A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Finding a new fellowship

X and I attended our former church together for over 10 years. When this all started that church was as helpful and supportive as they knew how to be. I kept attending and I was blessed to have good friends there. I remember that when the whole thing blew up a friend asked if I would hunt for a different church, not because she thought I should, but because she wondered if the old church would trigger me since I attended with X for so long. I replied that I felt safe there where people knew and loved me and I didn’t want to show up on the doorstep of some new place, me and my emotional and spiritual baggage, and announce, “Hi! I’m Ellie and I’m needy.”

I grew up in the church and there are several ministers in my family. I know that people often turn to the church when they are in crisis, but many don’t want to surrender. They don’t want to seek God. After getting used by such people, the church can get calloused to new folks who show up so very needy. I don’t think they mean to. The churches are probably being cautious. I don’t know. I also remember my friend, the one I mentioned in a comment about anonymous letters and such. I recall her struggle to find a new fellowship. I remember how she worried and she “didn’t want to show up and cry ‘I was hit’ and have people feeling sorry for [her].” I only recently realized how much that conversation with her affected me for 20 years. First of all, HE HIT HER. She didn’t know to frame the abuse in an active voice like Barbara is teaching us to do. And second of all, we aren’t responsible for what others think of us. Whether they feel sorry for us or respect us or hate us is their choice. If we are kind and authentic, we are doing our part.

Well the former church is still a good place. But it’s not the place for our family now. God has moved us to a wonderful fellowship that really knows how to deal with abuse and abused. Wow, I am blessed. Of course I didn’t know anything about this place in the beginning. I listened to several sermons online and I investigated what they believe. Then I emailed to relate a little about myself and what is going on in my life. I asked to meet with a pastor to see if he thought the church would be a good fit. I was upfront about my faith, my trust in God, my denominational background, and my marriage. I did that all in the email so I could make sure I communicated what I wanted to.

I ran into a deacon who was very encouraging and who reassured me that I will be safe there. I met with a pastor who related very well to my experience. I was assured that I wouldn’t be handed “How to Submit” books and I would be loved just as I am. Next I went to a women’s Bible study. A super cool looking lady, very trendy and fashionable – way cooler than me, asked me to sit by her. Each lady introduced herself. When it was my turn I said my name and that I was becoming a single mom. I still couldn’t say “divorce” at the time. I requested prayer for X. Then I said, “Hi! I’m Ellie and I’m needy” and everyone laughed.

A sweet family had us over for lunch one Sunday. I was used to doing things without X because he works all the time. But I wasn’t used to the idea that these people will never know him. I have also spent half my life being a WE and using terms like we, us, and ours. This was still a pattern in my speech and I would catch myself in the middle of “our” and change it to “my” and I am sure I sounded like I was having a stroke. I wasn’t embarrassed for me. If they want to judge me, they will be missing out on a great friendship. I know that now that X’s voice isn’t roaming around my brain so much anymore. I was concerned that they might not know what to do with me, that I would be this weird awkward single mom in their home and they would be worried about saying the word “love”or “anniversary” and upsetting me. But they were very gracious and we had fun.

Because I was so upfront about what’s going on, others who relate to me and need encouragement or who have encouragement to offer have gravitated to me. One lady came right up and whispered, “I think we might have a lot in common.” And we do. She’s not ready to leave, but she’s learning and she’s getting stronger. I don’t want sympathy and I think that’s easily observed. I do want help to know what to do sometimes and that help is there when I need it. And I want to offer help and encouragement to anyone who wants it. This is another reason I’ve been so forthright about what’s going on in my life.

I know that not everyone has been so blessed to have a church like the one God has led us to. I feel blessed and thankful. I think that God has put us there perhaps because this church is involved in training future pastors. Maybe God is placing these young men in this church where there is a great spiritual support system for survivors so that these men can be equipped to build more save havens in other parts of the country. I hope so.

Do you have any tips to offer survivors who are seeking new fellowship? What should we look out for? How can we find a good fit?

36 Comments

  1. I am still not up to church yet, and still have trouble reading the Bible-tho I do pray and the Lord is faithful to answer my prayers.

    • Brenda R

      How long have you been away from church Pam? I know for myself if I didn’t have that time on the agenda to worship I would probably go into a deep depression. I can feel the sliding feeling sometimes during the week and have to reach for my Bible for encouragement quick. He is always with us, but strength can be gained from the encouragement from being with others of like faith.

      • Brenda, I was like you when I was going through the worst of it. Being able to be in church was my lifeline. However, I’ve met many who are simply unable to walk in the doors of a church. And some who try end up not finding a healthy fellowship. Talking to many people I’ve heard lots of different stories of people trying to remain faithful to God while having difficult time doing the normal Christian things. Some who are able to be in church struggle with scripture. Some who read scripture have trouble being in church. Some who have to avoid the epistles live in Psalms, where some can’t be in the in Psalms right now.

        My hope is that we all can find an area where we can be in touch with God and let him grow us from there. Or as I’ve said it elsewhere, find a stream of grace and stand in it.

      • Brenda R

        I so understand and didn’t mean to sound critical. Pam I am very sorry if I sounded like I was criticizing That was not my intention. Down below that paragraph, I did go on to tell how uncomfortable it is where I am going. I have to block everyone out but God and worship Him. He is deserving of my worship no matter what is going on in my life. I have been attending the early service which is much smaller in number and a very different atmosphere, I enjoy it very much.
        My ex is still going to service where I had started to get to know a few ladies a little better and all know us as Mr. and Mrs. I just came in from running errands where I ran into a lady who attends my Ladies Bible Study Group. She invited me to a ladies prayer group, all the while turning her eyes away from me. I know what it is like to not be able to walk through the church doors and don’t want to get there again. I wish someone would have noticed that I just needed a boost and given me the encouragement I needed to make that first step. I hadn’t attended in several years before I started going 3 years ago.
        Sometimes good intentions back fire. I do apologize.
        I also understand grief. I think most of my grieving was done before I left my husband.

    • When I had trouble reading scripture, my mother gave me the advice to read “Phillipians” in The Message. I found that to be a great staring place for being encouraged by scripture. The Message really is at its best in the Epistles where Peterson does a great job of capturing the spirit of the letters, especially the excitement of Paul as he shares the Gospel.

    • I hear that! It was took me 6mos post abuse before I could read the bible again (other then a handful of Psalms that really encouraged me) and when I did I followed Jeff S’s advice and read Philippians in The Message. I have been reading The Message ever since and am slowly working my way back to other translations. As for Church I still can’t walk into a church building without being triggered and it was a year before I found the “coffee shop” church that I go to now. Hang in there Pamplamoussejuice God is with you where you are at and he will sustain you.

      • I have a daughter (not the one who was abused) with a form of social anxiety disorder who has trouble attending a full church service. What has worked for her was to find a “cell” church and instead of going on Sunday morning, she attends a small group or cell during the week. She gets fellowship, but it is among a small, intimate group of people that she has come to trust. As much as we hate to admit it, “church” does not have to be the big meeting on Sunday morning, and I think it is deplorable when we guilt people into believing that is the only model.

  2. Brenda R

    I am still going to the same church. I go to the early service, the soon to be ex goes to the later service. It is not a comfortable situation. I am seriously considering trying on some other churches. I have only been attending my church for 3 years and was just starting to really get to know some people. I wasn’t given a choice as to where I would go. Soon to be ex decided that. He is not a member and althought he claims to have “found God” I don’t think he gets it. His behavior and attitude haven’t changed. I think the first thing after knowing that they are not idol worshipers is how they stand on Disciplinary Divorce and they won’t throw an abused person under the bus.

  3. Lisa

    I appreciate the emails so much. Just wanted to share that I don’t think we are “needy” bc our a users left us without financial support. , but we have some needs. I got on my feet within 6 months of the divorce bc of friends sharing my needs. There is no shame in being in need – God does not shun us why should His people? Thx again for ur emails. They are a great source of comfort. Lisa

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Ellie

      By “needy” I meant needy in many senses of the word, emotionally, spiritually, help making decisions and so on. But this church would help me financially if I needed it, as would my previous fellowship.

      • Brenda R

        I understand “needy”. I could use encouragement, prayer, someone who understands that I can relate with that doesn’t cost me $60 an hour. I know in today’s world that is a good price and she is wonderful, but it is not the same as having a friend that you can cry with more than once every couple of weeks. I am fortunate to have already been working and although it is a humble wage, the Lord has provided all I need.

      • Ellie

        That’s what’s so great about Jeff’s sermons. 21 hours x $60 = $1260. Around here counselors charge $150/hr (at least). So Jeff’s sermons save $3150 and there’s no “We’re out of time” to deal with. And if I get distracted, I can back it up. I also listened to as many of the books Jeff suggested. More savings! These audios have been beyond helpful. I feel that they have shaved years off my recovery. YEARS!

      • Brenda R

        I got a discount. The Christian counselor that I see charges $90, most charge more. These people really want to help and work on a sliding scale. I have started listening to Jeff’s sermons and don’t see the counselor as often since I moved out. Some days I think I am pretty much recovered. Then there are days that I am on a roller coaster. Today is just a small roller coaster. I just finished Barbara’s book which was excellent. I have a few more titles on my book list. With the Lord’s help I will get through this. The Legal Seperation will be final this month. The phone calls and emails have started to slow down. There may be a light at the end of this tunnel. The $$ saved on therapy will be quite helpful.

  4. Ellie, thank you for walking us through this part of your journey. I asked the Lord to enCOURAGE me and then I read your post and renewal came by way of your sharing. To see how God has provided for you and your children gives me strength to keep moving forward.

  5. I lost the church I was going to because of spiritual abuse and then I moved over a 1000 miles away. I stumbled upon the church I go to know when having a cup of coffee with an old friend that I has been forced to loose contact with. We were talking and I was filling her in on some of what had happened during my marriage. After we were done the barista (pastor of her church unbeknown to me at the time) told me that he was the pastor, that the church met in the coffee shop on Sundays, that he was so happy that I was leaving my husband, and wanted me to know I was doing the right thing!!! 6mos latter I moved the two hours south so that I could attend the church full time. I was without a church for almost a year because I just couldn’t walk into a church building and put myself though all the triggers involved in that. The church I am attending now is not the same denomination as was raised and we have a few different views theologically but I don’t care because we have love and fellowship and Christ.

    • Ellie

      My present church isn’t the same denomination I grew up in either. Although when I lived in NYC for a little over a year, it was so very hard to find ANY kind of Christian that I tried a denomination I wouldn’t have back home. Turns out I liked it and that’s the denomination we’re attending now.

      • Brenda R

        I have found that it doesn’t matter what is on the sign outside. I was saved in a church where you were taught that you didn’t venture off ti any church outside of that denomination and association, because there was a vast difference between the teachings of various associations. I now go to a “Bible” church which is about as close as I could come to the same teachings as I grew up with. It really matters what they teach and the heart of the church.

  6. His beloved

    This is one of the most painful post-divorce issues for me. I was in a small, very intimate home fellowship for 8 years with X. He left it when we separated and they rallied around me incredibly as they saw his lies and manipulation of me and them. But that group has disbanded due to people moving. I’ve been trying to find a new church for over a year but can’t find one that I am comfortable in.
    I have lost my 2 best friends due to X turning them against me. I have never been so isolated or lonely before. The depression makes it hard to even want to try any more churches. But I will plod on and keep looking.
    Yet I am feeling so needy emotionally that I know I can’t even draw the kind of people I’d like to be friends with to me since I am not my normal self. And I am having a very hard time trusting people after those who were so close and with whom I had shared the deepest parts of my myself believing X’s lies and blaming me. So now I am very closed off and not sharing, which I am sure makes people think I am different than I really am (which is pretty outgoing and friendly), and not sharing also makes me feel so isolated. But I can’t share with those I don’t know…… such a vicious cycle. For instance I was getting to know a woman who recently divorced a borderline. We really connected about the slick, manipulative X issue. I found out her sister goes to X’s church and told her. She is very close to her sister and, as it turns out, to X’s new pastor who believes the lies about me. Once she found out who my X is, I have never heard from her again.
    I never expected so much loss after divorce. It is devastating. I fully believed God would bring me a new community and because that hasn’t happened I am losing my trust in His love too. But I try to hang on to His purposes being higher than my understanding.

    • I understand how hard the loss of fellowship can be, where it feels like the last person you can trust is a Christian. I was fortunate in the churches I found, but actually ACFJ is what helped me more than anything feel like there was a place I could be connected to the Christian body again.

    • King'sDaughter

      Praying for you! Remember it is not God’s plan to keep you isolated… keep pressing in. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother! You also have the ACFJ peeps who are so full of love and truly understand where you are and have been. You ARE loved and you ARE precious! (((Hugs)))

      Also, you don’t need to be anything (friendly, outgoing, etc) to be loved! God made you lovely, just be who you are (needy and all)! Haven’t we already had enough of the people who only love us when we fit their definition of lovely? I know I have!

    • Ellie

      Hugs

      • His beloved

        Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. I leaving tomorrow. I have planned this for months. Pray for peace, safety, and God’s will to be done. I don’t know what to expect, but I place my trust in Him, desiring to keep my eyes focused on Him through the stormy wind and waves and the fear that seeks to immobilize me.

    • Praying.

      • Ellie

        Praying

  8. King'sDaughter

    Isn’t God’s timing perfect! I was just struggling with two issues addressed here and wondering how to find an appropriate place to share my concern.
    First, as I sit in a denominational church which is a hotbed for abuse, I find myself wondering if I should stay. I stay now only for the consistency/stability for me and my children. As I sit in church I find myself extremely challenged, challenged by the knowledge of other abusive families, wanting to stand up to these disgusting abusers, challenged by the knowledge that the leadership is aware of at least one families abuse and other than “counsel” them they are doing nothing (makes me want to puke) to protect this woman and their children. The other concern related to staying is that I really don’t know what I believe anymore. Just a few months ago I might have been one running out to buy and promote Piper’s book. I WAS a strong supporter of Nancy Leigh DeMoss… but now I just don’t know how to reconcile what I know and what I believe. Ultra conservative always made me feel safe. Figuring it out on my own feels dangerous. When I think about figuring out what I believe and finding my own truth, it seems I sound more and more “worldly” every day!
    Secondly, people are starting to talk and ask questions about what is going on. I answer openly and honestly and have found great encouragement and have also been an encouragement to women who are where I was. The thought occurred to me today that maybe its gossip? Or somehow disrespectful to share these details?
    Any thoughts?

    • Ellie

      People might email me or check in via fb. I might tell them that we divorced and ACFJ has been very helpful to me.

      You will have to reorient yourself and your faith. I found that so many things I had put my trust in, homeschooling, being married, my previous church, were actually idols. Perhaps those things were good, but when I placed my trust in those things, when I thought, “but if I’m divorced, my children will become heathens” out loud, I realized that I had been trusting Marriage to save my children, same with homeschooling. I had also trusted my nice area of town to ensure my children’s future success in life. As you seek God, the ideas that had gotten out of balance or that were just nonsense in the first place, will diminish. You will find Him when you seek Him and you won’t even care about the old stuff. You just won’t even care about it anymore.

      Listening to Tim Keller via the Redeemer App has been a wonderful reorienting aid. Every sermon he preaches is about Jesus. I’ve gone to church my whole life but the way Keller loves Christ and relates His story has changed my understanding of Christ and helped me to understand His love for us so much more. If you’ve already listened to Jeff C’s 21 sermons on abuse, Keller might be a good place to help you jump-start your reorientation.

      • King'sDaughter

        Thank You! Great advice. I will start there!
        Right now I feel like all I know is Jesus… the who’s, what’s, whys and hows that were so important are just confusion now. Im trying to stay with the basics and remembering that God is not only bigger than my mistakes (He is fully able to redeem them), He is greater than my understanding! And even on my best day I will never fully grasp it all, but He can fully grasp me. I have to be OK with that.

    • Brenda R

      I believe we are suppose to be able to bring our cares to our brothers and sisters in Christ and there are/should be steps in place to help and not hide the problem. I know for myself I tried to discuss my home life and was told “we just need to get him saved”, “we all sin”, or “I’ll pray for you”. Although those things are true and necessary, they didn’t help the person who said they would pray came back and asked me how things were going as if: I’ve prayed now, it’s all better right. In my Ladies Bible Study different people brought up issues they had with their kids or an alcoholic parent and their were chimes of support from the others. When I brought up my husband everything changed. I was not to speak of such things, that was apparently a private matter. I didn’t bring it up again. Instead, I spoke only with God and my own daughters and got out. I told my pastor and his wife after I left. It has been over 2 months, at this point not much has been said. Both pastor and his wife have asked if I am ok and offered counsel (I found my own Christian counselor) and wife did say how much this separation has hurt my ex. Wow, it hurt him?
      I don’t feel this is gossip. You should be able to speak and be heard in your own church. A spouse doesn’t have the right to treat you with harm in anyway. It is sin and sin is suppose to be addressed and repented of. If they don’t see it, it should be pointed out to them. There are procedures in the Bible that we are to follow and the church is shucking their responsibility by not attending to such matters and allowing them to continue. It is a blemish on the church.

      • A spouse doesn’t have the right to treat you with harm in anyway. It is sin and sin is suppose to be addressed and repented of. If they don’t see it, it should be pointed out to them.

        Amen!

    • KD, I think you might find our posts about gossip helpful. Here is the tag: Gossip

      • His beloved

        I too am still being accused of gossiping and slander for having said the truth about X. I’d love to read this post but it requires me to sign in to wordpress. Is there another link to it that will open it as a regular blog post? I’ve read many posts but never had to sign in before!

      • Sorry, His beloved, the link I gave was one that would work for me as an Admin on the blog (which of course requires a sign in.) You can try just putting ‘gossip’ in the search bar, but you can also search by Tags. Our complete list of tags is nested in the TAGS TAB in the top menu. Look for the tabs at the top of the blog, click the one that says “Tags” and then search for “gossip”. That will bring up all the posts that deal with gossip.

        We also have a tag cloud in the sidebar to the right, but it only shows the 45 most used tags, and we have about 200 tags all told!

      • King'sDaughter

        Beloved,
        I had trouble too. There is a search feature. I just put in “gossip” and got several posts about it.
        Sorry for what you are going through!
        Another thought on “gossip”, if tge church leadership properly addressed such issues as abuse there would be little need for the matter to be duscussed outside of that forum. Sadly, because the matter is not proprly addressed as “sin” but rather as “marutal issues” it leaves the victim in a position where they feel compelled to share details, partly to explain the situation and as a testimony.

      • King'sDaughter

        Beloved,
        Now that I’m thinking more about this.. I suppose if someone were robbed or raped (even if they knew their attacker) it would never be considered gossip to discussed such things.
        You report it to the authorities but you would still tell others so they can be protected too.
        So maybe even in the best scenarios where the church does act appropriately, it would still be of benefit to discuss the matter openly.
        Secrets are shameful and darkness is where evil grows.
        Oh how “duped” I feel the more I learn!

  9. His beloved

    Thanks King’sDaughter. I totally missed seeing the search option! The sad part is that I have used it before and forgot aout it…………….It’s remarkable what stress and PTSD does to brain function!

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