Losing an Illusion

“If contemplation is about penetrating illusion and touching reality, why do we commiserate with others when they tell us about an experience that’s “disillusioned” them? “Oh, I’m so sorry,” we’ll say. “Please, let me comfort you.” Surely it would be better to say, “Congratulations! You’ve lost another illusion, which takes you a step closer to the solid ground of reality. Please, let me help disillusion you even further.”

From “On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old” by Parker J. Palmer.

I never even considered that my own disillusionment is a positive experience.

My tendency is to view my disillusionment with the church as an enormous act of betrayal.

I struggle to trust anyone these days using a lot of religious language or talking about church. I beat myself up because I just can’t seem to get over what happened to me and move on with my life.

But what if I view what happened to me through a different lens? What if I view my disillusionment with all things religious as losing an illusion?

The Bible has a lot to say about things not being as they appear to be.

Jesus warned that there would be false teachers and wolves disguised as sheep. Paul talked about Satan appearing as an angel of light. Jude said that there would be dark spots in our love feasts.

I have been disillusioned by these experiences in the church.

Oxford Languages defines Disillusioned as “cause (someone) to realize that a belief or an ideal is false.”

Jesus said that we would know the truth and that the truth would set us free. I spent a decade in an abusive relationship with a pastor who I believed was doing good. When another pastor took his place at the church, I began to see that he was not really good when he began to work behind the other pastor’s back to sow discord.

As described about Paul on the road to Damascus at this moment the scales began to fall off of my eyes concerning this pastor. I became disillusioned when I realized things were not at all what they appeared to be.

The question I am asking myself today was how could I have ever seen the truth if the false illusion that was blocking had not resulted in being disillusioned? As long as I believed my former pastor was good, I was trapped in an abusive relationship. Being disillusioned by the truth that he wasn’t good is what set me free.

By the same token, being disillusioned by the church’s response to my abuse disclosure also revealed a lot of truth to me about what I believed about the institution of the church. I thought it’s goal was to live out the truth and do good, but all they wanted to do when I exposed the truth was cover it up and put it behind them. Jesus never did this. He moved towards the truth even when it meant He would die.

As long as I was in a church who was living for an illusion of what was good, I could never see what was really good.

I am not saying at all in writing this that we should not grieve the harm that has come to us because of disillusionment. Grieving is what happens when the scales begin to fall off of our eyes. If we skip this process we can become easily blinded again. What I am saying is our disillusionment is never cause for us to feel shame. It is cause for us to ultimately celebrate our ability to be able to see the truth!

The realization of this today gives me hope rather than despair. I recognize the need to stop beating myself up for being decieved and start moving forward with a new set of eyes unhindered by illusion.

If you are a survivor of spiritual abuse. I encourage you to reflect on the word disillusionment, too.

What illusion did you lose as a result of being disillusioned?

What beliefs or ideals have you discovered that are false?

My therapist once told me that what we see we do not unsee.

May we no longer feel guilt or shame over being disillusioned.

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