Talking My Way to Spiritual Health

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: , , , , , ,

“I’m praying for your healing.”

“What makes you think I’m not healed?”

“You keep talking about it.  You won’t talk about it any more once you are completely healed.”

“Seriously?  Remember how they told me I wasn’t to tell anyone what was happening to me?”

“Yeah.”

“As along as I wasn’t talking, I was immersed in their abusive treatment.  It wasn’t until I started healing that I was able to talk about it.  In fact, talking about it is one of the best indications that I have healed.  Talking about it means that I am not ashamed, I am not hiding, I am whole and strong and victorious.  Not only that, but talking about it allows me to extend the overflow of strengh, wholeness, and healing that I have to others who are looking and longing for healing from the abuses they have suffered.”

Where do people get the idea that silence is an indicator of one’s “health”?  Throughout both of my spiritually abusive experiences silence was the great shamer.  “You can’t tell anyone” was a decree that I didn’t measure up and my plight was so shameful that to speak of it would be catastrophic.  Don’t tell anyone or they will know that you are defective.  Don’t tell anyone or it will prove that you deserve this and much more.  Don’t tell anyone if you ever want to get out of the mess you are in.

Not being able to tell is confusing.  Especially in my case where I wasn’t being told why I was being ostracized or what I had supposedly done wrong.  Not being able to tell kept me from getting or finding answers.  Not being able to tell kept me from being able to ask for help outside of those who were abusing me.

Not telling gave me hope that if I kept silent long enough, maybe that would prove my worth, my loyalty.  Not telling gave me hope that I would be able to salvage my dignity.  Not telling was the only thing I had to cling to.  

But not telling also kept me prisoner.  I walked a tightrope of trying to balance asking my abuser to help me while at the same time trying to win his favor.  I pleaded for help that only he could give – hoping to win his sympathy but ultimately incurring his contempt.  The more I tried to avoid further abusive behavior, the deeper the ostracism became, moving from not being able to participate in one area of ministry (worship/music) to not being able to serve in any capacity, to not being able to be involved in anything except general worship services (warming a pew, putting money in the offering).  

It was so confusing to try so hard to do everything “right” and have the result be further banishment.  

For several years, even though I had been through a spiritually abusive experience before, I could not nor did I want to recognize what was happening as abuse.  It was a “misunderstanding,” a “stressful time,” an “it will blow over, just give it time.”  But as the castigation spiralled from weeks to months to years, I became more and more worn-down spiritually, to the point that my PTSD symptoms were becoming apparent to those around me. 

I would weep through worship services – triggered by lyrics of God’s love (because He obviously didn’t love me) and by sermons about grace (there was obviously no grace for me).  Just walking in the door of the church brought a dark cloud over me.  I couldn’t lift my eyes to meet others’ and I avoided speaking as much as possible – too afraid that anything I might do would lead to even greater persecution.

Finally, when my PTSD became so pronounced that I was having panic attacks at the thought of meeting with church leadership (the pastor wanted to place me before a tribunal, of sorts), I sought counseling.  Yet even as I drove to that first counseling session, I was beginning to come up for air – to recognize that what had been done to me, what had happened and was continuing to happen was spiritual abuse. 

My counselor immediately recognized that what was happening had damaged my spiritual health and she immediately recognized that my pastor had no respect for me.  Even then, I didn’t want to accept the truth.  For about two minutes.  

Just as I had spiralled down through the years, without even realizing, it, I had begun to spiral back up and my healing had already begun as I continued over the years to plead with the senior pastor.  I had spent years and hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls asking for, begging for, demanding that he explain why I had been treated so injuriously for so long.  With every unanswered question, every ignored request for help, every cancelled meeting, I had initially spiralled down, and then, gradually began spiralling back up.  Regaining my strength, my relationship with God, my wisdom, my tenacity.

And ultimately, it was that strength than got me tossed out of the church.  Because I talked.  To my counselor.  To a couple of church “friends.”  To family.  

When I was finally strong enough, healthy enough, to face those who had abused me and demand a God-honoring conclusion to their mistreatment, they couldn’t do it.  They couldn’t face me.  Couldn’t face up to their sin.  Couldn’t confess or apologize or repent.  They refused to talk.  To me.

Talking leads to and confirms healing.  So please don’t think that because I continue to talk or blog that I am still wounded and struggling.  I am happier and healthier than I have been in many years.  Life is good.  God is good.

And if anyone out there needs someone to talk to – to listen to their story so they can find healing – I’m here for you.

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Comments
  1. Amen Sister … Jesus dealt with all kinds of sinners. He dealt with them for the most privately. But he didn’t deal with the sins of the religious elite in the same manner. He dealt with them publically and distain.

    In my case the Lord taught me to deal patiently with the hurt. I can now sit and listen for hours to those. Those who never went through what you went through will never have the patience to deal with the targets of Pharisaical Abuse. They will never know how to fight for them. God has given us a gift to know what they go through and help.

    Bless you sister.

  2. jacqui says:

    This is such an affirmation for me. I kept silent of spiritual abuse for 10 years and other abuses in my life for much longer. Talking, writing is so good! I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t write …. although sometimes I feel guilt for speaking out even now…. God said to me I had had more damage done to me by the church than all of my childhood abuse put together and that is saying something! …..Thankyou!

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