Part 4 of 7

In an abusive situation, it is not possible to leave on good terms. Because an insecure leader’s sense of worth is based on his control, leaving is considered an affront to his leadership.

When we left, we were careful to explain, without accusation, that we believed the Lord was leading us elsewhere. We emphasized that we did not want to sever our relationships.

Regardless of this, we were accused of being unwilling to reconcile because we did not submit to the leader’s tactics. It was a lose-lose situation. We had to remove ourselves from the toxic relationship.

When we quit putting up with the abuse and left, we were labeled as strayed and unrepentant. The congregation was told we are deceived and to be avoided.

Leaving is like experiencing a broken relationship or divorce. The feeling is similar to being betrayed by someone with whom you were in love. You are now “the jilted.”

No one leaves a religious system without experiencing its cruelty. Those you considered friends the week before, now will likely shun you, nervously avoiding you.

Shunning the defector is one of the unspoken rules that most people are unwilling to break, even at the price of treasured friendships.

I never would have believed this had I not experienced it personally.

“What did I do to deserve to be treated like this?”

My dreams at night are a good gauge of my emotional state. I can now go many nights without dreams of the people involved in our abuse.

In the midst of it though, I had frequent dreams where I was pleading and my closest friends couldn’t hear me. I had no voice. I could not be understood.

I hope that I can be a voice for someone else in pain, saying, “Yes I understand, and no, it shouldn’t have happened this way.”

There is healing and hope. More later…


10 thoughts on “Leaving

  1. And the worst part is the studied avoidance when you run into people from the former church in the mall, the grocery store, or even the local Christian Book & Trinket Shoppe.

  2. grace, I have not experienced what you’ve experienced. And as you commented on my blog, there are those who are wondering what they have to do to fit in. But you are shedding some light on what can happen to those who do make it in. As often is the case, they either become abused or abusers, or both. Great post. I look forward to what you have to say about healing and hope.

  3. Ah yes, the “see and run”.

    Before this experience, I was a fairly whole person, but I’ve had to take that to a new level. We have experienced rejection in ways since we left that I never would have imagined.

    Yes, David, I hope to eventually get around to discussing the culture and value system that produces the group dynamic that causes exclusivity and shunning.

  4. It took me well over 2 years to be able to think of my former community without deep woundedness. I just wanted someone to say, “You were wronged.”, not even an apology, just an acknowledgement. Years later, the wound is healed, but can still ache in certain “weather”, if you catch my meaning. The practice of blessings has become a healing discipline in this regards. Thanks for the essential set of comments!


  5. Well put, Grace! I have shared your site with many that are going through or have been through this in the past. You’re hitting the nail on the head. Unfortunately this spreads far and wide and I am sorry that so many people connect.

    I struggle with the same dreams you said you had once. Matter of fact I had one last night. I wake up so tense and unrested…was there anything you did in those times to help your sleeping?

    However, I am hopeful to hear that you do not have the dreams anymore…I look forward to that day.

  6. Thank you for sharing this experience and what your are learning in the midst of it. There is hope and healing. I am looking forward to hearing more.

  7. Grace,

    This series of posts is nothing short of excellent. You are providing some very necessary ministry on an international level.

    May the Lord continue to use your words to bring understanding and healing to others, as the Lord brings understanding and healing to you (and the rest of us, too).

  8. Hey Grace,

    You wrote:

    “No one leaves a religious system without experiencing its cruelty.”

    This is a good description of what you left. The kingdom of God does not operate in the abusive ways that you have experienced. Religion kills, but where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty…I wonder if this is why Jesus became so emotional and angry with temple moneychangers and Pharisees and such. Was it because they offered a distortion of God’s kingdom and of His leadership and character?

    Religion, I am convinced, does more harm to the perception of who God is and what He is truly like than anything else I know.

    Thank God you at least had deep roots of faith and, by the sounds of it, an intimate relationship with the Lord to get you through.

    Keep writing Grace!

  9. Jamie, yes, I know what you mean. I’ve added your comment to my post for today. Sorry to say, the practicing blessings still catch in my throat.

    Jen, I’m sorry you’re having trouble with dreams. I sleep like a log, no matter what I’m dreaming.

    My dreams are quite predictable based on what’s happening in my life and also very transparent as to what emotions I’m dealing with.

    Not surprisingly, these posts have brought back dreams of people from our former church with a theme of being an outsider and not belonging.

    Well woman and robby, thank you for your encouraging words.

    Pam, that’s so true. I hope to get around to addressing the systemic problems behind all of this.

  10. It has been 3 weeks now since my husband was fired unethically and illegally along with 6 other employees. All 6 families wrote letters pleading with the powers that be to investigate the unethical actions and odd, secretive behaviors of the leadership we worked under for 2 years. Lip service was done. Oh, all the leaders were “shocked” at the mass firing of dedicated employees. They promised everything would be investigated yet, in the end, despite overwhelming evidence that the current leader is corrupt and heartless. The church leaders chose to keep he & his wife in place and let 6 others go- just a year after relocating to follow the ministry. Houses were sold, church families left behind. Now a little over a year later, we are all dumped like unwanted pups and the leadership endorses this. I am sick inside. I feel disillusioned. The employees who were kept are now avoiding us- I think for fear of losing their jobs. I dread the day I meet the leader or his commanding wife in public. It will take all of my prayer and strength to refrain from either bursting into tears, or giving them an earfull. God help me.

    You have friends in the Blogosphere who understand your pain. Don’t give up, just find a better circle of believers to hang out with. You are loved!!

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