Archive for March, 2010

Refer to STEP 3: I accepted that the responsibility for getting back on track was mine and no one else’s.

“We must never allow anything to injure our relationship with God. If it does get injured, we must take time to put it right.”

—Oswald Chambers—

Like any relationship of value, it requires time and effort to repair your relationship with God when it becomes injured. This may seem obvious; but because of the pain and hurt associated with religious abuse, most choose to sweep all relational breaches under the rug, including their relationship with God—their “Divine dysfunction.”

Although this may appear to be the path of least resistance, it’s a poor idea and produces many self-defeating behaviors. Ignoring your relational problem with God doesn’t work, and it causes difficulties in nearly every area of life.

Neither does it work to say a flippant prayer either, thinking that such a trivial effort has merit. If you’ve offended your spouse, does it work to make a shallow apology?

Of course not; it’s the same with the Lord. If there’s a problem, you need to own up to it and make it right. Nothing else has any value nor is it honest. God’s grace may be all sufficient, but it certainly isn’t cheap—regardless of what some might say.

This is an important component of your recovery. It’s essential to take the time necessary to own up to your behavior, acknowledge your wrongdoing, and make appropriate changes in your life. Nothing short of this is effective, which you know is true. Concerning your relationship with God, take some time to reflect and be honest with yourself about what you see. If you do, the reward will be worth it.

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Refer to STEP 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

When you’ve been wounded by religious abuse—shamed, humiliated, intimidated, and ridiculed, the natural inclination is to retreat into a protective shell. In your heart, you just want to “go away” and never have anything to do with “those people” again. The problem is that God is often thrown in the same category as your abusers. By withdrawing, you have probably also retreated in your relationship with the Lord, which is definitely self-defeating behavior.

If you’re really being honest with yourself, has this been your experience? Not wanting to experience the pain and emotional dysfunction associated with your abuse, have you swept everything, including your relationship with God, under the rug? Have you said to yourself, I don’t want to have anything to do with this ever again?

Although this is the course of action most people follow, it’s a strategy that doesn’t work well—not longterm anyway. To heal—to become the person you were meant to be, you must revisit your abuse, feel the pain once again, release it—forgiving your abusers, and move on. Nothing else will heal you effectively.

Keeping the issue buried deep within you may feel comfortable and like the right thing to do, but it isn’t. What works is reopening the old wound, which drains the malice, and allows the anger, bitterness, and resentment to heal. Repressing painful events doesn’t work in any other area of your life, and it will not work with religious abuse either. To heal, you must face your situation once again. It’s the only way. At first, it will definitely feel uncomfortable; but over time, you’ll realize how necessary this course of action has been.

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Refer to STEP 5: I recognized that the only way back to a productive life is exactly the way I came. I had to repair my relationship with God.

Not everything in life is easy. Like everybody else, people in recovery would like to experience a soften, gentler way, but life doesn’t operate like that, does it?

This is especially true concerning religious abuse. Regardless of when you experienced abuse at the hands of a trusted religious leader, your life changed from that day forward, and it will never be the same again. From that precise moment, you changed; and as you see it, not for the better.

For most, this is a hard truth to acknowledge—a difficult reality to admit; but in your heart, you know that it’s the truth.

There’s a part of you that died, and you can never regain your former innocence. The disillusionment you now experience has replaced the boundless joy and optimism that was once yours, and it makes you sad—heartbroken really. Regardless of what you do, you can never return to where you were. It’s not possible. Your loss has probably embittered you, and you chafe at your abusers as a result. Perhaps you chafe at God, as well.

Is this where you are? Have I painted an accurate word picture of your emotional state? If so, you are not alone. There are millions who feel the same way, but that’s no consolation, is it?

Of course it isn’t, but guess what? God Almighty has allowed your difficult experience for a reason—His reason, not yours. From His perspective, which is the one that matters most, He permitted it for your own good.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. Once you accept it, however, your life will start to change for the better.

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Refer to STEP 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires.

When a seemingly insurmountable difficulty comes into your life, what do you do? If you’re like most people—especially Christians, you pray about it. But, what do you pray for?

Most pray for God to spare them from what’s about to happen—either from the consequences of their actions or the actions of others. That’s the natural human response. People want the Lord to rescue them from whatever unpleasantness is about to occur. When they pray, they ask, whine, and even beg, as they plead their case before the Lord.

Then, when their prayer isn’t answered in the way they expect, which it usually isn’t; they chafe and question whether God really cares about them and, if He is really active in their everyday life.

Does this sound familiar? It’s a problem that occurs routinely, creating significant problems for the faith of many. The problem is that the mindset behind whining, plaintive prayers isn’t consistent with God’s methods. As a general rule, He doesn’t deliver people from trouble; He guides them through it instead.

There’s a big difference between the two.

If He delivered you from difficult situations, as you wish He would, then you would never grow up and reach maturity. You would remain a perpetual child—without resiliency, weak in character. That’s not what God wants for your life. He wants you to have childlike faith, but He doesn’t want you to be a perpetual child. God Almighty answers prayers, but He is not a co-dependent rescuer. It’s okay to pray like that, but you must realize that God is far more interested in your growth than He is in sparing you from life’s heartaches.

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Refer to STEP 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires, and I ask Him to heal my pain.

When you pray to be spared from the natural consequences of your actions, don’t be surprised when it seems like your praying to a wall. When you pray to be rescued, such requests are rarely answered in the way you wants. The reason is because the prayer is at cross-purposes with God’s will.

God wants you to be strong and resourceful. He knows that a “Divine bailout” will keep you  a perpetual child. If he answered a prayer like this in the way you desire, you would never attain the full stature of a competent man or woman, which is not His goal for you. He loves you too much to allow you to behave like a petulant, indulgent child when you have the capacity to be strong and resourceful.

His desire is for you to be an adult—to attain your full stature in Christ, which is your birthright. That can only be accomplished by persevering through troubles, heartaches, disappointments, and suffering. While you are going through these difficulties, however, He never leaves you; He never forsakes you. You can count on this and you should. It’s in the deep valleys where you learn to trust Him—where you develop a richer, more confidant faith, which is His will. Successful perseverance makes you a useful person in God’s Kingdom.

When you finally realize this, you will also learn to “glory in your tribulation.” Until you reach this understanding, however, much of your travail will be unintelligible to you.

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Refer to STEP 2I refuse to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

One of the characteristics of someone who has experienced religious abuse is a carefree attitude of acceptance, which makes us unwilling to take a strong stand for anything. Having experienced shame and rejection from those we once loved and trusted, being a strong, committed Christian is the furthest thing from our minds.

Although we may have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong, we have stopped being active participants in Christianity, keeping our counsel to ourselves—except for whining, complaining, and fault-finding. Having been wounded, we prefer a life of anonymity and obscurity to anything else. Pursuing an alternative course is for others—not for us.

There’s only one problem with this strategy. It is never God’s desire for His people to remain stagnant for the rest of their lives. That’s why your recovery is so important to Him. He is calling you—right this minute. He wants you to be a loyal son or daughter and stand firm for your His purpose.

Obviously, anybody who has been wounded needs time to heal, but a convalescence of years—maybe decades—is too long. You need to rouse yourself and get back into the fray. That doesn’t mean you should re-submit to an abusive religious leader, but it does mean you need to bow your knee to the Lord, ask Him what He wants you to do, and then get to work.

You have more to offer than you realize, and there are millions of desperate people out there who can benefit from the wisdom you’ve obtained because of your abusive experience—not in spite of it. Will you consider getting back in the game? Sitting on the bench as a spectator isn’t what the Coach wants. For your recovery to have any value, you need to put it to good use. God needs you; He wants you to play. Will you make a commitment to get back in the game?

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Refer to STEP 2: I refused to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone make a statement like this. “I know where the Lord is leading. He told me what He’s doing; it’s crystal clear to me.” When something like this is said, it’s usually delivered in a smug, self-satisfied way, which dares anyone to challenge its verity. Whenever someone says, “God told me . . . ,” it means that the speaker has make a self-will determination that they have elevated to a Divine mandate.

My experience, as a believer, has been quite different. When I was a young Christian, I thought I knew what God wanted for my life, too. In my grandiosity, I thought I was destined to be important, wise, noble, and spared many of life’s heartaches. My viewpoint, which was also common among my peers, was arrogant and self-important—pure and simple.

My purpose was focused entirely on self-fulfillment—not service to others. I believed God’s purpose for my life was for self-actualization and nothing else. Like many, I tried to make my dreams for accomplishment God’s will for my life.

None of my aspirations materialized because none of them were God’s will. Experiencing profound failure, for a while, I became shattered and disillusioned. Instead of fame and glory, I experienced crushing heartaches for years and wondered why my loving Heavenly Father had allowed such disaster to occur. I felt abandoned and suffered from low self-esteem.

I wasn’t abandoned; but that’s how I felt as I wondered what my failures were supposed to teach me.

It required years for me to realize what God was after. During the time I was being pruned, which was very difficult, God wasn’t teaching me things; He was “un-teaching” me things. I had to unlearn my grandiose mindset and become simple and humble, which occurred once I was broken. When I was willing to accept my diminished importance, finally coming to enjoy it; my usefulness to Him started—not before. I wanted to be somebody I wasn’t; and God wanted me to be a far different person. It required years for this transformation to materialize; but unlike me, God is never in a hurry.

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