|“Flying Free” by 9-yr old Resident Artist|
Now, on to much lovelier topics. I really want you to read this . . .
I want to share a story with you about a person named Justice. Justice is not this person’s real name and you’ll have to pardon the awkwardness of pronouns in this article because I am not going to reveal whether Justice is male or female for privacy reasons.
A number of weeks ago, I got word from someone who was formerly at the church that he/she had been reading the blog and wanted to contact me and tell me his/her story. Because I’ve been getting so many e-mails from strangers, I wanted to see if this person was legitimate. Justice gave me the names of a couple former members I might know for verification, so I contacted them.
Both contacts told me: you must hear this person’s story. Could this person really share more with me than I had already heard? I didn’t think so, but agreed to talk. We exchanged information and set up a time for a phone call.
The scheduled time came for Justice to call me and the phone didn’t ring. Thirty minutes passed and the phone remained silent. I sent a couple messages to those mutual friends on Facebook to see if they knew what was going on. One of those friends sent me a message saying they were speaking with Justice on the phone at that moment. I asked if they could tell Justice that I was ready to speak. My friend replied that Justice knew, but he/she was scared to talk with me. I thought to myself: come on, you’ve read my blog, I’m on your side, there’s nothing to worry about.
The fear that Justice was feeling hit me like a ton of bricks. The fear was paralyzing him/her. Justice, knew in his/her mind that I was a “safe” person to talk to, his/her friends had vouched for me, but Justice still had to overcome this fear.
By the time we finally connected by phone, I could feel the fear in his/her voice. Justice acknowledged to me that he/she was physically shaking.
With perfectly executed timing, my children started arguing. Isn’t that a universal phenomenon? Parent gets on phone, children act up. But what a beautiful time for Justice to catch his/her breath, hear that life is fairly normal at the Smith home with kids who act like kids and begin to argue when a parent is on the phone. I think that interruption helped calm some nerves and that’s how we started the conversation: discussing that crazy phenomenon of kids’ behavior while parents are on phones. That broke the ice. Thank you, dear children, . . . . just this once.
After that intro, we started talking. I heard story and then another. The stories made my heart grieve. I felt physically sick to my stomach. I won’t share specifics of what Justice endured. That is his/her story to share.
But here is a small part of Justice’s story. Justice suffers from flashbacks. Sometimes Justice would read a story from my blog and it would trigger his/her own memories from the past. Justice would re-live what had happened to him/her all over again. Sometimes it would take days to get rid of the memories so that the day could begin fresh. This has happened time and again since reading my blog. It’s hard, but it’s pushing him/her one more step to healing. As time goes by, the flashbacks will diminish and be replaced with a calm peace with only a distant memory of the pain. But at least the pain will not overwhelm anymore.
When you have experienced emotional trauma in your life, one of the most scary feelings is the sense of being alone. The cycle of triggering memories and re-living the pain has been difficult, but it was very helpful to finally realize that while Justice had once felt alone in these memories, reading the stories of others made him/her realize that he/she was not going crazy and imagining these situations. These experiences he/she read about really did happen to others and it made Justice realize he/she was not alone. Even though the stories I have posted may not have occurred at the same time as Justice’s experiences, there was an emotional connection with the person in the story.
As time has gone by, this very timid and fearful Justice has gotten more bold. Justice has realized how much he/she has lost because of his/her experiences at the church, and Justice wanted to speak out. Perhaps you have read some of Justice’s comments. Even though Justice uses “Anonymous” to post, Justice now has a voice. For once, Justice’s thoughts and words can be seen and read by everyone who reads this blog, including those who have and continue to shun him/her. It is very powerful for someone who was hurt to finally have a voice. That voice says: I don’t have to hide anymore, I can tell my story, I can express myself, I am free from the being held emotionally captive and the fear.
Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11: 28-31)
That is what this blog is about and I have been wonderfully thrilled to have a small part in this “gathering” place and discuss what was never, ever to be discussed. People, if you have never experienced spiritual abuse, you need to really get this part of the picture – the emotional scars of spiritual abuse can take years and years to heal and only prolong in silence. In order for healing, the truth must be exposed and the heart needs to feel safe to heal.
Amidst Justice’s daily past emotional demons, Justice continued to send me private notes of support. Wow, that blessed me. He/she told me that what I was doing here was so important and was helping him/her as well.
And then, Justice did probably one of the most powerful things he/she has done. Justice, whose voice was once silent, decided that this story needed to be shared on a larger scale. Justice and a dear friend took it upon themselves to let the local media know of our case. Within only hours, the e-mails were coming in requesting interviews and Justice and his/her friend coordinated those efforts with me.
Justice, it is because of YOU that this thing went viral. This was such a monumental feat for you to do despite the amount of pain you have suffered. I know there are days that are paralyzing for you, but what you did not only affects you and members from our former little church, but you enabled the world to know about the problem of spiritual abuse.
I began one Google review and blog which started things, but what you have done is amazing! I’m having a hard time keeping up with the personal stories in my e-mail that are telling me “thank you” for doing this. Reporters introduce me by saying that this story (Justice, YOUR story) has gone crazy viral all over the world and back and around again And I have to publicly say, Justice you did it! I am so proud of your strength.
The pain that you have experienced is now being used worldwide for His glory as He has given us the opportunity to expose to the world what some churches have been hiding for years – the problem of spiritual abuse. It’s time to clean up the churches. There are so many spiritually abandoned sheep. God is the Good Shepherd who tends His sheep and does not want to lose even one of them.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I am so excited about this aspect of this story. One person. Just one person! Do you see how valuable you are? And I also want to give a shout-out to that dear friend who has stood beside you, showing you unconditional love, grace and genuine compassion.
Justice’s friend: you know the true meaning of friendship. Thank you, too!
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12-13* * *