My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘Boundaries’

News story – must-see

Channel W5, on Canadian TV, has just done a 4 part investigation into Grenville Christian College and this report includes the connection with The Community of Jesus, Orleans,MA. Here is the link:
http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/former-students-allege-psychological-physical-and-sexual-abuse-at-ont-christian-school-1.2766446
It is a must-see. Finally the abuse is becoming known and the class action suit is going forward.

One person said that her faith was not affected by the “Christian” abuse she endured there. I am truly glad for her, but many others did have their faith shattered, as I had mine shattered by the C of J. When you believe whole-heartedly that the leaders you trust are speaking for God, and interpreting scripture as it was meant to be understood, and then realize the hypocrisy and harm that is going on, it is devastating. It takes time to heal, but I am also very glad that I can now sort things out for myself. No one knows the ultimate answers for sure, and anyone who says they do has too high an opinion of themselves. Now I am free to embrace the journey of life for myself, and to seek for the answers that work for me.

Love is the only thing that transforms the human heart. If a group is Christian, they will see Jesus as fully revealing this divine wisdom, which takes the shape of gentle understanding and radical forgiveness–which is just about all that Jesus does. Jesus, who Christians believe represents God, does not tell the vulnerable how bad they are. Look at Jesus’ interaction with the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He doesn’t belittle or punish Zacchaeus; instead, Jesus goes to his home, shares a meal with him, and treats him like a friend. He does not submit him to a “light session”.

Anyone who thinks fear, anger, divine intimidation, threat, and punishment are going to lead people to love is on a power trip. Show me where that has worked. You cannot lead people to the highest level of fulfillment and creativity by teaching them they are the scum of the earth. The leaders at GCC and CJ were/are on a power trip and, from my experience, do not show any care for the lives of those they are supposedly caring for.

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God-in-me sees God

This is a quote from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, https://cac.org/richard-rohr/daily-meditations

“For Jung, the God archetype is the whole-making function of the soul. It’s that part of you that always wants more. I don’t mean more in the greedy sense; I mean more in the spiritual sense. It is the inner energy within the soul of all things, saying, “Become who you are. Become all that you are. There is still more of you–more to be discovered, forgiven, and loved.” Jungian analytical psychology calls such growth and becoming “individuation,” which I like to think of as moving toward the life wish instead of the death wish (the Biblical word for the death wish was “sin”). The life wish teaches you not to fragment, not to splinter, and not to split, but to integrate and learn from everything…the God archetype is quite simply love at work driving you toward every greater embrace and ever deeper union.”

This spoke to me, because it lines up with my sense of god as the Mystery of Life, and of how we as humans are always drawn to “something more”, we are always looking towards the next horizon. Life and health are wrapped up in growth and movement towards the next horizon, the next goal. Stagnation always brings sickness and unhappiness.

I used to worry that I was never at peace. My idea of peace came from my life at CJ, where lack of feeling was equivalent to peace. To not feel the constant humiliation, the lack of sleep, the degrading sense of never measuring up to the leaders’ standards was the only peace I could hope to find. Now I understand my search for “more” is a life force that brings peace and happiness. As the quote above says, it is not a quest for more driven by greed, but rather by the essence of life itself, which is one of growth and learning and expanding in experience. It is that desire to learn and to connect with others. And, ironically, abuse and dysfunctional experiences often increases our desire for that life of growth.

There is a season for all things. When I first left it was a time to protect myself and to give myself time to heal and adjust. Now is the time to expand. Now is the time to continue connectiong with people. It is an exciting time.

At CJ there was a demand to totally give myself to God. However, this was framed as a struggle to submit my will to the will of others, and to live an outwardly perfect life. It was a matter of will, not a matter of an inner dialogue of love and trust with god. It felt to me that god was invoked as the force to make me submit, not as a force of love and life that cared about me. Catholics believe in the Pope as the source of authority, Protestants believe in the Bible as the source of authority, at CJ I believed in the prophetic wisdom of the leaders as the source of authority. Now it all seems the same to me. That was about trying to believe in something outside of myself, instead of connecting with god in my spirit/soul/inner being. My faith life became dictated by the leaders, not something that was an integral part of myself.

That internal faith life is now something that I am in process of discovering for myself, and it doesn’t matter who is “right” about defining what the term “god” encompasses. Some people believe that there is nothing outside of the personal experience, there is no god “out there”. Others believe that God is an actual person, just one that is greater than we are. And some believe something inbetween those two poles. I don’t think it matters. The life energy drives us forward, and love is to be found in the interpersonal space between people.

If it is not found in any particular relationship, then don’t continue that relationship. Be drawn to light and love and do not allow the darkness/sickness in others infect you.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not sentimentality. Forgiveness demands justice. In order to forgive, both parties need to acknowledge the wrong that has been done, and the offending party must show some repentance, some desire to right the wrongs, to address the harm that has been done and to make amends.

When someone has been hurt, violated, abused, they are exercising the willingness to forgive when they make the attempts to re-enter relationships. If a woman has been raped, for example, she is exercising a form of forgiveness, within her own psyche, to men in general, when she is ready and willing to open herself up to a new relationship. If a person has experienced spiritual abuse by a group or person, s/he is exercising a degree of forgiveness to those who betrayed her trust when she is willing to enter a new relationship with another group or person on a spritual or ethical basis.

However, full forgiveness towards the abuser cannot happen until the evil that was done has been acknowledged and dealt with. Forgivenes does not mean ignoring the past or moving prematurely to attempted reconciliation with the abusers. Only when those on the other side of the equation, the ones who did the wrong, are ready to admit their wrong-doing and to make amends does the possibility of full forgiveness enter the arena.

In the absence of repentacne on the part of the perpetrator, forgiveness is morally objectionable because it involves an abandonment of justice.

Forgiveness also does not mean that you necessarily re-enter a relationship with the perpetrator, even if they do repent of their wrong-doing. It will free both parties into new relationsips, but does not require re-committment to the old one.

 

We were created to be loved

A quote from a book I like, “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young.

“Most birds were created to fly. Being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around…You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around…Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wings and removing its ability to fly. Not something I want for you…Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly…And if it’s left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.”

Know that you are loved.

Sharing someone else’s well-written post

This is long, but is beautifully written – so accurate and well said – that I quote it for you as this week’s post.
All references to the leadership and practices at Grenville Christian College were/are also true of the leadership and practices at The Community of Jesus.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2212017612/permalink/10150378407902613/

“CORE BELIEFS OF COMMUNITY OF JESUS/GCC:
All of these beliefs were learned over a period of many years directly from the Community of Jesus. None of them originated at GCC. We learned them on teaching retreats at the CJ, personal counseling sessions there, from listening to “Mothers’ tapes” (teachings of Cay and Judy at the CJ and elsewhere), “live-in” weeks at the CJ, from visits by CJ people to GCC, from our “oblate houses”, “Mother house retreats”, etc. We took vows to the CJ, vowing a lifelong commitment to the CJ and the life of obedience to this teaching. We were required to attend a certain number of retreats a year, spend a week a year “living in” there, and write monthly “notes” of a highly personal nature to the leaders of the CJ. The daily application of these teachings was done by those in leadership at GCC.

Obedience –
Obedience was first to God. Following God’s will for your life is a common modern day evangelical teaching. However, at GCC, “God’s” will was determined by those in charge within the community of GCC and above them in a hierarchy, also the Community of Jesus. After the initial contact, the decision to join was encouraged through a combination of both fear and enticements. The initial impressions of the community for a person considering following “God’s” will there were not unlike initial impressions for any other person-the place was beautiful, the people were thoughtful and “caring”….Once numerous bridges were burned, you were more privy to statements made by C. Farnsworth that included the statement that making the commitment to join GCC was the last decision a person ever made. Spiritual authorities spoke for God and were to be obeyed always. Disobedience to them was disobedience to God. The expectation of obedience was extended to staff children. In many ways they were the most vulnerable of anyone at GCC. Children were stripped of any parental protection (see the teaching of the sin of idolatry), were subject to daily corrections by any adult and were expected to be obedient in particular to those in leadership positions. In addition, they were taught that they were called by God to live this life of obedience at GCC or the CJ (see call of God) because they were children of people called to GCC. It was a lifelong call.

Call of God –
GCC members saw their work and life as a “vocation”, a lifelong call to serve God in one place. Members took lifetime vows of obedience to their authorities (at the CJ and at GCC), and also vows of “stability” (they would serve God in one of these two places). It was assumed and said that if GCC ever failed, members would “go home” to live at the CJ. This sense of devotion and purpose gave members a feeling that they were special, or at least they were part of something special (which amounts to the same thing in practice). “Many are called, but few are chosen”. We considered ourselves to be in that latter group.

Cross life –
This teaching stated that each individual’s cross was his or her sin. It was each individual’s responsibility to deny his sinful nature by aggressively crucifying his own sinful nature daily through confession to others of those sins. It was also each person’s responsibility to speak against the sin of others. In essence there was an aggressive policy of policing behavior, since behavior was the expression of sin. Everyday mistakes could be interpreted as the result of sin. Confessions were randomly used to control individuals through public humiliations and at other times to manipulate them. This teaching started with a belief in the radical sin nature of everyone, even Christians, expressed in self-will, wanting one’s own way, own things, own will. This showed up in the everyday events of life – choosing simple things that you wanted or liked. The only way to solve this was by the breaking of the will. This came about through deep repentance, but because of our sin we were blind to our sin. The only way to see the truth was to have others speak it to us. This took the form of direct confrontation, person to person, or in a group (light groups).
If a person “resisted the truth”, the heat was turned up, bringing in more people, multiple meetings addressing his/her sin, changes in living arrangements or job, assigning disciplines to the individual, until he or she “repented” (had their will broken). This was usually followed by “love-bombing”. Affection was then showered on the person who was in a very vulnerable emotional and psychological state. The person by that time was so grateful for affection, approval, love….that this experience tended to cement their dependent relationship on the group and the leaders.
The other effect of this is that if it were done publicly, as it usually was, bystanders and correctors were also traumatized by witnessing or participating in breaking down the offender. So repeated traumatizations instilled in all members a knowledge of what resistance meant. After many of these over a period of time, most of us became experts in self-censoring our actions, movements, and even thoughts. The end result was a large group of people who were very good at “presenting” the correct image: smiling, cheerful, caring, obedient, ready to jump into action to serve the greater good.
If you ask why people would go along with this, there are two good explanations. The first is use of the tactics of brainwashing.. They work! Even with very intelligent people, which answers the question how smart people could be trapped in a group like this. The second and more powerful reason is the belief that ALL community members had, that we were called by God to this life, that disobedience to our leaders was rebellion against God, and the result of that rebellion was eternal damnation. On the plus side, we believed that we were a special group, chosen for a special job by God. We saw ourselves as an elite strike force for God. That combination of fear and pride was extremely powerful. The students were our mission field, sent to us by God. We were to love them, of course, but love also included “speaking the truth in love”, correction, verbal confrontation, etc. What if they resisted what God intended for them? A similar pressure would be brought to bear upon them. If they complied with our program, they received approval. If they rebelled outwardly, corrections (both private and/or public) and disciplines were sanctioned to “encourage” compliance in beliefs, thoughts and behavior. When compliance appeared to be accomplished, “love-bombing” followed. Again, even the students who were not directly confronted all knew people who had been, so that traumatization worked with the students as well. They learned early on what was expected of them, what behavior and attitudes were rewarded, and which were punished.
Given the fervor with which these beliefs were held, the relative isolation of the school (a boarding school), it’s not surprising that abuses occurred.

Honesty (Being honest and the danger therein) –This was called “living in the light” and was a large part of our commitment to each other. Brutal honesty was the expected norm in almost all cases. If you felt someone was guilty of any of the Seven Deadly’s below (or even if you just had “a bad feeling” about someone), you were expected to tell them, pulling no punches, not “sugar-coating” it, or “softening the blow”. Only real (brutal) honesty was helpful, as anything else would not have the desired effect of breaking the will. If you “sugar-coated” something you said, you ran the risk of giving them something positive about themselves to cling to, which would only delay or stymie their eventual healing (breaking of their will, repentance).
If you were the recipient of this brutal honesty, you were expected to reply in kind and “tell all”. This meant exposing other “sins”, related or unrelated. If you withheld information, self-accusations, etc., you were accused of being “hidden”, in itself a terrible sin. The antidote to this was to expose the person as much as possible, as publicly as possible, in front of as many people as possible (in some cases the person’s children). However, the unspoken exception to this rule was that this “brutal honesty” only flowed downwards. Taking it upon oneself to be brutally honest with anyone in authority was to open yourself immediately to an accusation of one of the sins listed below, almost always accompanied by intense light groups or disciplines. In other words, it was only done if you had a death wish.

Seven Deadly Sins
Sins were often discerned when “someone else” interpreted a person’s failure to perform perfectly in some responsibility and then diagnosed which sin caused it. Otherwise it was determined by their lack of heartfelt compliance with a given mandate, either verbally or in their behavior. There was a strong focus on changing a person’s work performance, their beliefs and behavior by sanctioning heavy-handed disciplines or random life changes that were primarily declared to target the root sin that was the cause of all. The result of constant “sin surveillance” was living in fear of being caught in some sinful behavior over which one had little control. In
the short term, the “discipline” was really a form of punishment as it really had no actual benefit except that of producing fear. In the long term, a person internalized the beliefs and unknowingly learned strategies to avoid the resulting pain of “sinning.” The following were the culprit sins:

Idolatry-The biblical teaching against idolatry (worshipping someone/something more than God) was applied to the dynamics of human relationships in such a way that natural family relationships and friendships would be considered idolatrous if there was no evidence that each party within the relationship would “stand against” the sin of the other. To be “in idolatry” with another person, someone would typically be blind to another person’s specific sin and/or unwilling to confront that person about his sin. Sin was typically thought to be acted out, often in some obscure way that was pointed out by one of the community leaders. The battle against sin played out in everyday life in some of the following ways: close friendships were nipped in the bud; spouses were pitted against one another; parents were told that they were blinded by their natural love for their children and so were incapable of being a healthy influence in raising their children. All adults in the community were responsible for the oversight of the children and were “responsible” to correct the sins of the children in everyday contexts. The specific sins of an individual may have been discerned by the more spiritual people in the community, but confronting that individual with that sin was often delegated to his friends or spouse. This teaching against the sin of idolatry led to power play dynamics within the community as individuals were “safer” if they were on the giving rather than the receiving end of corrections. Thus a lot of sucking up to those in charge and betraying of all others to protect yourself. It also was destructive within the family framework as parents were often publicly humiliated and disrespected in front of their children, children were encouraged to correct their parents, and parents were taught that others were better at deciding what was best for their children. Children were often randomly removed from the homes of their parents to live with another family. Parents were often corrected over and over for not discerning what was good for their children, losing any internal sense of parenting. Playing the idolatry card gave those in charge leverage to achieve control and the ability to manipulate a situation to their own purposes, if they so desired. It was the trump card.

Jealousy – was one of the worst sins for which to be corrected. In any situation that was played out less than perfectly, someone was bound to be randomly corrected for being jealous of someone else. This meant envy of another person’s looks, possessions, talents, status, family….It was generally considered that the best cure for jealousy was to have the person of whom another was jealous to correct the person that was deemed jealous. An even better cure would be to have that person be in charge of the other person’s spiritual journey out of the muck and mire of jealousy. Such a journey might include changes in the jealous person’s everyday routines, change of their job, change of their living situation, and undergoing disciplines as well. Jealousy was seen as an actively destructive force if not eradicated. To be known as a jealous person carried a heightened degree of shame.

Control or the desire to control one’s life or his immediate situation was considered a sin. This sin often would be noted when a person was unable to accomplish unreasonable goals that had been expected of him/her. That person’s anger (see below) within the situation was considered the reason for not accomplishing the task at hand successfully. When random changes that were decided for a person’s life were met with resistance, the sins of control and rebellion would be named in an attempt to bring a change of heart. If there was no change of heart, more pressure would be applied in an effort to create repentance. Being “out of control” was thus considered a virtue and a desirable emotional state. So random changes in policies, living situations, jobs, etc. all had the benefit of helping people stay “out of control”. Resisting such things was interpreted as being “controlling.”

Rebellion – As it says in the Old Testament, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”. This included not only outward acts of disobedience to the many rules, disciplines, etc. but also any inward attitudes of not wanting to comply. So in many cases, simply obeying slowly was an indication of rebellion. To be labeled as “rebellious” was a terrible judgement, and those who were labelled as such often went to great lengths of outward obedience to try to escape the stigma of being considered rebellious. Students, of course, were expected to obey directives as well, usually instantly. Allowing rebellious acts and attitudes to pass unchecked was also considered a very grievous sin, as that was often seen as “opening the door to Satan”, who was the original rebel!

Pride/Haughtiness – Reserving the right to have your own thoughts and opinions showed pride and haughtiness because you were saying that you were as good as, or better than, those in charge. And because those in charge had a direct line with God, you were in essence putting yourself above God. If you were corrected for something and you disagreed, your pride or haughtiness was added to the list of sins already named. If you engaged in critical thinking (wondering why some people got “special treatment”) that showed extreme haughtiness, since you were essentially saying you were on the same level as they were, or should be anyway. Of course, the antidote for pride and haughtiness was humiliation. So public humiliation, which could include a group of people pointing out your faults, or even mocking you, was a very good thing, because it was seen to kill your pride and haughtiness.

Lust (SEX and other things!) – Sexual lust was considered the root of much evil, so much so that community members were not even allowed to talk about anything related to the topic of sex or sexuality except to Charles Farnsworth-not even to our own spouse. This topic was OFF LIMITS and was all encompassing in its boundaries. No specific point was too insignificant to be included. The arousal of sexual thoughts and feelings in men were considered the fault of the female gender. For this reason, there were very strict mandates in place to keep “inappropriate” behavior and thoughts under control. We were taught that sex was for procreation, not pleasure.
(Our corporate busyness was one deterrent to marital relations.) Also, men had needs. Personal counseling related to sexual abuse was straightforward-sexual abuse was minimized and declared “a garden variety sin.” C. Farnsworth gave instructions in the topic of sex to our own kids without our permission or even notice. (We learned of this after leaving.) This “teaching” or lack thereof was a strong force in our everyday lives. Its implications were wide ranging and insidious. It appeared righteous but was really a very strong control mechanism for those in charge. In our lives the bottom line was that everything about human sexuality was evil, not just lustful desires/thoughts.
Lust for other things-any complaints about working for pittance and having little materially was deflected by enforcing the mantra that “others may, but we cannot.”

Anger – Anger was generally viewed as a sin. If you got angry at someone or a situation, that showed that you didn’t really agree with it, that you thought you knew better than those in charge, that you lacked love, etc. The exception was “righteous anger”, the anger at sin. This, however, was only sanctioned if it came “top down”, or from a peer. Anger at anyone in charge could never be seen as righteous anger.
People were often “encouraged” to display or “get out” their anger. This usually left them in a vulnerable state, since all could see what they really felt. Although releasing pent up anger may have brought some momentarily relief from emotional pressure and internal guilt, that person’s real feelings and perspectives were typically used against them at some point. For the moment, “love-bombing” was their reward for being “honest.”

HOW THINGS REALLY WORKED

CLOSED SYSTEM –The vow of obedience to this way of life and the breaking down of ties with family members outside the community, as well as any friends outside the community, resulted in a very isolated, closed system. Other influences were cut off or discouraged, and the business of everyday responsibilities (which included not just running a boarding school but a host of other “community” responsibilities, like daily chant services, daily prayer vigil, and regular light groups) effectively closed all members off from the “outside world” and ensured that almost all personal interactions were constrained by the above values.
RANDOMNESS – The “icing on the cake” was the way in which things were enforced.

Even though the above categories seem clear and delineated, in practice ALL beliefs and policies were applied randomly. Some people could do almost anything and never receive any disciplines. Others only had to look sideways to call a staff meeting down on their heads. Since the “discernment” of all of these sins was up to those in charge, punishments were often meted out in what seemed like arbitrary fashion, depending on the current “party line”. The result was that those not in charge (almost everyone) were kept in a current state of emotional disequilibrium, never knowing what could happen next. Most tried to gain some measure of balance by currying favor with those above them, hoping that if something drastic happened, it wouldn’t happen to them.”

Why Cults are Harmful for Children and Mothers

I read an article in ICSA Today Vol. 5 No. 1 called “Why Cults are Harmful: Neurobiological speculations on Interpersonal Trauma” by Doni Whitsett. She mentions that researchers speculate that the mind has “internal working models of attachment” and that the “maturation of the right brain is dependent upon the interactions with the mother…that is, the baby is attuned to the right brain of the mother and experiences mother’s affect states as if they were her own.”

This speaks powerfully to the damage done when children, especially babies and very young children, are taken away from their biological mothers and given to other members of the cult to be raised. The child has a visceral attachment to the mother, and when this is broken the child can become insecurely attached. The child can often express this by becoming aggressive, feeling that they have to fight to have their needs met, or by withdrawing so they will not feel rejected, as a protective reaction.

In looking back at my own experience, one of my children cried a lot. It was during a time when I was under a lot of intense scrutiny and ‘correction”. My own emotions were aroused, and I was often scared, angry, humiliated and worried. As Whitsett says, “As the baby views the negative face of the mother, the baby’s body is flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone. Alternately, if mother is relaxed and happy, the baby will see the smiling face of the mother and endorphins will be released in the baby’s body, just as they are in the mother’s…the stimulus or entity know as mother, and the child’s relationship with her, will get associated with either cortisol and the child will feel bad, or with endorphins and the child will feel good.”

The cult took advantage of this situation. They did not read the signs properly, and blamed me for my child’s crying. They said it was my sin that was hurting her. Because of this, they took her away from me and gave her to two teenagers to raise, for over a year.

How do she and I recover from this? It is not something that we can work out on our own. The damage has been done, and it takes the loving and tender help of others. The first step is to start looking and to find a therapist that understands. I am a great fan of talk therapy, as that is what is helping me. There is a lot of justified anger to deal with as I realize what they did to us. I am also learning to forgive where that is appropriate, but not to the point of denying what was done. It’s the age-old problem of finding the balance between forgiveness in order to release my own angst, and standing up for justice.

In this article, Whitsett talks about Judith Herman’s model of trauma recovery and identifies three separate phases. The first is with the therapist in a safe environment to tell your story. The second is to remember the dissociated parts of the experience and integrate them into your present reality and understanding. The third is to come out of feeling isolated and to re-connect with others. This will take some time and support but as my self-confidence builds I can feel myself being less afraid of what others will think of me.

First Love

My first love of the kind that you expect to hear from me was my boyfriend in my senior year of High School. I gave Terry my heart, and he loved me also. I suppose it could have been a romantic sweetheart tale, but we ended up going our separate ways.

The first love I want to tell you about, however, is of a different kind. I graduated from High School in 1965, in California. This was the Timothy Leary era, before LSD was even illegal, and I got caught up in the San Francisco experimental atmosphere; free drugs, free love, free happiness. After four years of various drugs and communal happenings I hit the bottom of the barrel and in my depression knew that something had to change. I was wondering where to turn to make a difference in my life, when some “cool” Christians visited our commune in the woods of Oregon. I was captivated. Not right away, but as we kept visiting them and hearing their story and what they had to say about God, I was won over. God entered my life and freed me from all drugs and cigarettes. Clean, complete break. This indeed was a first love of a magnitude I had not experienced before.

When I accepted Jesus as my Lord the change was drastic throughout my whole life. I was happy again. I felt free from my worries and burdens and confusion. Love infused me and I was happy with everything and everyone. There could be no wrong in the world.

My current boyfriend and I got married. My new husband wanted to go back to Cape Cod on the East coast, where he was from, to reconcile with his parents, so off we went, hitchhiking across the country. This was a honeymoon of love, not only between myhusband and me, but between me and my new-found God. All of our rides were with Christians, and we had a blast talking with each one of them. Once on Cape Cod, we were directed to a newly formed Christian community and soon came under the sway of the charismatic teachings of the two women who led it. Because I was so much in love, I was starry eyed and not thinking straight. I was also untrained in this new religion, having been raised as an atheist, and so couldn’t tell one brand of Christian teaching from another. I was ripe for training and exploitation, and that is what happened.

My first-love enthusiasm for the ideals of the religious life motivated me to endure much suffering, which was the emphasis of their teaching. They told married couples to not talk behind closed doors, so my husband and I rarely discussed our relationship or how to raise our children. As we grew more apart, I suppressed my concerns and endured. We were taught that any problems we had were our own fault, due to our sinful natures, so family counseling was not offered. I think my husband and I could certainly have worked out our marriage problems, but this group did not encourage that. To the contrary, they accused him of things he did not do in order to pressure him to leave, and they encouraged me to divorce him, saying I would be better off without him. I think his turning to alcohol was a problem they did not want to “bother” with, so they got rid of him. I was still a good worker-bee, so they kept me.
After many long years, I had to separate from this group also in order to save my own life, which was truly in danger of annihilation. I was becoming more and more depressed, and no longer had a love for anything, even the crafts and music I used to enjoy so much. My first love of God had been thoroughly crushed.

First loves are heady, all-encompassing experiences. They need wisdom which the young usually don’t have. I have learned a ton from the path my first love put me on, but I also regret the years wasted in an abusive and highly controlling community that deceived me. I am soaking in my freedom now, and exercising my ability to learn and discern, but I regret the many years of my life in which I fought against myself to conform to a way of life that I now have found out is aberrant, and not the gospel that Jesus taught. My beautiful first love of God was taken advantage of by power hungry people who thought they had a pipeline to God. Since all things work together for good, I am now rebuilding my first love into a mature and intelligent love. The pain of the years given to my first-love has taught me compassion, endurance, and a healthy dose of skepticism, which is helping me to find my way to a mature first-love. My regrests are being turned into thankfulness for what I have endured, for truly God will redeem my sufferings and I can now turn and extend a helping hand to others.

The truly exciting thing is that God never leaves us. It doesn’t matter how you define God, especially after you have suffered abuse. It takes time to sort things out. But that place deep inside of us, where in silence we listen for the voice of our true selves, that is where we meet God. I have just come back from an extraordinary retreat of quiet – no talking. I listened, and journaled, and talked once a day with a lovely lady who was full of compassion and the ability to hear my story and about my current journey with love and encouragement. I am continually amazed at what a privilege it is to be in the process of healing.

We are not left to bleed out with our wounds. We are survivors, we are strong, and we have access to the power of creation to help us on our path. And there are many wonderful people eager and ready to reach out a helping hand to us. I am grateful.