Confessing to That Which I Did Not Do

Confessing to That Which I Did Not Do December 29, 2015

WhenChurchHurtsby Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts

I was watching one of those real life crime drama shows recently.  I can’t remember if it was Dateline or 20/20 or 48 Hours, but the story was about a young woman who was interrogated bullied by the police for hours on end until she agreed with them that she had slammed a baby to the floor causing a head injury that led to his death.  She was convicted and in prison when the fact that the child had suffered a concussion weeks before that had caused his death.  Over and over, the reporter asked, “Why did you confess to something you didn’t do?”  And it was that question that brought revelation to me.

I “confessed” and pleaded for forgiveness from my former pastor repeatedly for several years – not only for something I didn’t do, but because they wouldn’t tell me what I had done wrong, I confessed to everything and anything I could think up that I might have done.

This in turn gave my abusers the ammunition they needed to justify their judgment and ostracism.  My confessions gave them the ability to say, “See!  She admits she is the problem!  What we are doing/have done is absolutely the right thing to do!”

Like the woman in that interrogation room, I had been judged as guilty and I just wanted to make my accusers happy so that the nightmare would end.  Like that woman who believed the police officers when they told her that if she would just admit what she had done, this would all be over and they could all go home, I came to believe what I heard from the pulpit – that confession leads to forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration, so if I would just hit on the right thing to confess, we could all breathe a collective sigh of relief and it would all be over.

What I didn’t realize is that, also like that woman, my confession only led to my accusers being able to further convict me and sentence me to years of ostracism, persecution, and judgment which snowballed into more confessions as continued to hope to finally say the magic words that would lead to my release.

Instead, my spiritual imprisonment led to my belief that since the leadership of the church thought me unworthy, unwelcome, undeserving, God must think the same.  And that is where the spiritual abuse became most damaging – making me question my acceptance by and relationship to God.

And when I finally decided to recant and demand an apology for the way that I was treated – because even if they had justification, the way I was treated was totally wrong – rather than apologize, they told us to leave the church, further attempting to spiritually abuse me by making me feel completely rejected by them and by God.

I think many of us who have been wrongly accused by church leadership have probably at some point done exactly what that young woman did in that interrogation room.  We have confessed to things we didn’t do with the simple hope that what we and the leadership claim to believe is truly true.  That if we confess, we can be forgiven, and ultimately experience reconciliation and restoration and move on to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of what Jesus is all about.  But, like me, many of you discovered that it doesn’t work that way.

And to you I say, “Don’t wait to be released from that prison by working harder and harder to convince your captors that you are repentant and worthy.  Break free by getting away from them.  Don’t let them continue to undermine your spirtual well-being (which you know impacts every other aspect of your life).  And know that they are the ones who are truly in prison because they do not live what they claim to believe – which ultimately means they don’t really believe at all.

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Ellen is a member of the SASBN and she blogs at When Church Hurts

More about Ellen:

Several years ago I was the victim of a most heinous form of abuse unlike anything I had ever thought possible. Not having been raised in a Christian home, my first experience with Christians and pastors had been one of joy, grace, fellowship, love, and delight. When faced with the horrors of having the very essence of who I was as a woman of faith stripped from me in what I can only describe as spiritual rape, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. This was church, after all, and I believed that everything works together for good for those who love God. Somehow, it didn’t make sense that everything was not working together for good. When I was finally able to resign myself to the fact that God was not going to “work this out,” I made my escape and sought a safe haven. 
 
Little did I realize that I was going from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Oh, how I tried to beat back the flames! Oh, how I prayed and pleaded for mercy, for grace, for a chance. “But hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will toward” Ellen. 
 
He who began a good work . . . had forsaken me . . . and the silence was more than deafening . . . it was defeating. So intertwined were we, that as God went missing, so did Ellen. But I am nothing, if not tenacious.
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