I know that not everyone identifies as a Christian and I understand that, often, women who have experienced different kinds of abuse, especially those who are married and attend Christian churches or are members of certain Christian denominations, may have very tragic and distorted histories with the way the Bible has been taught and how they may have been treated or admonished to stay in relationship with their abusers. As a matter of fact, this has frequently been a way where women who have been physically, sexually, mentally, and emotionally victimized by their abusers may also have experienced a form of abuse known as spiritual abuse.
In our modern society where so many people of faith hold firm positions on matters such as marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body, even if she is pregnant and the expression of these positions is done in loud and vociferous ways with messages of hate and hell, spiritual abuse can happen indirectly, causing those who have suffered at the hands of human men and women who do not have a connection to a faith community, the Bible, God, or Christ and wind up taking paths and making choices which are at odds with biblical principles and values to experience spiritual abuse through the witnessing of vitriol and hate messages publicly displayed and declared as spiritual truth.
Although I consider myself a Christian, I am uneasy with my faith much of the time and am still working through my understanding and beliefs about who God is and His character. Some might even consider me a heretic and misguided because I have doubts about doctrine and teachings regarding hell, condemnation, and God’s views on wickedness and sin. This means that I have a tendency to be somewhat cynical and suspicious when encountering many ministries which are in place to assist people who are often marginalized and treated as victims in our society.
The thing that I’ve been realizing though, as I learn more about myself and my responses to how I’ve been abused in my past, long before anything that was experienced in the almost 18 year toxically codependent relationship which has had a lot of similarities to Domestic Violence relationships in its outcomes, and how I’ve become the person I have been, is that I never had a healthy picture of parents or adults, therefore I also never developed a healthy picture of who God is and what His character is like. I’m not alone in this.
As children, we form our first sense of self and identity from the adults and caregivers in our lives. We also come to understand God, His character, His will, and His role in our lives from these early, foundational relationships and how they are formed. This informs our continued development of personal and individual identity. When we grow up without a healthy picture of God and other people, especially caregivers and people in authority in our lives, we wind up without healthy and constructive pictures of what healthy and constructive adult relationships look like. This then becomes foundational and instrumental tothe kinds of relationships we develop and maintain.
Now that I am transitioning from toxic codependency with a person whose personal identity and sense of personhood is as damaged and distorted as my own has been, it is important that I learn what healthy, functional, and constructive looks like in order for me to learn how be be healthy, functional, and constructive. I need to learn what it looks like spiritually regarding God and His character, because that is the filter which guides and informs my own personal sense of identity.
Being in a Her Journey group through Abuse Recovery Ministries and Services is teaching me this. There may be some doctrinal issues that may arise which I am uncomfortable with. However, the purpose of this group is not to discuss or debate doctrine or theology. It’s purpose is to rebuild a healthy, constructive, and functional picture of God, His character, and how He views and loves His children, specifically those who have been abused and who have deveolped a distorted sense of self and a distorted understanding of God’s person, character, and will.
This class and group may not be for everyone, or it may not be within every person’s comfort zone. However, whether you are a Christian or not, whether you believe in a diety or many dieties or none at all, coming into the room and experiencing first hand the love, acceptance, and constructive teaching about the fact that we are meant to be loved and are intended for a life and a purpose other than to serve as another person’s physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and/or spiritual punching bag and garbage receptacle for all their bad moods and problems, is a good thing to hear and learn about.
There are twelve classes covering many topics including boundaries and other things which may not seem to be spiritual in their focus, but have critical spiritual components. These classes are free and can be taken as often as needed. There is a camaraderie from engaging with other women who are going through their own journeys of healing and growth.
If you have a different spiritual background and perspective from Christianity, the principles of God’s character and the kind of life He wants someone coming out of abuse to grow in are still valid and valuable teachings which can have concrete life application. Take what you need, what serves you, and leave the rest behind.