Freedom from Umbrellas

“For protection, for provision, for the things I need…’ are the words to a song I taught children 15 years ago about the ‘Umbrella of Authority’.

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The Umbrella was over the dad and if the dad was right with God then there were no holes in the umbrella. If the mom was ‘under the husband’s authority’ then Satan couldn’t get to her. Or the kids.

But at any time the dad could get out from under God’s ‘protection’ and satan could get him and the family. I say ‘satan could get’ with no humor. Satan was the ‘enemy’ and to be feared. If you didn’t do what your parents said, and do it cheerfully and going the extra mile, it wasn’t really obedience and satan could attack you.

This ‘attack’ could happen in many ways. Anything bad that happened, from a pet dying to getting stuck in traffic was portrayed as an attack from satan and you had done something to deserve it (cause and effect and responsibility were never considered). There was always the possibility that satan was attacking your life because you were doing something so wonderful that he just couldn’t stand idle by while you accomplished God’s will. Of course this was out of the realm of possibility if you were ‘out from under authority’. Please don’t ask me what distinguished between the two – I have no idea.

This concept meant that every time something happened that my parents saw as being ‘bad’ or that they didn’t agree with I was told I did something wrong and had to confess and make myself right with God (and of course apologize to all people involved). The amount of second questioning myself this has created cannot be put into words.

I was always confused at how the umbrella of authority worked for single mom – I saw some single moms live in the control of their brothers, brothers in law, uncles and other male relatives. Divorce was also taught as very bad in God’s eyes and I always wondered how that worked since my dad was divorced. Twice. Were there holes in his umbrella of protection because he had sinned? And could satan attack me because of my dad’s sin? This fear was real in my teenage years.

In my late teens my dad’s anger problems were getting worse and I didn’t know how to respond to them so I sought counseling from my pastor.  Instead of encouraging a 19 year old to move out of an emotionally, spiritually, physiologically and physically abusive home my pastor ‘encouraged’ me to stay and to find God for myself. While I did find God to be real and personal I also began realizing the authority concept to be very flawed. I was 19-22 years old, living in my parents home with no formal education passed 8-10th grade, being told that I had no say over my life. My dad was to direct my future.

There was no graduating to my own umbrella; no trust that I was old enough to think for myself. My parents were still the ones to pick out a husband for me. To the peers in the home school world I was considered a child still – even though I was over 20 and held the responsibility of several part time jobs. 

The only way for me to be seen as an adult was to get married (to Mr. amazing who was going to want to marry me without dating and with both sets of parents controlling the ‘relationship’ to make sure nothing ‘improper’ happened) and have children of my own. Getting married was the start – but to be viewed as an equal by the other ‘adults’ getting pregnant and having my own child within the first 18 months of marriage was essential. I watched teenager and teenager (with no formal college, career or job training and with no savings) get married and soon after announce  that they were having  ‘a blessing’.

Somewhere between these people getting married and having their ‘blessing’ the status of adult was given to them. I still don’t understand how people thought that engaging in sex without birth control was behaving as an adult. Especially since I was standing around waiting for Mr. Right to show up and could do nothing in my power to hurry this process along.

My parents believed they were to control my life, make all the decision for me, etc until I got married (and remember they were to control who I married). So at age 24 when my life was falling apart  (my move 800 miles away got canceled and my car wrecked in a hit and run accident) my parent refused to let me go anywhere, drive anywhere or have any friends pick me up. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car (with my parents in the front) sobbing, begging them to let me have a friend come get me. There are no words to describe the helpless, hopeless feeling of being trapped by your own parents at age 24.

Before you ask why I stayed in a controlling, manipulative house you have to understand that leaving was worse because I would then being labeled, abandoned and shunned. It was to have a label on you that said ‘I have chosen to ignore the godly advice of my parents (even though it was always commands) and have given my life to satan. I have chosen to turn my back on God”.

I watched people shun my friends and my friends siblings, and we talked about the horrible things they must have done to deserve being called a rebel. Only when I was labeled the rebellious ‘child’ myself did I understand how it wasn’t the adult ‘child’ who had done anything wrong – it was the parents who were trying to control and live their adult children’s life who were wrong.

The image of the umbrellas still brings memories of the parents ‘right’ to control their ‘kids’ and the feeling of complete helplessness of having every aspect of your life controlled without your say. It is an image of something literally held over my head. 

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About Michelle

I'm Michelle. I'm an extrovert city girl who grew up in the beautiful farm country of the East Coast and moved to Houston Texas 6 years ago. Stepping out, being known and letting myself be seen are some of the scariest and most frightening things I’ve done and that's what my blog is about. View all posts by Michelle

7 responses to “Freedom from Umbrellas

  • krash2fly

    This ‘umbrella’ sounds more like a ‘Sword of Damocles’…

  • Anonymous

    I had a thought as I read this, I have always hated using umbrellas. It has only been this last year that I have been able to open them. I always wondered why it was a big deal to me. Now I know. It was a visible reminder of a really horrible lifestyle. Thanks for this aha moment.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for sharing your story, Michelle. My family was part of the same movement way back when. Several of my siblings and I are now (in our 30s) grappling with the ramifications of this kind of upbringing. One thing that stands out to us is the tremendous grace of God in the fact that all of us children love Him and trust Him and want to follow Him. In light of our past, it is nothing short of a miracle that we would want anything to do with Him. It’s given me great comfort in my own parenting, knowing that God can take sucky parenting and do good with it. I wish you the best in your journey of discovering the God you never knew! Isn’t He amazing?!?

    • Michelle

      Thanks Sarah, Yes! It is a miracle that I still believe in God. I want to clarify that I also believe that God gave me the childhood I needed for the life He has for me. When I wrote this I never ever thought I could possible say that but I can now extend Grace to my parents out of the Grace God has given me.

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  • Rachel

    I have a very similar story. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wendy

    Wow, thank you. I had a very similar experience. As a child I would often go outside when it was raining and raise my hads to the sky and embrace all the rain. Jump in the puddles, there was joy in the rain. I wonder/wish If I had been taught to embrace life in the same manner how different my life would be now. Instead I feel like I wasted so many years “living” (hiding) under an umbrella.

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