ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, ABUSE RECOVERY PROCESS-PROBLEMS, Bill Gothard, Calvinism, Christian Marriage, Domestic Violence, Homeschool Movement, Personal Stories

Woman Feels Spiritually Trapped after Having Grown up in a Conservative Reformed Christian Homeschool Family

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I found Ann’s comment (below) in moderation, but felt it deserved a wider audience than where it was intended to be posted. Ann’s story most certainly is not unique. Her struggle goes along with the previous two posts on abuse in marriage, but is compounded with a childhood of teachings that have been harmful to so many. It’s easy to  copy and paste Ann’s personal story into a blog post, but think about what it’s like to live in Ann’s shoes, and the confusion she faces – daily. Ugh!! There are so many Anns out there.  ~Julie Anne


by Ann

I grew up as a conservative homeschooled, Gothard-influenced, reformed Christian who kissed dating goodbye and married at 18 years old to an older guy I thought was a solid Godly man. Those 26 years of marriage are now known as one big deceitful lie and filled with the most heart-breaking trauma, some of which I knew and have been trying to process for years, and others I’ve been blindsided and destroyed by.

It’s been a surreal journey to work though so many years and memories that are remembered as one thing and yet known now as another. I feel trapped in a splintered mirror only able to look out into the real world, and no matter how hard I rage and pound against it, this fractured reality keeps insisting that IT’S the ‘real world’ and has been all along.

And through it all is the crushing guilt and self loathing for loving someone who turned out to be a monster, for not protecting my child better, for trusting and believing the best of people, especially the church, and for letting this shatter my faith in God. This faith is slowly finding it’s feet again, but on new ground, as I watch it grow back and study it from all angles trying to understand and make sense of it.

One of the areas of faith that has been weighing on me recently that I’m feeling unsettled about is that while I have a true gratefulness and belief in God’s forgiveness for me and place my hope and trust in that truth, there is also a separate part of myself that cannot forgive myself for my failures, nor do I have the slightest idea on how I’d begin that process. I see these two truths coexist inside me and they don’t exactly feel at conflict with each other- just exist parallel to each other, if that makes sense.

My former reformed theology tells me that it’s my pride that cannot fully embrace God’s forgiveness for me and that I need to confess this in order to move on, find true freedom and peace. Problem is, I don’t feel prideful, just broken. And the whole thing is really depressing as I still believe that trust in the saving grace of Jesus is necessary for salvation –  and to reject this, or disbelieve it, is an act not in keeping with the salvation He offers. I want Jesus. I want to belong to Him and be safe in Him, and this nagging doubt terrifies me.

Anyway, I’d appreciate prayer about this and that I’d be able to find my way clearly.


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19 thoughts on “Woman Feels Spiritually Trapped after Having Grown up in a Conservative Reformed Christian Homeschool Family”

  1. Apart from the religious aspects of this post, I looked at it from a purely human perspective. And here’s what I read:

    “I have crushing guilt and self-loathing”
    “I cannot forgive myself”
    “I feel broken”
    “I want to belong”
    “I want to feel safe”
    “I am terrified”

    Wow. It’s clear that the theology that got her into this awful place isn’t going to do anything to get her out of it. I hope that Ann is able to get some counseling from a source outside of evangelical religion. And I hope that she will explore other options of belief (and even non-belief) until she finds the path that will allow her to begin healing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Can completely relate. It’s not you. You were taught a false gospel about an almighty judge who wants to crush you for each and every sin and his son who stood in the gap not because you were worthy, but because he chose you. And now you have to show fruits of repentance or maybe you are really deceived about being saved in the first place.

    You’ve come to the right place. I had no idea that there were resources available or that this was a common experience of conservative Evangelicals. The term “Abuse” first dawned on me in a sermon about “Mother Kirk” where we were taught to stick with our “Mother” (i.e. the church) even if she doesn’t treat us right. That’s when the light turned on. What if my “mother” is ABUSIVE. Wouldn’t I have the same sorts of symptoms that child abuse victims had? So I looked it up and found all sorts of great resources that have completely opened my eyes.

    Some of these:
    The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (Van Vonderen)
    Boundaries (Cloud/Townsend)
    Beautiful Outlaw (Eldredge)
    Bo’s Cafe / TrueFaced (Lynch)

    They teach about how the church has been infiltrated by a new generation of Pharisees that have simply re-packaged the same lies that Jesus raged against. They teach about how salvation isn’t just a checkbox transaction the father and Jesus went through, but how it was based in a deep love for us – every last one of us. They teach about how organized churches seem to be more about “looking the part” and less about being loved for who we are and being led into true sanctification (rather than just being taught to wear the “Christian” mask).

    It’s not pride. I struggled with the same thing. There is a basic humanity that reflects God’s image. The abusers in life and in the church are telling us that in order to be accepted or holy we have to recognize our worthlessness, not in the sense of having committed sin, but in some basic sense of human dignity. Those are two different things. Standing up for your basic human dignity (self-respect) is not against God. It’s exactly what God wants you to do – recognize who he created you to be – an amazing person HE LOVES. Yes, we don’t deny that our sins drive a wedge between us and God, but that is different from the image of God. Reformed Christians like to conflate the two – sin and image – in a way that says that someone who respects herself is somehow prideful. That is not the case.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Boundaries (Cloud/Townsend)

    I haven’t read this book, Mark, but I think drawing appropriate boundaries saves you from much heartache in general. It’s helpful for both little things and big things and I don’t think we really teach people enough about it. And if someone tries to steamroll over those boundaries that is a big red flag you can evaluate.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My first reaction, after reading this, was “Ann, you need help. That is, a qualified counsellor who is trained to deal with broken people like yourself.”
    Prayer has not worked, obviously. It won’t — face it and find a professional. I feel for you but all the empathy in the world won’t change your circumstances – you’ve got to help yourself by finding someone who can help you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ann, from my amateur, untrained opinion, it sounds like you are recovering from trauma. It can do some pretty strange things to our psyche.

    I don’t have the answer to your dilemma, but I thought of a Maya Angelou quote: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” I know I made decisions that I deeply regret, because I was raised to think and believe a certain way. Some decisions were made because I was trying to escape a toxic situation that I didn’t even fully understand as a child and young person. But “now that I know better, I do better.”

    Maybe you can’t manage forgiveness for yourself right now. But maybe just start with extending a little grace to yourself for being human. Give yourself time. it’s a process.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Ann, He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. Just curl up and give Him what you have. He is heartbroken at what you have experienced. I truly believe Calvinism is cultish if not a fullblown cult, and in my humble opinion misrepresents Jesus.

    PS what has helped me in the past is talking to God and being brutally honest. He accepts it, and He can take it.

    One other thing-God is really really like the father in the prodigal son story. I am not saying at all that you are prodigal because you are not-but that heart that hugs the prodigal is equally longing to hug you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ann, I pray that you’ll feel the presence of God’s love covering your mind, body and soul.

    When I reached bottom in the many years dark hole of despair, I prayed and meditated for 2 weeks unable to sleep and somehow God inspired me to begin and fill that negative hole I was in with a shovel full of positive energy one scoop at a time. I focused on trying to find anything positive, or a vision or being around kindness . And after a few weeks of filling that hole, even though I was mentally beat up I managed to walk out of that hole.

    Which has made it easier to navigate myself away from negative energy and actually begin to spread some positive energy, or lead by example. I don’t allow myself to be in the presence of anger, meanness because anger makes it nearly impossible to discover solutions in a loving way.

    Turning my back on much of the pain I endured and use it so history doesn’t repeat itself.

    I know some may find other avenues to take, in dealing with personal strengths and weaknesses in order to move forward, because none of us are wired the same.


  8. It seems to me that embracing God’s forgiveness requires understanding God’s immense love. Jesus came to show us the Father… and Jesus lived a life of love and compassion for the broken. The leper who came for healing was used to rejection… but Jesus reached out his hand and did what others would not do. He touched him. He could just have spoken and healed him without touching him. But he didn’t. He wanted him to know that he was LOVED and ACCEPTED. The man said, “Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean,” and Jesus answered, “I DO want to.” Jesus still wants to reach out and bring healing to the broken.


  9. Ann it was good that you reached out. It must have been difficult. Keep on doing that. I am praying for you.


  10. Dear Ann, I’m so sorry. I can only imagine the pain you are going through, the immense betrayal and disappointment. Rethinking all of the beliefs you were taught only makes sense, because you see now that it isn’t like they said it would be. On top of that you have the anger towards yourself for not catching on sooner, for not seeing what you didn’t see or understand. How could you not feel this way, you love your child! You have had a brutal awakening. It’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to feel guilty, it’s okay to feel betrayed, it’s okay to have a hard time with your relationship with God. Not only is it okay, it’s healthy. Only a psychopath would feel nothing and just move on after what you’ve gone through. I want to encourage you to be kind to yourself, to give yourself all the time you need to process this and only then to decide what you want to and can believe. There is no rush. God is in no rush. Great hurts do not heal overnight. Please know that my heart goes out to you and I will be praying for you. If you have an opportunity to see a good counselor, I think it would be very helpful, but please avoid “biblical counseling” which would try to gloss over the reality that you need to acknowledge and understand and rush you into following a formula for “forgiveness.” You deserve better than that. ❤

    Liked by 4 people

  11. There was a really great thread today on Twitter about OCD (I’ll link it), but the biggest impact it made on me was in clarifying OCD isn’t about orderliness or a lot of stereotypical (tv/movie stuff), its the experience of not being sure.

    It’s the actions we take each day to reassure ourselves (so we can move on to the next thing in our day), now failing to reassure, and so that action is repeated— because it was supposed to work!

    The religious version of this is called scrupulosity, and it was a part of my life both before and after I started investigating (for example) egalitarianism. I had to get it all right because how else was I going to find peace ?!

    Naming it helped me. So did breaking down super-specific lines of who’s in or out (of heaven/God’s favor). More to it than that of course, but you might find “scrupulosity” a useful word to search online.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ann, I can’t help think about your circumstances and was wondering if there is a Women’s Shelter in your area. I know people who’ve used the service close to where I live and I know that there are professionals working there who can provide support and counselling for victims. Since in your case there is a child involved, it seems to me that it’s paramount that you seek help. Here’s the blurb written about the shelter in our area: “These services include support, advocacy, referrals, resources, public education and community development. We recognize that oppression exists in a multitude of forms and are proactive in empowering women to have hope and make their own choices to live free from violence and abuse.”
    I sincerely wish change for you and hope for a better life. I do believe it’s possible and that you can be the change.


  13. I thought of a Maya Angelou quote: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

    I love this quote. Forgiving ourselves for making bad decisions is hard, but important.

    My favorite quote of hers, and applicable so often to what we discuss here:
    “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Lea, “I haven’t read this book, Mark, but I think drawing appropriate boundaries saves you from much heartache in general.”

    Yes, but the book talks about way more. For example, they talk about how our emotions are God-given and how the church/society often invalidates emotions first so that our natural defenses are not aware that boundaries are being broken. And then they warn that when we start protecting our boundaries, we will simultaneously get a lot of emotional resistance from those who invalidated our emotions, but we will also start to see our own emotions, now allowed to be there, go in to overdrive.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. BTDT said – I don’t have the answer to your dilemma, but I thought of a Maya Angelou quote: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

    This quote is great! When you’re in the midst of living is abuse you do what you do because you are trying to survive. There is nothing wrong with that. It takes incredible energy and stamina to live in abuse.

    Ann, give yourself the time you need to heal. However you are feeling is normal because this is your way of processing through your experience. Don’t push yourself to be something you are not ready to be. Healing will come, but it takes time. Be kind to yourself as you go through the process.


  16. Dear one, what you have experienced is deep spiritual and emotional trauma. You were essentially de-humanized by your abuser and the cult-like church teachings that are more common than we would like to believe. So, now you are basically going back to square one, clearing the table and building your up your heart, mind and life from the ground up. Many years ago, I had to do much the same. It;s hard work. It means identifying the damning messages and lies and going back to bedrock truth, to claim the truth that you are deeply loved by God just as you are, and you deserve to be treated with grace and dignity. This is a time to grieve and learn and go back to what you KNOW to be true, and if you need a good counselor to help you do that, then seek recommendations and, if you begin to feel that counselor burdening you with guilt or shame, move on! Surround yourself with people who “get it” and distance yourself from those who don’t for the time-being. Hold on! You’ll make it through. I love what the writer above said: “Be kind to yourself…” Amen!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. “I want Jesus. I want to belong to Him and be safe in Him, and this nagging doubt terrifies me.”

    Hi Ann,
    I am so sorry for what you’ve gone and are going through, but like so many others have said it’s an important process and to give yourself time and grace to grieve. FWIW, I do believe you do have Him or should I say He has you. You’ve never been separated from Him, and He is carrying you now. He’s got this.

    BTW, there is a website specifically for those affected by Gothard. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? That may be a good place to find resources to help in untangling the false teachings.


    Liked by 1 person

  18. Amy Jane, yes! OCD is the “doubting disease.” That’s what makes it so tormenting. Have totally been there. Thank God for Luvox.

    Ann, you are infinitely loved by an infinitely loving and merciful God. I pray you will feel bathed in His fathomless love and mercy.


  19. Dear Ann,
    I wish to write words, and perhaps some clarity of understanding that will help
    in converting darkness experienced, unto the light of the Master.

     Firstly, I say that Jesus is Lord of lords, and Master of all power in this universe:

    and that He is well able to change the DNA & RNA molecules of our body; and the
    memory cells in our brain and soul.

     He can take the darkness and depths of despair inflicted upon one by the enemy,

    and turn it into glorious light of revelation of Him, and His Aliveness, this day.

     What I am about to say may sound very harsh, but Jesus pulled no punches 

    when he informed the religious leaders of His day, they were of their father, the

     That is exactly where the beginnings of these false beliefs originate. The patriarch 

    movement started in the 70’s, when men’s egos were suffering pin pricks from Billie

    Jean King and the feminist movement.

      Rather than preach the truth about Laban (the father of Rachel and Leah), weak 

    men twisted doctrine to imprison women with false rules, so the ego of the man
    would be elevated.

    FACT: Laban sold Rachel and Leah to Jacob.

             (Laban was poor before Jacob came, and increased Laban's herds.)             
            Laban changed Jacob's wages ten times  (deceit)

    ***But most importantly, Laban lifted himself up above God, claiming that Rachel,
    Leah, their children, and all of Jacob’s possessions (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.)
    belonged to him (Laban).

    This is the crux of the issue. Nowhere does Laban acknowledge God as the Master

    of the Universe, unto whom all things belong.

    ** Indeed, Laban had in his possession false gods and idols. * *

    (Remember that Rachel stole her dad’s false images, and then hid them when
    Laban came looking for them. One can only surmise Rachel was ticked off that her
    dad never provided a dowry for her [or Leah], and took the images in revenge,
    perhaps feeling her dad owed her something).

    It is a very cruel and sadistic thing when men imprison their offspring into chains
    of false doctrine; so that their own male ego may be vainly puffed up and assuaged.

    This in itself tells one that the man is NOT following Jesus Christ as LORD:
    for a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will always point the believer to HIM,
    as the source of all truth.

    The false doctrine with which these weak men attempt to bind their victims to them,
    as a human, is in direct contradiction to Jesus’s teachings: To love the Lord your
    God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind.

    By Jesus’s very definition, this means one loves God (Jesus Christ) MORE than
    their human blood family.

      This is why Jesus said, I come not to bring peace, but a sword.. . . . to set mother 

    against daughter, father against son, etc., etc. Whosoever loves their mother, father,

    brother, etc., more than me is not worthy of me.

     For the most part, I do not believe you will find answers to the pain inflicted upon you from "Christian counseling", pastors, self-help groups, etc.
    Only The One who has suffered ALL things (including the misery inflicted upon 

    you), will truly possess the power to reveal and HEAL.

    1 John 2:27 says: “But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth
    in you, and ye need not that any man teach you:
    but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things,
    and is truth, and is no lie,

                             and even as it hath taught you, 
                             ye shall abide in Him."                KJV

    Perhaps if one thinks of a period of time being needed to “un-church”, just as
    home-schoolers use freedom of thought, action, and belief, to “un-school”
    their childs’ mind from the false imprisonment of binding archaical chains
    in public schools (socialism, liberalism, globalism, etc.),

     one might develop a breathing space to put aside and break the chains 

    which has locked one’s soul into a false and incomplete understanding of Jesus
    as Lord.

    I wish you well. It is a difficult journey, but the destination is worth it.

    There will be valleys, yes, but there will also be mountaintop experiences.

    And it is by these things that Jesus will show you His light.

    He says, If you continue in His word, then are ye His disciple. Keep reading The
    Bible, front to back. Then start again. Then do it again, front to back. Sooner
    or later, the chains will disappear and fall away. He promises this.


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