Sunday, June 27, 2010

Growing in the hard places

Several weeks ago, we had a lengthy string of comments posted regarding one of Free Spirit's posts. It began when I made the comment that Father had sent me to an abusive church. Free Spirit questioned whether that was really him sending me since she didn't believe that matched his character. I was going to add another comment but, when I started writing, it got longer and longer so I decided to post my own blog about it instead.

I don't know if this will answer her question, but I hope maybe it'll shed some light on the subject of suffering. Ouch!! That's a painful topic and I don't even like to think about it but, unfortunately, it's a fact of life. We will have times of suffering - sometimes because of our own poor decisions and sometimes because of circumstances beyond our control.

As I've shared before, I spent three and a half years in what later became an abusive church. Because of a number of circumstances that preceded my going there, I'm convinced that Father sent me there. I won't go into details now although I may at a future date. For now, I want to go in a different direction.

Although my time at that church was painful, it was actually one of the best times of my life. Before going any further, I know that some of you who read this post won't be able to relate to the positive aspects that I'll be sharing. Please don't read any condemnation into it. What I'll be sharing is only my experience. I know the horror of yours may far outweigh any positive benefits or you may feel that there weren't any positive benefits. Either way, I hope what I share will be an encouragement to anyone who reads it.

I've begun to think of my time there as the boot camp of my Christian life because it was there that I began to grow up as a believer. The pastor of that group taught me many things on which Father continues to build my life and what I believe today.

That pastor was the person who taught me how to think outside of the box. He taught me to question what I was told and this has resulted in a major change in how I view what I was taught in the system. Because of his teachings, I've been able to recognize the religious mindsets that had become part of my life. His out of the box thinking encouraged me to examine new thoughts and ideas rather than immediately shutting them out when they didn't fit my preconceived framework of beliefs.

My natural personality is fearful and hesitant. I don't go into new situations easily and, up until that time, I would always take the easier less stressful route. I don't like to make waves and I'll gladly go along to avoid a conflict. I'm not one to leave the safety of the boat to walk on water - with or without Jesus. All that has changed because of my time in that group. I'm now a totally different person who is much more willing to take risks rather than stay in the safety of the boat. I'm learning to enjoy the adventure rather than wanting only safety.

Staying at that church was totally out of character for me. I knew the pastor wasn't accepted by the larger Christian community and neither was the group. In the natural, I tend to be a people pleaser but I see Father setting me free from the bondage of the desire to please people. I'm now learning to live in the freedom of who I am even if people get angry and offended. Despite my natural tendencies to bail out when things got rough, I stayed in that group.

My time there was really the turning point in my journey. Prior to that, I had been deeply immersed in religion and pretty much accepted what I was told. I was satisfied with the system and it was the center of my life. However, in that group, the seeds of change had been planted that would later sprout and grow. Today, the changes that I'm seeing have surprised even me. I remember Wayne Jacobsen saying that he had now become the person he would not have allowed in his office a number of years ago. I can really relate to that statement.

As I look at where I am today, I'm excited about the person I've become and am becoming. Knowing what I now know about that group, if I had to do it again, I'd do it. I've come to the place where I no longer despise my time there since it was part of my journey to the freedom that I'm experiencing today. This freedom as well as the joy and peace of knowing who I am has made the hardship of those days well worth the pain. As I think about my experience, I'm reminded of Paul's declaration.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

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