Archive for November, 2015

I just have to say I had the best time yesterday!  I and my family went to an auction.  One of our former church’s plants has bought an old building in the town where I teach and they were selling off old (and I mean OLD) doors, windows, cabinets, trim, etc.  

Now, you have to understand that my husband and I were repurposing long before repurposing was cool.  We live in a 103-year-old prairie-mission style home on an acre in the middle of mid-west farmland.  We completely returned our home to it’s original style (it had been “updated” back in the 70’s) using old trim and doors from the local city hall when they renovated, as well as various other sources.  Our entire kitchen cupboards are done in old doors, tile from the ReStore, and various other repurposed items.  (See photos below.)

Now, our penchant for repurposing is in our children’s blood.  Our son and daughter-in-law bought a gym floor and we helped them tear it apart and install it in their entire main floor and then my husband refinished it.  Unbelievably beautiful.

So . . . this auction of old windows and trim was right up our alley.  My husband and I weren’t interested in much, but our kids were looking for baseboard material to set off their maple floors.  There weren’t a great deal of people at the action so no one was lost in the crowd.

Of course, there were a few folks at the auction from our old church – as well as the pastor of the church plant, whose involvement in my abuse you will find in my story.  My younger son and my husband arrived at the auction before the rest of us.  He was greeted by the pastor and visited a bit.  When I arrived, the pastor gave me a side hug and a “long time no see” and we chatted for about one sentence each.  Later my husband commented that it is important for him to “make sales” to help fund the renovation of this building into a church.

Another person from our old church who was on staff there and transferred to the church plant was also at the auction.  He didn’t speak to me, but he did comment as we all went past him in a hallway that he makes way for babies (I was pushing my granddaughter in a stroller).  

There were four other people there who knew us from our former church: a car salesman and his wife, a banker, and one other couple.  Not one person approached us, waved at us, spoke to us, or acknowleged our presence.  The banker made a point to walk past us several times – perhaps so he could see if we would speak to him – and enough times that it was not merely a coincidence.  Especially since we had a one-year-old in a stroller and so we were staying far away from the acutioneer and the crowd so she would not be a distraction.  The banker had to go out of his way to walk past us each time.

After we left the auction (no, we didn’t buy anything) my husband commented on how unhappy those church members were.  They all looked bitter and angry – and my husband pointed out that they have always looked that way.  

And we talked about how it must have irked them that we were so happy.  There we were with our family – our sons, daughter-in-law, grandchild – and we were full of smiles and laughter, sharing whispers and winks, looking for all the world like we were the happiest people in the building – because we were.

This morning I have been pondering how fun it was to be at an auction (we love auctions), how unbridled I was to be in the presence of people who were involved in my abuse – every one of those church members had a hand in it except one wife, as far as I know – and how my happiness was palpable while their bitterness was etched on each of their faces.  

How sad for them to live under the constraints of a “faith” that leaves them wearing such scars emblazoned on their faces while I, on the other hand, exude the joy of living in the freedom which has set me free. 

Look who has the upper hand now. 

   

I recieve many messages thanking me for sharing my story of spiritual abuse via this blog.  People ask if they may use what I have written in their book project, as part of a spiritual abuse presenation or seminar.  People applaud my “courage” and often express their personal fear that, were they to tell their own story, they would suffer serious consequences.

 The desire to tell their story is framed in several ways.  Some know that telling will help them to heal.  Some want to warn others, or, at the very least, open the eyes of those who cannot see.  They hope that by telling, their friends, family members, church comrades, even acquaintences, will finally come to a place of acknowledgement that what happened was wrong and abusive.  Some long for vindication – for someone to hear them and champion their cause; that someone will seek justice on their behalf since no amount of their own effort has resulted in even the most meager of resolutions.

Yet, they have already concluded that in telling, they will not find any of that for which they are longing.  They are aware that telling will most certainly bring additional condemnation, deeper suffering, fewer friends, less support, ostracism, shunning, loneliness, exile.

I’ve been there.

For years, I didn’t tell a soul what was being perpetrated upon me.  Not only because I was ordered to keep silent, but because I feared that all of the things that I longed for depended upon my silence:  I would lose my friends.  I would be condemned.  I would be ostracized and shunned.  I would be lonely and be forced into exile.  

I wanted to keep my friends. And not only keep to them, but I wanted a deeper friendship to grow and blossom in the years ahead.  I myself did not want to acknowledge that I was the victim of abuse.  Admitting or claiming that I was a victim was akin to telling the world that I was not strong enough, not faithful enough, not wise enough, not good enough, not mature enough.  Mature, good, strong Christians don’t get themselves into situations in which they are abused.  Mature, good, strong Christians have a perfect, happy, prosperous, generous, fruitful life.  Not that they are without struggles, but their struggles are simply opportunities to impress the world with their deep and abiding, unwavering faith.

Some might say that telling my story was an exercise in stupidity.  What good did it do, anyway?  I lost all that I had hoped to gain: my church, my church friends, my status as a mature, good, strong Christian, my  identity as an up-and-coming leader in a prestigious church community.  

And yet, from this side of telling my story, I can say with certainty that telling was what led to the most transformational season of my life.  I discovered that the truth truly does set us free.  I was freed from relationships that were a farce – based only upon what I was willing to do or give to people who had no desire to reciprocate.  I was freed from spending inordinate amounts of time trying to earn the favor and status of people who had not one whit of care or concern for me – or pretty much anyone else, for that matter.  I was freed to spend time, energy and money on people who truly do value me – family and friends who want to be with me whether I have anything to offer them or not – besides my self.

I thought my life was full when I was toiling at the mercy of the church leadership, spending many hours and many dollars trying to win their favor and having little to no time for my family or friends outside of the church.  Now I know the enexplicable joy of spending hours loving and being loved with virtually no agenda except to love and be loved.

I wish I could tell all of those people who send me messages and emails about how much they want to tell their story but can’t find the courage because of their fear of all that they might lose that it’s okay to lose those things.  It’s okay.  Because on the other side of your story you are going to discover that all that you feared losing – it’s okay to lose those things.  Because you are going to find so much more.

I know.  I lost them too.  And I’ve never been happier.