Guest Post: A Mountain To Climb, by S.

The person who gave the book, “S,” (not her real initial), has written about how A Mountain To Climb affected her personally. I have agreed to post it in its entirety with minimal editing. I think it’s important to hear from other people about just how damaging these books can be. How often do we hear that “it’s just a book?”

See, that’s the thing about books. They can inspire, but they can also cause damage. Here is one way in which an Adventist book affected someone.

/Intro

I did not write this post.

I was 14. Internet didn’t exist. I needed something new to read so off to the library I went—a dusty Adventist church attic, dimly lit with one bare bulb, stacked floor-to-ceiling with shelves of old books from a long-closed Adventist school. I blindly grabbed a book. Surprisingly, it was one I hadn’t read.

That night I curled up with A Mountain to Climb and escaped into Pearl’s world. The book reinforced my core belief—instilled by Adventism, proven by parents—that I was not good enough.

I identified with Pearl. She was isolated to an island, her mom, and one remote Adventist college. I was isolated to one library, one family, and one rural Adventist church.

Like Pearl, I was easily pressured into unwanted things. Pearl’s mom talked her into quitting a nice job and moving far away. Adventism made Pearl give up dancing. Pearl’s pastor pressured her into attending an Adventist college where she worked a low-paying job she was overqualified for. Pearl felt she had no choice. Her pastor said he took away her choice. I was talked into wearing only modest baggy dresses. I not allowed makeup, jewelry, movies, popular music, a public education, and a choice in future careers. I was not good enough to deserve a choice.

Like Pearl, I believed anxiety was from a lack of faith. She was worried about grades, job performance, fitting in with her peers. I worried about my salvation. Unlike Pearl, I did not fit in anywhere. Everyone from cousins to Adventist kids bullied me. Pearl could pray away her anxiety, but I could not pray away my stomach aches and shaking. Maybe I wasn’t trusting Jesus enough? Or maybe being bullied meant something was wrong with me, something only others could see? Either way, I wasn’t good enough.

Like Pearl, I had many responsibilities. She had full time college, a new job, a new religion, a changed lifestyle, and her first relationship. I weeded a huge garden, cooked three meals a day for my large family, did all the laundry, parented my younger siblings, homeschooled younger siblings, and homeschooled myself—usually alone, always unbidden. People reassured Pearl she was doing ok. No one reassured me. Instead, neighbors told me thinking I did a good job was a sin. Every night, before my giggling siblings, Mom yelled my mistakes at me.

Like Pearl, my skills were not valued. She was an experienced bilingual secretary put to work dyeing broom corn. I scored 99th percentile in state standardized testing in all but math. Other siblings scored 99th in math. They were praised. I was not.

Like Pearl, I studied the Bible and Ellen White’s writings. Both were clear. I was not good enough. I had pepper once, and liked it.

Pearl was easily influenced by religious speakers. Me too. A college speaker told her to pray for a mountain. A church speaker told me to stop eating my favorite foods—chocolate and cheese—because dairy, Jesus, and hell.

Pearl, after much guilt and anxiety, prayed for a mountain to climb. Her life became hell. I, after a week of no chocolate and cheese, went back to eating them. It took about six years until I could eat them without guilt (because dairy, Jesus, and hell).

No one taught me critical thinking. Innocently I applied all lessons from Adventist books to my life, desperate for the no-guilt anxiety-free life they promised. I was sometimes happy. That was not ok, said this book [A Mountain To Climb], so I should pray for bad things to happen. I visualized catastrophic “mountains to climb”. I imagined people brought to Jesus because of my suffering, like Pearl’s fellow students. I balked. My gut said “hell, no!”

I never prayed that damn prayer.

Notes:

Young me kicked ass. Seriously. I was given too much responsibility, not enough supervision, too much criticism, not enough praise, denied a childhood, not allowed to be a teen. Yet I excelled.

For the curious, adult me is doing pretty damn well, even without considering all the shit I’ve been through.

The book has lost much of its power over me since I’ve read it with adult eyes, experience, and critical thinking.  I’m frustrated by the lack of details (Who prescribed the glass of fresh blood? What was the dye made of? What medications was she given when in hospital? How, exactly, did the doctors search for her pulse? Why tell us her diet in hospital? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!) Many thanks to thecity4square for reviewing it and destroying its final power.

 

 

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