God saved me a few years before my marriage died. I started attending a Southern Baptist church because their theology seemed to line up with what I believed. I talked to my sister, Nancy, about my faith because she was a Christian also.
Nancy had been a Christian for much longer than I had been and took on a mentoring role. She told me that many of things I was doing were not ok to do now that I was a Christian. The television shows I watched were unacceptable. The celebrity crushes I had were unacceptable. The topics of conversation I had were unacceptable.
One by one, I gave up things that I loved because it was the right thing to do to keep God happy. How could I possibly please God and watch Desperate Housewives at the same time? How could I possibly please God and read books about vampires at the same time? How could I possibly please God and find Jude Law attractive at the same time (especially with him being such a sinner that he cheated on his wife!!!)?
To Bubba, all the changes in me seemed to be very threatening. It really didn’t affect him personally, but he saw any type of change or growth in me as a bad thing. After all, if I was changing some of my beliefs, how long could it possibly be before I started changing what I was willing to put up with from him? He became very adamantly opposed to me being a Christian and threatened to divorce me on a regular basis because I liked all that “God stuff” so much.
It was a fine line I was walking – trying to keep God happy while also trying to keep Bubba happy. I was failing miserably because Bubba was never happy with me and I knew I wasn’t being Godly enough because I tried to downplay my faith when he was around. I felt like Peter – denying Christ in front of my husband. This was yet another thing I had to try to manage to keep Bubba happy and juggling the balls I had in the air was becoming increasingly difficult.
It was also becoming increasingly difficult to keep God happy, as Nancy had me believing. As time went on, I gave up more and more of my life because she kept telling me that God didn’t like the things that I liked. She always had specific Bible passages to back up what she was saying and was very passive-aggressive in how she handled these issues. She never came right out and told me what I was doing was wrong. She would send me an email telling me how she was just convicted of such and such (eerily similar to something I was doing) and how she needed to confess her sin to me and focus her mind on Christ alone. I started to feel hopeless and worthless because I just could not give up everything she was telling me I had to give up.
What I never realized for all those years was that I had been sucked into Fundamentalism and Spiritual Abuse. Even as Nancy decried Fundamentalism, she was living it. It was all about rules and toeing the line. Sadly lacking from Nancy’s version of Christianity was grace. Oh, she talked a good game. She talked about grace and how God had so much grace to provide but I had to work pretty darn hard to make sure I wasn’t over-taxing God’s grace. Her version of Christianity was all the things I had to give up. I could see no freedom through Christ in her version.
After spending more and more time with Arcadia and Maria, God’s grace started to make sense. I know, absolutely, that I am a sinner. Every day, every hour, every minute, I’m a sinner. I can’t get away from my sin because sin is the transgression of God’s law. Well, God has so many laws (613 in the Old Testament!) that no one can follow them perfectly (except Jesus, of course) and that is why we have grace.
Once I started understanding more about grace, I started pulling away from Nancy’s version of Christianity. I started to see how very judgmental she was and I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to show Christ’s love to people – not make it my sole responsibility to go around pointing people’s sins out to them in order to win souls for Christ. It isn’t MY job to judge people. That is God’s job. My job is to meet people where they are and show them Christ’s love.
After I left Bubba, Nancy actually had the gall to tell me I was not actually saved because I was divorcing my husband and had been texting with Luke. What? I realized then that she’d put herself up there with the Holy Spirit. The convictions I thought were mine were not my convictions – they were convictions she had told me I needed to have.
Nancy had put herself in God’s place and decided to judge my very salvation.
Instead of loving me and supporting me in escaping from my abusive marriage, Nancy took it upon herself to tell me all about my sins and my need to repent of them. If I wasn’t willing to do that, and obviously I wasn’t because I wouldn’t speak to her about them, then I was destined for hell because I’d never actually been saved in the first place. She questioned my salvation because my theology was changing and what I believed was different than what I used to believe.
My dear Nancy, it is called growth. I was no longer needing the milk that new Christians needed to be fed with. I was studying the Bible, wrestling with the hard questions, and enjoying the meat that a growing, strong Christian needs to live. Faith that does not grow is simply clinging to dogma.
My faith while I was married was modeled on the abusive dynamic. Since abuse is all I had ever known, God became another abuser to me in a way. I viewed him through the only lens I had – a victim’s lens. I had a grossly inaccurate and unfair view of God for a long time. After I had left and spent time healing and learning about abuse, I was able to read the Bible and view God with new eyes.
God is my Father. He loves me unconditionally. We have a great relationship now. I no longer live in fear of displeasing God. He gave me free will, a sound mind, and the ability to learn and grow. There is such freedom in my relationship with God now. When I fall short (often), He is there with open arms, ready to lead me back to where I need to be with His gentle guidance. Being a Christian isn’t about rules – it is about a relationship.
I’m so thankful that I know a kinder, gentler God than Nancy does. It was time-consuming, exhausting, and futile to try to keep up with all of Nancy’s rules and she still sits in judgment of me and my friends. She appears arrogant and is blinded by her own sense of superiority.
Meanwhile, I have freedom in Christ. His grace is sufficient. He loves me. As you will see, God held me up, provided just the people in my life exactly when I needed them, and worked some amazing miracles for me. I am over-whelmed by God’s love. And I love him because He first loved me. Wretched, dirty sinner that I am, God loves me.
- Posted in: Faith ♦ FOO (Family of Origin) ♦ Spiritual Abuse
- Tagged: abusive dynamic, beloved child of God, change, Christian, convictions, divorce, free will, freedom, fundamentalism, God, grace, hopeless, judgment, laws, marriage, mentor, passive-aggressive, relationship, repent, rules, salvation, sins, sound mind, Southern Baptist Church, theology, work, worthless