A lot has happened since this time last year.
In July of last year, I confessed to my pastor that I’d been involved in an inappropriate and abusive relationship with my former pastor, who was retired, but who was still attending the church.
I was the church administrative assistant, and the relationship had begun almost ten years before. Though the sexual parts of the relationship had been over for a few years, my abusive pastor was still very much a part of my life. God opened my eyes to how damaging this relationship was to everyone involved, and I made the decision to get out.
To make a long story short my relationship ended immediately with the former pastor and he was deposed, and even though I’d confessed and repented before the elders in the church, they decided that my entire church needed to know what had happened. They didn’t seem to care that I was a victim of spiritual abuse. They wanted to protect the church from gossip more than anything else. Spiritual abuse wasn’t as neat and tidy as an affair, so they chose to allow people to think it was something way more simple than what it really was. They took the easy way out to take the pressure off of themselves.
Our family felt like we were in a war zone, but thank God we were able to move to a new location and start over several hours away.
As this time of year roles around, I’ve been bombarded with thoughts of all that happened. My mind has felt consumed at times with a thick fog of depression and the heavy pressure that hasn’t wanted to lift. But somehow God has gotten me through. But it hasn’t been easy, as a matter of fact it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.
I hate being a victim. I hate the feeling of helplessness that goes along with this reality, so I keep doing the hard work with the help of my counselor that will get me to the other side of all that has been.
More than anything else, I’d really like to have some closure. Closure is necessary to move on. It’s also necessary to heal. But as I look back on my life I see so many situations in my life that haven’t had closure. They are open wounds that feel like they have salt poured on then every time something reminds me of the original wound. When those things have come to mind I’ve had overwhelming emotions that have caused things to feel out of control. I believe this is because when one doesn’t have some degree of closure it feels like life is full of unresolved situations that have spun out of control. As a result, I feel like I have no control in my life and hopelessness and powerlessness seep in. All of a sudden, I become that little girl who’s stuck in an abusive relationship with her father and is unable to escape.
But as I write this I realize I have a wrong understanding of closure most of the time. Because of this it feels like I don’t have it. I realize closure isn’t about the other people who’ve abused me changing and reconciliation occurring, rather closure is about me taking responsibility for what has been done to me and doing what I can to make it right for me. Just as forgiveness isn’t based on whether the other person is repentant, rather it’s about making the decision to forgive so I won’t be eaten up with bitterness. Trusting God to make a change in the lives of those who have done us harm is absolutely necessary to be able to find closure.
My counselor said yesterday that responsibility is the ability to respond to situations in life. It’s not being passive and letting it go. It’s not denying that any pain is there. It’s not putting on a smiley face and pretending everything is fine. Rather, it is naming the hurt that has been done to you and letting others know about it. And that’s a really, really difficult response.
But I had to do it last week. I’d sat down to send the pastor and elders a letter several times over the past month. I second guessed myself and deleted at least three or four drafts. My husband and I had told them last year how much their meeting exposing me and being dishonest had hurt me, but we were still members of the church there and we didn’t want to be. We wanted them to know that we were removing ourselves from the church role, and that we didn’t want to be under their leadership anymore. We also wanted them to know the long term effects their decision had had on our marriage and family and mental health. We wanted them to be aware of all of this with the hopes that they wouldn’t allow it to happen to someone else again.
So we sent the letter last week telling them exactly what we wanted done and why. The pastor, who is the only one of the elders who apologized to us, wrote back stating that he understood and that he’d make sure the other elders gave us a response in the next two weeks.
My husband and I wrote this letter in an effort to find closure. I found myself getting a little frustrated that it was going to take two weeks for them to respond. Then I began to wonder if they would give me a response that I wasn’t prepared to hear. The old familiar fear of things being out of my control started to rise up. But then I remembered that me having closure isn’t about their response, but rather mine and my husband taking the responsibility to pursue closure for ourselves. We can pray for reconciliation, but if it doesn’t happen we can take comfort and find closure in knowing we did all that we could, which is all God expects us to do.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
So I’m going to take a deep breath and thank God that I’ve done what I’m supposed to do in this situation and the rest is up to Him. I’m also going to thank Him that for the first time in our lives my husband and I have found our voices and are learning how to respond in ways that will prevent further abuse. We can trust God’s control over our lives and we can have closure in doing the things He has called us to do. We are no longer victims of the ones who have chosen to abuse us. We are children of the King!