When I was first recovering from spiritual abuse, I found a mentor by the name of Carolyn. She was a pastor and a licensed therapist. We met when I walked into her church one afternoon and asked for help. She listened and agreed to help. She mentored me for many years and helped me heal and grow into myself.
I was anxious to find the right beliefs and to use my life in a way that served God and humankind. I repeatedly asked questions like, “What should I do?” “What’s right?” and “What’s my ministry?” Carolyn would smile and gently say, “Let it unfold.” Give it time. She acted as if I had the rest of my life to figure things out, and it turned out that I do.
You see, I’ve always walked through life with a sense of urgency. When I was seventeen a friend had me listen to a Billy Joel song, Vienna, because it reminded him of me. The lyrics were, “Where’s the fire? What’s the hurry about? You better cool it off before you burn it out. You’ve got so much to do and only so many hours in the day.”
When you take spiritual life seriously, it’s easy to fall for spiritual abuse because you want to do what is right; you have an intensity that others can exploit. If you don’t slow down and listen, others will be happy to tell you what to do and what to believe and how to live your life. You can jump from one bad experience into another.
Carolyn could have been one more person telling me what to believe and what to do, but instead she taught me to wait. She had me write out my beliefs and read them to her. She never gave counsel to change my thoughts, but verbally reflected them back to me in a compassionate, loving way. When I worried that things were moving too slowly, or not at all, she reminded me, let it unfold.
Recently, I read a quote that if someone told you your life story at the beginning, you would not believe all the twists and turns were possible. It’s true with the healing process. I have found myself having nothing to do with Christianity, and then venturing back in. I have gone years without verbal prayer, and then fallen to my knees and begged for relief. I went to seminary to become an ordained minister, and then I walked away. I made mistakes and I learned along the way.
Carolyn was there when I first started thinking about helping people to recover from spiritual abuse. I had many questions: What if no one cares? What if I look stupid? What if it takes over my life? Her answer was the same, “Let it unfold. Write your workshop and I’ll read it.” In other words, do it and see what happens.
I wrote my workshop in 2012. Since then, things unfolded a little at a time: an interview, an offer to host the workshop, writing an article for a Presbyterian Women’s magazine, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. I’ve made new friends, have traveled across country, and done some more healing of my own.
The advice to “let it unfold” was uncomfortable to follow. It was messy to do, but what a beautiful gift she gave to me.
There’s no right way to heal. It’s something to let unfold. Read this blog, or not. Stay away from church, or go ahead and explore. Be true to yourself always, and let it unfold.
In Loving Memory of Carolyn Scribner June 12, 1939- May 28, 2015
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
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