Seeing Clearly Again after Spiritual Abuse
Have you seen this video which has been spreading around? It is the cutest thing ever and shows a precious baby, Piper, who does not want her mama to put on her new glasses. But after she gets her new glasses on, Piper’s face lights up as she hears and now clearly sees her parents talking to her. What joy is expressed on her face!
This child has a new world opened up to her with her new glasses. It reminded me of what it was like when I saw through new lenses and removed the spiritual blindness from spiritual abuse.
One of the things that my cult church did was isolate me from the world around me. There were so many church activities and meetings, we had little time to mingle with people outside of the church and were discouraged from associating with “the world.”
Some long-time blog readers know that I have been an accompanist for local high school choirs for the last 7 years. The first year I started doing this, I felt guilty because I was mingling with wordly people. I went primarily to make sure my 6’6″ son (senior in HS) would be safe (now I laugh at myself when I think of this). However, I fell in love with the choir teacher and how she connected with the students and asked if she needed any help on the piano. That was the beginning of my “choir mom” experience.
When I started, I kept looking through the lens of my pastor – I knew that he would disapprove of this. There was an internal struggle: was my pastor right or would God be okay with me being here?
Coming to class for the first time, I saw a variety of students – people I wouldn’t see in my church. Some students had piercings, tattoos, others had brightly dyed hair, gothic clothes, you name it, I saw it. And of course there were immodestly dressed young ladies. Seeing this wide variety of people only confused my internal struggle. Was it okay for me to be here? Would God be displeased with me?
Seeing with New Eyes
But my volunteer job was not to critique their clothing or hair styles, or judge how modestly they dressed, my job was to help them with music. Sometimes I’d work with the guys, another day I’d work with a small group of students. Before long, the bright hair, piercings, and tough images faded, and I only saw them as individuals – beautiful people just like my own kids.
We connected well and I loved to show them the love of music, to show them how to listen to music with a critical ear, to challenge themselves to aim high with their vocal abilities. Music is a gift from God and I wanted to somehow connect them with that gift, even if I couldn’t say it was from God.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12
Using the old lenses, I was taught that one could only evangelize by the “Are You a Good Person?” method. I was taught that any free time should be spent evangelizing, even at the grocery store, the gas station, etc. I felt guilty any time I was doing something that wasn’t spiritually redeeming. Was choir spiritually redeeming? But I enjoyed it so much. Was this my flesh being selfish?
Finally, those lenses came off and I came to the conclusion that being a choir mom was being like Jesus. Sure, I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it because music is a gift that God gave me. He gave me the gift of creativity. I’m sure God was pleased when I used the gift He gave me to share with others. Not only that, I loved and cared for these students. I was able to help students in crises, to be an encouraging presence in their life, to help them see a bigger picture when their worries got them down. God would be okay with me reaching out to those who needed help!
I am glad that I no longer see through the lens of my former pastor. That lens kept me in the dark, kept me in bondage to a man and his ways, not to God and His love and what He wanted me to do for Him.
Have you left a spiritually abusive church? Do you have new spiritual lenses? What was it like for you when you put on your new glasses?
*drawing by 12-yr old resident artist