The following is the story of a reader who wishes to share the abuse she has faced both as a wife and in a Mission organization. Add Mary’s (not her real name) story to the ever-expanding list in the news of abusers among the powerful – it is not just outside the church!
I’ve encountered spiritual abuse in a few forms since coming to Christ as a 12 year old.
I will share two such experiences that may illuminate the issue for others. In my case, it was a missions organization and marriage – both holy callings I attempted to answer. My heart was to serve and honor the Lord in both instances, which I attempted to do with my whole heart.
In the Mission Organization
In my late twenties, I took a short term mission trip with an organization, doing a job for which I had specific needed skills and credentials. After the short term trip was over, I was asked to consider long term work with the organization. I was a newly recommitted Christian. I moved to an area where I had family to start the search for a sending church and raise support.
There was a regional director of the organization I was supposed to work with to facilitate this effort. He was a married father of five and a grandfather. At first I was unaware of any wrongdoing but over the course of the following months it became increasingly evident that he was trying to create situations for inappropriate contact. It was also evident to me that this was not his first time at this effort, and that others were aware of his propensity.
He revealed to me he was attracted to young people, and how he was able to identify and groom susceptible young women by manipulating, especially, fatherless women and girls. When I went to Atlanta to undergo the final training for entry into full time missions with this organization, I spoke about it to the leadership and several other people, both male and female. It was hushed up and they said I had “washed out” of the training program. I was told I was disqualified from service that very day.
I was mystified, shocked, confused, but mostly puzzled. That’s the thing I felt most.
I met with the elders of the evangelical church I was attending and accepted an offer to work as an engineer for my current employer. Perhaps God’s sovereignty chose for me the better path? But I did not participate in missions again until Musik-Bruken, an organization with Godly leadership and a high degree of integrity. No sheep devoured in MB!
In the Home
The second experience I had with spiritual abuse was in marriage. Having not come from an abusive home I was blindsided and unaware of what I was experiencing. It started the day he carried me over the threshold. I was committed to being a stay at home wife and mother, with strong convictions about marriage as a permanent union before God.
I was very confused about what I was experiencing, but it was like living in a shrinking small sliver of light. I prayed without ceasing.
I had two babies during that time, but eventually found the strength to leave while remaining faithfully married, and live separately until 8 years later when my husband divorced me. During that time, two different church leaders told me if I would only submit to my husband more, it would get better, and that stranding me (with a small infant), desertion (16 times leaving the state), isolation, disconnecting contact opportunities with the outside world (disconnecting the TV), no Christmas tree or gifts, no birthday presents, extended silence, changing churches every few months were probably my fault.
The book that felt like a lifesaver was “The Verbally and Emotionally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evan. I devoured that book. God opened my eyes to what I had been experiencing, affirming that it wasn’t me! I wasn’t a crazy liar or an unfit wife! It gave me strength to confront and change my circumstances for my children and myself.
God faithfully led us out of that dark place of spiritual and emotional atrocities into life and light and prosperity, and gave me a tenfold recompense financially in a single year for what I gave up. My former husband was briefly incarcerated however remains free now with an arsenal of guns and ammunition (our local authorities are aware of it!) and still has partial custody of our children!
I have since remarried, and with God’s grace we are safely navigating the remaining years of shared custody – their father takes them to the church I attend. They’ve been able to grow up in my church (however the lights dim somewhat when he drops them off). We have three more years before both are free from custody.