“To you, O Jehovah, I raise my very soul. O my God, in you have I put my trust; O may I not be ashamed.” — Psalm 25:1-2
I previously mentioned that I am making every effort to attend meetings regularly at the local Kingdom Hall. Some may wonder why.
[Here is my usual disclaimer: For more background, and particularly if you yourself are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read this first!]
As a transgender woman, my being disfellowshipped is not like it is for some others who in most cases have likely committed serious offenses against the law of the Christ. (See for example 2 Co 5:11 and 2 John 1:9-11) If such a person abandons the sinful practice and seeks forgiveness – an adulterer, for example, gives up the affair, or an alcoholic takes steps to combat their addiction – they can be restored to the congregation (2 Co 2:6-8), and of course, more importantly, they can restore a good relationship with Jehovah himself.
Even without knowing all the details, when such a person starts attending congregation meetings regularly, brothers and sisters seeing them will tend to assume that happily, the person is on the path to spiritual recovery. Elders in the congregation will likely reach out to them, to encourage them further.
When they see me attending meetings, I expect many assume because I do not hide my gender (I really am a woman, despite being born ambiguously with some male parts – a subject I’ll discuss elsewhere another time) that because of the way I dress — to the best of my ability, modestly and appropriately for a woman attending a meeting for worship, by the way — I am stubbornly continuing to “practice sin”. Unlike actual fornicators, adulterers, and others whose practices the word of God really does condemn, it appears that I have no way to regain the acceptance of the congregation. (To my understanding, they would welcome me back only if I were willing to present myself unambiguously and forevermore as a “man”, which is obviously what they remain convinced that I am, although I am utterly convinced that I am not. Therefore, for me, to even attempt such a thing now would be a disgusting pretense, and so it seems we are at a hopeless impasse.)
In light of all that, the question certainly is significant — why do I attend? Why place myself in that situation, again and again, seemingly without hope of improvement?
The answer is simple. My trust is, always has been and always will be in the true God, Jehovah. Attending meetings is not about the people, even though I do miss many of them dearly, nor is it about me. Christian’s are admonished to gather together, to incite to love and fine works (Heb 10:24-25) and by far the most beneficial encouragement comes from their consideration together of God’s word. True, I may not be able to socialize with brothers and sisters at the meetings; Much as I might wish to, I may not be allowed to contribute encouraging comments of my own during the Bible study portion of the meetings; and these things are regrettable. However, I can still show my loyalty to my God by being present, by hearing the word of Jehovah and paying attention to it.
Some may still wonder, why not attend meetings at another religious institution where I might more readily be welcomed and accepted? The answer to that is also simple. I do not know of any other religious group on earth that I could go to and expect to regularly hear even the name of Jehovah (Ps 83:18, Matt 5:9, John 17:6-26), let alone regular discussion of Jehovah’s thoughts and reminders, week after week, all based solidly on his inspired Word, unadulterated by politics, various common but false (i.e. unscriptural) doctrines and customs, and the shifting philosophies of men.
No, I can say without a doubt, that despite any discomforts, I am in the right place, and I find myself being blessed with spiritual gifts as a result. Among other things, studying a recent Watchtower article led me to the scriptural gem quoted at the outset. For me, those verses were encouragement directly from Jehovah God to keep my faith and hope squarely in him, where it has always been, and not to let any of the discomfort of my current disfellowshipped status make me feel ashamed, or downhearted.
I prayed, fervently, thanking him for this gift, among many others, and I attended the meeting happily, none of the trivial discomforts of being viewed as disfellowshipped able to even dent the joy I felt at knowing my loyalty is to Jehovah. Jehovah is surely a rewarder of those loyal to him, and that truth was in evidence for me during the meeting as well. The public talk on values was especially strengthening. Beyond that, Jehovah’s spirit was in evidence in the deeply insightful and touching comments made by several brothers and sisters during the Watchtower study portion of the meeting. One comment in particular touched me deeply, to the point of joyful tears.
The Watchtower briefly touched on how, in 1914, many Jehovah’s Witnesses expected an immediate end to this system of things, and to receive their ultimate heavenly reward at that time. It was not until eight years later in 1922 that they gained clear Biblical insight into why that had not been the case, and what was going to be expected of faithful Christians moving forward, the global preaching work that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been carrying out ever since. (Mark 13:10) In commenting, one brother observed how those Christians set a wonderful example of remaining faithful, despite their expectations not being met, and a lack of satisfying answers to that particular dilemma plaguing them for eight years. Paraphrasing the way he summed up his point, “you may be going through something as ‘wrong as two left shoes’ — keep trusting in Jehovah — eventually all things will be corrected.”
One of the hardest things about my current situation is not being able, after a meeting, to go up to some of the brothers and sisters who just gave the most beautiful, heartwarming spiritual encouragement, and to just say, “Thank you so much!” There is no question in my mind that Jehovah is providing what I need. I do wish I could personally thank those he is using to do it — I just want to hug them all! I will faithfully and patiently wait for that day, and trust in Jehovah that it will eventually come. In the meantime, I can keep those loyal ones in my prayers as well, trusting him to bless them with hugs on my behalf, and much, much more.