Staying Out of Mud Puddles

My friend, Sue Miholer, sent me her contribution that appeared a long time ago in God’s Little Rule Book. What a wonderful reminder for me to refuse the temptation of a knee jerk reaction to the smear campaign that’s been launched in response to me telling my story.

I struggle with wanting to defend myself, give clarification, offer another rebuttal…anything but just shut up.

As I continue to pray and watch God move, I so appreciate the way He sends me little reminders like this one.

Stay out of mud puddles.

When someone lies about you or in some other way throws mud at you, don’t get in the mud puddle with them. Live above what they’re saying about you, and others will know the truth. If you play in the mud puddles, you just get dirty.

1 Peter 2:12 (NIV): “Live such good lives … that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds.”

God’s Sense of Humor

I’m house sitting for the next month for some friends who are taking a trip to Texas. When I moved my things in on Sunday evening, there were all sorts of unusual noises and Copper wasn’t taking too well to any of them.

One was a series of 3 beeps that would start up every 30 seconds or so. It was very hard to distinguish where they were coming from, even when I got close I could not pin point them. After about 30 minutes (and a dog with chattering teeth) I figured out the fridge was letting me know the door was ajar.

Whew. Fixed.

Beep

Beep

Sounded like a smoke alarm with a bad battery. I go to where I think I hear it and wait. It beeps again. I go to where I think it is. I wait. It beeps again. Aargh!!! I am not finding it!

I text the homeowners…is there a smoke detector that’s been beeping lately? Where is it???

When you have 4 young children, the chances of hearing that soft beep every 10 minutes are slim to none. But fortunately, she texted back and told me there was an old one that had been replaced right outside the door into the attic.

Whew. Fixed.

Beep

Beep

Copper won’t eat. He is hiding under the bed. He is shaking more than Elvis ever did!

I take him over to Jessica’s house while I solve the problem….and then never get to it…too many other things to do. I bring him home last night after I get back from counseling and dinner with my son, and all seems quiet.

Until this morning.

Beep

Beep

I go from room to room, waiting for the beep. I finally zero in on the 2 rooms upstairs…one is a storage room and the other an office. I find more old smoke detectors in the storage room, take out those batteries….maybe it’s over now.

Beep

Beep

<sigh>

I wait. I hear it. I dig around the myriad of toys, drawers, piles, boxes.

Beep

Beep

I’m close…it’s louder now. It must be under this pile!

As I pull off the lampshade and catch a glimpse of the smoke detector buried beneath various kid stuff I hear the Hallelujah Chorus begin.

The battery comes out.

Silence.

Silence.

Hmmmmm. Kind of like our walk with God as we look for those things that affect us today. Sometimes we think we’ve found the root of the problem and allow Him to begin the healing process. And then it happens again.

Anger

Fear

We shake, we hide under the bed, we don’t eat (or overeat).

We might even get impatient and conclude that God isn’t working fast enough for us.

But this is a journey THROUGH the wall…on to healthy spirituality. Unfortunately for us Type A personalities, It’s not a sprint….no immediate gratification here.

Just putting one foot in front of the other. Letting God deal with each issue that arises, and not running away from them. Knowing He will finish the work.

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Thankful for the silence.

Praising God for His sense of humor!

Hitting the Wall

The sermon today, and this week’s topic in our bible study on “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” was entitled “Journey Through the Wall.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “hit the wall” in my time as a Christian, and instead of going through it, I run away from it, deny it, try to go over or under or around it. Anything but allow God to let me get to the end of myself and do a deep work in my heart.

I hit the wall in 1988 when I realized that I had made earning a six figure income a complete idol in my life. I knew I was to walk away from my Senior Vice President position with A.L.Williams and help my then husband, Chuck, in Point Man Ministries. I didn’t slow down for long to let the conviction sink in about the idolatry that ruled my life, nor did I even begin to ask the question, why was I such a workaholic?

I hit the wall when God convicted me in 1993 about my involvement in multi-level marketing, showing me (again!) how much of an idol it was, and how many people I’d led astray. I was depressed for months, and had no idea who I was anymore. Instead of allowing God to take me through that dark night of the soul and purify me of many of the hurts that cause me to run from pain and use work and success to self-medicate, I got distracted by helping Chuck develop WinePress into a booming business.

I hit the wall again in 1998 when I felt emotionally numb, and could not figure out what was wrong with me. I made a futile attempt to get counseling and figure out what going on inside me but didn’t follow through. Instead, I got distracted again by preparing for Y2K and moving to Enumclaw from Mukilteo, which ultimately led to my joining the cult named Sound Doctrine in 1999.

The “Wall” is a portal or gateway that leads us to a deeper spirituality.  It’s what St. John of the Cross defined as “the dark night of the soul.”

Pastor Ross defined it as “God’s way of pruning us of things we are unable or unwilling to discard from our soul.”

“For most of us the Wall appears through a crisis that turns our world upside down. It comes, perhaps, through a divorce, a job loss, the death of a close friend or family member, a cancer diagnosis, a disillusioning church experience, a betrayal, a shattered dream, a wayward child, a car accident, an inability to get pregnant, a deep desire to marry that remains unfulfilled, a dryness or loss of joy in our relationship with God. We question ourselves, God, the church. We discover for the first time that our faith does not appear to “work.” We have more questions than answers as the very foundation of our faith feels like it is on the line. We don’t know where God is, what he is doing, where he is going, how he is getting us there, or when this will be over.”  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality pp 120-121

I was definitely hitting the wall for the last 12 years of being in such an unhealthy and abusive “church.” I went for so long feeling bewildered, hurt, and angry, and every time one of them would emerge, I would beat myself up for having those emotions!

How rejuvenating it is to find out that these emotions need to be expressed, acknowledged, and processed in order to come to a healthy Christian life…not denied or spiritualized away!

I am learning that God can be trusted. Even when humans betray us, God is still faithful to walk with us THROUGH the wall and bring us out on the other side with a new level of intimacy with Him.

Feeling very thankful right now for how He has delivered me and planted me in a healthy church.

Shaming and Shunning

Shaming and shunning. I’m told these are 2 common practices of all cults. As I look back at all that I endured during my 12 year stint in the cult, I am taken aback at how much my experience parallels that of a battered wife.

Battered wife syndrome is a physical and psychological condition that holds the following beliefs and attitudes:

  • The abused believes that the violence was his or her fault.
  • The abused has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
  • The abused fears for his/her life and/or the lives of his/her children (if present).
  • The abused has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.

Wow.

Remember, we were taught that the “once saved always saved” doctrine was heresy, and that we absolutely could lose our salvation. Most all scriptures quoted were taken out of context just to back up the points leadership wanted to make…that is called “proof texting.”

Check out the similarities….

  • Anytime I was shamed, shunned, publicly humiliated, beat down, or otherwise “disciplined” by the leadership (always with multiple scriptures to insure unquestioning obedience), I always ended up believing that I was in sin, and needed to repent, that I had a bitter root, was prideful, or selfish, and so my abuse was really just the Lord chastening me and not only did I deserve it, but needed it in order to make it to heaven.
  • It was considered sinful for me to even think, let alone voice the possibility that leadership was abusive or overreacted in any way. So, when I couldn’t place responsibility for the abuse on them, it would naturally be turned back on me.
  • I feared for my spiritual life, convinced that we were the only true church and that walking away meant walking away from God. Funny how the statement of faith said we didn’t believe that we were the only church, but in reality we all believed that we were.
  • Because we were taught that leadership were really the only ones led by the Holy Spirit, and they micro-managed every aspect of our lives, large and small, I grew strong in the irrational belief that they would know “by the spirit” if I was doubting or struggling or had a bad attitude towards them. This paranoia lead to “walking in the light” and “confession of sin” that was not even my sin and did not need to be confessed.

What was really happening was that God was allowing me to see the red flags and instead of taking action to stop the abuse I blamed myself!

In “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” the author shares a story that highlights this behavior of becoming so self-absorbed with our sin that we begin to live a very unhealthy Christianity.

“Learning to “Do” Christianity

When I first became a Christian (Jeff speaking), I went to a weeklong conference designed to teach me how to live the Christian life. The speaker presented us with list after list of “spiritual” things to do and ways to do them. When I went home, I noticed that I felt really bad about myself. And I figured that God felt pretty bad about me too. I was guilty and ashamed.

Since then, I have thought a lot about what happens at conferences like that. One thing that bothers me is that many verses used in the teaching are taken totally out of context. But then, since the goal of this kind of approach to the Christian life is to get certain behaviors, proof-texting is deemed perfectly acceptable.

I’ve also come to some conclusions. First, I don’t think it is possible to leave a “Christian formula seminar” with a clean conscience. Under the banner of being a tutor to lead us to Christ, more often they cause people to become almost totally self-occupied.”

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson & Jeff Van Vonderen – Pg 86

Shaming and shunning kept me focused on my sin for 12 years. We all know what happens when you give something a lot of attention….it grows! No wonder I didn’t change much under that kind of teaching…I spent 12 years trying in my own strength to be “good enough” to please the leaders I thought God had placed over me, when the truth is, Jesus already paid the price for my sin…nothing I could do would make Him love me anymore or any less than He already does.

Praise God for His grace. It’s a refreshing drink of cool water after 12 years in the desert.

Taking Ownership of My Thinking Process

A few months ago I read the book “Boundaries” and was struck by the lack of boundaries I had in joining the “church” and buying into the doctrine they espoused. Here’s an admonishment from page 45 that really helped me:

“We must own our thoughts…Many people have not taken ownership of their own thinking processes. They are mechanically thinking the thoughts of others without ever examining them. They swallow others’ opinions and reasonings, never questioning and “thinking about their thinking.” Certainly we should listen to the thoughts of others and weigh them; but we should never “give our minds” over to anyone. We are to weigh things for ourselves in the context of relationship, “sharpening” each other as iron, but remaining separate thinkers.”

It’s really been a process to begin to think my own thoughts and ask myself, why do I think that? To ask God what He thinks, instead of just running to someone to tell me what to do next. To fully take ownership of my thoughts and the actions that follow them. How freeing…and how much the Lord is proving over and over again that I CAN TRUST HIM!

The Most Famous Misused Verse – Luke 14:26

Wow…this book continues to hit the nail on the head! Who’d a guessed many of these abusive groups hobby horse the hating scripture?! From pages 217 and 218 of Twisted Scriptures:

“The Most Famous Misused Verse
Luke 14:26
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother his wife and children, his brothers and sisters…yes, even his own life…he cannot be my disciple.

What member of a controlling group doesn’t know this verse? Stressing this verse in the wrong way can drive psychological wedges between church members and their families. It can even lead members to feel disgust for those who love them. Now, compare this to the next verses:

1 John 4:20,21:
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command; Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Controlling groups often selectively focus on verses that can be used to support the leaders’ agendas. Most disciples who have been subjected to stressing of Luke 14:26 did not receive equal instruction on these words of John. I find this interesting and enlightening.”

How much I allowed this “hating” scripture to be pushed onto me without the other scriptures to give it balance! It caused me to cut off my family members and anyone else in my life that didn’t agree with this heresy. I weep as I feel the pain I have inflicted on my family members “in the name of God.”

Persecution…Are You Kidding?

Did some relevant reading in the Twisted Scriptures book recently…in a section entitled “Persecution…Are You Kidding?” these are a few quotes from pages 135 and 137 that really jumped off the page:

“Controlling groups really make a big deal out of being persecuted…This conditioning produces a strong reaction when something negative has been said about your group or its leaders.”

“This emotional reaction usually causes you to discredit those who speak out against the group, its policies, leaders, or their teachings…”

“Why do controlling groups and cults have to impress upon their members that criticism of leaders is persecution? To more fully control or influence members.”

For the last 12 years I was taught that if anyone disagreed or spoke against the message the pastor preached and the group believed, that this was persecution. Now I can see clearly that this “group think” was just another way for us to be controlled, and a slick way to keep members from listening to anyone pointing out the error we’d swallowed!