I have realized lately that I lost my heart at my previous church. There was once a time where I desired to feel closer to other people. A time when I longed to open up my heart and life to God and others, but when my former pastor abused me everything changed.
I gave my heart to my former pastor when I was desperate and trusted him to help me with my pain. I longed for peace and healing. I longed for connection and love. For a time I believed the connection I had with him was love, but it was actually a chain that wrapped itself tightly around my heart and choked the life out of me. When I finally told another pastor what he did years later that pastor and the rest of the church did not believe I was abused. They believed it was an affair. So much loss. So many friends. People who were like the family I never had. People I loved to spend time with. People who made my life more whole. People who gave me a reason to clean the house and cook a meal. Fellowship.
Three years in a new town has felt like a desert. I have been too afraid to let others in. Online relationships feel safer than those face to face. Thank God for my email friends and my therapist. They have been lifesavers. But still it feels like my heart has been lost.
We have visited a new church the past two weeks. It’s a very small congregation. The pastor’s mom greeted us on our second visit with a big hug. A little pink haired girl ran up and hugged me twice for no reason at all. A female leader in the church invited us to lunch. The pastor and his wife approached us with genuine smiles and kindness. Something about this environment is different. Something in this environment seems real.
I’m hopeful and I’m terrified.
A teenager walked to the pastor’s side and put her arm around him. Her mother says the pastor is like another dad. There are no red flags of warning, only a very dark memory of a man who I believed was a father figure to me but who turned out to be a predator. I remembered once again the place where I lost my heart. Could it be that I will be able to open my heart to these people and find it again? Maybe. Maybe not.
My therapist asked me when I first started counseling with her why I had given my heart away so quickly to my former pastor? I didn’t know the answer then, but I think I know now. I was desperate for connection, love and acceptance, just as I am now. The difference now is I know I need to protect my heart. A therapist at work gave me good advice yesterday when I told her about my fears. She said it’s perfectly OK to observe for as long as I need to to make sure that this church is safe. And that’s what I plan to do.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23 NIV
Prayers for wisdom are appreciated.