by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid for the Lord is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation.” Is 12:2,3
Day 4: The balance of power.
As Christians, we are givers. Generous givers. We give our time, our money, our love, our grace and forgiveness, our selves. And if you have suffered spiritual abuse, you have probably given to the uttermost. Extreme amounts of time. Extreme amounts of money. Extreme amounts of grace and forgiveness. After all, this is what our faith tells us to do and it is all good and right and holy.
For me, I believed that if I just gave enough for long enough, the day would come when the pastors and leadership would see that I was worthy, valuable, acceptable. So I gave and I gave and I gave. Oftentimes so sacrificially that my family suffered. For years, though I was not allowed to serve in the church, I showed up for every service – and there were many – (three just on Sundays) – while my husband and children served and attended their church activities. And after I was allowed to serve again (after a decade of ostracism), I would serve during nearly every service, conference, seminar or other event while abandoning family get-togethers. In the summers, I worked tirelessly on the church landscape but rarely found time to visit my elderly step-father. I didn’t have time for long and loyal friendships because I was working so hard to do things for church staff that I thought were becoming loyal friends. I became a teacher and spent hours prepping for classes, teaching classes, meeting with students and encouraging them – while my family and friends went on with their own lives. And I wrote checks every week. Rather large ones for our modest income. Because I wanted to live out this faith that I believe but also because I wanted those who were watching me and judging me and determining my position with God to find me a good and faithful servant.
But during all of those years, no one reciprocated. My mother died. No one from the church came. My husband’s mother died. Nothing. My husband had surgeries and accidents – three in three years’ time. Not one visit. Not one.
And here’s what I realized: It’s called the “family of God” for a reason. Because we are supposed to be family to one another. And no one was being a family to us. We were to give and give and give, but we were never good enough to get – even in our greatest times of need.
And here’s what I learned: My level of commitment should not exceed yours.
That sounds so very un-Christian, doesn’t it? And yet, if the family of God that you are in is not treating you like family, if you are doing all of the “work” to be accepted and valued and loved and not truly receiving any care or compassion when you have need, then they are not really a Christian family to you – they are not committed to you.
Your level of commitment should not exceed theirs.
That doesn’t mean that you need to keep score, but do take stock. All of your efforts to measure up, to give and give and give. Are the people in your church – especially those who are or have been abusing you – loving and caring for you in like manner? At all?
After being tossed out of our church, I came to realize that all that I was doing for God I was also doing in an effort to win over people who did not want to be won. In fact, I should never have needed to win them over. And I realized that I should never have tried so hard or given so much when the recompense was nothing but fear that judgment would strike again.
No one ever made an attempt to “win” me. No one ever made an attempt to reconcile with me. No one ever made an attempt to care for or comfort me. I was doing all of the doing and all it got me was more condemnation.
My level of commitment was far beyond the pastor’s, the leadership, the staff, the folks I hoped were my friends. And I realized that I should never have been and could not continue to pine for, work for, beg for, a commitment from them. They had proven for more than a decade that our relationship was not reciprocal.
Please take a hard look at your commitment to them and their commitment to you. As one who has been spiritually abused, I’m pretty certain you will find that there was no balance. How could there be if you were being abused? It’s just not possible.
Make a list of the many ways that you gave, served, tried to find a God-honoring resolution to your situation. Then list the ways that you were served, and the attempts that were made on the church leadership’s part to pursue a God-honoring conclusion. Is it balanced?
More about Ellen: