It is Spiritual Abuse Awareness week in the corner of the internet I travel. It is being hosted by some truly amazing people and producing some truly amazing posts. I am learning a lot, but I confess that initially, my reaction is not to sit and listen and hold the hands of the survivors, but instead to politely interject: Not every church is like that. Please, there are some great churches out there!
I suppose that I could say that it is simply because I love the church. But, if I am honest with myself, if I sit quietly and wait for the Spirit to tell me, it is because I am uncomfortable with how blessed I have been in this way: I have never been to a spiritually abusive church. I can unequivocally recommend all three churches of which I have considered myself a member. The truth is this, just because I haven’t experienced it, does not mean that it is not real.
I remember when my body was sick. When a friendly pat would feel like an angry punch. I remember how much more it hurt when someone rolled their eyes at the pain in mine and told me it shouldn’t hurt that bad. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it did. Denying my pain did not make it better. It only made me feel like my pain did not matter.
I remember when my body was sick. I remember my dear friend and team-mate Sara noticing my smallest ticks, following me into the bathroom to check on me, and carrying my bag when she knew I could no longer carry it, but could not ask for help. She understood, even when she didn’t understand.
Last weekend I had the privilege of sitting across from a new friend as we drank coffee. She shared her story. It was a story totally foreign to me. One of power, where I had known only love, one of pain where I had known joy, one of rejection where I had known acceptance. I thought, as I was listening to these stories that were so clearly true, but foreign to me, that perhaps this is what it was like when I attempted to describe my once sick body to my healthy friends.
Spiritual abuse survivors: I see you. I am listening. I value and honor the stories you are telling. I am your Sister in Christ; I will carry these burdens when you can’t anymore.