Tereasa is the author of His Pen on My Heart, where she blogs about freedom in Christ, healing from spiritual abuse and raising special children. She is a story teller, painting pictures with words and drawing the reader close to her heart. Her desire is to encourage those who are hurting and point all to Christ, the healer of our broken hearts. The abusive church she and her husband were a part of with their children is not related to any denomination and she wishes to keep the church's identity anonymous. You can read more about her family's escape from an abusive church and their journey to healing in Reflections of a Survivor. To read Part I of Tereasa's story, click here to read yesterday's post.
The days that followed our escape confirmed that our decision was right. We were love bombed for a week. If they had been permitted by the shepherd, members would have driven four hours to bring us back to them. Our phones rang incessantly and our email inboxes were filled with pleas to return. The pain of their cries was almost unbearable. Words of love were spoken, but ever so subtly the conditions were made. “Be people of integrity… Repent and return... Love the shepherd and follow the teachings… Follow the order of God and hold to the statement of faith.”
Threats were also made in the form of concerns. “What will happen to your children without the protection of the community? How will your marriage survive if not planted in the church?” Guilt was used along with fear, “You are forcing the church back into immaturity… You’ve hurt the body of Christ… You’ve allowed Satan into your hearts.” They even used their children to write us letters begging us to return! The ultimate threat which locked the door came in a final email, “We’ll know soon whether or not your leaving was God’s will.”
Both love and fear were used as a means of control. Their attempts to have us return were no different than their attempts to make us conform. The use of control and power to manipulate others to serve oneself is abuse. In living there and by leaving there, we were spiritually abused.
Upon leaving the community, we returned to our previous hometown. Close to family and friends, far from those who loved us conditionally, we have a better chance to recover. The process has not been without grief and fear. All of us, including the children, have had to work through very intense emotions.
We often feel like we’re nearing the end when another depth of hurt or another hurdle of healing must be faced. Perhaps, this will always be the case. The experience is like any other, a part of who we are. When circumstances arise, we come to new levels of healing. It will be like climbing a mountain in a circular fashion.
There will always be things that trigger remembrance. Honestly, I do not want to forget. I love the people we left behind. Nothing will change that. While I do not intend to purposely walk back into their lives, I do hope to be available. I hope that when another leaves, I can be there for support.
Next week I will be in a place where a chance meeting is possible and part of me is afraid.
It is not the first time I have feared, though. The last time I was afraid, I asked the Lord what to do. He reminded me that there is no fear in love.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18It is the very verse by which the shepherd taught that if you fear, you do not love. I now know that I need not fear punishment because I am in Christ who is love and it is by him that I am perfected.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” - Romans 8:1If I ever run into anyone from the community again, whether it is next week or next year, I will stand confident in the love of Christ. I will offer that love, as well. It will not be natural for me to do so, but it will be possible by the grace of God. I will do this because the freedom I have found in Christ is more than I deserve. When others are shunned I will be there to hold their hands as they recover. I will help them tend the garden and climb the mountain.
That is why I am so thankful for this series. If you find yourself in a place of fear and confusion… If you feel that you are alone and wonder if you will survive life beyond abuse and abuse and shunning, there is an entire community of bloggers who have walked the path before you and have overcome. You are not alone.
"I've watched how lies can die in foregivness" - Witness, Nicole Witt
This post is part 4 in a series on shunning in the Christian church. If you have a guest post to share, please find me at http://TurquoiseGates.com and leave a comment or contact me to let me know. Please refrain from rude comments directed toward the brave who have stepped forward to explain these painful chapters of their live. If you have a post, old or new, about shunning or church discipline, please link up below so we can read YOUR story!