April 13th, 2015
I love and serve in ministry but the other love of my life is softball. It was because of a softball scholarship in 1989 that I moved from the Central Coast of California, Santa Maria, to the Central Valley.
In retrospect, coaching softball served as a form of therapy for me and became a way for me to find a glimpse of reality the last 7 years I was on staff at church. It was like “chap stick” is to chapped lips for me. Haha! Softball wasn’t frustrating to me like ministry was. Softball helped me release the stress and tension that I didn’t know was building in me.
Here’s a photo of me when I first returned from a 6 month forced sabbatical. (March 2012)
Notice my hair? My bangs were the result of breakage and I had a mini mohawk on the top of my head. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the stress I was under caused my hair to fall out and become brittle! My emotions were all over the map. I didn’t even put it together. I was in “survival mode.” Our body must release the stress in order to function and for me it was via my hair.
When we go through a traumatic life event, the pain can blind us and inhibit our thinking. That’s why it’s recommended we don’t sign important documents after a life changing event.
During my alone time with Christ, I would journal and beg for the Lord to show me what it was He wanted me to do. I was confused. I knew something was wrong and I felt like a hypocrite by belonging to that congregation.
Screen shots from my 2011 journal:
In the video above, I was understanding my situation more and more each day and because I was gleaning understanding, I was starting to gain back my confidence. I resolved to stand up, dust myself off and take back my life and be the one to write the narrative of my story. Instead of reacting to the shenanigans of my abusers, I was empowered and began to name the sin….SIN! The place, the church, that should have been a sanctuary was a place full of lies, half truths, deceit and crime! I was feeling freedom.
I am blessed to have placed around me mature mentors that I’ve confided in since 2005. They wholeheartedly counseled me for years to leave the unhealthy environment I was in. Even though it took me years to act upon their counsel, they each empathize with me now and did not judge.
After my decision to resign, it was important for my family to find a church. We decided to attend a large church in town. We sat in the back. I prayed to be invisible and that no one would notice me and my family. We had never been to another church in 23 years. I would weep during worship. Every time. I did get friendly smiles and then surprised looks. I could read their lips as they asked their husbands, “I thought she was at ______”
I saw families that used to attend my old church and words were not needed to explain why I was there…it was just understood. That in and of itself was validating. The church I had left, had hurt others. And now it had hurt me. That added to my resolve to focus on getting better and getting healthy.
Here are the steps that helped me survive Spiritual Abuse:
- Confide in a trusted friend, mentor or counselor. Simply have a conversation about what has been going on in your life. They will be able to identify there’s a struggle that’s unhealthy. They can direct you, pray with you and more importantly become a safe place for you. Talking about it, helps you heal.
- Make a decision to distance yourself from the abusive environment. Leave. Unfollow people on social media. Take a different route to a destination. I treat my abuser like an ex-boyfriend. I got rid of all the things that remind me of the relationship. Why traumatize yourself? Self care is NOT selfish.
- Follow through with the above decision.
- Seek help from a reputable Christian counselor or mentor on a regular basis. This breeds healthy accountability. Now is the time you need to surround yourself with wisdom. There is so much to UNLEARN. There’s healing power in knowing how you are doing week to week or month to month.
- Get educated about Spiritual Abuse and Narcissistic Leaders. The more understanding you have, the less you are influenced and affected by the past. They wanted to keep you in the dark. You will acquire tools to defeat and unlearn things that cause you pain. There will be some reminders that are out of your control, but at least you’ll understand your situation and will be more equipped to handle them.
- Keep a journal either video or written. This helps you document your healing as well as helps you sort out your thoughts. YOU are not the cause of this!
- Surround yourself with other survivors. Spiritual Abuse has been ignored for decades. It has been part of Christian vocabulary recently with the Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill controversy. Not everyone will be able to relate your story. Others that have experienced what you have experienced are the best sounding boards and can offer you the best advice.
- Remember vengeance belongs to the Lord I was a mandated reporter and I fulfilled my duty. However, resist posting on social media your distain and anger. I did not blog for months because I did not want to regret what I wrote. I knew I my emotions were not at a place that would please the Lord. What gives me satisfaction is that everyone will stand before the Lord and give an account of their lives. The Lord knows ALL about our story, the Lord will judge, it’s His battle.
Need prayer or have a question? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org