Archive for August, 2010

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

Whenever I ask someone to tell me what their goal is for recovering from religious abuse, I’m always amazed by how little they hope for. Some will say, “I just wish it had never happened. All I want is to get through this situation the best way that I can.” Others will say, “If I could just get back to where I was before all this happened, I’d be satisfied. That’s all I want—nothing more.”

Nothing more! Whenever I hear something like this, it’s hard to believe that so many people have such low expectations.

I suppose that’s one way to look at it, and if it’s the best a person can do, that’s okay. Tragically, because people have been wounded so deeply, many come to believe that the best years of their lives are behind them—with little to look forward to. This way of thinking can become a self-fufilling prophecy, adversely impacting a person’s entire lifetime. Expecting little, their goals are met every time.

Although many people think this way, it doesn’t have to be like this. Life can be much, much better than simply muddling through. The goals may have to alter somewhat, but achieving fulfillment should still be the goal.

I am firmly convinced that each of us can do better than just aimlessly wandering through life, making it by the skin of our teeth. In your recovery, learn to set your goals high. You can be everything you ever envisioned yourself to be. Your potential hasn’t diminished. In fact, because of the value of your experience in helping other wounded people, your life can be more fruitful than you ever imagined.

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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 and give me the power to carry it out.

As a child of God, He expects us to lift Him up—not push Him.

That’s all. That’s our entire responsibility—nothing else. Isn’t it freeing just to read this and take it in, knowing that I can just be me?

I can’t save anyone any more than I can damn them. Neither can you. We don’t have anything to do with it. We don’t get a vote—never have, never will. It’s left up the God—where it belongs. If that’s true, then, what is our part in the process?

It’s to lift up Christ, which we do every time we act out of the nature He has imparted to us, rather than out of our own, self-serving natures. If I act out of my own best interest and nothing more, I miss an opportunity to lift Him up. When I am Christ-like, I display love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Spirit of God. When I suffer for the Lord, I’m also lifting Him up. When I choose His way over materialism, I’m lifting Him up. When I’m kind, expecting nothing in return, I’m lifting Him up.

When I seek my own way, I’m not. The greatest problems come when we fool ourselves into believing our will is God’s will, and we press for it at the expense of another. It doesn’t work, and it manifests a poor witness for Christ.

Being Christ-like works; nothing else does. It draws people to the Lord much better than a three-minute testimony from a stranger. The former is genuine, while the latter is little more than an infomercial, something contrived, forced, and disingenuous—something that never delivers as much as it promises.

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Refer to STEP 5: I recognize that the only way back to a productive life is exactly the way I came.

There is an aphorism, generally attributed to Lord Acton, which is one of my all-time favorites. When I first read it decades ago, I was in graduate school, and I incorporated it into my life. Since then, it has worked its way deeply into my heart to become an integral part of who I am, a part of my core values. It guides my actions and provides clarity to direct my path. It states:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

When it comes to spiritual abuse, this statement seems particularly applicable. Most of us, when we see or experience abuse, just leave, extricating ourselves from a difficult, toxic situation. Maybe that’s the best thing to do, but maybe it isn’t.

In my own experience, I have confronted one situation head-on, and I have left a similar one quietly, without saying a word. As the years have passed, I feel much better about the time when I confronted it than when I didn’t.

Although I was unable to change the outcome in either case, I was changed when I made a stand and said, “This is wrong, and I won’t be part of it.”

In your situation, is that something you should consider doing?

Your primary responsibility is to take care of yourself and your family. That’s a given, and if that’s all you can do, it’s enough. If you think you can do more, however, you probably should. It may be difficult, but you’ll feel better about yourself as time passes. It’s what “good” men and women do, and that’s what we want to be—good men and women who will not stand idly by and allow evil to triumph.

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Nothing is as it seems,

As I thought it would be,

As I believed I had been promised.

Perhaps all of it was nothing more

Than my own wishful thinking,

But the despair from my failure is real—

Nothing could be more real

Than how heartbroken I am,

Knowing it didn’t have to end this way.

As a youth, when I turned my life,

My will and my purpose,

Over to You for safekeeping,

I believed I would experience abundance,

But that has not been my lot—not even close.

Life has not been what I expected it to be.

It seems like I have failed

At everything I’ve been called to do.

When I’ve needed You the most,

It seems like You’ve been so far from me.

My enemies delight in my misfortune.

The pain of their sharp, cutting looks

Is ever before my eyes, infuriating me,

But also crushing me,

As debilitating fear chains me to the past.

Those I’ve trusted have used and discarded me,

Rejecting me without a backward glance.

Like a fool, I never saw it coming.

As I recoil from my wounds,

I call on Your name, but You’re not close.

At least, I don’t feel Your presence.

I didn’t want to fail, Father.

You know I didn’t, but I have.

I can’t change the outcome.

That door is closed,

But my life is not over,

And other opportunities will come.

When they do, help me to learn

All the lessons I need to know.

I don’t want to ever be in this

Tortured place again—

Without a future, without a hope,

Without the promise of being successful.

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I’ve wanted things and relationships

You did not want for me.

I’ve wanted them so badly

That I’ve come before You

Countless times whining and mouning,

Beseaching You to let me have what I want.

And all You did was say, “No.”

I would not accept Your answer

And continued the relentless pursuit

Of my will versus Yours.

I tried to make wrong right,

Calling myself selfless for doing so.

I ascribed nobility to my efforts,

As if seeking my will rather than Yours

Was the path to peace and fulfillment.

In my foolishness, I did my best

To fool myself about my intentions,

But You remained firm and just said “No.”

Still unable to accept Your will over mine,

I manipulated events until exhaustion overwhelmed me

But You would not budge nor change Your mind.

Now, at the end of myself and all my fretting,

I bow my knee and accept Your decision.

No it is, and no it will be.

Parts of me still don’t like Your answer,

But You are in charge, and I am not.

Once I allowed myself to accept Your will,

I began to see things as You have,

And now realize Your way is better than my own.

Thank You for caring for me so much

That You protect me from my wilfulness

And from ends that would not be what

I thought they would be.

You know me better than I know myself,

And I thank You for freeing me from my past.

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I feel so badly about myself.

It’s hard to hold my head up high,

As my sorrow and my shame consume me.

The air around me is thick and difficult to breathe.

My heart is heavy as is my countenance,

Which diminishes my stature.

I long to be free of my shame,

But those around me wag their fingers,

Giving me “that look” of scorn and reproach.

You say that I am forgiven,

But I don’t feel it or believe it.

When will I be free?

When will I know gladness?

When will my penance be enough?

If there is no condemnation in Christ,

Then why is my shame ever before me?

Is this all there is to life?

Will my past determine my future?

Will I never know peace and satisfaction again?

I know You love me the way I am,

But others do not. They rejoice in my pain,

In grinding me down to nothing.

I should insist that they stop,

But I can’t, as my shame enervates

My ability to take care of my soul.

I am robbed of sleep, robbed of joy,

Robbed of meaningful life, and yet

It never stops. I am undone and wonder

If I will ever regain my footing in life.

Rescue me, Lord. Let me know joy

And peace once again.

Rescue me quickly, my Lord and My God.

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I’m praying because I know I should,

Not because I really want to.

I can do things for myself.

I always have—always will.

I don’t need Your help—not really.

“Bring it on. I can handle anything.”

In my heart, this is what I think

Nearly all of the time.

I’m not trying to hurt anybody,

But I don’t trust people completely—

Not even You, Lord, not even You.

This is exactly how I feel.

In my obstinacy, I repeat,

“Bring it on. I can handle anything.”

Then, You allow adversity to be my portion,

And  I fight You, every step of the way,

Refusing to learn my lesson.

I have to. It’s the way I am—the way I’ve become.

And then You turn the pressure up further.

I wince at the discomfort but will not yield—

Not yet. I still have so much fight left in me.

I cannot submit. I will not submit.

Then the pressure is doubled, and redouble once more.

Finally, I can stand no more.

In bewildered distress, I cry out,

“Not me, Lord? What have I done?

Why is this happening?”

Then You answer me in my spirit,

Revealing Yourself to me,

Telling me that You still love me,

That I’m still Your child,

That my world needed shaking.

When I finally bow my knee,

You redirect my life to be

What You want it to be—

Not how I insisted it should be.

Finally, at the end of my obstinacy,

I acknowledge, “Your ways will be my ways.

Do with me as You please.”

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I am broken.

My heart aches,

As my body writhes,

Consumed with pain and anguish,

And a hopeless sense of despair.

When will it ever end?

I go about as a man

Without purpose, without understanding,

Devoid of joy, which once was always mine.

My grief is ever before me,

Reminding me of my loss,

Robbing me of sleep,

Diminishing my countenance,

Telling me that I have failed.

I’m admonished, “It’s all for a purpose,”

By friends who want to “fix me”

And push my sorrow far from me.

But it doesn’t help—

Nor does it ease my pain,

Not even a little.

I can pretend I understand—

That I know the lesson I’m being taught,

But I don’t—not really.

My heart is broken,

Perhaps beyond repair,

And I fear that it will never change,

And I will never laugh as before.

In my despair and hopelessness,

I cry to You and beg for relief.

You hear, but You don’t answer.

I beceach, moan, and wail,

But You allow my pain to continue.

Day after day—long into the night.

Rescue me my Lord. Come quickly.

Put Your healing hand upon me,

And make me whole once again.

Teach me my lesson so that

I need never repeat it,

Take that which is broken

And mend it so that it will

Be stronger than ever.

Let me bless Your name with gladness.

Let my sadness become a distant memory.

Come Lord; come quickly

Hasten my healing.

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Unlike most, I have it all together.

A man of substance and value,

People listen when I speak,

As words of wisdom roll malifulously

From the core of my being.

Indeed, I have it all together.

At least, that was my perception.

Then, You came and shook me,

Knowing my vulnerabilities like no other.

In an instant—in a flash,

I was undone.

I was not where I thought I was.

I was not who I claimed to be.

When you revealed me to myself,

I stood naked—laid bare to Your eyes

And I cannot hide from Your face,

Your truth, and Your scrutiny.

Those who claim their love abandon me,

And enemies delight in my misfortune,

As all Your blessings vanish before my eyes.

When will it stop?

When will it be enough?

When will You remove Your heavy hand

And restore me to strength, wholeness, and prosperity?

Or is this my lot in life forever?

Is my discipline for a day or a lifetime?

You know, and I do not.

Be merciful to me, my God.

I’ve learned my lesson,

And am regretful of my arrogance—

Of my self-righteousnes.

You know me better than I know myself,

So You know when it will be enough.

Hasten that day, Lord,

Lest my sorrow overwhelm me

And despair diminish me beyond repair.

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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 and give me the power to carry it out.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “Just be patient? God will work it out.”

I have, and whenever I hear it, I want to scream. To me, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s like telling a blind man he will be able to see in heaven. It may be true, but it’s a platitude, and platitudes don’t help people with deep emotional needs.

It just doesn’t work.

At the same time, patience is a fruit of the Spirit of God. You know the list: love, joy, peace, patience, etc. The kind of patience that comes from God’s Spirit, however, is not the sappy, sentimental “best wishes” of those who try to help but have no idea about how to do so. Instead, it’s robust confidence that God is in charge and will use your difficult circumstance for your own good. Adversity makes you stronger and more resilient. That’s not a platitude; it’s true.

Your adversity helps build internal confidence in God’s sovereignty so, at the end of the day, you can say, “Yea though He slay me; yet will I trust Him.”

This is what real patience looks like. It’s absolute confidence that God has you in the palm of His hand, and nothing—not even Satan himself or any demon from hell—has any power or authority over you. If you know this is true, then whatever lot befalls you, you can say, “I know that God is in charge and will take care of me in His good time.” That’s patience, built on confidence—not a wimpy sentiment.

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Maintaining a High Standard

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

If you will allow it, you can set your goals for recovery much higher than just making it through by the skin of your teeth. You can be a better person because of your experience—much better. It doesn’t have to diminish who you are. In fact, it can make you stronger—substantially stronger.

It begins by visualizing your life as being everything God ever created you to be. His goals haven’t changed, and yours don’t have to either. You can have the life you desire—no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Try thinking about it like this: Because you have gone through a profound, life-altering experience, you are uniquely qualified to help someone else who is going through the same thing. You understand things from a perspective few can. That makes you valuable. Your life can become more useful than you ever imagined, and that’s exactly what He wants.

Have you ever thought of your life and what you’ve experienced from this perspective?

There is so much pain, so much suffering and so much abuse in nearly every Christian church that your experience as a recovered abusee is very valuable. You have it within your power to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem. All you have to do is renew your mind and start thinking of how you can be a blessing to someone else who has not come as far on the journey to recovery as you have.

And guess what? There are millions who need you—millions. I want to encourage you to renew your mind today. Your experience in the wilderness can have tremendous value, if you will allow it.

Will you renew your mind and develop this attitude? Will you do it today?

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I come before You as always,

Feeling worthless,

Feeling like I can never again

Hold my head high,

Feeling broken, scorned, devalued.

I know You’ve forgiven my tragressions

Which have been so egregious,

But I can’t forgive myself.

I can’t divest myself of what I’ve done.

It’s ever before me,

Relentlessly putting me down,

Telling me I’m no good,

Which in my heart I know is true.

Like a dense fog of despair,

I grope my way through life,

Never able to be myself—

Not completely.

I want to know joy and to

Leave behind what shackles me,

But I have no power to do it,

No matter how great my effort,

No matter how great my desire.

And my enemies use my sin

To wag their fingers at me

Reminding me of what I have done,

Controlling my spirit,

Grinding me to the ground,

Repeatedly affirming that I can

Never be what I once was.

I loathe their counsel,

But in my heart,

I know it’s true.

Help me, Lord.

You’ve forgiven my sins.

Now restore me to wholeness.

Let my heart know joy once again,

And teach me to forgive myself.

Teach me to stand confidently once again.

Teach me to face my enemies

And not to judge my internal distress

By the veneer of their tranquility.

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The darkness has lifted—

Darkness permitted by You

To refine my character

To purge my foolish ways

And make me more like

The man I’m supposed to be,

The man I’ve always wanted to be,

But never have been—

Not inside and out

Not through and through.

In the midst of my despair,

When at night I longed for the day,

And in daytime wished it was evening,

When sorrows made it difficult to breathe,

You were there beside me,

Even when I was certain You were not.

As fear rattled my being,

You continued relentlessly,

Transforming the core of my being.

Ever mindful of my weaknesses,

You purged and pruned and cleansed.

Then, one day I waited for the gloom

To overwhelm me once again,

Which had become my daily lot,

But it wasn’t there. It was gone.

My strength had returned, along with my smile,

And I embraced the day,

No longer chained to my heartache,

No longer a prisoner to my distress.

Mounting up with wings like an eagle,

Enriched by my experience,

I had become a better man,

A gentler, kinder, stronger man—

A man who better knew himself—

A man who had become more knowable.

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Refer to Step 4: I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

Ask yourself this question? When you see a ministry or church that focuses on stewardship, have you ever seen the leader show any signs of impoverishment? Is there any sign of legitimate need, or does the leader look like a million dollars? Be sure to take a good, hard discerning look. Does the leader have a new car? A Rolex? Diamonds? A magnificent home? Custom made clothes? Does his or her life ooze with “the finer things of life?” If the answer to any of these questions—or all of them—is yes, then those who follow them are being religiously abused, whether they recognize it or not.

Does this sound similar? It’s a house of cards that’s destined to be destructive to every one who follows it.

If you ask the spiritual leader about his or her display of materialism, they will probably say, It’s proof of God’s blessing.” Then, the leader will be quick to add, “You can also receive abundance like this, if you will give, expecting great things in return.”

If you use your head and think for yourself, however, you’ll recognize that this is proof that the leader is adept at manipulating people to give to the ministry.

Examine your own heart about this. When you give, is it really giving, or is it giving to get something in return? If it’s the latter, it’s materialism motivated by greed, and that’s never Christ-like—never, never, never. It doesn’t count for anything other than your ability to be manipulated by an abusive religious leader. But you don’t need to let them do this to you, and you don’t need to feel guilty about not giving to them either.

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: The prayers that have been posted recently are part of a book I’m writing entitled One Day at a Time: Recovering from Religious Abuse. There will be a total of fifty-two entries—one for each week. The prayers will be the Sunday entry, followed by five weekday entries expanding on the subject, culminating with reflective questions, which will be the Saturday entry, tying up the theme for the week. Each weekday will begin with a poignant, non-religious quote, a 300-word commentary, and a Scripture quote.

The purpose for One Day at a Time is to be a natural progression for Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom, which will be released by Simon & Schuster/Howard Books, next February. The following entry is on fear:


I know You haven’t given me

A spirit of fear.

Your Word assures me

That You haven’t,

But that doesn’t mean

I’m not fearful. I am.

Sometimes, my fear is so consuming

That it sends a cold chill

Through my body,

Through my soul,

Through the essence of my being.

On the outside, it doesn’t show,

But on the inside,

Which is tender and vulnerable,

I am undone.

Every fiber of my being

Quakes with dread,

Consuming me with foreboding.

When will it ever end?

When will my heart know peace?

When will terror of the unknown

Cease to grip my soul,

Tossing me about,

Robbing me of sleep,

Robbing me of enjoyment,

Robbing me of purposeful life.

You know me intimately, Lord.

You know the thoughts

And intentions of my heart.

But I can’t find You in this dismal pit,

Which has become my life.

Tell me, will I find joy once more?

Will I regain my confidence?

Will I ever smile at the future?

Or is this my lot—my portion,

My destiny forever?

Will my future be short and grim?

Will my disquietude ever abate?

Will tranquility be mine or a distant memory?

The answers are not in my hands.

I have no control, and my fear

Robs me of my faith in You,

Which I do not want

But I know not how to overcome.

You see me as I really am

And not how I pretend to be.

Rescue me, Lord.

Rescue me quickly,

Lest my fear consume all of what

You have built into my heart for years.

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