Saturday, 31 January 2015

"No Church is Perfect"

Dear well-meaning (if cliched) christians I meet online,

If just one more of you says to me, "no church is perfect" as a way of dismissing the abuse I experienced, I will probably self-destruct in front of you.

I know this is true.

But I do not accept it as an excuse for abusive behaviour. I do not accept it as a cover-up for harming others.

You see, I am married.

To an imperfect person.

But that doesn't give my husband the right to abuse me.

I understand that he is not perfect. I also understand that I am not perfect. But we have each other's backs. We talk things through. We forgive. We overlook the shortcomings. We value each other, even though we are different. We are committed to this journey we have undertaken together. We live out real love in our relationship.

So if one more of you talks about 'the church' being the bride of Christ in a way that attempts to guilt me into attending an institution every Sunday...

...well, let's just say that I won't be very receptive!

I don't give up easily.

I hung in there when I was being bullied and abused by 'church leaders' who were only concerned with the reputation 'their' institution.

I tried again and again to find a way through the crap.

But at the end of the day, people didn't matter. The institution was everything.

And I survived.

And I'm actually in a really good place now.

And I am even thankful to my abusers for inadvertently setting me free.

So don't try and lock me back in my cage and try to distract me with its golden key.

I've chosen freedom!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Rejected, but Free! (what price acceptance?)

As anyone who's visited my Facebook Page could tell you, I read a lot of blogs. That's who I am. I read, I ponder, I process. A lot. It's how I'm made. (Apparently, some people believe "thinking too much" is a sin - but that's another story...)

Anyway I recently came across a post by Andy Gill entitled Escaping Evangelicalism. But it was the subtitle that caught my eye, "The Process of Healing from Spiritual and Theological Abuse".

In it, he talks about his struggle to fit in:
"I tried really hard to pretend and warp into who everyone wanted me to be. But it was a double-edged sword deciding between the choice of being accepted as someone I’m not or the choice of being rejected for who I actually am."
He adds:
"The church is where I heard about freedom and grace, but not where I experienced freedom and grace because I never felt safe enough to truly be myself."
He concludes:
"In the last 5-years I’ve learned that there is no pastoral position, no Christian-career, no single person worth losing your autonomy over. It’s an amazing thing to learn that who you are is enough. It’s even more amazing to see how much you can accomplish by just being yourself."
And it reminded me of my last encounter with "J" and his wife. Sure, it had shaken me up for a time, but the truth of Mr Gill's conclusion is my truth too.

There's nothing worth selling your soul for!

If the price of acceptance is living a lie, then I'll take the rejection - I've seen what living a lie costs!

In October 2013, board member D wrote the following words to me:
"All of the leadership have left this difficult situation behind a year ago. We have moved on, we have and are walking in victory, we have forgiven you for your cruel words, accusations, and your gossiping to others."
But it's just not the truth. The look on the face of J's wife was neither one of forgiveness nor victory. It was a look of vitriol, of bitter hatred towards me.

I think D wrote it because it's what he needed to believe, but I also think it's because that was the lie that had been fed to him.

I've seen this couple say and do the 'right thing' in front of people who 'matter', even when this contradicted things spoken to others. I've seen them pretend and cover up (like this) to protect their image.

And I just can't begin to imagine the horror of living with such feelings and not being allowed to own them! I couldn't live with the knowledge of my true feelings having to be imprisoned within me because I'd bought my acceptance at the price of honesty.

The saddest part is that it didn't have to be this way.

It doesn't have to be this way.

It makes me weep for the thousands of others in 'the church' right now who are caught in this trap of their own making. People who bought the sweet-sounding offer of "Just As I Am" only to find it quickly turned into "I Want to be Clone".

Brothers, sisters, I pray you find a way to break out of your prison - that you escape the unending requirement of having to act out your part in a meaningless charade.

My heart breaks for the people who found the price was just too high and have chosen to walk away (or were driven away). How many of them now find themselves shunned by former friends and family? How many are out there, staring down the long road of healing from spiritual abuse?

Precious people, I pray that the joy of your freedom grows ever stronger, and the pain of your rejection dulls and fades. I pray you find peace with the One who knows what it is to be despised and rejected... and free!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Things That Matter!

I'm not sure why it got to me yesterday.

After all the times I've had elder J's wife walk past me at school or at the shops in the past two years... all the times she's refused to acknowledge I even exist... all the times she's suddenly been fascinated with the thin air in the opposite direction from where I was...

despite all the times I've begged J and his wife to talk through our issues...

this time, seemingly out of nowhere, I lost the plot.

I endured the long ride up the travelator, as they came down pretending they didn't see me.

We came near enough to hear each other... near enough to reach out and touch...

and I couldn't stay silent.

"So, is this what we're going to do for the rest of our lives is it? Just pretend we don't know each other?"

Finally, for the first time in two years she looked directly at me. She spoke not one word.

But the malevolence in that look said it all!

I've seen that look before. Her good friend, my SIL, has flashed it at me several times - including at my mother's funeral.

Be warned!

This is what you live with if you have been evil enough to fight back against the religious bullies. This is the reality you face after standing up and identifying the stinking elephant in your midst. This is the judgement carried out against you for naming the nakedness of the 'emperor'.

And after all this time of living with the consequences of the abuse, I was caught off balance.

But the good news is that I have wonderful friends who are there for me. Who are willing to let me cry and swear and rant. Who pray with me. Who support me. Who love me. Unconditionally!

I thank God for those friends.

And I'm reminded of why I took a stand at 'church' in the first place.

People matter. Relationship matters.

When you are willing to sacrifice them on the altar of your 'church', or your ambition, or your [fill in the blank with whatever is more important to you than your friends], you lose a part of your humanity - and that also matters!