We are not bad people--our hearts are kind and we enjoy see others succeed. But just like the frog who sat in the pot of water as it slowly came to a boil, we do not see the toxic relationship we are in until we are in too deep and extricating ourselves out of it will be painful and slow.
So, when we decide to pursue a life without constantly trying to:
- win others' approval
- avoid conflict at all costs
- figure out and then fix others' problems
- be available 24/7 to listen to someone's never-ending tale of woe
- clean up the messes others have made
- control every situation
- control how others react to you
- allow for others' faults but critical of your own...
About a year ago, I started attending a church. It was a relief. I had just come through a church with a pastor who manipulated me and totally tapped into my need for an approving father-figure. He could be loving and kind and then he would shut me down with a critical remark. He later started to blame me for his poor decisions and refused to reconcile with me. I went to his house, trying to clear the air and he sat there so angry, I could feel it. I knew I had make a mistake, but I forged ahead, but to no avail. I left and years later he still lied about me to cover his failures and dishonesty.
This new church was very healing. I served on the worship team and enjoyed the fellowship immensely. The pastor has a truly sincere heart for evangelism and invites those who do not know Christ to come and accept Him. He does this every week, for he does not want anyone to go to hell.
My calling is teaching, so I wanted to help the pastor's wife with her Bible study. She critiqued the times I taught, which I found disconcerting. I honor the material but if the Holy Spirit leads me to go off-script for a bit, I will do that. She was not keen on that. She told me I would be trained on the job, for this particular Bible study had required training, which she had taken years ago. I felt as if the tether was growing shorter and shorter on the expression of my gift.
We had an upcoming women's event, which I was going to teach, and she wanted to see my notes. In other words, she wanted to hand off the responsibility of leading, while still maintain authority over it. She saw it as perhaps "quality control;" I saw it as micro-management. Her oversight was suffocating me; finally I snapped inside.
I met with her and told her we were leaving the church. She was shocked; I saw no other solution. Extreme? Perhaps, but for my sanity and healing, I had to leave.
The old me would have continued on, building up resentment and anger, then burying it deep inside. The result? Adding to my depression, which I battle all the time. Yes, I am on medication, but medication does not make decisions for you. I was not being fed; despite the earnestness of the pastor's messages, they were at times at bit shallow. I was disturbed at the pastor's wife being involved in every ministry in the church, except for the men, and there was nothing going on for the men.
I do not wish to build a case against this church--I needed to go.
I did exit with a heart-felt letter about why I was leaving. The pastor accepted it well; he could have responded in anger or ignored it. He did not, which I really appreciated.
The pastor's wife triggered many things in me that could have led right back into a co-dependent, people-pleasing, toxic kind of relationship. It was really hard to leave, but essential for me in this part of my healing.
I am now in church-detox.
I love to serve and church was always a safe haven for me, after I became a Christian at 14. My family was a mess; my church family was loving and kind to me as a tender teenager. I always dive in to serving, long before I know the inner workings of a church. I just assume everyone will work out their differences because they love Jesus. Maybe, but everyone is on a different part of the pilgrim path, and not everyone is where we would like them to be.
So, now, I sit in church, worship, listen to the sermon and go home. It is hard, because I want to jump in, but I still need time to heal.
God is kind and sometimes we are walking and other times, we are resting by the still waters. I call my new house my "Psalm 23 Home." I am here because God opened up the door for us to move and I love my new house. But, after four churches where it ended poorly, I need to detox. Church for me is like a relationship: I keep looking for needy churches and they draw me in. I serve and love it for awhile, but then the unhealthiness emerges and it is hard for me to extricate out of it.
I am by the still waters right now. My soul needs restoring. Until that happens, I will be drawn to small, needy churches where I will jump in and serve, much to my detriment. Rehabilitation is hard, but for this co-dependent woman, it is essential.
Jesus is now more precious than ever. I am no longer lost in church trying to find Him or be distracted from my life by staying busy, busy, busy. I am seeking to be Mary as I detox from being Martha.
Bless you, dear readers. Hopefully, as I journey on, the Holy Spirit will use these blogs to give you clarity. I need clarity as well; I am blessed to share my journey with you.