Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spiritual Temperature and A New Surrender

Journaling again on my spiritual temperature, assessing where I think I stand since leaving the authoritarian style church we left in 2005. Here it is 2011, six years later.

This year I'm finding a new freedom in reading the Bible on a daily basis. Not that I wasn't reading God's word in previous years but because I was determined not to open the book out of christian expectation or legalism, it was no longer an every day obligation like it once was. That was so I knew in my heart when I did reach for His pages it was because I wanted to hear from God, touch base with his thoughts and hear them clearly without the authoritarian voice of the former pastor(s) echoing in my mind. The Lord has been faithful to lead me gently in these last few years giving me lots of space and what feels like His understanding. The Holy Spirit has spoken, convicted me kindly when I needed it, reassured me every time I needed it, just like always throughout my years as a christian.

Daily reading because I'm eager and hungry for 'the new and living way' is becoming a profound joy like it was when I first asked Jesus into my heart. I'm not reading verociously, but taking bite-sized portions to ponder in both the Old Testament and New. I have my own little schedule that I'm surprised I stick to without a group to keep me on track. When I miss a day I'm not uptight about it in the least and I just read a double portion the next day if time allows. It's very personal and not about the corporate setting at all.

Prayer is also an area I needed to relax in so my approach has been the same.

Worship in song has long been personal to me but it too has been redone - still being redone. Let's just say it has been nice to sit quietly before the Lord in my right mind singing thoughtful songs to him without the need to sing each song 10 times to bring God into the room. There is no frenzy left in me. I could write a book on how I feel about that.

I'm still gun-shy about getting involved at a church. I'm ok with attending but my approach has been the same as with bible reading, prayer and worship. Since we left the old church my husband and I have felt it important that I take time to develop my art in the years I have left and work towards certain goals. After years of giving my art second place to the church (actually 3rd after my family) I'm still a little afraid God may ask me to set it aside again to help out at church, which would not only diffuse my focus but set me on a completely different path. There's a reason we've called church a vortex...

That being said, the Holy Spirit brought me to a place of surrender a week or so ago where I actually said to him I would do that (help in a church) if it was his will. It's been more than 6 years since I've been able to say that. Talk about a long surrender. But having done that I have a peace that I'm where I need to be with my art and that he is the Lord of it since I've given him the opportunity to be Lord all along. In the end I only want to serve him with it and hope that the fruit of it is to bring his essence to those my art can touch.

At this point I think I'm to continue pursuing my art outside the church where I feel it's more needed and valued. The church doesn't seem too interested anyway. The only way I could share my heart inside the walls of christian culture is if I could be open and honest about what I've been through, what led us to our exodus from a cult-like church and what I'm feeling now. Church christians don't seem to really want to hear about that even if internet christians do ;-) If Art is a reflection of Life, it will have no depth of substance if we can't be real about life.

Even the whole process of surrender has had to be redone in my life because it was twisted in the old world. Dying to self helped you stay flexible so you could easily be at the eck and call of the pastor who was constantly changing course. If you just died to self then you didn't find yourself so frustrated at the fact he enjoyed changing plans at whim or pitting people who worked for him against each other.

I am crucified with Christ has been or is being restored to its rightful meaning now, so I can have a new sense of trust in the process of surrender. If I'm still a little worried about being trapped again, a peacful trust outshines the fear when I remember Jesus has been with me on this journey and he isn't into jerking me off the path he's been leading me on. He's brought me this far not to send me backward.

So, I think the whole surrender thing is about being willing to be a light for Jesus wherever he leads and making sure my heart is his in everyway. I'm free to come and go. It makes the most sense.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for creating this blog. It's very comforting to read in the internet many stories from former members of abusive churches share their own testimonies.

I was in a word of faith movement and I left the group just recently because the red flags I am experiencing is already too intense to ignore. I was looking for a refuge from the abusive atmosphere in my family only to be trapped in a spiritual group wherein the system is also abusive. I bought into the lie that "the cause" is the most important mission of a christian. I gave in to the false promise that you have to be in the "right pipeline" if you want to experience the fullness of God's blessings and I obeyed out of fear that you have to be in the "right boat" to ride the big wave otherwise you will be left behind. Charismatic preachers name call those christians who don't want to submit to a human shepherd loose cannons, spiritual dwarfs or rebels. It's difficult to leave cause I sincerely considered them a family, however, the system for me has already done subtle yet serious havoc in my life. I left my job for the faith that I am exchanging it for a "far greater and more important work for the advancement of the kingdom" only to realize when I was already involved deeper that there are aspects significant to the system that my conviction can no longer tolerate. My growing disillusionment is getting more difficult to deny so I deliberately decided to take my own exodus. I am now jobless, really hurting and somewhat feel paranoid. Words can't describe the pain I feel inside. Even praying to God seems blank, I have lost all desire to go to church and even my motivation to live has been really affected. But despite of the pain, I am doing my best to get all the strength I can muster to bounce bank. No matter how hard the process i am going through right now,i still hold on to have faith in a benevolent and gracious God.

NoJoke said...

Greetings Anonymous and thank you for your comment! It's so good to know that this blog can bring encouragement to a fellow survivor! (To God be the glory for sure!)

Yes, keep holding on to the faith you have in Jesus - everything around us may change but HE is the one constant. It sounds like the pain of staying in the abusive environment is going to be more painful than the leaving - not that the leaving isn't extremely difficult. It's just if you were to weigh the pain, staying is worse now that you know what you know. I can honestly say 6 years later, the pain of leaving was real and difficult but worth getting my own faith and my own life back. And it's been much better sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus in my right mind than enduring the bondage of the controlling church.

None of us would have dreamed that the Charismatic church would have morphed into what it is today. Fortunately the Lord is calling us out, one by one, to identify with him outside the camp (Hebrews 13:13-14). (Remember when they'd say it was wrong to be outside the camp?! I never realized the scriptures encourage us to actually be there!) The good news is there are so many of us out here and we can encourage one another, pray for each other and cheer each other on, with no agenda other than wanting what's best for our fellow Christian.

I will pray for you and share your need with those I know. May the Lord meet all your needs according to his riches in glory, especially a new job, a thriving livelihood, one that will even bring you fulfillment as you live one day to the next.

One more thing, you mentioned that you were fleeing from one abusive atmosphere and found yourself in another one. We all are realizing there was a reason we were drawn to the bondage we found ourselves in. One thing we dont want to do is end up in another bad situation. Let's pray that the Lord will steer you away from abuse once and for all. Now that you have come to recognize red flags, continue to trust your intuition in days to come. One of the reasons we tolerated abuse in the first place was we ignored the red flags when we first noticed them or explained them away somehow. I've been learning to trust my own judgment too the last 6 years and it's been a journey - sometimes I feel like I'm swimming upstream. Really what we are learning is to listen to the Holy Spirit ourselves, which is what He wanted all along. I'm sure in days to come we are going to need to hear him more than ever. I'm sure you know hearing Him can come in various forms. Sometimes it may just be an inkling of what seems right rather than a blatent sign or a voice.

We are each on a unique path but the Holy Spirit has a way of guiding each of us to healing and wholeness over time, whether it be through finally being able to appreciate the Bible again (I could barely read it for about 2 years when I first got out), blogs, books, articles, counseling, talking with an understanding friend. The Holy Spirit has lots of ways of speaking and helping us learn why we went through what we went through and how not to do it again. He can even use movies. You know what I mean!!

Anyway, feel free to keep me posted so we can rejoice together in how the Lord comes through for you.

Romans 8:31-39 and Micah 7:7 (But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.)