Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Losing A Friend

One of the most important relationships in my life has died today. It has actually been a slow burn kind of death. This was the end of a 15+ year friendship. A relationship between myself and my boyfriend “M”. I first met “M” when we served in an underground ministry in St. Petersburg, FL. He was the associate pastor and I was a deaconess under him. “M” always made me think outside the box. He always challenged me and encouraged me to think for myself and not just take things at face value.
About a month ago. “M” asked me to marry him. I asked him ‘why’? He said because he loved my ability to speak my mind and not be afraid to say what I thought. Here is the thing that blows me away. The very things that we loved most about each other are the very things that destroyed our relationship.
“M” has become very legalistic lately after some sort of conversion experience he had in January. Reading Pagan Christianity was the catalyst to the legalism. The legalism has always been there I think. The book just brought it all to the surface and gave him a forum to vent and rant. I didn’t agree with everything he said or put out there and told him so. Therefore we were not walking in agreement. We were not equally yoked. I became his project to change. I accommodated him in things that I agreed with. But pushed back on the things that I didn’t think were on target.
It became a relationship of challenged views. Testing me. Hammering me on my opinions. Slandering my relationship with God. I almost walked away from my church and the ministry that I feel I am called to. I am co-dependant. I wanted to please him. I wanted him to be happy with me. I tried very hard to listen and try to work things out. I tried very hard to get us to a place where we just agreed to disagree. What happened is that I became confused. Depressed. I lost my hope and my vision for myself.
In retrospect I believe what I encountered was emotional abuse and spiritual abuse. These forms of abuse are so very covert. Emotional abuse isn’t necessarily words spoken in anger like verbal abuse is. Emotional abuse is a twisting of words and motives and actions and phrases that confuse and twist and eventually make the victim feel like they don’t know what to think or what to feel. Only that what is felt is not good. Spiritual abuse is something altogether different. It eats away at the measure of faith that we possess. It makes you doubt your relationship with God. It brought me into a constant state of wondering if I was really saved and if there was such a thing as grace and what that was to me. It made me walk in confusion and doubt.
Here are some of the comments that finally painted a picture for me that what I was experiencing was spiritual abuse:
1) I am double minded. Now those of you out there know the other part of that statement. “A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways”.
2) I am rebellious.
3) I was told that I was holding “M” back. That he felt like he had to keep looking back over his shoulder to see where I was. I wasn’t keeping up with him.
4) If I had a true conversion, I wouldn’t still be a smoker.
5) If someone really wants to be delivered…all they have to do is surrender and God will heal them of their addictions, hurt, pain, past. They don’t need help. Only Jesus.
6) He wasn’t sure if he could marry me because I am a divorced woman. I had to go thru very painful memories of each of my two marriages where abuse and adultery were present so that “M” could sort it out.
7) If I wasn’t doing things the way the Apostles set up…then I am doing things anti-biblical. Therefore anti-Christ. Therefore in sin.
8) I was told that I would have to tell my kids (all of whom are saved and love Jesus) that I was wrong for taking them to a mainstream church. Because that was un-biblical because it isn’t what the Apostles set up.
9) I was told that I should be happy that he spends so much time trying to teach me and set me straight.
10) Any woman who went to bible school and got a pastoring degree is in direct disobedience to God and in sin.
11) Women should be quiet in the church and not teach men. I was told that I would have to seek God about the head covering that is mentioned by Paul.
12) That is I did teach that I BETTER be careful what I say because innocents blood could end up being on my hands.
There are more that I could list. But it is really hard to write about smirks and snickers and looks of disbelief expressed in conversation. But one final thing that I will mention here is that there was a tremendous amount of anger and frustration during our conversations unless I conceded to his view.
I recently did some research on emotional abuse and came across this key quote on the subject.
It says simply that:
***“He isn’t abusive because he is angry. He is angry because he is abusive”***
I also got a gem from a certain Naked Pastor friend of mine. He said that this type of behavior is ‘rudeness cloaked in religion’. He further stated that this isn’t a theological issue at all. It is a human issue’ . It’s a heart issue.
In retrospect. I know that there were angry tones a lot of the time. There were frustration issues that I dismissed often. There were times before this where I didn’t agree and was confronted with the anger.
I will miss my friend. I know that I have been missing him for quite some time. Somewhere, somehow, we disengaged from the heart and that is the very thing that has to stay connected in order to have a successful relationship not only with each other, but with others. With God.
Jesus doesn’t want out heads. Our logic. Our words. Our deeds. Our opinions. Our views. He wants our hearts. Wide open and willing.


Ashley Dumas said...

Dear Tara,

I linked to your post through Tia Lynns blog. I hope that that is OK. Just let me know. I just wanted to support your decision to not let your friend continue to abuse and belittle you. I was a single mom for many years and met a very nice christian man and we were even engaged. However, he began to belittle and question my convictions/personhood because I had had sex before marriage, and any other previous sin he could find. He felt extremely threatened if I did not 100% completely agree with him... much the same behaviour that you described. It is their own insecurity, fear, anger, and sorry to put it this way self absorbed self righteousness that fuels this type of behaviour. They can be good friends but make terrible mates. I have since met and married a man who loves me, loves who I am, loves the person I was when I was so desperate for love and affection I looked in wrong directions, loves me for being vulnerable, loves me for being strong. God loves us in all these ways and your spouse should only do the same! Well reading your story reminded me of my own experience and sometimes it can feel so lonely when someone you love judges and rejects you instead of loving and ecouraging you. Keep this healthy frame of mind and expect for yourself what you would want for your kids in terms of treatment by a spouse. Well hope it was ok to comment here?

Hannah said...

‘rudeness cloaked in religion’

Your friend is correct!

You are also correct! That was emotional and spiritual abuse! You nailed it!

I'm glad you escaped that. His reign would have gotton tighter as time went on.

Pam Hogeweide said...

This is my first time to your blog, and Wow....I'm so glad you got out when you did. It sounds like it was a very unhealthy and controlling relationship. You deserve someone who loves you for who you are, with all your weirdnesses, etc...

Are you familiar with blogger Kingdom Grace? She has an excellent series archived on her blog about spiritual abuse. It might be helpful for you.

poke around her site for it and you'll find it.

welcome back to the free world. breathe in deep, and move on. there's a whole lot of freedom on the path ahead of you!