Day 10 of 21 Days of Healing: WWJS?

Posted: November 16, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
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Please remember to remind yourself of the truth of who God says you are. Some days will be harder than others, but in the end, as you change your thoughts from the judgmental, demeaning messages of abuse to the unconditional love of God, you will find healing for your heart.

Let’s work on that a little deeper today.

Day 10: What would Jesus Say?

Today, I want to encourage you to think about the messages you received from the abusive treatment you suffered or continue to suffer – and then ask yourself what Jesus would say to you.

When I was told that I was not to participate in music, then not to attend a class, then that I couldn’t do anything in the church – without being given a reason – not to talk about what they were doing to me, no response to my pleas for help, and finally to leave the church, these are the messages that I was receiving:

You deserve what we have done to you.
We have not done anything wrong.
Get over it.
What we are doing is for your own good.
Forgive and forget.
Don’t tell.
God is allowing this – if He wanted it to be different, He would change it.
By talking, you are hurting the church, the pastor, and Jesus.
Don’t ask for help.
Don’t bother me (the pastor).
We don’t think you are acceptable and neither does God.

As I looked at this list after being tossed out of the church, I realized that I needed to stop listening to the messages the pastor and leadership had given me and listen to what Jesus would say about that. Would He tell me that I deserved to be treated this way? Would He have used the pastor and other leadership to send me these messages?

Would Jesus say that I deserved to be ostracized, shunned, and condemned?

Would Jesus say their treatment of me was justified by my behavior even though they wouldn’t tell me what I had done wrong? Would He say that they had no reason to repent and stop abusing me?

Would Jesus tell me to just “get over it,” “forgive and forget” that the church leadership and pastors led me to question His love and acceptance of me and made me believe that I was unwanted by God?

Would Jesus expect me to continue to submit myself to people whose stated goal was to continue to diminish and demean me and to justify their treatment of me because I had exposed their abusive behavior?

Would Jesus say that the spiritual abuse I suffered was “for my own good” and that He was using the abuse to shape and mold me into who He wanted me to be? Did Jesus want me to be abused?

Would Jesus want me to keep quiet about my story and my journey to healing so that others would not be aware of abusive behaviors, recognize how they have also been abused, and how to find healing and joy again?

Would Jesus do as so many others at the church who pretended to be my friends, and defend the abusers rather than supporting and defending me – the one abused?

Over the years, I was made to feel and believe that I was fragile, unforgiving, vengeful, and crazy, as well as guilty and mean. Without once being given actual evidence or concrete examples of how this was so. Is this what Jesus wanted?

And to all of these questions, my only answer is “no.”

Jesus would not have said or done any of those things. When I listened, I could hear Him saying, “I am not like that, Ellen. I am not like them and they are not like me.”

And I had to accept that the people who abused me were not interested in admitting the harm that they had done. They were only interested in justifying their behavior by accusing me – without facts and without evidence. They wanted to prove that I deserved to be abused.

Would Jesus want that? Would He say, “Sure, go ahead and make Ellen feel and believe that I don’t love her, I don’t accept her, and she will never be good enough for Me.”

Also, by refusing to apologize they were denying that they had done anything wrong and they were indicating that they were not interested in forgiveness. Even if their treatment of me was based on my own bad or sinful behavior, the way that they handled it and treated me was wrong and it was abusive. Yet, they could not admit that they had done anything deserving of repentance or an apology.

Would Jesus want leaders who could not humble themselves, admit their own failures and mistakes, repent, and seek forgiveness?

I stepped closer to healing when I could see clearly that Jesus was not in any part of what the church leadership had done to me. I hope you will take that step today, as well.

Look at the messages that you received from those who abused you and ask yourself if a loving God who sent His Son to demonstrate His love toward you would have agreed with or been the impetus behind the way that you were treated.

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Comments
  1. Michaela says:

    Hi Ellen,
    Your website and candid posts are very helpful. I too was recently kicked out and shunned of my smallish (150) or so church that I’d been a member of for about eight years here in California. I’d discovered while doing legal research for a prosecutor that a fellow church member was a registered sex offender on Megan’s List. He was permitted to touch children, but their parents didn’t know he was on Megan’s List and the pastors/elders defended him. The pastors/elders said he was coming off Megan’s List; his supervising law enforcement agency called that “a total lie”. And that agency was so concerned that they contacted the California Attorney General who maintains our state’s Megan’s List of sex offenders and also called it a total lie. The pastors/elders defend this man because he’s a friend. They ordered me to never talk to law enforcement again about this sex offender, which is illegal for me to do and is a crime. In the meeting where we discussed the law, they were full of put downs to me. They ended up by telling me that I wasn’t really a Christian, was destined for Hell, and was basically an unbeliever for raising the topic and that I should be shunned. They called me at home and ordered me again to never talk to law enforcement and to “obey” them and to “submit”. On and on it has gone. (They previously kicked out a doctor who is a faithful Christian, husband (married to his wife for 40+ years), father, and a stand up man on some trumped up charge. Many families left our church over that one that day. I wish I had done the same.) So people I had spent years pouring my life in to as friends are now ordered to shun me on some trumped up charges. It’s so bizarre. I think we have to remember to take care of ourselves: eat right, sleep, exercise, do fun things, laugh, and the like. Take care.

    • Ellen says:

      Michaela, you are so amazing to have stood up to that kind of treatment. Thank you for sharing your story. Too many times people think they are the only one when they are treated this way and it is so helpful to know that we are not alone. The details may be different, but the basic treatment is the same.

      As for taking care of ourselves, that’s coming up as part of the 21 Days. Stay tuned!

  2. Michaela says:

    Hi Ellen,

    Thanks for the quick response. We just have to encourage one another. I really identified with your saying that no one showed up, emailed, etc. But the world is a big place and other people, people outside of our churches who’ve never even met those members, have friends, etc.

    I learned a valuable lesson from this experience: don’t keep all of my friendship ‘eggs’ in the church basket. I learned to really invest in friendships elsewhere.

    I found helpful information on being shunned from The Petrys website called Joyful Exiles. They were kicked out of Mars Hill in Seattle and ordered shunned. And Mr. Petry was an elder. Another website from a former MH member called “Musings from Under the Bus” is also helpful. Books on amazon on spiritual abuse:

    1.Healing from Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue.
    2. Recovering from Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth
    3. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen
    4. Toxic Faith by Stephen Arteburn and Jack Felton

    5. When a person who has been shunned needs friend, you can always call June Hunt’s ministry in Texas, Hope for The Heart, and speak to a counselor for prayer. (They also have helpful resources on spiritual abuse and this topic was recently covered.)

    6. I have also met families who were shunned at their churches after learning that their children had been sexually abused by associate pastors. Senior pastors ordered that they all be shunned, even though they were reeling in pain. Billy Graham’s grandson Boz (a Christian, a former sex crimes prosecutor, a law school professor and founder of G.R.A.C.E. – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) says that’s quite common for these families.

    7. Researchers are tracking churches that practice abusive shepherding and shunning. I reported my former church to them.

    Best wishes,

    Michaela

    P.S. I am going to do something fun. Get some poster board, some magazines, a glue stick and make a pretty collage of things that inspire me. Perhaps take a pottery class. Do some new things.

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you Michaela, for sharing the resources that have been helpful to you. Yes, I am familiar with them. In fact, my husband’s brother was managing editor of Bethany House Publishers when they first printed “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.” so when we shared with him about our first abusive church, he sent the book to me. I felt like we could have been a case-study for that book.

      Some would say that I should have known better when my experience at the next church turned abusive, but I was so determined to make sure this time there was a God-honoring conclusion and I was so convinced that God was going to work everything together for good, that I dug my heels in and stayed far longer than I should have.

      Thanks, again, for sharing.

      • Michaela says:

        Hi Ellen,
        I just want to thank you so much for your blog and breaking the “no talk rules” about shunning and being excluded. I have felt so much better since I have found your blog. I cut and pasted that Romans 8:38-39 verse into a pretty font and a pretty color, printed it out, cut it with pretty scrap book scissors and carried it in my pocket today at work. Whenever I needed a reminder of my value in Christ, I looked at that.

        It also strikes me that the pastors at the churches we’ve been members of don’t know how to shepherd the flock, to feed them, guide them, disciple them, and love them. You’ve written that you hadn’t come from a Christian family and didn’t know the church rules/culture and even wrote your pastor that. They should have loved you! They should have discipled you and taught you. There’s something wrong with them in the fact that they couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. (Mine was a very authoritarian leadership that expected us to “obey” and “submit” to them including on very serious issues like a sex offender in our midst. I couldn’t because I’m required by law to uphold the Penal Code in my state, as are they as clergy members (mandated child abuse reporters). They wanted me to obey them, not the law. I couldn’t do that and wouldn’t. I was kicked out and ordered to be shunned. I wouldn’t cut a corner, not even for one of their friends.)

        I just feel so much lighter and better today. I feel so much happeier. I can’t tell you how much better. It was a balm to my soul to find your website.

        So when God works all things together for good for those who love them, it may not be in that environment (i.e. church) at that time. That would be our wish. But that may not happen.

        In your suffering you have helped me (and others). In my suffering I have helped another family who was shunned after their son was sexually abused at their church. The senior pastor ordered that all of the church members NOT talk to their family! Close friends would not speak to them. Their family has NEVER stepped foot in a church again. So in my pain, I have helped this family because I was shunned for standing up for children when no one else would. And they admire me for the stand I took, because I took a stand for a family like theirs.

        So the Lord is working it together for good. Just not exactly as we would have wished.

        Blessings to you in the Midwest from California (by the Pacific Ocean),

        Michaela

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