Saturday, December 13, 2008

Where Are You Now?

To those of you who have left a controlling church or been in a spiritually abusive situation, I want to ask a question of you.....

Where are you on a scale from 1 to 10 - with 1 being struggling daily and 10 being totally past it? How long ago did you leave and where are you now in the process? Please try to describe in detail.

I would greatly appreciate your input!

22 comments :

getting there said...

Hey dear, check out my latest few posts and it'll describe where I am at.. I scale between a 4 and a 7 probably..

Barb said...

ok, i'll answer.

I left about one and one half years ago. May of 09 will be two years.

I hate to actually put a number to it because I thought I would be at an 8 or 9 by now. Frankly I waiver between a 3 and 5 most days. I thought it was because I have a business that I run from home and therefore have more time to think about it all. This last month I have been helping my husband open a new office so it has been crazy busy at my job and helping him with his. So I would have predicted that my levels would go up because of the business. That I wouldn't think about it as much. It hasn't. In fact any big thing in my life (like the opening of his office) I mourn the friends that would have been there, been so excited for us and supported us. It has actually been harder this busy season than those times of solitude where I could think and process and write.

Being out in the public has been hard because I always feel like I'm going to run into someone. It hasn't happened yet but the thought is always there....What will I do, say, feel, ect.

Dreams about them continue.

Hope this is not depressing. It is to me in a way. I thought I would be much farther past it in so many ways. But I'm not and that is the truth.

Anonymous said...

I left a year ago. My numbers change on different days. On some days I may go as high as 8 or 9, but if I hear about something that has gone on or if I hear about more hurt caused to others the number may go down some. God is helping me every day and I know I will get to a 10 one day and now I can actually see it on the horizon.

Erin said...

I've been out almost 4 years. I still have days, especially like Barb said about being out in public and running into people. I'd say I'm a 8. Most days I'm fine, but when I have bad days they tend to be really bad. Days where I'm angry, hurt, bitter, ashamed, feel like crying or screaming...I think I have far more up days than down ones though. Maybe once or twice a month it will hit me really hard.

Sometimes I feel guilty for not being further along by now, but it is what it is.

Barb said...

The thing that bothers me is that the process I am going through sounds just like someone who has lost someone dear to them through death. I would have never thought that my pain was at all like theirs but when you listen to them talk, you are reminded how you constantly feel. This makes me feel guilty because how can you equate this 'church' and it's people with that of a child or husband passing away? You are sure it shouldn't be this way and yet you find yourself struggling with trying to avoid painful places, morning the holidays or important days and such. So I feel stupid and guilty about how much it affects my everyday life.

Janet said...

Dear Set Free,
My husband and I left 13 years ago. I was between a 1 and a 3 for a few years after we left. Now, I can say I am an 8 to 9. I leave myself with a point because I get angry when I hear about people who left after I did and how they were treated.
What is so sad to me is that controlling pastors take people's love for God and use it for their own use. The only reason I stayed at the controlling church for so long is that I thought I was pleasing to God. I thought there was no other place for my family to go to church. I truly wanted to please God and thought pleasing the pastor was what God wanted me to do.
I was wrong, so wrong.
I think that is one reason it hurts so much. I based my whole life on this man. Of course it was wrong to do that and now I know.
I had to get over being mad at myself as well as mad at the pastor. Now my family and I are doing well. Is life perfect? No, but we are not relying upon a pastor or a church who is telling us that the quality of our lives depends on if we submit to him.
And that is wonderful!

Set Free said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aida said...

I left in 2001 and I feel I'm pretty much over it. I've seen the pastor and his wife and can talk to them freely.

Father has so filled my life that I no longer think about it except to want to share so that others can be set free.

I would say 10 except that I still deal with mistrust of pastors and feel uncomfortable around them. I find it hard to separate the person from the position. However, that really is the only lasting affect that I'm aware of.

Anonymous said...

I am probably about an 8 or 9, although I have moments and when I do it's because I get angry at the way things were handled and are still continuing to be handled.

getting there said...

It is like losing someone dear to us... and as I can see it does take time. I have good days and bad days... I have bumped into a few xchurch members and to be honest I wanted to run away like speedy gonzales.. but I gave them a smile and a hug whie thinking how nice it would be to suckerpunch them.. seriously.. it is hard but I think it boils down to a time thing.. and the hurt will be used to benefit others that are hurting.. God uses our hurt for the good so that we have a better understanding of others and a heart that understands.. I guess...

Aida said...

I'm glad I'm where I am but every time I hear my brothers and sisters share their hurts, my heart breaks again for them. As some have said, it is a process and sometimes it feels as though we're going backward instead of going forward but time and the love of God does bring a deep healing.

Charley said...

I intend to resond properly to this question but I need time to settle myself down so that I may write with a semblance of maturity in the Lord. At the moment i can't even stand to think about ALB (Apostle Left Behind) without my head filling up with things inexpressible that i am not permitted to tell. Or in other words, vile retorts filled with profanity because of my repulsive revulsion for the man. Guess that makes me a 0 or 1, but it's only been about 6 months.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know where I am these days. I do know the basic beliefs that I have but beyond that I don't even know what I believe about so mant things. One main problem I have is that the controling pastor I was under continues on using people and twisting the Bible to get what he wants. A person once asked me, "How long can God let this go on?" and I find myself asking the same question everyday. I guess I am about a 3.

Anonymous said...

I officially left 7 months ago. I have never thought of my church as "abusive" or purposely controlling. The control was out of the leadership's wrong understanding of their role. I do believe they are sincere. I hadn't realized at first that I was actually wounded by their actions when I left, or just how "stifled" I was while in the congregation, until after I left. It still does bother me to some degree, at times. I think perhaps I have some forgiving to do. I do talk to some of them at times. There are others that I don't want to see. I do dream of them sometimes. I am sad that they are still "stuck" in the "system". I am blessed to have 3 others who left after myself, and we have wonderful fellowship. Most days I am a 9 or 10. Some days, 4 or 5. All in all, I am just so grateful to God for setting me free.

Anonymous said...

I'm like you Anon. 6:35. I go back and forth. Some days I feel like a 9 or 10, but then some days I feel like a 5. Nevertheless, I'm glad I'm free even though I still have hard days.

Charley said...

After reading the above thread, I feel a "vent" welling up within me. May I have a "vent"? This is not exactly a response as to where I am right now as much as musings on how I ever got to this point. Here may be a good place to get them out. On another thread I believe it was Erin who advised me that writing is very therapeutic and boy, was she ever right. So hopefully this comment will survive moderation (and possibly evoke some observations) although it deviates from the format...

I fully gave my heart to Jesus in the summer of 1990 when I knew it was time to stop messing around and praying only when I needed something. I found myself begging The Lord to deliver me from a situation I had gotten myself into in the Navy involving drug use, a possible trip to Levonworth, or at least a dishonorable discharge. He did.

I've had membership in 3 churches since then, 2 of which have been governed by men who suffer from a disease which I have since personally come to refer to as "Al-Capone-Pastor-Syndrome". The entire history of my life has been peppered with authority figures of this nature (bosses, supervisors, military superiors, a parent, a female Jezebel worship leader, etc...) I don't know at this point if it is their fault or mine as maybe I am just overly-sensitive and overly-reactive to even the slightest hint of control, while other perfectly normal friends of mine seem to be getting along just swimmingly in the same environment. I don't know why the spiritual authorities in my life have looked at me and, although we are not supposed to devour one another, have seen a turkey dinner.

For instance, in Church #1, after years of faithful service (doing artwork, painting signs, worship team musician, personal artwork for Pastor Al Capone, painting little kids' faces during "Summerfest" in the park, etc...) I decided to join the worship team at Church #2 where I was having a blast on Friday nights. During this time my friend T at Church #1 said to Pastor AC "You don't understand Pastor, Charley is not coming back here because he's having too much fun playing music at Church #2" to which Pastor AC replied "No, you don't understand T, Charley is not going to be playing music here OR at Church #2!"
T is reliable. T was telling me the truth. T is my friend.

My point is that I find this level of presumption [houit-spa (sp?)] coming from a supposed Man of God to be utterly astounding. Also I forgot to mention that this Man of God smoothed-talked me, a young, vulnerable believer into getting involved in his multi-level pyramid marketing scheme called EXCEL Communications while I was a member of his congregation. (btw he never was able to interfere with my playing of music at Church #2)

[Church #2 kind of faded away because many of the key figures got fantastic jobs in different parts of the country and the place was small to begin with. But I never sensed a thimble's full of control or manipulation from anyone in authority there at all.]

Which brings me to Church #3, a Christian International (CI) Church. From CI ministers you can take what they refer to as a Temperament Test, not a Personality Test, a Temperament Test. Turns out there are 4 or 5 different Temperaments (including Sanguine, Choleric, Supine and others) of which i turned out to be a "Compulsive Melancholy". This may be why I'm so touchy about being controlled. Has anyone else ever heard of this?

Anyway, after dedicating approx 2.5 years of my faithfulness, talents, abilities, loyalty, tithes and offerings to Church #3, I come to realise that The Apostle in charge of the place is a victim of "Al-Capone-Pastor-Syndrome" times 10.

Of course I have fled from the presence of The Apostle's face. He has prophesied to me that I am under a curse of a 7-year barren wilderness and tells others that I have broken covenant. Now I sit back in dismay and amazement taking solace in blogs such as this one. The sidebar articles have provided stupendous nurturing for my sanity [esp the work of Jeff Van Vonderan(sp?)].

I don't exactly know where I'm going with this except to say thanks for listening and "Thanks, Set Free!"

Set Free said...

Charley,
My heart goes out to you in such a BIG way! I know how you feel and I'm glad you took the time to write out your experience. As to what your former pastor said - It's ridiculous!!!! There is no such thing as a 7-year barren curse and you are definitely not under that! Jesus is on your side and His blood already took care of any curse! As far as breaking covenant - you are the one in the right for getting out of a wrong, controlling situation. Jesus wants us to walk in the freedom He provided for us - not under some legalistic Al Capone leader! I am so glad you got out from under that! I know it's hard to believe that any Christian would treat you or anyone like that, but they are the miserable ones! The Bible says that if they don't love, they don't know Him. That's a sad place to be. I'm glad the articles have helped and I'm sorry you have been hurt. Know that you have a friend who understands and feel free to write your feelings out here any time you want to.

Anonymous said...

To Charley - I know what you mean. I've had my fair share of smooth-talking "men of God" who are only out to make a buck off of me. I won't find myself in that situation again. Stay free, brother!

re-Barr said...

Well, Set Free,

I left my former church in April 2008. I would have to say that I am about at a 4 or 5. I have days that I don't think about things at all, but those are the days when work is so hectic that that is all I think about. Most days I swear to myself that I will never let myself or my family fall into that trap again. I still sometimes have trouble going to church, not because of God, but more because I don't know if I can trust the pastor. I must say that I have enjoyed not being so "involved" in church. Not saying that I never do anything in service of God, I just haven't been doing things through the local assembly that I have been attending.

I have had several acquaintances here lately that have started working at a church or are trying to get on at a church and I have tried to be happy for those who have some "wonderful" job at a church but I just haven't found it in me. I find myself rolling my eyes at it, and that isn't like me.

I guess lack of trust is one of the biggest things that I have been dealing with here lately. And a bit of guilt for not seeing things more clearly.

On a more positive note, I am glad to say I have no problem driving past my former church. I can look straight at the place and not even feel connected to it in any way.

I would also say I have worked through most of the anger. I am left hurt and disappointed. I would love to hear that my former pastor has left town. Even better gotten out of full time ministry and gone back to some other career he had before he became a pastor. (Take a deep breath and hold it for that one.) Disappointment is gonna happen in life. And it takes time to work through hurt. Writing things down has helped me a ton. Whether it is in a notebook, or my blog. As I have written things down it has helped me to figure out specifics of where things went wrong. Which gives me a good platform to start looking in the Bible about how it should be.

Set Free said...

A friend emailed and asked if I was going to tell where I am, so here goes....

I fluctuate from time to time. For the most part, I think I'm doing very well. We left in April of this year and in the beginning I was very low on the scale - probably a 2. I have slowly made my way up the scale and I feel that most days I am about an 8. There are times when I go without thinking about the situation and I feel like I am past it. Then there are times when something will come up and I feel like I regress backwards.

For instance - the other night a situation happened where my children saw something that reminded them of the whole past situation. They came home upset and I got angry that my precious, innocent children will now have to deal with thoughts like this for the rest of their life. They will forever wonder who can be trusted and these things will always be in the back of their minds. I get angry at the people who did these things and I get angry with myself for having my children in that place. I know that people who haven't been through a situation like this wouldn't understand. It is not something you can explain to people.

I have moved on and it gets better with each passing day. I don't know if I will ever be totally over it because I was there for so long. I watch everything very closely. I want to learn to trust people again, but I think I will always take things very slow when getting myself into any kind of relationship. I wish me and my family didn't have to deal with this, but the fact is - we do.

As I have read all of the comments above I can relate to every one. I wish it wasn't this way. I hate that people have been hurt and I know all that has happened in these controlling churches is the complete opposite of God's love. I just hate that there are some people who haven't been able to differeniate between the two. I ran into a dear lady yesterday who hasn't been back to church in over 10 years because her former pastor was so mean to her. When I find out about those kinds of things it really upsets me.

The one good thing in all of this for me is I have a new understanding of God's love. I thought for too many years that He was like the controlling leaders in my church, but HE IS NOT! He is love and He loves all of us for who we are and He wants all of us to be free from these situations.

Anonymous said...

Hi... I left almost 2 years ago. Since then I've come to understand a couple of things...

I wasn't wrong in leaving. I was a mess and I needed to get out and get back to Jesus. He has been sooooo gracious to me in this season and recently has brought healthy fellowship. It's actually killed off a lot of my jadedness:)
I didn't think there was such a thing, but He proved me wrong, thank God!

So now I get to heal and grow again...it's messy and exciting at the same time.

There's a strange thing happening though (maybe not so strange who knows) there are very few people from my old church that I still keep in touch with, and just over the holidays I went to have dinner with a few of them... all I will say is..the stronger I get with regard to peace in Him and Grace and the more my confidence is restored (something that had been totally destroyed)...the more frustrated these friends get.

There are some from my old church whom I've chosen to stay away from, for my own spiritual health, but there are others who just seemed 'trapped' and I can tell they wish they weren't. I can't walk away from those... I'm learning how to face them and how to respond when they 'act really wierd' lol!

Anywho... thanks for asking..I gues I'd say I have good days, where Jesus feels close and I actually 'feel' free...and there are other days (especially Sundays) when I feel the pain of the past, hear the condesending voices in my head etc...
But at least now I know I'm notevil for leaving, so I can take all that stuff to Him without feeling like He's mad at me:)
Bless you tons:)

p.c. said...

I would say I am a 5 on the scale. I have trouble with trusting anyone. I guess if that's normal then I might be higher on the scale. Otherwise I'll probably stay a 5 for the rest of my live.