Why I Left

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October is domestic violence awareness month

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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Photo Credit – Ruth There’s a critter playing peek-a-boo!

A NEW LOVE interest

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

I still believed these verses and I still wanted to live these out even if he did not.  But after a long time of trying I came to the realization that I couldn’t love enough for two. I could live these verses out for myself alone.

I found a new love and began a love affair that continues to this day.  Shocking, I know.  I didn’t plan it; it just…happened.  I started going out with my girlfriends and I took up jogging.  I got in shape physically and emotionally. In the process I found my self-respect and discovered that I had a lot to offer.  Yes, I fell in love with another.  Me.

I learned to love myself and began to take care of me.  Instead of always putting him or my marriage above all else I began to put myself, my safety, and my needs first.  I learned that unless I loved myself I wasn’t really worthy of love and couldn’t properly love another.

forget religion

Divorce was still a dirty word.  But I decided it was better than the alternative.  Though I still viewed it as sin I decided that the options of suicide or murder were more sinful.  These thoughts, fleeting as they were, were a wake-up call.  It terrified me that I could even ponder these things.

I daydreamed about driving my car into a ravine.  I envisioned picking up a knife the next time he had his hands around my throat.  This shit is hazardous to your health in more ways than one!  These are not normal thoughts.

It’s really bad when you either wish you were dead or, you know, there might be some unfortunate accident on your partner’s way home.  This may be a startling admission on my part.  But it’s honest. So I entertained the previously unthinkable and initiated a separation.

I discovered it was against my religion to enable my abuser’s behavior to continue. Eff martyrdom!  Where’s the glory in that? God would surely forgive me for breaking my vows. They had long since been broken anyway.  Honor, cherish, protect, love…all gone the first time he hurt me.

honor

I could no longer live in shame.  It was overwhelming and debilitating.  The only way for me to continue to live was to honor myself.

I figured out that his problems were his and they didn’t have to cause me shame.  I figured out that it didn’t matter what other people thought.  It only mattered that I could hold my head high because I knew the truth.

I figured out that I was worth saving.

recognizing my weakness

I recognized my propensity to be insecure and self-deprecating. I recognized that I found esteem in being the perfect wife.  Not from my abuser, but from my God and from those in the church.  Being a help-meet was not all I was created for.  It was not noble and prized by the one person who should have appreciated it.

I still had my weaknesses, no doubt, but knowing what they were my abuser could no longer exploit them at every turn.  I grew weary of the mind games and emotional blackmail.

Having been emotionally tied into knots I saw the belittling for what it truly was.  There was no way to be better enough.  Better would never be good enough.

i was stronger

I still have that same tenacity.  I’ve just employed the old slogan, ‘Work smarter, not harder’. Still, if I am a failure it won’t be said that it was because I didn’t try.  I just came to the realization that I can’t fix everything.  Anything can be fixed.  Everything…not so much.

I could fix me and only me.  He would have to do his own repair work if he thought it necessary.  But I could not.  In order for me to repair what had been broken inside of me I had to make different choices. I had to set up boundaries; something that before I never thought I had a right to.

I found strength in knowing I did have a choice.  So I exercised my right to live in a safe, stable, sane environment.

acceptance

I had to acknowledge that it was that bad no matter how often it happened.  It could be worse but so what?  Why should I settle for bad simply because it could be worse?

Fists are not the only way to physically abuse.  I had to acknowledge that strangling, hair-pulling, pinching, and having my head bounced off of inanimate objects is physical abuse. It should have frightened me to know that he could have killed me.

People may say that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  But that’s a lie.  Words hurt and leave scars that will never completely heal.  That’s what pushed me over the edge.  I could have taken the punishment, but the near-constant verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse was more than I could bear.

I stopped minimizing the danger and pain I was in.  Once I was out of denial, once I saw the abuse for what it really was, there simply was no way to stay.

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You can find the reasons why I stayed here:  Why I Stayed

Why I Stayed

Tags

, , , , , , ,

October is domestic violence awareness month

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Photo credit:  Ruth

Photo credit: Ruth

love

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

I loved him. I believed these verses.  I wanted to live these out even if he did not.  I thought I could love enough for two.  Love was a decision I made every day. Besides, I loved Jesus even more and after all I had been forgiven for – what with nailing him to a cross – how could I not forgive?  Forgive and forget.  So I protected the lie and kept it cloaked in the darkness.

We had watched as his grandparents eclipsed their silver anniversary and sailed on seemingly calm waters into their golden.  I wanted to be a member of that club.  I wanted ’til death do us part.

it was against my religion

Divorce was a dirty word.  In a world where 50% of self-professed believers’ marriages end in divorce I didn’t want to be part of that number.  It was sinful to even think it.  According to scripture there really is no exception.  I felt guilty for even entertaining the thought.

I trusted in every promise of God I could cling to and decided that even if my loyalty brought about my death then I would be a beacon, a martyr, a testament to the sanctity of marriage.  I hid these words in my heart:

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps….Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” 1 Peter 2:18 – 1 Peter 3:6

shame

The first time it happened I thought it was a fluke – a one-off.  The second time I thought it was my fault.  The third time I knew I was in serious trouble.  Serious trouble with no way out.  Not in my mind anyway.  I was ashamed that I had caused this.  I was ashamed that I didn’t see it until it was too late.  I was far too embarrassed to tell anyone. Who could I tell that I made my husband angry enough to do me harm?

By the time I realized that it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t causing these temper tantrums, it had gone on far too long.  I was ashamed I’d let it get this far. I was ashamed I had ever allowed it to happen to me.

I was ashamed for my abuser.  I didn’t want anyone to think poorly of him.

I was ashamed for anyone to know my secret.  What would people think?  Would they think that I was stupid? Would they think that I asked for it?  Would they think I was getting what I deserved?

I was weak

Having always been insecure and self-deprecating I found esteem in being the perfect wife.  Not from my abuser, but from my God and from those in the church.  Being a help-meet is what I was created for.  It was noble and prized.

My abuser detected my weaknesses with pinpoint precision and exploited them at every turn.  He knew my propensity to be a people-pleaser and reminded me often that I didn’t want to disappoint him…or God.  Who was I to deny him even the smallest of things as his God-ordained completer?

Having been emotionally tied into knots I saw the belittling as a challenge to be better.  If only I could be better.

i was strong

I have been told that I’m tenacious.  Stubborn is more like.  It can be my greatest strength and my achilles heel.  Like the doctor who continues to compress the chest of a patient whose last breath has long left their lifeless body I continue to attempt resuscitate the deceased.

If I am a failure it won’t be said that it was because I didn’t try.  I think I can, I think I can…no, I know I can fix anything. 

I also have a high pain threshold.  What signals to most people there is something wrong provides me little information.  I have a tendency to tough it out and push through the pain.  I have also been told that if something would hurt my feelings it might draw a blister on a wash pot. I have, myself, made the joke that if you’re trying to hurt my feelings you’d better tell me.

denial – not just a river in egypt

It isn’t that bad.  It doesn’t happen that often.  It could be worse.  He won’t kill me. He isn’t hitting me.  It’s not really abuse if he’s not hitting me.  Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  All of these are the things that I told myself.  Even when I wasn’t in complete denial I seriously minimized the condition I was in.

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You can find the reasons why I left here:  Why I Left

 

Correlation is not Causation

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Emotions and Internet Psychoanalysis

There are a few bloggers out there with whom I feel a kinship.  It’s because we’ve experienced some of the same things, shared some common traits, and in some ways invested into one another’s lives – even from a distance.  I do think I get them and, in turn, they get me.

What makes a person think that within just a few comments, or having read through a few blog posts, that they have me all figured out?  They know what I need.  They know why I believe as I do.  They know why I left faith behind.

It’s because I was hurt by the church.  My particular flavor of Christianity was abusive – but not the others.  I should try on a different size if that one didn’t fit.

I loved my church family.  I loved the people I went to church with.  I still love them.  We just don’t have much in common anymore because I no longer believe as they believe.

I protest that being injured by believers is the reason I lost my faith.  It was only after leaving my faith that I realized how detrimental belief in the Christian God and the Bible were to my well-being.  Hindsight is always 20/20. But, no, I don’t see myself as a victim of other well-meaning believers who are slogging through this life as best they can.  Just like I am.

Well, if it wasn’t that then it must be because I was displeased with God.  I found his neglect unpalatable.  Surely, that’s what it was.  Again, I protest this notion.  I thought I was talking to God everyday and, moreover, I was quiet so that God could speak to me.  I truly believed I was hearing what God said.  No, never audibly, lest you think I’m completely bonkers.  But through my training and study I learned to “hear” God in the everyday, mundane, things of life.  Circumstances, prayer, scripture, and other people were God’s form of communication.  It was only after I lost my faith that I realized just how hidden God is.  Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

I was recently told these things with regards to my apostasy:

“There are far better ideas of Christ than you have ever known and that you are now unwilling to consider. It’s too bad you got hurt and now have a claque that supports you in your rejection of Christianity. Still, who knows, except your imaginary friend, how it will end. I continue to have hope for you.” ~Waltsamp

“What I think I have found is a person who has expended a great amount of time and effort, and whole lots of words, to create for themselves an impregnable worldview.”

“My supposition that you left Christianity because of some painful experience is apparently wrong. From some of what you have written perhaps it was dissatisfaction with God neglecting you or displeasing you or not measuring up to your standard (although this last one is pretty silly). Perhaps it was that you found Christianity had defects. People have been finding reason not to believe in Christ for 2,000 years so it’s unlikely you found a new one.”


Understand me when I say, yes, I was hurt by my religion.  Yes, I was neglected by God.  But, no, I did not leave my faith over these things. I know very well that my feelings – good or bad – nor my pain have any bearing on truth.  A portion of my pain was the catalyst for giving credence to my doubts.  There is a correlation there, no doubt.  However, my doubts gave way to questions for which there are no good answers.  What kind of faith is it – what kind of God is it – that cannot stand up to scrutiny?

When I began to ask the hard questions, for which I have not found adequate answers, I was unable to close the lid on Pandora’s Box.  I couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle.  I couldn’t unlearn the things I had learned.

I’m quite well aware that there are people who can do that; people who can reconcile the answers to the realities of life with the magic of belief.  I have been unable to accomplish this feat, despite my attempts to do so.

No, I have not found any new reason not to believe in Christ.  The reasons are, as stated, 2,000 years old. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good reasons. What I will say in response is that people have been finding reasons to believe in Christ for 2,000 years so it’s unlikely a new one has been found.

I could say by my interaction with those who believe that I know why they believe.  I could write it all down to their need for an emotional crutch.  Or perhaps it’s their death anxiety.  Or maybe need a scapegoat for their behavior.  Perhaps it’s because they can’t cope with reality.  Maybe they’ve found that the world has defects.

The fact of the matter is, none of that speaks to the truth of Christianity or a god of any kind.  Ultimately the reasons I no longer believe have nothing to do with any perceived injury, slight, or defect of Christians, themselves.  After much consideration, many sleepless nights, hand-wringing, and even illness over it, ultimately, I find the whole of Yahweh and Christ to be implausible.

Do I have an impregnable worldview?  I would say that the fact that I’ve reconsidered everything I believed to be true and changed my mind on at least one occasion should dispel such a notion.

If one wants to challenge my beliefs I’m prepared for that.  I do not have all the answers nor do I pretend to.  I am, however, extremely unlikely to be swayed by emotional appeals and scare tactics.  Bring me evidence, bring me logic, bring me reason and we’ll have something to discuss.  Leave the emotional extortion and psychoanalysis out of it.  My emotions are not taking me over. Correlation is not causation.

 

**You’re welcome, Ark.  I know how much you love the Bee Gees.

Churches of England Part Deux

Ruth:

While I’m tiptoeing down memory lane I might as well post the sequel. Wells Cathedral is breathtaking.

Originally posted on Out From Under the Umbrella:

The beautiful village of Wells, England captured me.  The high street was filled with people carrying on their daily business, oblivious to me.  This streetscape and skyline are breathtaking.
There was a blind man in this square preaching his heart out.  He was holding his Bible over his head, shouting out everyone’s need for a Savior and giving his personal testimony.   I stood there and listened for a few minutes.  He wasn’t obnoxious or overbearing.  He was pleading.
Just beyond the square, nestled into the corner is this quaint little setting.
 Through the stone opening just left of center is a masterpiece…
Wells Cathedral, built and expanded on between 1175 and 1490 A.D. –  mostly completed by 1239 A.D.
The facade of this mammoth cathedral is covered in stone carved saints.  The detail is exquisite.
Perched above the high altar is this work of art.
The architecture and detail are…

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Churches of England

Ruth:

I’m having a walk down memory lane. I love old buildings. And even though I’ve completely changed my views on religion, I especially love the architecture of old churches.

Originally posted on Out From Under the Umbrella:

When I went to England in September I was simply blown away by all the architecture. On just about every corner in the villages and sprinkled what seemed every few miles in the countryside was a Church.  The pubs were just as frequent.  We’d be driving along in the middle of nowhere and boom…a pub…and a Church.  We’re not talking a little old wooden church in the woods.  Every one is made of stone with large wooden doors hundreds of years old.

I only spent five days there though I could have stayed five weeks.  It was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget.  Having stayed through a Sunday I did go to Mass at an Anglican Church that belongs to the Church of England.  This is the one that I went to.

St. John the Baptiste Church, Midsomer Norton

It was the first liturgical service I’d ever attended. …

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Fear or Freedom

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fear“I’ll have to call you back later.”

That’s what Tessa said last Sunday.  She never called me back, though she’s texted me a couple of times since then.

My voice shook as I responded to her question.  She’d been ranting for probably forty-five minutes.  Her foster child had come home with some “magic” cards.  So that’s how the conversation started out.  Those magic cards, it turns out, are game pieces as best I can tell for a game called Magic:  The Gathering.  Perhaps it’s similar to Dungeons and Dragons.  I’m not really sure.

But Tessa had taken the cards from her foster daughter and informed her she couldn’t participate in that.  She’s fourteen and I’m not entirely sure it’s appropriate for that age, myself.  At any rate she continued on that this child’s father, with whom she’d been having weekend visitation, had introduced her to what my friend is calling “Black Magic”.  I don’t think the two things are related at all but I could be wrong.

Then she told her fourteen-year-old foster child that she might be the only Christian that her father knows; that it was her obligation to abstain from playing that game and “witness” to her father; that if he died without knowing Jesus his blood would be on her hands.

She didn’t take a breath.  I hadn’t interrupted nor interjected.  Continuing on she relayed a story about our former pastor.  She’d approached him in the church parking lot because she was upset about the school mandated reading list for her 6th grade child.  So that would put her child around twelve years old.  The concern was over the Harry Potter books.  He told her that he’d read them, his children had read them, and that they all loved the films.  “What would be your issue with them,” he inquired.

“Well, I’m pretty sure that your Bible reads the same as my Bible and I’m also pretty sure it says that dabbling in witchcraft and sorcery is a sin.”  That was her response.  Why did she ask his opinion?  I’m not sure.  Clearly she didn’t need it, she’d already made up her mind about it.  This is the same friend who threw out Disney’s Fantasia and forbade her children to watch it because Mickey was a sorcerer’s apprentice.  It featured a magician.

“Can you believe that? The pastor endorsing Harry Potter?” Then she took a breath.  Oh, crap.  This isn’t a rhetorical question.  She’s expecting an answer.

“Well, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say about that but here goes:  I think that Harry Potter is complete fiction.  J.K. Rowling hasn’t purported it to be anything other than complete fiction and since there’s no such thing as magic and I don’t believe witchcraft to have any actual power I don’t see a problem with it.  I think you have to be the one to teach your kids the difference between fiction and reality. I know there are people who engage in witchcraft but I don’t think it has any actual power.  I don’t believe that spells work.  I know that those who engage in it do, but that doesn’t make it true.”

She cut me off, telling me that her sister had once said she wasn’t ready to give her life to God because she knew she was rebellious.  “Get your Bible out and read it.  Rebellion is a form of witchcraft, I told her.  She got over that real quick and got right with God.  There are demons and the devil is roaming around to see who he can destroy. I firmly believe that anybody who isn’t covered in the blood of Christ is leaving themselves WIDE OPEN to possession.  My friend, Deliverance*, got invited by a new friend she’d made to a dinner party to meet some other new people.  The minute she walked in she sensed it.  They were witches and they just wanted to attack her.  If she hadn’t known what it was she might have been susceptible, but since she knew what to look for she was keenly aware.  And all this stuff that’s happening in the Middle East with ISIS.  They’re cutting little kids’ heads off and putting them up on a stick and making a mockery of Christianity.  They’re taking the girls and raping them and selling them off as sex-slaves.  It’s nothing less than demon possession.  I love you and I want you to get your Bible out and read what it says about witchcraft and demon possession because I don’t want you to be caught off guard.”

Now it was my turn to cut her off.  My voice shook, “Tessa, I know you love me and I love you, and you know that I know what the Bible says about this. I just don’t believe in demon possession.  I don’t think we’re doing the mentally ill a service when we write them off as demon-possessed.  They’re sick, for sure, but they aren’t possessed.  They need proper medical treatment, not exorcism.  Exorcism doesn’t work.  Why do you think the Catholic Church doesn’t perform them as a general rule anymore?  And all this stuff in the Middle East?  Religious extremism is definitely at the core of it, but it’s more about power.  They aren’t representing any God.  They want power and control and the are using religion to get it.  Christians are no better. They’ve had their share of dark history.”  And this is where she cut me short.

My voice shook, not in anger, but in fear.  This is the first time I’ve been this vocal about my disbelief in certain things.  I just couldn’t listen to this any longer and not say something.  I only wish I had gotten the chance to say more.

I find it unconscionable that she laid such a guilt-trip on a fourteen year old child, making her feel responsible for his eternity – as if there is such a thing.  That’s too much responsibility for a child who clearly already has more problems than a math book.  She’s in foster care, she has two sisters, and none of them have the same daddy.  She’s been told nobody wants her.  Not her mother, not her father, not her grandparents.

Things only have the power over us that we give them.  Will we choose fear because we’re uneducated or will we choose the freedom that knowledge provides?

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Edited to add:

*Deliverance is a mutual friend who has been a missionary to Israel. She was trained and engages in deliverance.

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