“I shall be intentional in my attempts to remain in Rest. And trust my King to handle the rest. “…let us draw near with confidence to the throne of Grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need…” Hebrews 4:16″ Just read this quote this morning by Kathy Wilson and I echo it in my daily walk. Finding His rest in the times of our lives when we are in the valley of despair is not an easy walk. But in the process of entering His presence we find just a touch of what it will mean to see Him face to face. His love floods our souls and nothing else seems to matter. Enjoy the next chapter of my climb out of the box!!
At first I was bitter. Now I was not only without a husband but Jason and Heather were out of the house and my church family was gone. Thoughts of the story of Job in the bible came to mind. I was in a state of shock and didn’t know what to do with myself. It was a dark time for me. My mind wasn’t focused on the Lord. I couldn’t begin to listen to anything that remotely reminded me of church. Whereas once I was so dogmatic and strict about my spiritual life, now the pendulum swung to the other side and I was bitter and sarcastic about going to church. I wasn’t sure yet how that affected my walk with God. I knew I still loved Him. But I scoffed at any Christian teaching that I came across or that anyone tried to share with me. I hated “church people”, because I felt they were judging me and I had even heard that many had gossiped about me being “backslidden” in the ways of the world. If I would run into them inevitably I would be asked where I went to church. I became rebellious in my answers. My favorite one was, “I don’t go to church. They eat people alive in there”. Or in more tolerant times it was, “Why is it you ask me where I go to church and not how my walk with the Lord is”?
I didn’t care anymore and was trying to find the new me, without religion. The trouble was I still had some old residue of legalism hanging on and thought if I didn’t get back in church I was going to hell. So I went through the motions of trying to find a church I could fit into. For months I went from one church to another and though I couldn’t find anything wrong with the services, about half way through the service, a shroud of depression descended on me so heavy to the point that I barely could make my way out of the building. It didn’t matter which church I was in the feeling was the same. It was baffling to me. The thing I had once loved and was everything to me I now hated. I would spend the rest of the day after attending a service just sitting and staring out the window feeling utter dejection. I could clearly identify with David in the book of Psalms when he was feeling so dejected and abandoned.
Finally, after much soul searching for a reason why I couldn’t go to a church of any denomination without anguish God brought me to a place of realizing that I was suffering from spiritual abuse. It was an insidious attack on my spirit that was every bit as damaging to me as the sexual abuse I had suffered as a child. It was no light matter.
Spiritual abuse is defined as “When a person in religious authority or a person with a unique spiritual practice mislead and maltreat another person in the name of God or church…….Spiritual abuse often refers to an abuser using spiritual or religious rank in taking advantage of the victim’s spirituality (mentality and passion on spiritual matters) by putting the victim in a state of unquestioning obedience to an abusive authority.”
I had been so hurt by spiritual authorities. I had worked diligently to gain their approval and most of them, I have to say, saw me as a competitor rather than someone to take under their wing. The same way my soul and body were abused from being a victim of sexual abuse, my spirit had suffered in much the same way, only this time from being abused by those in authority in church institutions. At that point I needed healing and there was no way I could go back to the organized setting while in that state of mind anymore than I could go back to my perpetrator in sexual abuse. I needed a season to heal. God had been showing me that in my insistence to push myself back into a building. I couldn’t worry anymore about what people may think.
But, where did Jesus fit into all of this? What did He want for me now? Was He finished with me? I thought so. Little did I know that all of my life’s experiences were leading me to where I am today. All of the mistakes, pain, loss and destruction was going to be used by Him to fit me into the plan He had for me from before I was even born. Up to this time I had only known Christianity to be a set of doctrines, rules and rituals. Jesus had came and died to open up access between His Father and me. Religion in my life had supplanted that, distracting me with discipline, commitment, and hard work that never yielded the fruit it promised.
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Mark 7:6-7)
These words are as true for us today as when Jesus spoke them to the religious captives in His earthly ministry. There are so many wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who do belong to church denominations and I love them dearly. Their gatherings are seemingly meeting their needs for spiritual growth. However, I also know so many who are still trying to do their duty by going to church on Sundays but complain that it just doesn’t seem enough for them. They are missing out on true relationship. It is hard to make the transition and to find confidence that He will lead us to the right places for fellowship. He will take care of us.
Next Chapter: “Jesus, Are You There?”