Day 14 of 21 Days of Healing: I’d Rather Be . . .

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
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“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus . . . ” Romans 5:1 Think on this calming thought today.

Day 14

Yesterday, I talked about the “To-Don’t” list and how I took some time to just stop and rest. I took more than a day and I hope that you will, too. I rested until I was tired of resting. And once I was tired of resting, I started thinking about what I’d rather be doing. In other words, what would my day look like if I could do whatever I wanted?

Because, for the longest time, I did what I thought other people wanted. Or what people told me God wanted. Whether it was doing or being, I was always focused on fulfilling other people’s expectations of me. Especially in the church. But once I stopped doing and just rested, I worked on clearing my mind of what everyone else wanted me to do and be, and started thinking about who and what I wanted to do and be.

And I realized that I didn’t want to be the people-pleasing, let’s make everyone else happy but never happy enough person that I had become. There were so many days – years even – when I did not want to drive the 30 miles through ice and snow storms to get to church but I did it anyway because I didn’t want to disappoint someone or give them cause to say that I was not measuring up by not keeping my obligations. There were many times when I struggled with the guilt of not being there for my family on holidays because I was serving coffee and donut holes at the church – again, so that I wouldn’t disappoint people who never thanked me anyway. And how I regretted the many times I stood in the church building with over 2000 other people, yet no one stopped to chat with me because I wasn’t the “right” person with the “right” last name living in the “right” neighborhood, etc.

How crazy!

After doing pretty much nothing for a couple of weeks brought me to the point where I could start considering the things that I really wanted to do – that at the end of the day I would crawl into bed satisfied and fulfilled. And guess what? My perfect day didn’t look at all like the ones I’d been spending during all of those years at church.

Now, there are many hours in my day that I have a commitment to my job. And I commute about and hour and a half each day. So those things were non-negotiable. Gotta work. Gotta get there.

But what about the rest of the day? I started to think what I would like my “uncommitted” time to look like in general on a regular basis. Not so much what I wanted to accomplish – we’ll talk about that another day. But what would my perfect “ordinary” day look like? And I decided that I wanted my mornings to be relaxed. Get up, get ready for work, and have extra time so that if I wanted to write, I could. If I wanted to read, I could. If I wanted to get to work early, I could. No rushing around. Well-grounded, you might say.

And after work, I wanted to have time to take care of myself. To get some exercise, have a healthy meal, visit with my husband or see my step-father or my kids and my new granddaughter. And then time to rest and relax. Time for a soak in the tub with the jets on. Time to read a magazine or watch a favorite TV show. Things I rarely had time for in the past were the things I wanted to do the most. Which was a little disconcerting at first. Because I was so used to doing lots of stuff for others – working to win approval and friends. It was really hard keeping focused on what I wanted to do rather than trying to think of new places and people that I could please.

Notice, I don’t have the usual “Christian” stuff on this list. No Bible reading, book reading, studying, volunteering for a charity, finding a new church, praying. None of that was on my list. Frankly, I had done all of that for a very long time, to the point that too many other critically important things were being neglected. How Christian did my family think me if I read lots of Christian books or the Bible for hours every week but never had time to spend with them? How effective of a wife, mother, and grandmother was I going to be if I was out of shape, exhausted, and stressed?

I had been so intent on doing all of the things that the Christian community/church told me I should do that I ended up neglecting that which is most important. And it hit me. By not having all of those church obligations, I was now free to be and do the things that I would rather be doing. I was now free to take care of me. I was free to enjoy the people and the life that I had.

Think about your perfect day. Outside of the time that is non-negotiable, what would you rather be doing? Make a list. It’s okay if it’s mostly about you. Truly.

Share it in the comments if you like. And we’ll talk about it more on Day 15.

  1. Michaela says:

    Hi Ellen,
    I knew I had nothing left to give anyone after my recent abusive church
    experience and shunning. (By the way, thanks for your
    beautiful writing!)
    My self care:
    *use nice lotion on my face and body. (I saved to tithe.)
    *get my eyebrows waxed and nails done
    *join the Red Divas, a free walk/run exercise group started by a woman judge
    in my county
    *lift weights and swim
    * get a massage at a spa
    *stay at a nice hotel on the ocean
    *take a pottery class and learn to make nice glazes
    *do a visions collage on poster board using pictures
    and words that strike my fancy (from magazines)
    *go tall ship sailing in San Diego (involves flying from
    San Francisco)
    *bbq some good steaks… I spent alot cooking for
    my church
    *order handmade soaps from Berrysweet Stuff
    *buy nice clothes and exercise clothes – because
    I gave so much $ to church, even when I needed
    *go to concerts and movies
    *make new foods
    *eat more waffles – including for dinner
    *buy flowers
    *go horseback riding
    *wear good perfume

  2. Michaela says:

    more self-care for me to practice post-abusive church/shunning:

    *take my vitamins and iron
    *drink more water every day
    *take bubble baths
    *get plenty of sleep
    *buy new pillows and sheets for my bed
    and make my room a sanctuary
    *buy fluffy new towels
    *buy a container of bubbles and blow bubbles

    (I gave so much $ to my church, even at the expense
    of my needs. We were always told, “God loves a cheerful

    • Ellen says:

      So true. And I knew when I was being ostracized that if I could give more to the church, my ostracism would be lifted. That’s exactly what happened. And my level of giving coincided with my level of acceptance. And at the time, I was okay with it. Crazy.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. Michaela says:

    Amen sister Ellen!

    Ok my action items toward self-care:
    1. Bought poster board and a glue stick
    at the store this morning to make a “visions
    collage” of the things I would like in my
    life. Must now get magazines to cut out
    pictures and words.
    2. While I was at the store I bought Jewish
    Matzos crackers and grape juice to take
    communion. Why should I let an abusive
    church experience – and shunning – deprive
    me of that? I need to confess my sins
    before the Lord and do this in rembrance
    of Him and His atoning sacrifice for me
    on the cross.
    More to come!
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your gift of writing, for your transparency, and for your time! Hugs from California in Silicon Valley.

  4. Michaela says:

    Oh and I made pumpkin waffles – basic batter, 1/2 can pumpkin, pumpkin spice mix (homemade recipe from food dot com), some Agave (sweetner), and some fresh cranberries.

    I have been consuming books on abusive churches. I just finished Ronald
    Enroth’s Recovering From Churches That Abuse. I bought it used off amazon.

    Basically I feel a weight has been lifted off me from being in an authoritarin, abusive church where you obey, don’t think, don’t ask questions, don’t voice concerns or you get tossed out.

    It made me think about how Hitler rose to power: persausiveness, talking a good game, allegience, obedience, submission, and punishing non-conformists.

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