Archive for October, 2008

When alcohol ceased to work, I increased the medication, drinking more with greater frequently. That’s how out of balance I was. Finally in 1993, I admitted I was an alcoholic. By that point, however, I had wasted an entire generation of my life—twenty years.

As I embraced sobriety, I began to reflect upon the past and discovered patterns for my acting-out behavior—patterns that were predictable based upon my response to abusiveness. As I began to discover who I really was, which was far different than the castigations of my accusers, I turned my face to God rather than away from Him. When I did, I began to heal, and the real Jack Watts began to emerge. It was slow at first but, once I made the transition, the changes became irreversible, as God began to strengthen me with power in the inner man.

Although the abuse could have destroyed me, the Lord wouldn’t allow it—He had other plans. What others meant for evil, God meant for good. Having gone through years of heartache weathered me, as I began to look beyond myself—beyond my self-centeredness. When I did, I saw people wherever I went with experiences similar to mine—people acting out to camouflage their wounds.

My conclusion was this: Abusiveness in Christendom is rampant. Even worse, those who had been abused have no voice, no champion, no one to speak for them. They may be the real silent majority, living half-lives, existing on the fringes of Christianity—ashamed and broken, starved for attention and acceptance. Pastors all over America routinely give sermons about leaving “the 99 sheep” which are safe to find “the one” which is lost, but those who have been abused are never considered lost—just forgotten. How tragic. How wasteful. How un-Christlike.

Churches have missed God’s heart about these multiplied millions—big time. Incarcerated prisoners receive far more attention than those who have left the church because of religious abuse. Discarded believers are everywhere, languishing in despair, unloved and discounted. That’s what Pushing Jesus is all about—those who have been deemed useless.

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My life has been filled with adventure, excitement, intrigue, duplicity, and sorrow, as well as several instances of religious abuse—none of which anticipated by me. Because I was caught off guard, my emotional trauma was acute—probably like yours was.

Without going into specific details, after each episode I was devastated—with feelings of despair, alienation, and deep, debilitating pain. My worst experience, while in a church group in California, was so damaging I found myself unable to commit to another church for more than twenty years. My commitment and sense of camaraderie with this group of people was so complete, my abuse caused an equal measure of alienation and emotional withdrawal. My confidence was shaken, and I became fearful. In my feelings of rejection and betrayal, I walked away from God’s people, no longer capable of trusting them as I once did effortlessly. Putting on a warm, disingenuous smile, I learned to keep people at arms length, while at the same time allowing them to believe that they knew me well—that they enjoyed my total confidence. My pain was so intense, I used charm and humor to mask my reality. I had to; my heart was far too fragile to withstand another assault upon it.

I existed this way for years, living a half-life, believing my self-protectiveness was being prudent. My heartache was so severe I was a walking wound—a wound I self-medicated with alcohol and relationships. This worked for a while but caused far greater damage beneath the surface—at the core of my being.

(More Tomorrow)

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When you began your move away from the Lord, whether consciously or unconsciously, you began to compromise who you were. At first, it may have been just a thing or two, followed by another thing or two. Before long, much of who you were—of what made you strong, purposeful, and resilient was lost. You became a vestige of your former self, but you still maintained the illusion that you were OK. Your denial of reality was that complete.

You could still talk the talk, but you gravitated to the darker side rather than toward the light. Although you maintained many characteristics of Christianity, on the inside, where it really counts, you became hollow—a shell of what you once were.

Does this sound like you? Take a moment and think about it.

Have little pieces of your character been shaved off one at a time? Do you wonder if there’s anything left? Does reading this cause you trouble? Is it painful to introspect at such a tender, vulnerable level? Is it all you can do to continue? Do you want to walk away and think about something else?

If so, you’re precisely where you need to be—where you begin to see the difference between who you pretend to be and who you really are. Others may tell you what a wonderful person you are, but you know the truth, don’t you? Their approbation doesn’t match how you feel inside, does it?

You’re not even close to where you want to be. Your success, as measured by the state of your heart, is far emptier than you ever thought it would be.

If all of this is true, then you’re in a spot where God’s healing touch should be very desirable. There’s nothing like it. All you need to do is stop walking away from Him, turn, and begin walking back toward Him. When you do, He will be more than you ever imagined Him to be, as He strengthens your inner man with love, joy, peace, and purpose.

If you are you sick and tired of being sick and tired, call upon the Lord. If you have reached a place where you are willing to bend your knee and cry out for help to your Heavenly Father, He will hear you. Out of your despair, He will answer—guaranteed.

There’s life after abuse—a rich life available no other way than by returning to your first love. When you’re ready, so is He.

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Each post on Pushing Jesus is authentic—without sugar coating. That’s a promise. We’ve heard unimaginable war stories of abuse, so the material is based on what’s real—not what’s imagined. Regardless of what you’ve experienced, others have similar stories and have recovered to lead fruitful lives—lives of value.

The Great Commission is to make disciples—not new converts, which makes languishing, wounded believers like you very important to us and to the Lord. The Lord loves you just the way you are, regardless of the circumstance—regardless of your state of mind. He knows you’ve had dark times and have made self-destructive choices. He loves you, in spite of everything, even though you may not love yourself.

Your life has value to God and, once you have experienced His accepting, forgiving touch, you’ll want to take your rightful place in the Kingdom. Having been derailed will no longer continue to detour your destiny. Like Israel after the Holocaust, you will learn to say with confidence, “Never Again.”

That’s our goal for you—to help you heal and become the mature man or woman God redeemed you to be—Scripturally sound and resilient. Your entire outlook and attitude will change. As you can imagine, God doesn’t need any more cynics or marginal believers. He has more of those than He can use.

Don’t you think it’s time to make some changes? Wouldn’t it be nice to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness once again? But this time, you could add wisdom to the list. Your life can be one of calm, strong sanity. This is not a “name it—claim it” approach to recovery. It requires real work, real faith, real commitment, and time. If you work for it, you will be amazed at the progress you can make—so will others.

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In the United States, there are recovery groups for alcoholics, drug addicts, over-eaters, under-eaters, and dozens of other sub-groups with special needs. Perhaps the largest unidentified group with unresolved issues and unmet needs are those who have been abused by the church—by organized religion. With you in mind, Pushing Jesus has been created. Your recovery is our purpose—our only purpose.

Each of the entries has been written to help those of you who have suffered—and continue to suffer—from religious abuse. There are millions of you out there—people who have been discarded, dismissed, and contemptuously disrespected by churches and ministries all over America.

Most of you are angry, bitter, and resentful. You suffer from shame and low self-esteem. You may even be hostile. If you are, that’s OK. We accept you just the way you are—without reservation or condemnation. Having been wronged in the past, you may have abandoned your first love—the Lord. It’s easy to understand how this could happen, but its also self-defeating behavior. It’s like saying, “I’ll get even with you; I’ll hurt me.” Obviously, this isn’t a good idea, but it’s what millions have done. If it’s what you’ve been doing, you don’t have to do it any more. There’s a way out that works.

That’s why we’re here. We want to help you recover from religious abuse and be everything God ever intended for you to be. We want to show you how to free yourself from debilitating anger so you can lead productive, fulfilled lives. If you’re mad at God for what happened to you; remember, He has never had much use for self-righteous religious leaders either.

Just because you’ve been wronged, however, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to wallow in self-pity for the rest of your life. That’s not taking good care of yourself. A life of smoldering, camoflaged anger is a wasted existence. We’re here to help you change all that, but we can’t do it for you. You have to make the effort to help yourself.

If you will make even the slightest effort to open your heart, we can help. I know we can. If you start moving back toward the Lord, you will find Him to be everything you ever dreamed Him to be. After all, it’s God who heals broken hearts. Will you make an effort?

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Everything written to help you recover will be authentic—without sugar coating. That’s a promise. We’ve heard unimaginable war stories of abuse, so yours will not shock us. The Great Commission is to make disciples. That’s our goal for you—to help you heal and become useful to the Lord once again. He doesn’t need any more cynics. He has more of those than He can use.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness once again? But this time, you could add wisdom to the list. Your life can be one of calm, strong sanity. This is not a “name it—claim it” approach to recovery. It requires real work, real faith, real commitment, and time. If you work for it, you will be amazed at the progress you can make—so will others.

One More Thing
You may not agree with all that is written. That’s OK. Just take what helps you and leave the rest behind. Each weekday we will have a new entry about how to recover from religious abuse. As you read the material, there will be numerous entries on the following subjects:

  • Bitterness
  • Alienation
  • Feeling Used
  • Feeling Unloved
  • Being Devalued
  • Feeling Hurt
  • Feeling Angry
  • Feeling Betrayed
  • Being Burned Out
  • Feeling Uncared for
  • Being Cast Aside
  • Remembering That God loves Those Who Hurt You as Much as You
  • Understanding It’s Not Their Fault
  • Even if It Is Your Fault, God Still Wants You Back
  • God Still Has A Purpose for Your Life
  • God Is More Committed to Your Healing than You Are
  • God Cares
  • You Can be Honest about How You Feel
  • You Are Not a Victim
  • You Will Probably Never Understand Why
  • God Always Has a Redemptive Purpose
  • The Pure in Heart See God’s Purpose—Not Those Who Whine
  • Being Unforgiving Hurts Nobody but You
  • Understanding Brokenness Is Where You Find Strength
  • Identifying Spiritual Abuse
  • More

Each entry will be aimed at helping you identify the origin of the pain and gaining a better understanding of God’s role in your recovery. We’ll know we have been successful if you let us hear from you. Many of your stories will be posted. This is a great forum for you to “get it all out.” You can do so without being judged—not even a little. It will help your recovery to write about it, and we encourage you to do so.

Here are the rules:
1. Include your name and email address.
2. Use real names and places in your account.
3. Give us permission to post your story.
4. Not all stories will be posted, but those that are will have all the names and places changed to provide anonymity for everybody. Remember, our mutual goal is your healing not pointing a finger at those who wronged you.
5. Your experience is your experience. Nobody will judge you for it; that’s for sure. Your anonymity will be protected no matter what. This is a safe place—guaranteed.

– Jack

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If your life has changed from what it once was—from what you thought it would be, Pushing Jesus will help you—perhaps dramatically. If you’ve altered your direction and know deep inside you’re not living the quality of life you’re meant to live, your life can change—substantially change. If you experience little joy or fulfillment, if you are grinding out your days in mediocrity—with little love, meaning, or satisfaction; Pushing Jesus can help you regain what you’ve lost.

If the type person I have described is an accurate representation of who you are, then Pushing Jesus is definitely for you. Pushing Jesus has been created for disenfranchised evangelicals, lapsed-Catholics, and those in recovery groups like AA, ALANON, and Overeaters Anonymous—those who long for a deeper walk with God than the pantheistic “Higher Power,” which is universally promoted at meetings—a politically correct version of Almighty God.

Pushing Jesus is for wounded, hurting people who want more from life—who want to heal. Although the “11 STEPS to Recovery from Religious Abuse” will help you recover from any type of abuse, including spousal abuse, it’s specifically targeted for those who have experienced religious abuse. Believe it or not, as many as 50 million people need help. It’s a massive problem religious leaders refuse to acknowledge—let alone address. It’s rare for church leaders to give more than lip service to religious abuse, dismissing it as a minor issue.

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