Day 2 (March 20): Your journey and consequences of spiritual abuse, hosted by Joy in this Journey
How has your experience affected you? What has it done to you emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, etc.? What has your journey been like? How have you gotten where you are today? Do you feel you’ve healed? What do you still struggle with?
This is a significantly revised version of an earlier post. For more details on the revision, please see this post.
I have long thought of toxic faith as a cancer, as something that begins with a single cell and then morphs and multiplies as it takes over more and more healthy cells, as something that turns truly good things into truly awful things. And we all have the potential to become part of tumors, largely without even realizing it has happened. Because look at the incredible growth!
But if toxic faith does mimic cancer, I am grateful to say that I am in remission.
I have scars.
I am weak.
I am tired.
I am sad when I pass the cemetery where a former student is buried, both because I grieve his loss and because I have not forgiven the boys who killed him, and some days I’m not sure I can even though I know I should.
I get all jittery and nervous inside when I have to attend church around any patriotic holiday.
I get angry when a person of faith speaks on behalf of all people of faith, even if I agree with what they are saying and especially when I disagree.
I listen to music and read books and watch films and television shows that have redemptive value even if they aren’t made by Christians or espouse Christian beliefs, and I often feel guilty about it.
I am sometimes so full of rage about the way people treat other people but at the same time I don’t notice when I treat myself poorly.
I panic when someone asks about my spiritual life because sometimes I don’t have a ready answer and sometimes the answer I do have ready is something different that I think that person wouldn’t like to hear.
I ask saints to pray for me – ones who have been canonized and ones who I knew personally – but every time I do I wonder if I’ve crossed the line into praying to the saints instead of praying with them.
I wonder about the state of my spirit and then wonder about whether or not the very act of wondering means I am not walking with God.
I often second-guess myself and hesitate before I speak, not to choose the right words but to think if I should speak at all.
I have issues with being a woman in a patriarchal faith.
I wonder how many strikes I get before grace runs out.
I struggle to believe myself worthy of being loved as I am.
I question whether I am really and truly saved.
I am tired.
I am weak.
I have scars.
But take heart, those of you who see these words and know in the depths of your being what they mean, for you are there. I am still alive and so is my faith. It is tiny and small but it is there, and I believe that someday it will move mountains.
Somewhere along this road I found out the truth, and sometimes I believe it.
That faith that is toxic poisons, but faith that is vigorous heals.
That emptiness does not equal nothing: that it can be a resting place for weary souls.
That if I have knowledge, I must gently share it with those who need to hear it.
That I was my strongest at the moment when I was most truly feminine, in giving birth to my son.
That modesty is an attitude and not a dress code.
That loving my neighbor as myself means loving myself in equal measure as the people around me.
That God sees my ideas and passions and hobbies as necessary and worthwhile, both for the church and for the world.
That coming from generations of Christians is a legacy of blessing to make my own.
That setting boundaries is healthy.
That the culture – within or without the church – is no reason to throw love out the window.
That being firm in my beliefs does not preclude those beliefs changing at a later time, and change is not necessarily sin.
That forgiveness is both a choice and a process.
That God has known all along that I am mentally ill and does not fault me for the times my depression and anxiety have gotten the best of me.
That bringing deep, dark secrets into the light takes away some of their power.
That I believe there are Christ-followers with God despite their belief in and preaching of heresies,
and that God will forgive me for the unknowing heresies I believe and preach as well.
That my salvation has been a journey that started with a specific moment but did not end then.
That because I have been broken does not mean I am broken.
That I am loved.
Loved when I don’t think I am and when I think I’m pretty great. Loved when I fall and when I rise. Loved when I am standing still, when I am going the right direction, and when I am headed the wrong way. Loved when I am silent and when I say too much. Loved when I cross the line and when I stay far away from it. Loved because.
Some days I believe all of the small details wholeheartedly and some days I can only ask God to help my unbelief. But every day, I am coming closer and closer to believing in the redemption of Christ rather than against what caused my scars. And the world is slowly becoming new – just as we have been promised.