Hi, I’m Rachel and as you’re reading the title you might be wondering, what’s the secret? Or, you may think this is going to be a boring religious story with a twist. And you’re half right. This is a story with Christianity as a main focus and central theme but I wouldn’t call it boring. I am a proud Christian young woman but I haven’t always followed my faith by the book so to speak. I don’t regret how I was raised but just think that if my parents weren’t so strict and actually took the time to get to know me and my siblings more then everything would’ve been so much easier and I wouldn’t have to hide and do stuff or make up stories as to what I really was doing. However, I learned that it is easier to just be open from the start then lying and eventually leading a double life.
Rachel is sitting in a chair in her bedroom looking out her window at the world before her. She lives in New York. She is 15 years old and is the second oldest of 5 siblings. The eldest is Nathan who is 17 years old, and then her younger sisters; Rebekah who goes by Becky is 13 years old, and Susanna who is 11. Then there is the quiet one in the family, 6 year old Elijah. He sometimes gets lost in the shuffle but knows he is loved. And then there’s the baby of the family, Jonah who is 3 years old.
“Oh, how I wish I was a normal girl and could just go out with my friends and not have to worry about the dangers of the world.” I said to myself taking the last sip of my tea. I want to be able to live my life without constantly having to hear how bad of a person I am or that I’m a bad example to my siblings, especially my sisters. I love being Christian and I still consider myself one but I want more in life then being expected to be a stay-at-home mom. I thought this almost every day but there’s nothing I can do. I feel stuck. Nate has so much more freedom than I do, he can go anywhere and not be questioned but I can’t do anything. It’s not fair, but what can I do.
Just then a bell rings throughout the house; mom and dad are calling a family meeting and then after is Bible study. I actually enjoy this time of the day because we get our parents full attention and actually get to talk to them. I know they mean well and they have our best interest at heart but I wished they trusted us girls more. And let us know we have more purpose in life than to just cook and clean and serve our husband. I go downstairs with my siblings, and mom and dad are already sitting in the living room waiting for us. “Hi kids, everyone take a seat.” Dad said. We all sit around. Jonah is extra hyper today and has a hard time sitting still but Elijah helps calm him down. Mom looks at me up and down, shaking her head. “Is there something wrong?” I ask. Not knowing what could be wrong. “Honey, don’t you think that skirt is a little too short? I take a look it was about an inch above my knees. I really didn’t think it was a big deal but in order to please her I just agreed with what she said. “Oh, sorry mom, I’ll go change and be right back.” That got a smile from her. I excused myself and went up to my room to get a “longer” skirt. This is definitely the first thing I would do differently if I could experience the real world. I would dress how I want too. Not worrying about tempting anyone and just living my life. I changed and then went back down to the meeting. “That’s better dear.” Mom said. “Okay kids, as you know we have a busy week coming up…” Dad starts then shifts his gaze to Rebekah and Susanna. “Becky, Suzie… girls please listen and pay attention.” They look up at him clearly nervous. Dad is normally a gentle, easy going guy but he demands respect and if we aren’t looking at him when he is talking he automatically calls us on it. It is good, but it can become a bit much. “They are listening dad.” I said when I saw they weren’t talking. I love my sisters and feel as the oldest sister I have to stick up for them and make sure that no one bullies them even our parents. “Yes, but they were busy having a conversation among themselves while I was talking so I don’t know if they were really paying attention to me and what I was going to say. “Sorry dad, we should’ve known better. It won’t happen again.” Becky said, clearly feeling uncomfortable. She had gotten so down in the dumps recently, like her sprit has been crushed. Which I can say is true for most of my siblings, well except for Jonah and Nathan. Nathan was just sitting there, so obviously not interested in anything that dad was going to say but because he is the eldest and a boy he gets special privileges. “Okay, so like I was saying, we have a busy week coming up and we need everyone to pitch in. Also, Becky is finishing up her 8th grade year and will be moving on to high school work. Rach, you’ll assist her right?” “Oh of course I’ll help her dad.” I said smiling at him and then to Becky. However, I was thinking him and mom were more than capable of showing her and helping her. But, I haven’t remembered much of that happening. We are homeschooled, and mom use to sit us all around the table and help us individually with our school work. As we got older, that happened less and less because she just assumed we know what to do. Usually, when I’m done I’ll go help my siblings, especially Elijah. Nathan use to help out but recently, he’s just not interested in family life, he would rather be out then worrying about what’s going on at home. Elijah is the quiet one in our family and he doesn’t like conflict. He just follows all the rules and never questions anything or anyone. As the first boy after three girls he is more withdrawn. He occasionally throws a tantrum but I see it as more a cry of attention if anything. He loves Nathan and looks up to him so much but Nate acts like he isn’t even there most of the time. It’s pretty sad. Nate is just interested in moving out soon. But, the only way that will happen is if he gets married. “Great, good girl Rach, how about now we have our Bible study since everyone is still here together.” Dad said. We each read a passage and said what we thought was the meaning behind it. And then we each read a couple verses of any passage of our choosing.
As we were finishing up, Nate said he wanted to talk to us about something. I was particularly interested because he hardly ever wants to be around us, let alone talk to everyone at once. At this point, Jonah and Elijah have gone off to play. And it was just us girls, our parents and Nathan. We went outside and sat on the lounge chairs we had out in the backyard. “What’s going on sweetie?” Mom asked him. He looked nervous, but calmed down and started telling us about an older girl he met when he was hanging out with some friends. As he was talking, I can tell my parents weren’t that on board. For starters, she wasn’t religious anymore and he mentioned that she is in her second year in college and has a part time job. “Um…” I started kind of nervous to say anything because I know I’ll get in trouble for defending her. Typically, if one of us kids is interested in someone we would let our parents know and then dad would set it up for the guy or girl to come over with his or her parents to get to know each other and for dad to see if the person was good enough. “Um, does it really matter that she is in college and has a part time job, that’s a good thing.” “Yes dear, it is a good thing but not for a Godly young woman. She should be taking care of her husband, the house and bringing babies into this world. Her main passions should be being a wife, a devoted loving and patient mother and most importantly have a kind and Godly heart.” Mom rambled off. I nodded back as she was talking; taking it in because I knew she was serious and she really felt this way. “Son, go on though, tell us more about her.” Dad encouraged. Nathan was excited and lit up talking about this girl. I haven’t seen that spark in him in a long time. However, the more he said, the more I can tell my parents just weren’t having it. “She sounds great son, but maybe just keep her as a friend for now. God will present you with the right girl when the time is right.” Dad eventually said and went inside to check on the boys. Mom followed him in, and got dinner going. She motioned for Becky and Susanna to come help her. It was just Nathan and I outside. I watched my brother’s face turn from sheer excitement and joy to just disappointed as he sulked back into his chair. I couldn’t help but feel bad for him.
Are you okay? I asked him. He didn’t really respond at first. So, I asked again. “Yes, I’m fine.” He said clearly annoyed. I just backed off. A few minutes passed, as we just sat there. “Julia.” He finally said with a smile. “Her name is Julia. And I really do like her. I don’t care what they said, I like her and I know she’s a good girl.” I just sat back and listened to my brother talk about her. Seeing him so happy was definitely worth it. And I was just happy he was talking to me. Just then mom called us in for dinner. We got up and I gave him a hug. “What was that for?” he asked. “Just because, you’re my brother and I love you.” He smiled. We walked inside and I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. I walked back down to the table where all the food was already set out for us. We all sat around the table. That’s what I loved the most about my family, even though sometimes we may not agree about a lot of things, we always came together and talked about everything no matter how uncomfortable our parents always tried and at least hear us out. Dad got up and stood at the head of the table, “Okay family, let’s all take a moment and bow our heads. “Dear God, thank you for this meal we are about to eat. Thank you for all that you have provided for us. And thank you for my family in God’s name. Amen.” “Amen.” We all said. I felt bad for my brother. He seemed to really like this girl and wasn’t allowed to even talk about her. It made me wonder, if my parents can react this way to him just talking about a girl, how they would feel if he ends up really being with her. It would be difficult and a lot of pressure for her especially since she isn’t religious. As we were finishing up, Nathan just sat there at the table. “Are you okay son?” “Yeah, I’m fine. But can we talk?” My parents sat back down at the table with him. I hung around because I loved my brother, but I really just wanted to see their reactions. “Look son, if this is about that girl…” “Julia. Her name is Julia.” My brother said. His face was so serious. I didn’t know what to do or say. He was genuinely annoyed at them and I’m sure the feeling was mutual. They probably never thought that their son would like such a “worldly” girl. But, I knew that my brother didn’t want to hurt them. He was just talking to this girl. He probably didn’t think they would make such a big deal out of it. Especially since he didn’t have intentions of dating her yet, they were just talking. “Okay…I’m sure Julia is a great girl, she just isn’t the right girl for you.” Dad said. “How do you know that, just because she isn’t religious? That doesn’t mean anything. She is a good person and I really do like her.” I never saw my brother talk like this. She must really mean a lot to him. It was honestly just an encouragement to see him stick up for himself. I wished I was like that. I wished I had courage like him, to just make my own decisions and not feel bad about them. I know my family wouldn’t agree with me on a lot of topics. But, I would hope they would listen to me and not judge me. Even though we are religious, I try and not to judge anyone. Everyone has a story and journey and we should respect and love everyone. However, I know my family doesn’t think like me. And that’s difficult sometimes. But, I try and just keep all of that to myself and not dwell on it. “Son, I don’t doubt that you like her. We just don’t want to see you get hurt. She comes from a different background than us. It’ll be hard for her to adjust to everything. We just want you to be happy. And we know that you would be happy for the moment with her. But, she isn’t a long term partner.” My dad said. He could tell how much my brother really liked her and wanted to be with her and wanted him to be happy. But, he was just stuck in his ways. You could just feel the tension in the room. I love all my siblings the same so I thought it was my responsibility to help them and defend them with their choices. I decided to speak up and try to let them see how they’re being unreasonable and are just judging her without really knowing her. “Can I say something?” I asked quietly. “What is it Rachel?” “Maybe, if we meet this girl, then we would see what she’s all about, and why Nate likes her so much?” Mom just shook her head. “Why would we meet her, if he’s not serious about her? Also, she’s not religious. So maybe she wouldn’t be accepting to our rules.” “But, how would we know that if we don’t meet her? We could be an amazing girl. And we shouldn’t judge her just because she’s not like us. We should be accepting of everyone and give her a chance.” She knew she couldn’t win this one and eventually said okay. “You know what Rachel, you’re right. We should meet her.” Dad said. Nathan’s face lit up and the biggest smile came across his face. Just then Nate got up and went to call Julia. It was a little uncomfortable when he left. We all got up and I helped mom with the dishes. And then went and sat in the living room. “That should be fun. I can’t wait to meet her.” “I know, but Rachel I don’t see the point in meeting her if she’s not going to be a long term partner for him. I don’t want him to get hurt.” “I think it’ll be okay. The only thing is she may not agree with our courtship rules.” Our family doesn’t date. We enter into a courtship with that person which is supposed to lead to engagement and then marriage. Courting is different than dating because we really are getting to know the person without the physical aspect of the relationship. We learn more about their lives and family life. Also, they are certain rules we have to follow. We go on chaperoned dates, and that’s just to remain accountable for our actions. We can hold hands but that’s pretty much the extent of affection we can show. The main goal is purity and being pure till marriage. I don’t disagree with this, but I would want to know that if something more would happen that, my family wouldn’t judge me and still love me. “It might take her some time to get used to. But I don’t think he wants to court her, I think they are just talking for now.” “I guess we will just have to wait and see.” She said.
I went upstairs to my bedroom. Becky was lying in her bed. She looked upset about something. I felt so bad that dad embarrassed her and Suzie. “You okay?” “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little depressed I guess. I know dad means well but I don’t like how he thought Suzie and I weren’t listening to him.” “I know you just have to let it go though. He’s going through a lot while dealing with Nathan.” “I didn’t expect him to be so adamant about wanting to be with her though. It was kind of cool to see him set up to the plate.” I agreed with my sister. It was definitely good to see some progress and my parents warming up to fact that we are growing up and they can’t chose who we like and want to be with. It gave me hope.