Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beauty from Ashes after the Lawsuit

John 15:12-15 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (NKJV)

An hour or so I saw something show up on my Facebook newsfeed and I can't get it out of my mind.  It was a sweet comment from someone who attended my former church a full decade before our family arrived.  This person and I  connected solely because of the lawsuit.  I found her story to be so much like mine, even though she was there a full decade earlier. As we shared stories, I was shocked to discover that the same kinds of abuse had been going on for such a long period of time.   

Today, the comment on my Facebook newsfeed was addressed to another mutual friend and former church member - one who left more recently than our family.  The comment was sweet.  You could tell that relationships were being restored.  

One of the sad things about spiritual abuse is that many times you leave the church completely alone.  You question yourself, you blame yourself, you miss the relationships, you grieve the relationships.  It is a very sad and lonely time.  

Since the exposure of this spiritual abuse and because of the wide publicity of our case,  the secret is out about spiritual abuse at this church.  There is no need to fear anymore.  People are free to reconnect with others who left or were disposed of.  Now people are able to look back and question those events from the past with new eyes.   Perhaps what was told to them about certain people wasn't the truth after all.    I found that we were told untruths about people.  I have needed to erase from my mind anything told to me by current church members/pastor/elder.  I am glad to see people have reconnected, have apologized, and there has been restoration of relationships.  

I would like to encourage those who have left our former church to extend grace to others who may have left years before.  Some of these people have never gone back to church.  You are in a wonderful position to extend grace and love to people who were spiritually abused.  If you are avoiding someone based on something someone from the church has told you, there's a very good chance that you might hear a different story now.  Let's love, people!

Yes, this lawsuit was difficult and ugly, but look at what beauty is coming out of it!  This is lasting beauty.  

photo credit: Bruce McKay Yellow Snow Photography via photo pin cc


  1. Joseph said it best when he said, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."

    1. Amen, Ronnie. I love Joseph's story. I've always been annoyed that we couldn't name one of our sons Joseph. People would assume we're LDS. Lol.

  2. Beautiful post. And a little eerie how similar these stories are. I could swear we attended the same church! I'm sure many others would say the same. The broken relationships are one of the saddest parts of these churches. I too was on the side of hearing negative things about people who had disappeared, until I was in their shoes. It is so unnatural to end friendships so abruptly and allow an institution to get in the way of reconciliation. True, some friendships naturally fade over time but the quiet shunning is just weird. And painful. And not right.

    Amen to reconciliation! This tidbit from facebook is a reminder to pray for restored relationships, even if it takes years.

    1. I think one of the difficult things for the most recent people who left is knowing how they treated us for all of those years. That guilt I believe has made it difficult for some to reach out. And for those who have finally reached out, sometimes we have had multiple apologies because they feel so sad.

      The pain of abruptly cutting off relationships, then treating former friends poorly, then having to suck it up and apologize is a very difficult thing to do. But oh the joy when there is restoration!

      Every single person I have spoken with who has been out as long as me has absolutely no bitter feelings towards the members who most recently left or current church members. What we have is understanding and compassion and a great amount of love for these folks. I certainly don't speak for everyone, but the common word that I've heard is we just want people to be free from the abuse. If our relationships get restored, that is an added bonus and what joy and privilege that would be, too. But the bottom line is that we understand and from what I've seen, most have simply been waiting for the more recent members to make the move on their timing.

    2. Julie Anne, perhaps you and others who left a while ago can extend so much grace because you understand what it is to be sucked in to deception. That is the overwhelming sense I have gotten from your blog, that you seek to help knock the scales off of others' eyes and are reaching out not only to those who are hurting but also to those who have hurt you.

      It is wonderful to hear how relationships are being restored. May it continue! "'I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten,' says the Lord..." Joel 2:25

    3. Jess - I am a changed person. In that church environment, every person, every church, every pastor was judged. Words were torn apart, attitudes were checked, everybody and their life was under a microscope. Everything was suspect. I don't think I'm exaggerating. If I met a Christian, I was looking for holes/flaws of where to correct them on their thinking/beliefs, because I had it right. Now keep in mind, the whole time I was there, I was struggling with this, so at times I would be like this, at other times, I'd remain quiet and was critical and yet still other times I said "forget it". I was a very confused individual who didn't know what side of the fence I was on at times. lol.

      I am so over that. I am not responsible to correct people and their ideas and to put people under a microscope as if I have it all figured out. I do not feel it is my responsibility to be confrontational and suspect people - that is not love. I do think it is appropriate, however, to show them God's word, but the Holy Spirit is big enough to get the work done and I don't need to be doing guilt trips on them. I think actions speak louder than words, that love and grace will draw someone closer to you so that some of these issues can really be understood without condemnation.

      Maybe I've gone 180 degrees the other way as a reactionary response and in a few years it will balance out. But as of today, that's where I am and it feels right and good. I hold no judgment towards those who remain at the church or churches like this. I do feel bad that they are drinking the KoolAid. If they ever leave, I will make myself be available to them and i think most of us would because we have understanding and compassion for them.

      I have found those who have been spiritually abused to be some of the most kind and tender-hearted and compassionate people.

  3. Julie Anne

    “Yes, this lawsuit was difficult and ugly,
    but look at what beauty is coming out of it!
    This is lasting beauty.”

    Amen - an ugly story - of hope and beauty...

    To give unto them beauty for ashes...
    To proclaim liberty to the captives...
    The opening of the prison to them that are bound...
    To comfort all that mourn...
    To give them the oil of joy for mourning...
    The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness...
    You shall be named the Priests of the LORD...
    Men shall call you the Ministers of our God...
    Isa 61:1

    Sounds like the scriptures - coming to life...

    1. Thank you, Amos. Beautiful and encouraging words!

  4. In one church situation, I was one of the earlier people to see where the non-trajectory was taking the congregation ... right into orbit around the pastor. Meanwhile, it took some of my friends three more years before it was finally and absolutely clear that they would never ever be allowed to use their spiritual gifts to serve in that place.

    At that news, my feelings weren't so much a sense of vindication, but overwhelming relief that my friends were free, and joy to have them back in full and no longer sidelined by untruths and unfulfilled "promises"! Also, as a result of what happened to them, they turned out to be some of the very VERY few who ever went back to a person who'd been kicked out far earlier and then maligned through half-truths slanted in favor of the church. It was a healing moment for the one who'd been maligned, and for the relationships to be restored.

    It really is amazing when things like this happen ... Thanks Julie Anne for continuing to share via both your blog and your life so that others may find hope and help after the horrors of spiritual abuse.

    1. Brad - - What a beautiful story of restoration/forgiveness/compassion/love. Wow - this is so, so beautiful.

      I just responded to Jess' comment above about those who have gone through spiritual abuse are some of the most kind and compassionate people and I think back on when I met you - - how supportive you were to me at the very beginning of this court case and throughout the process. We didn't experience the same spiritual abuse at the same church, but our common understanding and experiences instantly drew us together and I feel like I have a friend for life. Thank you, Brad. It will indeed be a glorious day in heaven when I can meet so many of you face to face. In my mind, I picture a lot of hugs going on.

  5. Thanks Julie Anne, this brings great encouragement to me.

    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

    1. Craig, you certainly get added to that list, too. You are another one of those relationships that have come my way because of the lawsuit. I'm actually getting pretty rich off this lawsuit - haha!! And I'm not talking $$. Not only have you been such a blessing to me personally, but to readers as you continually show and model that there are pastors who truly care for souls. Thanks, friend!

      And guess what song I'm singing in my heart now? :)

  6. That's awesome Julie Anne! It's good fruit from your being diligent to do the right thing. Thanks again for your example and encouragement--Alex

    1. I have no doubt the end of your story will be similar, Alex. Keep standing for the truth, friend!


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