Friday, 22 February 2013

So many things running around my head

Wow.  There are so many things I want to post about.  So many things running around my head right now.

After leaving a cultish abusive church, which I attended from the age of 4 until June last year, I am only just starting to put out a tentative toe into the living water of freedom.  My initial responses to leaving the church were fear and frantic bible study.

Fear = God is annoyed.  Oh my word what if I meet my ex-Pastor in the street/shop.  What if I meet anyone from my old church in the street/shop.  What if I'm wrong and that was the ONLY CHURCH IN THE WORLD! If I admit any of what happened at that church to anyone they are going to turn instantly atheist and it will be all my fault for bringing the name of the Lord into disrepute.

Frantic Bible/Book Study = Was all the spiritual stuff that happened fake or real or of 'another spirit'? Are we supposed to obey our leaders above all else? Am I being judgemental? Would it be safer to be in an ultra-conservative church? I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND ROMANS! What is grace??? If I don't get all this right before the second coming of Christ/rapture will I be left behind?  Am I even born-again?  I felt under such huge pressure to GET IT RIGHT immediately.

And yet God is so gentle.  In the midst of my storm He has reminded me of my experience in that Catholic chapel in Venice. And I have finally, peacefully accepted it. Jesus loves me.  I am accepted in the beloved. I am accepted in the covenant of love - like Mephibosheth, dead dog or not, I eat at his table with honour.

I wrote about the experience in that chapel in my testimony which you can find in my pages.  But even though it was one of the realest things that ever happened to me I used to worry that it wasn't good enough.  Where was the repentance?  Was I born-again then?  I lived in FEAR.  The Pastor would often say that unless you have wanted to pull the nails from the hands and feet of Jesus then you haven't fully repented.  But I never felt like that.  Was I filled with the Holy Spirit?  According to The Pastor unless you had had some out-of-body, flames leaping from your head, vision of God, then you hadn't received the Holy Spirit. I lived my Christian life in cognitive dissonance.

Everything I have learned about God from That Church was learned second hand, and my own experience/relationship with God was third The Pastor's opinion. He was the only one who could interpret scripture for us, he was the one who told you what ministry you ought to work in, he was the one who told you what spiritual gift you had, he was the one who decided what songs the music group would play, he was the one who told people, "God has told me you are to do XYZ". When I asked anything or questioned anything that was preached about which I thought was wrong or anything that I was patted on the head by The Pastor and told, "You're like my daughter. I love you. God loves you. Stop worrying about it."  *Now toddle off and be a good girl*. And I bought it. He had quite a circle of admiring 'daughters' - oh nothing dodgy like that, but he was certainly up there on the pedestal.  My friend was shouted at for testing the preaching with scripture. Any woman who dared get emotional The Pastor wouldn't even speak to them as they were simply 'hormonal'.  Bah!

This feeling of second-hand faith reminds me of a quote from one of the first books I read after leaving the cult.  It's a quote I come back to time and time again:

"We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly.  When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited". ~ Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out.

It's going to be a long journey.  I'm suffering depression, panic attacks and anger.

It's a bit like grief I suppose.  Something I SO believed in and put my whole life upon turned out to be a lie.  And yet learning it was a lie has set me free to worship Jesus more truly.  It's good, but hard to go through.

Originally written 22/2/13 published here 28/3/14

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