It isn't easy for me to try to describe a situation I was in at a place I called my church. I want to be careful and kind with my words, and my intention is not to hurt anyone. I have found in my research that what I have experienced is very common and what I am describing goes on in many churches across the world. I could call what I experienced many things, but the two words that are the easiest to swallow at this time are control and manipulation. I mainly blame myself because I am the one who made the choice to stay as long as I did, but I thought I was doing the right thing. Innocent people are being hurt and most of the time they don't even know it. People are so trusting, they just accept anything because it comes from behind a pulpit. I hope the things I share will be a wake-up call for some the way it became one for me. I don't want anyone else to be hurt or experience confusion the way I did.
I will not be able to start at the beginning of my journey. I have to start near the end and work my way back because that's the way it unfolded for me. I spent many years of my life serving, giving of my time and money, and being completely committed to my church. I am a very normal person. I have a great family and many friends. If you would have ever used the words controlled or manipulated to describe a situation I was in, I would have thought it was absurd. There were hundreds of people at my church who I loved and respected. Many nationally known ministers had preached there and the church was assumed to be well respected. But now I see. How did I not see it before?
A string of events happened that caused many to leave the church, but we decided to stay and support the church. We were making every effort to keep our focus on the positive things of the church, but one day a ray of light broke through and I got a glimpse of truth. It was like I had blinders on for all those years, but now I could see. I began to look back and remember things that I had accepted even though I had questions. I remembered certain ways me and my children had been treated. I began to ask myself, "Why was that okay with me?" I had noticed things over the years that didn't seem right to me, but I had always pushed the questions aside. Now I was beginning to see that certain things were not okay and should have never been okay with me.
I have always been the kind of person who just wants to do things right. I want to please God and be a blessing to others. The questions I began to have scared me, but they made me feel free all at the same time. I simply said to God, "If I am wrong in any of these questions I am asking I will stop and forget them because I want to do what is right, but if what I am beginning to see is right then I have to know without a shadow of doubt." I meant that prayer so sincerely and I knew that God was going to show me the truth.
I got a notepad and began to write my questions down. I began to cry because hurts from over the years that I had pushed down began to surface. I continued to write things down daily as they came to me and I filled two notepads with thoughts and questions. It got to the point where it was becoming harder for me to attend my church. Every time I went I would hear something else that confirmed we were not in a place of truth and freedom. The day came when I knew I could not go back.
I began to reevaluate my life and do a lot of soul searching. I went back and remembered when I first accepted the Lord. The love of God flooded my soul and I truly loved everyone. I had the right perspective on life. Looking back now over the past years of being in this controlling church, I had lost that perspective. Where was the love and compassion for others? What attitudes were being formed in my children? Were we living out the true purpose for our lives?
Revelation 2:5 says, "Remember the heights from which you have fallen and return to your first love." That is what me and my family are doing. We have our focus back. We have come to realize that what really matters in life is simply loving God and loving people.