggle to become mature, for if not we would remain babies or immature adults emotionally and spiritually as well.

This concludes the sharing of a glimpse of my twenty-three year wilderness treck. I hope this telling encourages you to be planted in a church and when God is ready He will take you out and plant you somewhere else that you need to be, make it always a place to learn and grow in god. The worst thing you can do is to take your own self out of the place God has placed you. There are times it can be very difficult and other times it is a pleasure. Believe it or not it's the more difficult times that bring growth, those times of struggle and challenge, and I say, thank God for them.

Sherry Norton, your sister in Christ Jesus.

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