It’s gratifying to listen to someone who has lived a life that you aspire to live. In sports, you’ll find older athletes speaking to the up and coming ball players. Sharing their advice of what to do and most importantly what NOT to do. There’s something special about the younger generation gleaning from the next. We are inspired to hear how they succeeded and if we are honest, when they start to share their failures we listen more intently. Why? Because we don’t want to make the SAME mistake.
In ministry, I believe it’s just as important to listen and glean from “those who have gone before us.” I am now in the category of what I call the “Seasoned Saints.” I am 50 years old and I am more interested in whom I’m building rather than in what I’ve built. I have about 30 years left on this side of heaven and I want to be found giving back and helping the generation that will be ministering to my grandchildren one day.
I am compelled to share how I took my first step in my recovery from being Spiritually Abused. I know there are others that are suffering in silence, frozen, because they don’t know how to take that FIRST step to healing. I was so afraid that no one would believe what I was witnessing at church that I did not tell anyone in my hometown. It was when I was 2,100 hundred miles away from home that I felt safe to open up and talk about my situation.
My first steps to my healing journey started in October of 2011 at Group’s KidMin Conference in Chicago, Illinois. I was in month 2 of my 6 month forced sabbatical and I honestly thought I was losing my mind.
I’ve attended many conferences in my 23 years of serving, but I never imagined a conference could literally change my life. It was at a conference, I received personal attention to a very private matter.
Praise the Lord for The Shelter and all who have served in this ministry. The Shelter was a place Group set up at the conference center for prayer support and free counseling from licensed counselors. It was surreal that me, Miss Kelli, the Director of Kid’s Ministries, would sign up to meet with someone I didn’t know, to explain the abuse that I had no clue I was suffering from. Being so far away from California, helped me to feel safe and I liked the fact I would talk with someone who was there to listen and even advise.
I met with Patti Gibson. I don’t remember all that I shared, but I know I felt better and I had hope! Patti was so very kind and empathized with me and my situation. She was truthful and I felt cared for. My first step to my recovery was with someone I didn’t know but the Lord knew he’d use Patti to help me start to get my life back on track.
At the conference the Lord also allowed my path to cross with Seasoned Saints like Lisa Bruney, who spent close to two hours with me, sitting on the orange coaches outside a workshop. Lisa listened intently to this traumatized KidMin Director. Lisa graciously ministered to me and frankly told me that I was not alone. She shared her own personal story of church conflict and told me the way the Lord provided for her. That gave me hope that the Lord would do the same for me.
Lisa and I at KidMin in 2013
Looking back, another part of my healing was due to the fact that I connected with other KidMin Directors and Pastors at the conference. Distance didn’t matter when I needed prayer. When I was suffering, I was frightened and I couldn’t turn to anyone in my own church and city. I was in secret mode and wouldn’t dare tell anyone in my church the information that I had. Exchanging phone numbers and private messaging safely via facebook literally became my prayer lifeline.
Throughout my healing journey I’ve made a conscious effort to surround myself with those who offer biblical counsel and who tell me what I NEED to hear, not what I WANT to hear. Currently (six years later), because of the KidMin Conference, I’m part of a supportive Facebook group “Thriving in Transition” that ministers to me each time I go the page. I’m forever grateful for my long distance brothers and sisters in Christ like Lisa, Nikki, Gloria, Pat, Carole, Anthony, Greg, Stef, Peggy, Suzanne, Kathie and Francine. I still call upon them today . I get inspired by their lives as I follow them on social media.
All of this started at a C O N F E R E N CE 2,100 miles away from home!!!! So what’s the take away? What would I have you learn?
- Don’t be embarrassed or prideful to seek out help.
- Use the venues provided for you such as the counseling services at the next conference you attend. More and more conferences are offering this service or something similar.
- Believe the Lord planned the service with YOU in mind. It can be your first step to healing as it was mine.
- Stay connected with your ministry friends. You may call upon them or they may need your shoulder to lean on.
Steps I took 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. Even AT a conference.
- 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.