Why I still choose Jesus After Abuse Within The Church
My story is not uncommon. From the abusive courtship to the sexual boundary crossing by a trusted spiritual leader, and all the contributing ideologies in between, I am no exception. If you sit down and sift through all of the abuse stories in the church body and voiced across the web, you will find hundreds, if not thousands. And more are being added all the time.
Many of these victims and survivors are questioning their faith. This is normal. This is healthy. I am doing this too. For me, nothing can be trusted or taken for granted without a time of studying and proving.
Some of my peers are becoming atheist or agnostic and... I get it. I can totally see how, after experiencing so much pain, a person could just say, “That’s it! I’m done.” For some, this is an emotional choice; for others it is highly intellectual. I don’t judge them. This is their life, their journey, and I’m sure they have very good reasons. If I’m honest, there are days when leaving church behind sounds pretty good to me too. Tempting. In nearly every church service, I feel stiff and nervous. My shoulders tense, and half the time I can’t sit still as I wait for one of the bullets in the three point message to wound my soul.
But there is something I can’t get away from. Jesus.
Jesus has been there all along, pulling me out of the darkness, speaking words of love and encouragement over my heart, beside me when I felt so alone. He has shown Himself to me in supernatural ways that dislodged my Cessationist beliefs, to the point that I cannot doubt His interactive presence or miraculous workings.
I’m not going to lie. I still struggle with my old view of God as a strict authoritarian leader, somewhere above me, off in the distance. Human spiritual leaders have hurt me so much that I struggle to be vulnerable with the Ultimate Spiritual Leader.
When I speak to God, it often starts as an apology for not being more vulnerable and trusting, then jumps right into, “what command do you have for me? How can I make up for this?”
Yet He continually reassures me. He tells me, “I don’t condemn you. I get why this is hard. You’ve been through a lot. I just want you to know that I love you and I’m here for you. And of course I’ll give you wisdom when you ask, but I don’t expect perfection. I want to be near to your broken heart. I am compassionate to your crushed spirit. I understand that you have trust issues and PTSD. It’s ok. Just let me comfort you. I’m not like them. I won’t do anything to harm you. I’ve got your life in my hand, don’t worry. I’ve got big things for you! Let’s start over, you and Me.”
If Jesus didn’t keep whispering words of love and truth to my heart, sending people my way with prophetic messages, and giving me miraculous answers to prayer, I probably would be atheist or agnostic. But now that I have truly started to embrace the relationship over the rituals, now that I have experienced and seen wonders through God Himself and through His people the Church, I cannot deny the reality of a personal God. I cannot deny God’s working in the Church.
When you’ve been abused in the name of Jesus, even Jesus’ name can be a PTSD trigger.
He understands that. He’s not mad at us for questioning His words, or even His very existence. He's not offended because church is hard and sometimes you need a break. And He knows what it is like to be hurt by spiritual leaders. Jesus himself cried out, “Father, why did you leave me?!” when the spiritual leaders of the day demanded his torture and killing.
He knows. He loves. He cares.
The closer I get to the real Jesus, the more sure I become that He has been there with me all along.