Wednesday, October 30, 2013 was like every other typical Wednesday. I was baking decadent white chocolate cupcakes complete with white chocolate curls and cinnamon pecans strategically placed atop the scrumptious confectioneries with precision just as I had baked for every other Bible study. I dubbed them my “cupcakes of love” yet – ironically enough – there would be no love directed my way later that night.
As the clock tick-tocked towards 6 o’clock that was my cue to begin the 4.2 mike trek to DRCC, a non-denominational church which boasted 40-50 members. As I opened the aged, beige doors I had this sinking feeling… that innate, gut feeling we get that warns us, “RUN!! NOW! ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!!”
However, I did not run.
That night replays in my mind like a four-car pileup on a major highway and plays on a constant loop.
No ‘stop’ button, there is a ‘pause’ button as my subconscious brings to light the cultic environment I was involved in.
Was. Past tense. A hidden gratitude I can appreciate now.
Leading up to this night, something I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) understand nor realize was that I was being spiritually abused. I endured this, not only on a service by service basis, but daily.
Sunday services. Bible study Wednesdays. Prayer Fridays.
Text messages. Phone calls. Facebook monitoring.
Flattery. Shame. Fear. Hate. Manipulation.
Inappropriate touching. Unwelcomed sexual attention. Narcissism.
The list goes on and on.
I didn’t realize it then and how could I? These self-proclaimed “leaders of God” were both creative and effective in contorting holy scriptures and hiding behind a deity. They perfected the shame-and-blame game with unique intricacy that if there was an award for “Spiritual Abuser of the Year” they’d be a frontrunner.
They utilized the art of manipulation in an astronimical way.
I looked past what my instincts were telling me. Hell, I was overlooking what the Universe was trying to warn me about.
Really think about that for a moment; I was spiritually settling. I was allowing abusive noobs TELL me how to feel and deny my most basic human rights.
I had these HUGE blinders on to these Pharisee covert assholes and was murdering my spirit a little more day-by-day.
I was allowing a narcissistic, crater-faced, over adorned, misogynistic, smooth-talking prick to demonize and abuse me.
Yeah, I was hella drunk on that sadistic Kool-Aid.
To anyone asking, “Why are you assassinating his character?” I, in return, ask why give more rights to perpetrators than victims?
To anyone who offers this comment, “Just forgive and forget,” I say why the assumption that he deserves forgiveness because he doesn’t. I deserve to forgive to free myself for future healing, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel anger. And, also, a kind fuck you (said with a smile).
To anyone inquiring why I’m “mean” I counter with why can’t I be mean or angry?
I shouldn’t be angry over someone who told me to go to my rapist and seek forgiveness? Someone who continued to flatter me in public despite telling him it made me uncomfortable? I shouldn’t be angry over enduring traumatizing misogyny?
Wouldn’t you express anger over someone who violated you in such cruel ways that it triggered memories of your rape from a decade ago?
That day, nearly a year ago, I could never have guessed I would nearly sprint out of a religious institution like I was crucified.
Like I was brutalized.
Like I was poked and prodded.
Like I was stabbed. Repeatedly.
Like I was tortured.
Like I walked on hot coals.
Like I was lashed.
Like I was raped.
Yes, I was spiritually raped. I was emotionally, mentally, and spiritually mutilated with verbal barbs of viciousness.
I had no idea when I walked through those doors that night, I’d leave a changed person.
I’d cry endlessly.
I’d sink into a depression.
I’d become (even more) self-deprecative.
I’d brand myself a “heathen.”
I’d believe their words of being under “satan’s protection” (for a little while, anyways).
I had a firm grasp on the cloud of confusion until I had a self-realization of my own truth.
I was a victim of systemic religious abuse.
It just took awhile to realize.
I didn’t realize when Pastor G. gave his silent approval to not only his wife, but the church’s minister and co-pastor to abuse me (and others) with indoctrination, bullying, unwanted flattery, and sexual innuendos for starters, and when I began to find a miniscule part of my voice and become my own defender, and only then was I met with “heathen”, a “jezebel”, a “liar”, “covered with a rebellious spirit”, etc.
I didn’t realize it when Pastor G. and his co-pastor, Pastor J., would scour my old Facebook photos and “like” ones with my cleavage hanging out. Or whisper when my husband wasn’t near ” I really liked the photo you added last week…” and said in a creepy tone (And no, don’t try to slut shame me). I didn’t realize that yucky feeling I felt was reminiscent of the same feeling I experienced when I was raped by a friend.
These “leaders of God” were all my friends at one point. I considered them family, yet they abused me in ways that the naked eye can’t see.
God, I believe, took my rose-colored glasses off well before this day, but man, on this day the Divine ripped those suckers off and showed me their darkness.
It’s like the Divine was saying, “GIRRRLLLL. Look at these FOOLS. Abort!”
Once I left, I never looked back.
It hurt like hell and sucked.
It sucked bad, but I’m grateful for leaving.
A few days later my husband wanted closure and texted Pastor G. and asked why it happened. The answer he received, “What are you talking about?”
Ignoring abuse does not negate abuse.
If anything, it made the abuse more clear.
And everything was becoming crystal clear.
Months would pass and I’d delve into theological study, research (and more research), praying and meditation, attending a new church and couldn’t grasp why I felt anxious and nauseous around most things that were remotely similar to that church.
Pop culture sermons.
Happy, shiny people.
Lack of transparency.
Using the Bible as a weapon.
And so much more that made me feel like I was crazy and alone.
No one else was feeling this isolated.
Like I was insane.
Like I was empty.
Like I was stuck in a nightmare.
Like I was on a perpetual see-saw of emotion.
Like I was dying.
Then I stumbled on a group of THOUSANDS that had experiences like I had — some even worse.
I found me.
Validation runneth over.
It was beautiful in a twisted way.
Upon reading their stories — their stories of unfathomable pain, heartache, and systemic abuse, I started truly healing.
Through their honesty, I found me.
Through their triumphs, I became a victor.
Through their journeys, I was running through mine.
Through their support, I became free exponentially.
Through their empathy, I acknowledged my own “heathen” traits were actually my greatest attributes.
Through these fearless warriors, I found my voice.
A voice for truth.
A voice for equality.
A voice for shining the light on darkness.
A voice for victims.
A voice for justice.
A voice for reason.
A voice for love.
A voice for healing.
A voice for the bastardized,
And the marginalized,
And the demonized,
And the minimized.
And most of all, I’ve found my voice and I’m using it for those that may still be entrenched in abuse and fear for themselves. I speak for all those that are still finding the right pitch in their own voice.
It’s a voice for them.
As I continue on my healing journey, I still stumble and waffle, but I dust off myself. I focus less on the darkness I endured, and let the light that is all around me to swirl around my own nooks and crannies to uplift and inspire me.
There are days I’m triggered — triggered massively by the shameless nincompoops that wounded me, yet I know they don’t control my mind, heart, or spirit, and I, too, will overcome this brief setback.
I may never receive 100% healing, but I know every day that I wake up and lace up my sneakers, is another day I’m more healed than the day before.
It’s the little steps of perseverance, therapy, and self-care that add to the giant leaps of peace.
There’s never a time table for healing, but every morning I wake up, I realize that’s 24 more hours I have to be proactive in being gentle with myself and to continue my healing trajectory.
Today, I’ll heal by making those cupcakes of love and not being triggered.
And I’ll enjoy it!!