Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy? Devastated? or Both?

Someone asked the question the other day, "If all of these people who left the church are so devastated, then why do they get on the blogs and talk about how happy and free they are?" I will try to answer this question, but I may need some help from you, the happy and free readers, to explain.

I am happy because I am going to a new church, meeting a lot of new people, reconnecting with some old friends, rebuilding my relationship with God, and I feel like for the first time in many years I really understand the love of God. I have also learned so much about the kind of church I will NEVER be a part of again. Freedom came when I realized that God loves me for who I am and I no longer have to measure up to someone who places impossible demands on people. All of these things make me very happy, but I continue to deal with the things that have gone on and are still going on in my former church. It hasn't been easy to try to separate what was right and what was wrong from the past 22 years. (It seems now that most of it was wrong.) It is a process that doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't begin until you are out from under the control and manipulation.

I also heard that someone asked, "If the church was so bad for 25 years, then why are these people just now seeing it?" My answer to this is that these controlling leaders are very good at what they do! They manipulate trusting, innocent people who give their lives to serve in the church and then leave them hurt and devastated. Yes, it is devastating to find out that someone I trusted lied to me, didn't really ever care about me, and then turned on me overnight. It has been devastating to realize that I was indoctrinated with rules rather than strengthened in a relationship with God. It is devastating to realize that basically I have to rebuild my whole life.

Happy? Yes! Life is good and free outside the bubble of a controlling church! Devastated? Yes, but trying my best to move on. With every day that goes by, the devastation becomes less noticeable. I still feel I have a little ways to go before I will go a whole day without thinking about it at all. Sometimes things get stirred back up, especially when I hear of another person who has been hurt by a controlling leader.

Can anyone else help me answer these questions that have been posed? Can you relate to what I am saying? Are you moving on and yet still have moments when you feel devastated? What's your story?

19 comments :

k said...

My husband and I recently came out of a very controlling church. While we were in the midst of this manipulation we thought that what was happening to us was normal and happened in every church. When we finally saw the truth it was very difficult for us to accept until we delved deeper and realized that, in fact, it was control and manipulation that governed the church body that we were in. I, too, realize now, that God loves us for who we are. My whole perspective on God and church has changed and the freedom that we are walking in now is wonderful and we are happier than we have been our whole lives. Thank you for helping us see the truth your blog is AMAZING!

Anonymous said...

Setfree, you wrote:
"I also heard that someone asked, 'If the church was so bad for 25 years, then why are these people just now seeing it?'"

To that question, I say that it took something very ugly and corrupt to wake us up to all the years of manipulation. Something very sinful had to surface that we could no longer ignore. Then all the questions-that we had never answered about the church-DEMANDED answers.

-Amos M.

Anonymous said...

How about the fact that you realize that you have had to force your children to go for years and that due to the effect of that teaching they have a distorted view of God and His love for them. Many don't want to ever go to church again. Especially after they realize that the ones teaching them were nothing of what they portrayed themselves to be. It is not just realizing that the teaching is wrong or the vast infection of sin. It is in realizing exactly what the leaders ARE. Once you realize that, you can never go back.

Anonymous said...

I understand exactly what you are saying and being happy and being devastated are both a part of it.

It brings much happiness when you finally see what life is really all about and you start walking in the freedom that God planned for you all along.

There is great devastation when you finally see what you were a part of. The devastation slowly fades away over time. I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

Devastated – that I see that a church I spent nearly 22 years at was a sham, that I gave thousands of dollars to make a man rich (nice home, nice cars, trip to an island I can’t even fathom spending the money on a trip like that.), that I followed tons of rules to try and “work the system” so that God would work for me, that I had become selfish in my walk with Christ all I cared about was me me me, that I got to the point where I rarely socialized with people outside of my church (how do I reach others that way?), that I looked more at the “ANOINTING” than Jesus. Devastated that I was taught all of this AT CHURCH.

God pointed me to John 3:16 and said start over so now I can say

Happy – That God loves me no matter what, that God’s Word is alive to me, that God reveals himself to me through his word, that finally now that I am not trying to get something from God He has shown me how beautiful life is, that for once my family is happy and together and praising God for all of our many blessings, that I don’t have all these stupid rules to follow anymore, that if I don’t want to run in church or dance in church or I am just tired from a long day at work and want to sit in praise and worship then I am not out of place or “disobedient”, that I am free from the tyranny of a man who has claimed to be following God when you can step back from the situation and plainly see that he is following money, happy to be alive to follow after God the rest of my life, happy to be able to serve Christ by serving the hurting.

As for the second question, I was a child when I first started attending that church, I didn’t know any other church was any different than this one. I thought that all pastors said to their congregations that their church was the best and all other pastors wished they pastored this one. I thought that all pastors had an unspoken code of conduct, but when I realized that the pastor was lying, even from the pulpit, I knew something was tragically wrong.

Set Free said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. They are very enlightening. They are helpful to me and I know they will be to others.

Keep them coming!

D said...

At first, it IS devastating.
But freedom is so wonderful, HAPPY takes over really quickly.
There are lots of emotions on this journey. Go ahead and feel them. You may as well, God knows your heart anyway. He's not surprised or disappointed at anything you're feeling. He is faithful through every emotion, and He will be faithful to complete the good work He's started in you!

Anonymous said...

It's BOTH! The people who are asking these questions haven't seen the truth yet. If they stay in a controlling church and one day manage to make their way out, they will then understand the answer to their own questions.

Anonymous said...

My family left a controlling church over 13 years ago. I know the devastation AND the freedom. You experience them both at the same time. Let me encourage all of you who have left. You will feel normal again, you will be able to read your Bible and not hear the "pastor's" voice speaking the words. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will begin to have days when you don't think about the place you have left. Those days will become weeks and then months; and you will hear about what is going on without any anger, only sadness for the people who are the victims.
Let me strongly recommend the book listed on this blog-The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. It is a excellent guide for the journey many of you have decided to take. May God's Peace be yours.

Jimmy said...

I was extremely angry for a couple of years after we left especially since I had to drive past the old building on my way to work every day. For a while I would get so angry that I would beat the steering wheel because I could not believe how stupid I had been.

It took a while but those feelings began to pass but I still become irritated some times when dealing with people who still belong to churches like this. I guess I can not understand why people will not dig into the deeper theological problems posed by these types of "churches" and the message that they teach. I have to remind myself that I was just as blind as them at one time and to pray for them.

Maybe some people are still afraid to question certain things or people because then they would find out that they are at least partially to blame. I know that if I had acted on my own questions and actually picked up a couple of books and read I would have left a lot sooner.

You are providing a good service to people Set Free by letting them vent their frustrations and ask questions.

Susan said...

Like SetFree and other commenters, I can attest to being a very "happy" Christian, loving my church and having a renewed joy in Christ. I was once "devastated" by seeing the "true heart" of a pastor and finding it necessary to leave a church I'd attended 12 years. Now I count the departure as a blessing.
I'd like to share something from a "different angle". There was something lacking in the area of "friendship" at the former church (You were offered little opportunity for fellowship, but I take responsibility for not having reached out to more people on my own. I have also been reminded that a church takes on the personality of its pastor). We had a few friends, but most relationships we had were superficial.
There were certain staff members and (seemingly) 'valued members' that I felt thought they were "better than others". Some were not particularly friendly. (I know someone who left due to this years ago. It did not take everyone 25 yrs. to come to the conclusion leaving was in their best interest.) I would purpose to greet some of these people and make them speak to me, as often times they seemed cold and self-centered and wouldn't speak.
I now count some of these very people as dear friends. They are fine people, and they didn't mean to come across the way they did. We walked through a "devastating time" together and realized we all love each other!
There was a couple who I'd see in the former church, and we'd often smile at each other or shake hands during "greeting". I thought they seemed nice. Out of that church and in another together, I now know more about them and that they are precious people, and we regret (and have apologized that) we wasted so many years at the former church not getting to know one another.
Last year when it came down to people talking with and sharing their hearts w/ the former pastor, he chose not to be a friend to them. Friends do not treat friends the way he did. It was sad. It got to a point where things seemed so dark and God-less there that we could barely stand to be in the building.
I do not know that words can adequately describe being "happy". As though some once unseen fog lifted, everything is clearer - your relationship with God, the knowledge of His love, your place in the body of Christ, the joy of serving, loving others, etc. You cannot have this peace and continue to be "devastated".
Due to no fault of my own, I left a church, a body of people behind that I love. Having to leave many wonderful people behind was not fair to me. (People being ridiculed since leaving is in no way fair either.)
I hear messages at my church that remind me about forgiveness or I see it in the Word...and I have to deal with forgiving this minister.

TERRY said...

I think you did an outstanding job of discribing the title of this entry and I couldn't add a thing to make it better.

Terry

Set Free said...

Thanks Terry!

Anonymous said...

Happy to be out of the former church.

Happy that I won't have to be subjected to another vague ‘year prophecy’ (was it 2008 or 1998 that was going to be great? I forget.).

Happy to not have to hear ‘blessed’ as a byword for ‘rich.’

Happy to be free of prophetic words for the ‘blessed’ people on the front rows every week.

Happy to be free of the tithing sermon that prefaced the collection of tithes but was separate from the ‘main’ sermon.

Happy to be free of the occasional leadership seminar where we were told to be good followers. Am I the only one who had a problem putting that whole lead/follow thing together?

Happy to never again hear the obligatory "Hey blessin'" greeting instead of my name…since no one actually remembered my name in the first place.

Happy to be free of self-appointed ‘confession’ police.

It has been difficult leaving the old church and all the questions it has raised but I am glad to be gone and free of their brand of nonsense.

Set Free said...

To anonymous 9:57,

To answer your questions, 2008 was supposed to be the year that we "went through the gate." We were supposed to go through the gate and forget the past, but how could we forget it when it was brought up every service!!! They wanted to tell their side, but didn't want anyone else talking because they knew the real truth would come out.

2008 has been bitter-sweet. For many it has been "great" because we are out from under the control and manipulation and walking in freedom, but it has also been a hard year because we realize the mess we were in and it takes a while to get past it.

No, you are not the only one that had the problem with the lead/follow thing. It was hard to follow someone that didn't have the true qualities of a leader.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan said...

I thought of something recently that I just shared on another blog, but will mention here also.
I was "Devasted" one night when I received a call from a friend at the former church after a mid-week service. She was afraid she may have been rude or stand-offish to me earlier that night, due to the fact that she'd been told by "certain" ladies of that church not to talk to "certain" people. (It truly concerned her and had put ridiculous pressure on her as these had been respected people in her life.) All I could think about was that young girls and teens act that way and how "adult" Christian women should not!
As my friend (the caller) and I had enough wisdom to leave that ministry we are now quite "Happy and Free".

I can only pray that others will realize that this ministry has not repented and turned from such things as has been mentioned here, and eventualy find themselves "set free" as well.

searching said...

I just came across your blog and I am amazed at how similar your former church is to my former church. Is this type of thing happening all over the country???
By the way - great post.

Set Free said...

Searching,
After reading many blogs from all over the country, I would say yes, this is happening every where. It's sad, but true.

I have met many people through blogs who say the same thing. All of the situations are very similar and it is the opposite of who God really is.

In controlling churches there is a "no talk" rule, so for years all of these people have kept quiet. But now that people are stepping out and talking and writing about their experiences, it is causing people to see the truth and realize they were a part of something that wasn't right.

Thank God we have seen the truth and escaped from the control we are under. We are now able to carry on in freedom and understand the love God has for us instead of being under someones control who never cared about us at all.