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Losing to Gain Part 2

So much has been lost.

But so much needed to be gone.

A few weeks ago the pastor at the church we’ve been attending said something that has replayed in my head ever since. He said, “Maybe you got what you wanted, and when you grabbed hold of it it turned to ashes.”

A visual picture flashed in my mind the moment he spoke. I could see in my mind’s eye ashes falling through my fingers.

I believed when I met a pastor who called me his little girl that everything I ever wanted I had received.

But it all turned to ashes.

As I look back at all the time I wasted, sometimes all I can see is a large pile of gray dust.

Sometimes it seems like there is no life anywhere in sight.

My hands are empty now.

What I once held so dear is gone.

I am afraid to grab hold of anything else.

Afraid that it will turn to ashes, too.

I realize maybe this is the best place for me to be.

With empty hands held open waiting for God to give me what I really need.

So much has been lost.

But so much needed to be gone.

The only way to receive from God is to let go.

He makes beautiful things out of the dust.

When our dreams burn up we realize how superficial they really were.

God has called us to something deeper.

Something better.

We were made for more.

We were made to live.

Live in the love of our Heavenly Father who knew us and what we needed before the beginning of time.

The Spirit of God , the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory. They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new. You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks and foreigners to work your fields, But you’ll have the title “Priests of God ,” honored as ministers of our God. You’ll feast on the bounty of nations, you’ll bask in their glory. Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.
Isaiah 61:1‭-‬7 MSG

Losing to Gain

God is the only way.

God calls all of us to take the path of the inner truth – and that means taking responsibility for everything that’s in us: for what pleases us and for what we’re ashamed of, for the rich person inside us and for the poor one. Francis of Assisi called this, “loving the leper within us.” If we learn to love the poor one within us, we’ll discover that we have room for compassion “outside” too…

Excerpt From: “Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go” by Richard Rohr.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:24‭-‬26 ESV

Taking responsibility for everything that’s inside is an overwhelming thought for me.

There’s so much inside that feels scary and out of control.

Emotions churning just beneath the surface.

There’s so much inside that feels weak.

The only way I learned to survive as a kid was to fight to be strong and maintain whatever control I could.

I didn’t get to be a kid.

Abuse forced me to grow up so that I could survive.

The most difficult thing to do is to let go of all the things that I have worked so hard to protect.

It feels like losing everything I worked so hard to gain.

Trusting God when you couldn’t trust your parents seems like an impossible task.

It feels risky.

Like I will lose everything.

God knows this.

He gently leads us to the place where we can learn how to trust.

He invites the child inside of us to climb up into His lap and weep with tears we were not allowed to shed growing up.

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.
Psalm 56:8 MSG

While I fought to survive, He was there.

Guarding my soul.

Taking into account every single tear.

Why are our losses gain?

Why is my weakness strength?

It goes against every thing I learned to survive.

Every child is born with the need to know that they can love and trust someone bigger than themselves.

We need to know we matter.

That we have a purpose.

That we are worthy of love.

Survival is for being chased by a lion through the jungle.

Not for growing up.

I lost so much.

How can I keep myself from losing anymore?

Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house. God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom, but leaves rebels to rot in hell.
Psalm 68:5‭-‬6 MSG

God is the only way.

I don’t want to fight Him anymore.

Even though it doesn’t make sense to me that Jesus said our losses are gains. It gives me hope that somewhere on the other side of all these losses there is a place I can call home with a Father who loves me.

Father, help me to trust you.

Letting Go

There is still so much that I don’t know, but what I do know is that I have to move forward one step at a time, letting go of control and trusting God with what I do not know.

I took some time this week to go back and read some of my posts here since I started writing almost four years ago.

Time has indeed healed a lot.

God has kept me from drowning in grief.

After reading several things I’ve written, I recognized a common thread. Almost every post has been an effort to process the abuse and manipulation that I succumbed to and understand how it happened. I have struggled to get to the root of the problem and how to prevent it from happening again.

On a side note, I recently did an Enneagram personality test and discovered that I am a 5, also called The Investigator. I laughed inside a little when I read it, because my husband has been calling me this for years. I do not like not knowing, and I will keep digging and asking until I figure things out. Sometimes it’s helpful, however sometimes I struggle to let go of what I do not understand. I become obsessive, get frustrated and disillusioned when I am powerless to get the answer I am looking for. That’s when I start to wrestle with God. Often times what results is a blog post.

I believe as I have written here, not only have I recognized some core issues of my own that made me vulnerable to being abused, but I have also seen some problems in the church and it’s pastors that have made these institutions ripe for abuse. However, I still do not know my former pastor’s heart and if he intentionally set out to abuse me. Only God knows.

I wish I could understand and know everything that caused the spiritual abuse to happen. I wish I could solve the problem and find a way to prevent it from happening to anyone ever again. It is truly one of the most most harmful things that can happen to a person. When our souls are attacked, so much of our identity and hope is, too.

A couple of days ago, I listened to a seminar by Richard Rohr called Emotional Sobriety, and realized a big part of healing that needs to occur in my own heart is learning to let go of the unanswered questions. To trust God with what I do not know. To begin to release these things that I have held onto in an effort to feel in control.

I took a big step of faith last week, I shared a recent blog post with the pastor and a female minister in the church. I received encouraging and affirming feedback from both of them. It helped a lot. They have suffered their own spiritual wounds in the church, too. Wounded healers are the only ones who can bring us relief.

Richard Rohr says,

When a person is on a serious inner journey to his or her own powerlessness and is also in immediate contact with the powerless men and women of the world, then community will result.

“Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go” by Richard Rohr

There is still so much that I don’t know, but what I do know is that I have to move forward one step at a time, letting go of control and trusting God with what I do not know.

It’s taken me a long time to get here, and I in no way imply that where I am is where others need to be. God works in our lives individually. He meets us where we are. Some spiritual abuse victims do not believe they will ever trust the church again. God will meet you, too, wherever you are. He is a good Father who loves us very much. His desire ultimately is for us is to find peace in knowing this.

Driving home the other day from coffee with a friend, a picture came to my mind of a boat coming to rest on the shore. I heard it scrub softly against the sand so clearly it was like I was sitting inside the boat. It was a strange thing to think about as I was traveling through the hilly countryside with the radio turned up loud, but somewhere deep inside it made me feel at peace. Maybe it means at least for a time that my soul has found rest from the stormy sea of confusion and doubt. Maybe it means I am finally learning to let go and trust God with what’s ahead.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
James 1:5‭-‬8 MSG

Photo credit

Song for reflection:

I Won’t Let You Go by Switchfoot

Hope

Somewhere in our hearts, the source of true hope is hidden.

Somewhere in our hearts, the source of true hope is hidden.

Humanity looks everywhere for hope in what it can see.

As I sit here and reflect, I can come up with a long list of things I believe will bring relief if they will just happen.

At the top of my list is finding a place that we can finally call home.

A place where we don’t have to move again.

A place that feels safe.

A place where we belong.

But things are still unsettled and might be for a while.

Why do I look for hope in what I can see?

Hope that is seen is not hope.

The frustrations continue.

Comparing myself to others.

Not smart enough.

Not skinny enough.

Not rich enough.

Not good enough.

The mirror does not hold my hope either.

No amount of knowledge, beauty, money, or good works can bring me hope.

Somewhere in my heart the true source of hope is hidden.

When the time is right.

When I am tired of looking.

When I am tired of fighting with myself.

The true source of hope speaks.

He has been here all along groaning and sighing with me in these longings that are too deep and painful for words.

He knows what I need.

He prays for it on my behalf, because He knows that I don’t know what it is.

He’s seen what I have suffered.

He has wept for me.

He is my one true Father.

I do not need another one.

I belong to Him.

He belongs to me.

He is home.

He loves me.

The real me.

Not who I think I need to be.

He is my hope.

Somewhere in my heart the true source of hope is hidden.

Only when I stop looking for it in what I see, do I find Him.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:22‭-‬30 ESV

My Words

Jesus said that what is in our hearts come out of our mouths. He wants us to speak.

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
Matthew 12:33‭-‬37 NLT

I will never forget the day I was told that my name would be given and my story would be told the way that they wanted it to be told. I was on the other side of the country. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I had lost all control over what happened there. I hung up the phone and walked into the bathroom, got down on the floor and began to pound and scream into the carpet. I kept hearing the words, “Your name will be given.” I had lost all control.

I have come to understand that when people like me who have suffered from abuse lose control, it brings much pain. On this day, I felt more pain than I had in a long time time. I think after all the years of numbing my pain, I had almost forgotten what it felt like. Being faced with the reality that I had no choice over how my story would be told, what people would think, came crashing in on top of me. Who I was suffocated under the debris. The dust filled my lungs, and I lost my voice. My name would be given, my story would be told the way that they wanted it to be told. I could not do anything to stop it from happening.

They had taken my voice. They would rewrite my words.

For years I’d learned how to pretend everything was fine, to keep everyone happy and thinking that I was a person who was at least trying to do the right thing, but I wasn’t doing the right thing and sometimes I didn’t even want to. But I knew how to say what they wanted to hear. All I wanted was for my pain to go away.

When I told the truth about the lie I’d been living, I believed that others would show me compassion, dig down deep into their own stories and somehow help me to be able to live with what I had done. But that was my mistake projecting what I felt at the time onto them. They hadn’t lived what I had lived. They didn’t see what I saw. They only saw what had brought them harm, and they wanted their own pain to go away. And they told the story in such a way that would minimize the damage that had been done.

Isn’t that what most of us do? Do whatever we can to make the pain go away? Attempt to return to normalcy as quickly as possible when everything falls apart? That’s certainly what I did when I made a terrible choice to place my trust in the wrong person. I gave him all my hopes and dreams and believed that I was putting them in the right place. He was the father I had always wanted but never had. He was the first person I’d ever met that I felt totally accepted by. The first time he hugged me the world seemed like a safer place.

Working at a residential treatment program for people who have suffered from all kinds of trauma is teaching me so much about life, pain, and our deep need to be loved. I see myself in their stories. I weep inside over all they have lost. My heart leaps with joy when they learn how to trust the people who are helping them and begin the process of healing. They are in a place where people can truly help them.

The hardest thing for me to do is to learn how to trust again, to speak again with the voice that God gave me. The reality is that what I say can and will be misunderstood, and I will be judged. The lack of control I have over how others see me is terrifying.

Jesus said that what is in our hearts come out of our mouths. He wants us to speak. Our words can build others up. Our words can tear others down. They can bring hope or they can bring despair. But our words are a true reflection of who we are no matter how they effect others. We must not let others take away the things that we need to say about our own stories, because being honest about who we are is what reveals God’s glory in our lives through who He created us to be.

That day in that bathroom pounding in the floor somewhere inside of me I think I thought I lost the right to ever speak again. I believed that my words were too damaging to others and that the truth that I knew was too toxic for others to hear. So I found a safe place to write. Here on this blog where no one had to know who I was, where I was, and they could choose to read or not to read and I didn’t have to look at them and know the choice that they made or experience their judgment about what I had said.

But I do not believe that God will have me be silent forever on an anonymous blog. I am learning how to speak again ever so slowly. I am learning that others are trustworthy to tell my story to. Healing takes time. Piece by piece, I have been able to give back to God my life that came crashing down. He has breathed life into my lungs. He is giving me words to speak again. I am so very thankful.

Please know that if abuse has somehow stolen your voice, you can speak again. Your words matter, especially to God.

Yesterday, in my despair over still being too afraid to speak, I thought about making the pain go away again. I wondered if I was destined to always make bad choices, to trust the wrong people, to be toxic to others lives. I considered for a moment returning to that life. At least the pain went away temporarily there. At least I didn’t have to think so much about what I needed to say. I cried out in anger and frustration to God. And He heard. His kindness and compassion flooded my soul. He knew my pain only too well. He told me it was OK and He loved me in return.

Even if you haven’t found anyone that you have felt safe enough to talk to, please know that God wants to hear what you have to say. He longs to show us compassion. He prays for us when we cannot speak the words. He keeps our tears in His bottle. He longs to wipe away all of our tears.

We can trust Him with our words.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 NLT

Rushing to Belong

All of my running seems really in vain when I stop and think about where it has gotten me in the past.

Lately, I’ve been reading Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr. This book has opened my eyes to how desperately I long to belong, and how easily I allow life to cause me to miss the ways that God says I already do.

I realized yesterday how quickly I rush through life. I was frustrated when my computer software was not allowing me to log into the program I needed to use. I wanted to get to the store, but the person on the online chat was keeping me from it. After an hour, with still no resolve, I closed the computer to wait until next week to get someone on the phone who could help solve my problem. I went to the store much later than I planned, which was fine, because actually I didn’t have anything else that I needed to do. Yet, I was rushing for no reason. Running when I didn’t need to be.

I started asking myself this morning why I am running and rushing so much? What is there that I hope to find when I stop running? Why can’t I just settle into the moment, doing what needs to be done taking my time? Is something chasing me, or am I afraid I will miss something if I slow down? Rushing is like driving too fast, most of the time one saves very little time and uses way more gas and energy. I know this in my head, but applying it is another story.

If I look behind, I realize nothing is chasing me and forcing me to move at a much faster pace, other than a culture that seems to always be in a hurry. I believe that I am running towards something that I hope to attain. As I have thought long and hard about this question, I believe Richard Rohr helped me to see what it is. I believe that I am rushing through life in an effort to finally find that place where I belong.

My husband recently had a job change. He’s driving four days a week and almost 200 miles a day. If he goes to full-time at this job, we plan to purchase a home closer to where he works. I struggle so much with staying where we are and waiting until we move. The reality is one day we won’t be here in the town we live in. We will be somewhere else that maybe we can call home.

The past three years of living in the town we are in now has been very difficult for us. Healing from the trauma and losses suffered in our previous church and family has been a slow process.

A three hour conversation over coffee with our real estate agent was an enlightening experience. She encouraged me to let finding the right house just happen, and not try to force it. She pointed out how people often become addicted to looking at houses on real estate apps. She said that sometimes people are still looking for houses after they have already purchased and moved into the one they want. It seems that what we look so diligently to find falls way short of what we expect it to be.

A house in a neighborhood can easily offer the false hope that this is the place we will finally belong.

A pastor who spoke for God on Sunday and flattered me with empty words on Monday felt like belonging, too.

All of my running seems really in vain when I stop and think about where it has gotten me in the past.

It seems to me as Richard Rohr so wisely points out that I need to slow down and realize that I already belong just where I am even if we may not always be here.

But what is logical and what I understand I need to be doing in my head, doesn’t always make it to my heart. Acceptance is a long and grueling process that doesn’t offer the instant gratification that I’m used to receiving when I chase after the things that I want. Acceptance means that I need to slow down, take a deep breath and wait which seems impossible to do for someone like me.

But what if I could believe that God can give me what I’ve been rushing through life so quickly to find? What if I could know that slowing down would actually give it to me? I’d have to slow down to actually know that, right?

How do we find what is supposedly already there? Why isn’t it obvious? Why should we need to awaken our deepest and most profound selves? And how do we do it? By praying and meditating? By more silence, solitude, and sacraments? Yes to all of the above, but the most important way is to live and fully accept our reality.

Excerpt From: “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer” by Richard Rohr. Scribd.

God is already with us. Therefore the belonging that I am rushing to find is already here.

What sweet relief this knowledge brings.

I can slow down.

Stop looking.

I already belong.

And this is everything.

Help me, God, to not forget.

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Ephesians 2:19‭-‬22 MSG

If you are like me and need every encouragement to slow down, this video is a wonderful way to remember how to do this:

Godspeed

Something Real

I wholeheartedly agree that it’s better to be out of church than in the wrong one.

I just finished reading Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Ester. Before I purchased this book, I didn’t have any idea how beneficial and encouraging it would be to me as a survivor of spiritual abuse. I did not know how similar our stories would be. Though Elizabeth grew up in a very legalistic cult called The Assembly in California, and I experienced abuse from a mainline denomination that puts a lot of emphasis on grace and not legalism, the effects of spiritual abuse that I have had are much the same as those Elizabeth experienced coming out of a cult. Her story was a huge comfort to me, and if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. There is also a Ted Talk Why I Left an Evangelical Cult given by her sister, Dawn Smith, that is very encouraging. I’m amazed by the resilience of these women, and hope that I can one day experience the freedom to share openly about my own spiritually abusive situation without feeling so much fear of rejection. Elizabeth and Dawn have let me know that it is possible to get to the other side of spiritual abuse and offer hope and healing to others. I believe that one day my day will come, but I also know that right now it’s ok to be where I am in the healing process, and blogging anonymously here. No matter where you are in the process of healing, please know it’s ok, too.

Elizabeth describes her struggles in the book with severe anxiety at church. Like us, her and her husband tried attending church not long after they both left the cult. After much mental anguish, Elizabeth was encouraged by her counselor to take a break from attending church to give herself time to heal.

We, too, have struggled so much the past three years with attending church. My husband and I have visited eight different churches since leaving our abusive church, three we stayed at for a significant period of time time, five we visited once and never went back. We stayed out of church for several months and always felt like something was missing from our lives. We’ve consistently listened to podcasts associated with Keylife Network, because of their consistent emphasis on God’s freedom, grace and love. They have been a lifeline to us. But we have continued to feel that there is something missing from our lives, and we have come to realize it’s less about church attendance and more about relationships with people who truly desire to know God.

After Elizabeth leaves The Assembly cult, and begins to attend a Catholic church without her husband, Matt, who also left The Assembly, he is frustrated and declares:

After everything we went through in The Assembly, why would you want to go to a church that regularly makes headlines with scandals by men in authority?… What else is drawing you there? Why are you always looking for something better?”

Elizabeth responds:

I’m not looking for something better, Matt. I just want something real.

Her words ressonate with me in a powerful way. Ever since we left our abusive church three years ago, I’ve been looking for something that has taken us through the doors of one church after another only to come out disillusioned and empty handed. I have been looking for something real and for whatever reason have not been able to find it. Maybe because it hasn’t been there. Or maybe because I’ve been too afraid to find it.

Recently, I had coffee with a friend who shared with me about her own frustrations with the church. She’s worn out with the narcissistic leadership, codependency, and rules based religion taught in the church. She longs for something real, too, but based on our conversation that night she’s given up on finding it inside a church building. She is not alone in her conclusion. Others who have been through similar experiences are leaving the church as well. I would be the last one to tell them they are doing something wrong. My mother-in-law, after being married to an abusive man for over 20 years, came to the conclusion and said it to us regularly, “It’s better to be alone than to be married to some people!”

I wholeheartedly agree that it’s better to be out of church than in the wrong one.

The question is, is there a real one?

Honestly, I’ve almost come to the same conclusion my friend has many times in saying that true fellowship is not found in traditional church. However, when I look back to times spent with good friends who were a part of the church, I realize that this statement is not true of my experiences. I still miss the genuine relationships I had with others in our previous church. Once I began to break away from the suffocating relationship with the abusive pastor, I began to find room in my life and heart for other people. Even though I didn’t find the words to tell them the truth until I exposed the pastor’s abuse, I had very much wanted to tell these few people the truth. And I still miss them very much.

In writing this blog, I have found fellowship and understanding from others who have not judged me. You have been a safe place. You have been my church. Many of you have similar stories. Many of you long for the same thing I do. I so appreciate your support. But I’m still looking for something real in the church.

If you’ve followed much of my blog, you have walked through the doors of these churches with me. You have experienced the hope I have felt as well as the disappointment and disillusionment with the church. I think I have said to myself after every church that this is the last one. I won’t go down this path again and be disappointed yet again.

And here we are into our fifth week at our ninth church in three years. Maybe some of you are thinking we are a living example of the word insanity. Maybe we are crazy. Or maybe we are crazy like a fox as Steve Brown likes to say. No matter what conclusion you come to, this is our story – we have not given up hope.

Recently, I had coffee with a female deacon from our latest church. After the damage I’ve experienced from abusive men, it’s refreshing to talk to a female leader in the church. She listened to my story and shared her own painful one. Ironically, her and her family left the same denomination we did. This past Sunday we learned that the pastor of the same church grew up in The Assembly cult. I was blown away because I’d never even heard of the cult until I watched Dawn’s Ted Talk the day before.

I wonder what God is doing?

Maybe this church is different.

Maybe it’s something real.

“Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will [instead] give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will [instead] give him a snake? If you then, evil (sinful by nature) as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give what is good and advantageous to those who keep on asking Him.
MATTHEW 7:7‭-‬11 AMP

Don’t give up hope. God knows what we need!

Scared to Feel

Emotions are a terrifying thing for me.

My emotions were like a runaway freight train when I met my former pastor and opened my heart to him.

My emotions led me down a very dark path of following in his footsteps.

And I thought it was all because of love.

It took me a decade to realize that what I felt wasn’t love.

It was something else.

What was it?

I’ve asked myself a million times.

It wasn’t love.

It was a sickness.

A well disguised addiction.

A way to connect with something so that I wouldn’t have to feel loneliness or pain anymore.

The pain of a life full of losses that started in the darkness of my adopted father’s bedroom.

Somehow I believed that was love, too.

How can I tell the difference now between love and abuse?

I cling to God’s word for the truth.

Love is patient.

Not angry and screaming when I accidentally spill the tea.

Not threatening to end a relationship if I don’t choose time with him over everyone else.

Love is kind.

Not looking at my clothes or make-up and telling me I look like a tramp.

Not telling me I am beautiful to get what he wants.

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing

Love is not abusive.

It does not keep dark secrets.

It does not pretend to care.

Love rejoices in the truth.

How many secrets did both of these men ask me to keep? Secrets to protect them.

Everyone does it, but no one tells.

If you tell, I’ll lose everything.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love lays down it’s life.

My emotions flicker to life again when I think about this love.

I realize that I do not need to be afraid to feel.

Feelings were never the problem.

The absence of love was.

Once again I ask God to help me love again.

To receive His love.

And to not be afraid.

Perfect love casts out all fear.

I am tired of being afraid.

Tired of looking for love that isn’t love.

Tired of cheap imitations that steal one’s heart.

I pray that my heart will grab hold of His love and let the roots go deep.

So deep that I’ll never leave Him again.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14‭-‬21 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/eph.3.14-21.ESV

Lost Heart

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.

God bless,

Liz

Good or Bad Connection?

We are able to tell the difference between the good and bad connections by the fruits that they produce.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Ephesians 4:11‭-‬16 NLT

In a world that is full of #MeToo #churchtoo #EmptyThePews and #silenceinnotspiritual, it is easy to understand why so many people are making the decision not to return to church. I am speechless and still reeling from the applause that Andy Savage recieved from those who heard his “confession” this past Sunday. Jules tragic story is all too familiar to me. However, the cheering response from the church, is sadly familiar as well. I, too blindly applauded my former pastor’s abusive ways for almost a decade.

This past week I’ve had flashbacks of sitting in my former pastor’s office for the first time. I shared with him secrets I had never told anyone else. I did not know at the time that I was severely traumatized from sexual abuse I suffered from my father as a child and desperately needed to be in counseling. I believed that reaching out to him for help was the best thing I could do.

A moment stands out in my mind in tremendous clarity. He asked me that day, “What do you want?” Without hesitation I said, “To be loved.” It was then that he opened up his arms, and I knelt by his chair and hugged him for several minutes. On that day everything shifted for me psychologically. In those brief moments, I felt for the first time in my life like I connected with another human being.

I have spent so much time trying to understand why that hug changed so much for me. Initially, I believed it healed me, but the fruits that developed in the relationship I had with this pastor later revealed that I had indeed swallowed poison, and slowly my relationship with this man began to suck the life out of me and bring great harm to myself and others.

I have come to understand since that time how very cautious we need to be about what or who we connect with. I think being adopted and not bonding with my parents made me even more desperate for connection. But we all long for connection. God made us for it. It is not good for man to be alone. True connection brings healing and growth. When we do not have good connections in our lives, it is easy to fall into addictive and harmful relationships that can appear to be a good thing, but really they are just Lies so clever that they sound like the truth.

If you are reading this blog I encourage you to really look at the connections in your lives and what they are producing. Do they encourage you to love others more? Have they helped you see the truth about the things in your life that need to mature and heal or have they caused you to feel stuck? Do they have you keeping secrets and minimizing harmful behaviors or are they encouraging you to be honest and take responsibility?

We can tell the difference between the good and bad connections by the fruits that they produce.

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Matthew 7:15‭-‬20 NLT

Jesus said we will be able to tell the false prophets by their fruits as well. When a pastor minimizes a crime of sexual assault he committed, no matter how many years ago, by calling it an incident, the fruit of repentance is not there. When a church applauds rather than weeps over such a thing, a healthy body is not present. Bad connections are present. This should cause us all in the church to take a long, hard look at what or who we are truly worshipping and recognize the need for repentance.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
2 Peter 3:9 NLT

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT