Today I attended church, without a friend inviting me, and because I wanted to. I will tell you more about it in a minute, because the point of this blog is to help you recover from spiritual abuse. .
I'll be honest, if you've been spiritually abused, you may need time away from churches. Taking time away gives space for reflection. It helps you have less triggers to deal with while you go about making new relationships, spend time healing, and begin focusing on non-religious pursuits.
In my own life, I tend to migrate back and forth from church attendance. My last episode of abuse happened during my last year of seminary, which was in 1999.. Since then I have had two periods where I went to church for about a year each time. The first time was about a year after I left seminary and I found a pastor, who became my mentor to help me heal. I attended her church out of love and respect for her. The second time, was when I lived where there was a Unity church, which from my research I knew would be very open to many traditions. I went there looking for community and stayed about a year.
This time, I went because I have been praying and I need community. I just moved to a new town. But I have also grown into my own spiritual life, where I can take teachings or leave them. I have reached a place where I can participate without feeling I have to agree 100% or leave.
I take truth or healing words where I can find them, but I have no tolerance for bigotry or sermons that induce guilt or tell me who to hate. I will not sing lyrics that make me feel uncomfortable; I am uncomfortable saying things like He or Lord referring to God. I change lyrics substituting Love for Lord as often as necessary. These are coping tools that help me reduce triggering and trauma.
Another thing that helped me decide to try them out was, I vetted this church ahead of time. I looked at their website and Facebook. I saw signs of welcoming all people, I listened to a sermon online. I looked at photos to see who would be attending and read about their ministries. They talked about supporting the food bank and Pride month. I even looked at their sanctuary and its architecture, which felt inviting. After my preview, I was not triggered, so I decided to give it a try.
As the service opened, it felt welcoming. I was really surprised because when they sang, How Great Thou Art, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. It took all my effort to not sob uncontrollably. I sat with this feeling instead of leaving. I think I was moved with the familiarity of a time in my life when worshiping God came easily. As people abandoned me, I felt God abandoned me, but maybe God is only waiting.
After church, I went to the senior center to play card games. I spent the afternoon socializing and making new friends.I would say this was a near perfect day.
I didn't need a church to find community, but I did need a church to explore that God-loving person left inside of me.
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
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