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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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Refer to STEP 6: I make a commitment to turn away from my pride and refuse to become like those who have abused me. I abandon my desire to spread malice because of my pain and anger, and I chose to relinquish my right to be self-absorbed.

Following the Lord—really following the Lord—makes a person vulnerable to ridicule by well intended friends and family members. It’s why so few are willing to take a chance on doing precisely what they believe God wants them to do.

Instead, most make good, solid common sense decisions and ask God to bless them. When He doesn’t, they chafe and blame God for being unloving, uncaring, and distant. He is none of these things, but neither is He able or willing to make the common sense decisions of Mankind His will.

He has an eternal goal, and His desire is to lead you to His purposes—not Him to yours. Christians love to say they want nothing more than to do God’s will; but in reality, what they want is for God to rubber stamp their will, which He never does. When a person gets caught up in God’s purpose, that person has no goals of his or her own to achieve, which outwardly may appear to look foolish.

Christians who have clear purpose and vision often become caught up in their own goals. Certain that their purposes are also God’s, they allow the ends to justify the means, and behave in ways that are harmful to others. In essence, they become abusive, believing God sanctions their behavior, which He never does.

For God, the means are always the ends where humans are concerned. Being faithful in little things is more important to God than having grandiose aspirations that appear lofty and noble but actually require stepping on others to achieve. Abusing others is never God’s will. Non believers clearly recognize this kind of behavior for what it is; and it’s the reason why so many reject Christ. Because Christians are so hurtful, non Christians don’t want anything to do with such callous, cruel behavior, especially done in the name of God.

Who can blame them?

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Heavenly Father,

I thank you that You are God and I am not.

Often, especially when my life is going well, I think I’m in control of my own destiny, but I know this is an illusion. You are in control—the Master of the Universe.

That You take the time to care about me and what troubles my life is why I come to You—why I seek Your face.

Show me Your will and help me to understand Your ways. Reveal to me what success is in Your eyes—the only eyes that count. Teach me to think like You think. I know my limitations, and I ask that my failures not impede my future. I ask that you expand my territory so that I think beyond the confines of my life to live a life that has meaning and purpose.

Help me to seek Your will always.

Teach me Your ways.

Help me to value a life, which is filled with noble, selfless service.

And, bestow upon me the power to fulfill my destiny.

Amen.

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Refer to STEP 10: I believe that God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

In America, we have the notion that “perfect people” are the ones who should be in charge, which means that our elected officials and religious leaders are those who have no negative “check marks” next to their names. Somehow, being flawless—at least outwardly—is a sign of having strong character, which makes for the best leaders. Those who have had difficulties have a negative check mark against them, which makes them less desirable political candidates and religious leaders.

In God’s Kingdom, where all have sinned and fallen short of perfection, the exact opposite is true. It’s the people who have sinned much that love the most. They understand the value of being forgiven, of being restored, of being used by God. Once a person has been broken of his or her self-will and self-serving ways, they have a far greater capacity to seek God’s will. Brokenness produces character qualities, which God needs, in men and women as we face the daunting task of rescuing Christendom from narcissistic religious abusers and our nation from those whose self-will is consistently at cross purposes with God’s will.

Now that you have gone through the difficulties associated with religious abuse, can you begin to see your value? Can you understand why it was important for the abuse to occur? Can you begin to see why you are far more important to God than you were before your difficult experiences?

Now that you’ve experienced substantial recovery, you are in a unique position to help the myriads of others who have had debilitating experiences equal to yours.

Recognizing that, does the necessity of having gone “through the wringer” make sense to you now? If so, you are in a position to thank God for everything that has happened, and you can say, “Father, what do you want me to do next?”

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Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

Learning to come to God as Almighty—rather than just as Friend and Comforter—has empowering qualities that most abused people have either forgotten or have never learned. When you come to Him, asking what His will is for your life, you are asking Him a direct question. No longer content to languish is your despair and your depression, coming to God as Almighty tells Him you are ready to do whatever He wants you to do—to be whatever He wants you to be.

It means that you have reached a point in your recovery when you want to be of service to others. It’s a mark in your recovery when you’re healthy enough to help someone other than yourself. It means your focus can be outward and no longer aimed exclusively inward.

You’ve come to trust Him again, knowing that your abuse came from misguided men and women and not from God. Knowing that people like these cause much more harm than good, you have also come to realize that your experience can have value in helping other wounded people to heal.

Can God trust you with what you have learned? Can He count on you to be faithful in helping others who have been wounded—just like you have been helped? Can He count on ypu to point others to Him and not exploit them as you were exploited?

Only you know the answer to this; but if you are faithful with your part, you can’t imagine the reward which awaits you. You’re sense of self-worth, which has taken a hit ever since your abuse, will make you feel more worthwhile than you’ve ever felt before—guaranteed.

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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.

After experiencing religious abuse, it’s natural to believe that God has no further use for you. For those of us who have experienced it, we come to understand our own limitations, especially when we take a hard, long look at ourselves. As we look inward, we don’t see much that has value. In our own eyes we have failed, which makes us assume that God also views us as failures. Nearly everybody who has had our experience feels the same way—some more than others.

Having built our lives on sinking sand, we don’t see how any worthwhile thing can be established on ground that’s not firm. Part of this perspective is accurate, but there’s certainly more to the story than that.

Although our lives may be sinking sand, God is still busy with us, accepting each of us right where we are to produce something of substance. My turning up the heat and pressure, the sinking sand settles and is hardened into quartz, which is transparent, solid rock—rock which has value. Unlike sand, it’s useful.

As you look at your life from your perspective, you may not be able to see anything of value, but you are not God. He sees things differently. He sees you as the person He created you to be, and He alone has the power to transform you into that person. Therefore, rather than curse where you are, bend your knee and ask Almighty God to make the necessary changes in you that will establish you, helping you to become everything you were ever intended to be.

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

We live in an era when many people are spiritual but few are Christians—not really strong Christians anyway. The kind of Christianity most people practice is one of universal inclusion. You can believe whatever you want to believe about God. It really doesn’t matter. Everything works. They apologize for Christian exclusivity in the past, wishing everyone who follows another path well. It’s the humane, politically correct thing to do and, above all else, Christians do not want to be offensive to others.

Does this sound familiar? Is this what you believe? Even if you don’t believe this—not completely anyway, is it how you operate? Do you live your life so that you don’t receive criticism for others—even from those who militantly oppose Christianity?

Having been abused, I’m sure you’ve wondered why you’ve had to go through such a difficult, undeserved experience. Nearly everybody does. Let me offer you something to consider. Maybe your abuse has had purpose for the future, which you’ve never considered. Maybe it has provided seasoning for some of the difficult times which lie ahead. Maybe God needs you to be there for Him just like He has been there for you through all of your struggles, through all of your heartaches—through your scorn, ridicule, and shame. Maybe there was a far greater purpose for your experiences than you ever imagined.

Have you ever considered that God is looking for men and women who are not ashamed to stand with Him against the onslaught of pantheistic political correctness? Consider this: you have chosen to call God, Father. Can He count on you to be strong for Him—to be a faithful child? Or do you just want Him for all the blessings He has provided to you? Now that He needs you, can He count on you to stand firm? Are you strong enough to say, “I am not ashamed? I will stand with Him no matter what.” If you can be this kind of person, then your value to God Almighty will be incalculable.

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Refer to STEP 4: I chose to accept as true what God says about Himself.

In every recovery program except for religious abuse, a person’s concept of God can be anything they want it to be. Each program is very clear about this. People turn their will and their lives over to God, as they understand Him. By being inclusive, the recovery program reaches more people than it would reach by being more theologically precise. Because of this, people at meetings occasionally say things like this:

  • My Higher Power wants me to be more honest.
  • The Universe is leading me to make specific changes in my life.
  • The Higher Power of our group consciousness is very loving and accepting.

In recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, overeating, or any other behavioral problem, the focus on God is strong, but it isn’t precise. It isn’t as important as it is in recovering from religious abuse. The key element in this recovery program isn’t abstaining from a behavior like drinking. Instead our focus is on re-establishing intimacy with God through a personal relationship. Nothing else works, and pantheism isn’t a suitable or effective alternative.

The only way to regain what has been lost is to come to God Almighty, the God of the Trinity, and develop your relationship with Him, based on Scriptural truth. Although unscrouplous men and women may have twisted your thinking about God, for full recovery to occur, you must regain an understanding of God that is based on how He has revealed Himself and not how others have portrayed Him to be. You have to learn once again that God can be trusted. Without relearning this, your recovery will only be partial at best.

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Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

After a person has been abused, including religious abuse, an interesting phenomenon occurs. The person’s naiveté vanishes. They are no longer susceptible to being hoodwinked, or they are far less likely, anyway. This is a good thing. It makes a person far more discerning.

At the same time, it also allows the abused person to see others as they really are and not as they portray themselves to be. Christian groups tend to draw many people who, for whatever reason, are outcasts and misfits. These are people who learn to talk the talk but who are also broken on the inside. It’s not that they experience broken-ness from pride and self-seeking; it’s more like they don’t have the capacity for wholeness—to be a complete person. The emotional wounds of these people are so severe, they would be in the Special Olympics, if their limitations were mental rather than emotional.

Those of us who have been abused seem to recognize these people more easily than others, which affords us with a unique opportunity for service. Because of the pain and humiliation we have suffered from abusers, we have a far greater capacity to empathize than others. Because we can recognize the wounded-ness behind the mask of these unfortunates, we can provide a measure of acceptance that stretches us beyond our comfort zone. It’s why we have learned to be accepting people.

Although we should never encourage aberrant behavior, we can better understand the weaknesses of others. We didn’t always have it, but we certainly have grown into it. It’s part of the reason we have had the experiences we’ve had.

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