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Dirty Little Secret

May 11, 2008

I don’t know which issue I despise worse. That I stayed as long as I did, that I didn’t see what was happening for what it was or that I am still confused and broken enough to consider not writing this post.

For the most part, blogging has been, for me, about living my life wide open and hoping that as I work through my issues, you will be challenged and blessed to work through yours. All under the loving and gentle supervision of the Great Comforter, Bringer of Wisdom, the Holy Spirit.

And yet, over the last couple of years I’ve seen myself become more and more quiet while my heart became more and more desperate. As mind boggling as this is, this change happened in whispers. Subversively. I couldn’t recognize it until it was so far entrenched, so deeply embedded into my soul I was shredded by it’s removal. I was seduced. By familiarity, by access, by affection and by opportunity. When I began to see how the intimacy of relationship, friendship and working together had turned into a perversion of relationship I was sickened. And frightened. Sickened as I began to see how I had allowed myself to be used and frightened I didn’t see this happening sooner. I didn’t stand up. I was frightened to see I’m as weak as I am and appalled that I was not as strong as I’d like to be.

Why wasn’t I stronger? It’s not as though this was the first time I’ve ever been in this situation. Likely it won’t be the last time a predator shows a snarly face. A face well-hidden under genteel smiles and warm handshakes.

It’s shocking how this looks from this side. I couldn’t believe. I made excuses until I could no longer function normally. I tried to insulate myself from the reality of what was happening. I pulled my heart away and figured while I could be used, no one would be able to touch the “real me”.

I buried my conscience and my spirit under the shame of not speaking up sooner. I have been consumed with fear of the very ones who cared not for my real well-being but only what services I could provide for them.

The fall out from this situation became apparent as I continued to function in a twisted and dark relationship and everything around me that was a part of it felt dirty, compromised and un-safe.

And then, because of G-d’s great Grace and through a series of events I would not have chosen for myself… Free. Delivered. Rescued. All of the above? From this dirty little secret I share with thousand of others throughout the Body.

What is this dirty little secret? Abuse. From people who preyed upon my heart for the Lord. From people who used the gifts and talents G-d intended for His people to glorify themselves.

Abuse: To misuse, excessively use something, to pervert the original intent.

Spiritual abuse. It’s nebulous, it’s slimy, it’s hard to put into words, but if you’ve been the unfortunate recipient of this form of “ministry” you know it when you see it.

It’s Christianity’s dirty little secret. And like all the other varieties of abuse?

It continues as long as the perpetrators maintain control and the victims stay silent, confused and ashamed.

It’s time to wake up! My brothers and sisters, we have created an environment of spiritual idolatry and the result is that we excuse the very people and the very behavior which is damaging us. We have put our leaders up on little white pedestals and then we refuse to hold them accountable to the mere fundamentals of our faith, the minimum of decency required by Scripture. And when these mere mortals fall prey to the insidious pull of pride and license (and they are doing so by the droves) they begin to believe they deserve the adoration of the people who look up to them. These leaders begin to believe they are The Most Important Thing and the common, sincere, naive people become less and less important until they are merely a means to an end. Stepping stones. Fodder for the Ministry.

Well, I for one, will no longer keep silent.

This isn’t about love “covering a multitude of sins”. This is about those of us who have been damaged, maimed and battered realizing that our Great Shepherd, who died for us, who desires to bring us from death to life, who loves us beyond measure didn’t give these men and women the RIGHT to hurt us or harm us.

This is about realizing that we are precious and valuable in the Kingdom. Even if we provide nothing of “value” to our church or congregation. This is about understanding that we can come in to fellowship with our hearts hanging out, bleeding all over the place and our Savior won’t call us “high-maintenance” or too “complicated”. This is about trusting a Faithful Creator and knowing He who wouldn’t take our pain and let it be used for “interesting conversation” around the after-church lunch table.

All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men (and women) to stand by and do nothing. ~That One Guy~

Not here. Not anymore. I won’t waste another minute of my life believing these people deserve an excuse or a justification for their behavior.

And who knows, maybe this will be just what they need to wake up, repent and start living like the men and women G-d created them to be.

That’s my prayer.

  • Anonymous

    WOW! You are not a force to be reckoned with – Yay!

    WW 🙂

  • AJW308

    I’ve got no clue what you are talking about. But then, as an engineer, I can accept being socially clueless.

    At first, I though you were talking about yourself (and this blog), then it sounded like you were talking about a church.

    You do sound like you have a grip on it, whatever it is, so I trust that you will take care of the issue to your satisfaction.

  • WW, a “force”, oh I don’t know… Just being me.

    AJW, I think it’s actually a good thing you don’t know what I’m talking about. And actually, I am talking about myself, this blog and church.

    I’m getting a grip and I’m learning to “take care” of. But mostly, this post was about reminding myself that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way and I’m not the only who has ever been treated this way and I’m not willing to “suffer silently” so this can continue in my presence, as long as I have a voice to speak out against it.

    Or at least that’s the amount of chutzpah I have at the moment.

  • Heidi,

    I am ashamed to say that you have more courage than I. When this kind of thing happened to Birdie and I, rather than standing up for what is right I walked away.

    I think I have paid for that decision ever since. To this day I have had issues with commiting to a church. I can visit for I time, but I eventually see the patern forming again. It has gotten to the point that I am begining to thing I am the one with the problem.

  • Eagle,

    Don’t be ashamed. Everyone’s path looks different. Everyone’s calling is different.

    And it’s never too late, in this life, to be healed. 🙂

    Blessings to you and yours.

  • Excellent post, Heidi.
    As a pastor in a Baptist church, I suffered through some similar things. 3 families who had been members of the church the longest believed it was their spiritual duty to let me know what I was doing wrong, including correcting my theology. I took their “guidance” for quite some time, trying to be humble, but ultimately I just felt humiliated, and there was just no pleasing these people.

    It actually led me to leave paid ministry in order to minister for free while I earn a living doing something else (high school French teacher), believe it or not. I’ve been preaching regularly at a small church in another province and enjoying the fellowship there ever since.

    God bless you for your courage, and thanks for sharing.

  • Pablo, that is an excellent point. We are all capable of this, aren’t we. It’s not merely a leader to lay person issue, although that is where it most often seen. It can often be a lay person to leader attack as well. My parents, G-d bless them for their strength, suffered through years of that in different places and in different ways.

    You never quite look at the Body the same again, do you…

    I’m sorry this happened to you, but I do think His ways are higher and you’ll probably minister to more people outside your “pulpit” than you ever did behind it.

    I think I would have enjoyed your sermons though… Did the Evel Squirrel ever show up?

  • You are mad at me, huh. Hey, we all have sinned, and come short. Filthy rags, and all that.

    God does everything in His own time. Worrying about what puny humans think is a waste of time.

    Though I love wastes of time.

  • You are mad at me, huh. Hey, we all have sinned, and come short. Filthy rags, and all that.

    God does everything in His own time. Worrying about what puny humans think is a waste of time.

    Though I love wastes of time.

  • You are mad at me, huh. Hey, we all have sinned, and come short. Filthy rags, and all that.

    God does everything in His own time. Worrying about what puny humans think is a waste of time.

    Though I love wastes of time.

  • hee hee… Bane, you have yet to make me mad. And no, that wasn’t an invitation to work harder on that…

    G-d’s time is good for me. As I said, I’m done making excuses for bad behavior. And life is just too DAMN GOOD right now to let this insanity continue to control me.

  • Nah, ES never made it into one of my sermons. That’s the twisted part of me that I dare only reveal in cyberspace, lol!

  • Morris

    Thanks, Heidi, for this. It hit home. The Holy Spirit has been trying to get my attention on this matter for some time I think. Having suffered at the hands of ‘bothers’ and ‘sisters’ I have for far too long tried to do without going to a decent fellowship. The biggest problem with trying to do without that is the lack of accountability to said brothers and sisters. That accountability is what helps us from straying too far from the path the Lord would have us walk. I’ve been fortunate in that I have a brother in Christ who has been a true brother and willing to challenge me strongly on points of bad behaviour on my part.

    I know this post was mainly to ‘get it out’, but the Lord uses who and what He will. Thanks again.

  • Morris

    Thanks, Heidi, for this. It hit home. The Holy Spirit has been trying to get my attention on this matter for some time I think. Having suffered at the hands of ‘bothers’ and ‘sisters’ I have for far too long tried to do without going to a decent fellowship. The biggest problem with trying to do without that is the lack of accountability to said brothers and sisters. That accountability is what helps us from straying too far from the path the Lord would have us walk. I’ve been fortunate in that I have a brother in Christ who has been a true brother and willing to challenge me strongly on points of bad behaviour on my part.

    I know this post was mainly to ‘get it out’, but the Lord uses who and what He will. Thanks again.

  • Morris, listen to the Holy Spirit. You are not intended to be alone in this world and there are parts of the Family who need your input and your own light.

    Blessings to you and I do sincerely hope I can be an encouragement to you and anyone else who wanders through here.

  • Your honesty is stunning. Good for you, and your husband, for dealing with this head-on. Blessings,

  • Your honesty is stunning. Good for you, and your husband, for dealing with this head-on. Blessings,

  • Like AJW308, I am without a clue. Sounds like I don’t need to know anyway. Life is never easy. Hang in there.

  • Like AJW308, I am without a clue. Sounds like I don’t need to know anyway. Life is never easy. Hang in there.

  • Like AJW308, I am without a clue. Sounds like I don’t need to know anyway. Life is never easy. Hang in there.

  • funnyfunnygalssis

    Thanks for the thought provoking comments on the dirty little secret of spiritual abuse. I think it is far to common to different degrees, and I struggle with how and what to do when this becomes an issue. I am sharing some thoughts of my own at onthevine.wordpress.com

    Shall be praying for you and yours.

  • Thanks FFGS for your thoughts. And most definitely I appreciate your prayer!

  • No one can abuse me. I don’t belong to me. If they attempt to abuse me as you described, they abuse the cross and they are accountable to God.

    Maybe I’m unusual in this respect but I have a barrier I can maintain with people that allows them in, and I can be open with them, yet there’s a certain amount of distance for all but a very few. Most don’t notice. My compassion isn’t any less for this barrier but the things that people do or attempt to do to me don’t get inside of me.

    Maybe you’re not capable of that Heidi. Maybe you’re all in or all out and nothing in between. You are what you are, that’s fine. Just remember who you belong to and how He takes care of those who are His.

  • No one can abuse me. I don’t belong to me. If they attempt to abuse me as you described, they abuse the cross and they are accountable to God.

    Maybe I’m unusual in this respect but I have a barrier I can maintain with people that allows them in, and I can be open with them, yet there’s a certain amount of distance for all but a very few. Most don’t notice. My compassion isn’t any less for this barrier but the things that people do or attempt to do to me don’t get inside of me.

    Maybe you’re not capable of that Heidi. Maybe you’re all in or all out and nothing in between. You are what you are, that’s fine. Just remember who you belong to and how He takes care of those who are His.

  • No one can abuse me. I don’t belong to me. If they attempt to abuse me as you described, they abuse the cross and they are accountable to God.

    Maybe I’m unusual in this respect but I have a barrier I can maintain with people that allows them in, and I can be open with them, yet there’s a certain amount of distance for all but a very few. Most don’t notice. My compassion isn’t any less for this barrier but the things that people do or attempt to do to me don’t get inside of me.

    Maybe you’re not capable of that Heidi. Maybe you’re all in or all out and nothing in between. You are what you are, that’s fine. Just remember who you belong to and how He takes care of those who are His.

  • And you are a guy…

    I am very much all or nothing. A blessing or a curse? Depends on who you are in my life, I guess.