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Author Topic: I'm Starting to Feel Crazy Again, so It's Time to Talk (pt 1)  (Read 2242 times)
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« on: June 13, 2019, 08:51:20 am »

I was doing the dishes this morning, thinking about my last interaction with a GCC church, and I started to feel crazy.

"What if we did overreact?" "I can see their point - maybe the pastor was tired, maybe we shouldn't have pushed so hard." "Are we wrong?"

I thought a little bit more about it, started remembering details, and then decided it's finally time - it's time to write out what happened.

This is difficult to chronicle, not just because it's painful, but because I've blocked out so much of it. It's hard to figure out when I even want to start, and how much background you guys need. I think I'll start off with my marriage.

Before we were a marriage... Before we even liked each other, there were several people involved in our "relationship." My husband and I were best friends from the very beginning. He had grown up in the church (his parents were missionaries), and I'd recently decided to commit my life to Christ, and to fully attend a great commission church. We bonded over shared interests, could talk for hours, and made each other laugh like no one else could. I'd recently been in a long and stupid relationship and I genuinely wasn't interested in anything other than friendship, but no one cared about that. "Helpful" leaders soon started questioning my friendship with this guy. Why do we talk so often?

Attention to all, intention to none.
People are going to get the wrong idea.
You're nowhere near ready for marriage.
Don't awaken love before it's time.

Before I'd attended this church for even a year, this became a huge issue in my walk with God. I'd made it my mission to stuff my feelings for him down, and to refuse to admit that I liked him at all. I was terrified that it wasn't going to work out, and that I'd lose my best friend in the process. I refused to admit it to myself, until God finally confronted me and said, "It's okay to like him. Trust Me with this. If you end up together, you'll know that it's Me." I finally let go and allowed myself to be honest with God, and it stopped being a contention in our relationship. ...But not in my relationship with the church. If anything, they got more and more overbearing, which caused me and my best friend to get more and more secretive. We never even texted - our entire relationship was public. We didn't tell each other we liked each other. We didn't spend time alone together. But the more people questioned and dug and judged, the more we receded.

The painful part of all this is that from a very early point in our friendship, we both knew we wanted to marry the other person. The "problem" was that we were 17 years old, "not ready for marriage," and that dating was basically considered a sin in our church. You know what I mean, right? No one would outright call it a sin, but it was considered unwise by leadership, and you know what happens when you choose to do something leadership doesn't agree with. I like to imagine that things would have turned out way differently if we were in a different setting. If my parents weren't convinced that they didn't have the right to counsel me just because they hadn't been part of the church for a long time. If his mom would have been willing to speak up. If his dad wasn't an almost-pastor, and if this relationship was about just our relationship and not his dad's reputation.

The first time we kissed, we were sitting in a parked car in a park parking lot. It was after we were done with our classes for the day, just a few minutes from campus. We'd taken to driving around together for hours. Had become more and more comfortable with each other physically - leaning, brushing against each other's hands. Man, this sounds so stupid in hindsight. I remember feeling guilty and also feeling the draw of sin for something as simple as brushing against him. As if we were naked, y'all. As if there was no version of touch that was innocent and clean and possible to do in front of people. As if touching him at all meant, necessarily, that we were going to fall into all sorts of physical sin. We kissed pretty passionately before, I think as a divine act of mercy, the phone rang. The spell was broken - we could hardly look at each other - and we went back to the school. Before he got out of the car, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said he was sorry.

We didn't want things to happen this way. We didn't want to be secretive, or to sin against one another, or to hurt each other. We wanted to be right - right with each other and right with God. So, ladies and gentlemen, we made what I believe was the biggest mistake we could have made in that moment. We told his parents.

I want to interject for a second with an important tidbit of information: We were nineteen years old at this point. Now, I know we weren't super mature or on our own or independent or anything like that, but my point in saying this is that we were grown. We weren't fourteen. Nineteen years old, and our immediate understanding was we should run and tell our parents. God.

They told us to not talk to each other. His dad, specifically, said that sometimes God brings two people into each other's lives to expose their faults. That we should stop distracting each other and go seek God. Are you screaming? I am. We didn't talk for eight long months. This man - the best friend I'd ever had - would pass me in the hallway as if I was a stranger. It was painful, and that season did nothing but harden us both. We got angry with the Lord and our parents and authority, angry at each other, angry at ourselves. If anything, he got even MORE distracting. Church meetings were awkward. I avoided places on campus and at church just to not have to run into him and not say hi. We restricted the events we got to go to.

One day, I finally broke. I was driving off of campus and I passed him in the parking lot, and I couldn't take it any more. I called him, and we talked, and then we met up. There was some conversation and then... well, then there was a lot more kissing. Must be that we were super aching for sin, right? We were hypocrites who didn't love God and loved the world, obviously. I mean, that's what they told us. Two twenty year olds were dying to sin SO badly that they a) stopped themselves from going further and b) went and told their parents, again. We got yelled at, hard. A pastor got involved. Here's where my memory gets spotty, because here's where the cycle started. We'd try to avoid each other, meet in secret, and go further. We'd confess, get yelled at, and told to stop talking again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Meetings with my parents and his parents and a pastor. Meetings with just my mentor. Lots of yelling. Friendships at church getting more and more strained. Eyes replete with disapproval pretty much wherever I turned.

What gets me about all this is my husband was a group leader during this time. Leadership knew FULL well what was going on, and they kept him as a leader in his small group. Eventually, we started to actually rebel. My wonderful, free-spirited, headstrong, intelligent husband eventually said, "This is stupid. I'm done trying to not be your friend - I don't want that, and it doesn't work." We openly decided to hang out anyway, and then we blocked out pretty much anybody who wanted to say anything about our friendship, which of course, led to us in bed.

I hate them. I hate that my first kiss, the first time we held hands, the first time we had sex was in secret and full of shame. We didn't want this. Not at the beginning, at least. I mentioned earlier that I like to think about what might have happened if we'd been in a healthier setting. Do you know what I think? I think we would have dated, and been happy with that. I think we would have enjoyed our college years, and supported each other through graduation, and maybe gotten married after. I think we would have had a healthy, long-term relationship. Public. Open to counsel. Set in our houses, on the couch, watching movies.

We had sex a few times in five months. Less than a handful. I don't think I've ever hated myself more than I did in that period of time. The words our leaders and parents had yelled at us swirled in my head. I was a hypocrite. I didn't love God. I was rebellious and a harlot. Weak and unable to "flee youthful lusts." Sexually immoral. Not an ounce of grace. Not a mention of Christ's finished work. It was very confusing, because God actually did tell me that, over and over again. He told me He loved me and that He wouldn't leave me. He promised me He would redeem this entire situation, and that I would know that He is God. But that was probably all in my head, right? I mean, there's no way God could have been speaking to me while I was so deep in sin, right? Jesus wasn't enough for all that.   Roll Eyes Angry

One of my "friends" told leadership on me. I'll get into that story later.

We got confronted and yelled at, again. The pastor yelled at my husband to just marry me already, or they'd kick us out of church. My husband said, "No." Not like this. Not because you're telling me to.

A few months went by, and I went to counseling. I thought I was going in to talk about my incredibly painful childhood, but my counselor was wise and decided to focus on the church for a while, and how I thought that God viewed me. I saw myself as the harlot in Proverbs 5. He said God saw me as His child, and nothing else. He had me read scripture about that, over and over again. He reminded me that God's grace was so much bigger than my sin. The Lord strengthened me, and started to heal, and I started to believe that I could make a decision just based on what God said. Then, my husband proposed. A proper proposal. An honorable one, where he'd put in effort and time, and he made it public and invited everyone of our friends, and he spoke to my father beforehand and everything.

I praise God for counseling. If I had chosen to believe church - that my husband was a bad man, who didn't love me. That we were dirty and needed repentance, which meant to stay the hell away from each other. That we didn't love God enough to be able to hear from him - if I had done that, I would have missed out on the love of my life.

We got married, and it was the happiest day. We prayed before we went to bed on our wedding night. God redeemed, and redeemed, and redeemed.

But my husband never got to hear about grace. In fact, in a wild and maddening turn of events, the day he proposed is the day they took him out of leadership. Sigh. I'll continue this later. Too tired for now.

« Last Edit: June 13, 2019, 08:57:38 am by Wingless_Butterfly » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2019, 12:40:23 pm »

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Wingless_Butterfly. I'm so sorry you had to struggle against so many man-made rules that were so destructive. But how beautiful your story of redemption is.

"What if we did overreact?" "I can see their point - maybe the pastor was tired, maybe we shouldn't have pushed so hard." "Are we wrong?"

That sounds like a pretty normal reaction, actually. Most decent people at least try to see conflict from the other person's perspective. Victims of abuse are especially prone to second-guessing themselves.
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2019, 03:35:20 pm »

Wingless Butterfly,

I hope you don’t continue to second guess yourself as far as leaving a very controlling and unhealthy church is concerned.  I think what you shared about what God was telling you personally is key.  Don’t second guess what his sweet gentle voice full of grace has said to you.  

The Word of God does say that the measures of the law cannot control our flesh, but the Spirit can.  I think most of the “unwritten but strongly held rules” in GCx actually propelled some toward extreme measures of freedom.  Personally, I think it was unhealthy to stuff God-given desires on our own.  I believe he wants us to take it to him as you did and ask him for help to handle them.  

I am so sorry your husband was “shamed” (in discluding him from leadership) after he proposed to you.  Sounds like an attempt to control his personal choices and decisions.  I’m glad he didn’t cave and let them run his life.  

By the way, it seems from what I heard from GCx leaders when I was there, you were far from alone in succumbing to desires with someone you wanted to marry.  They used to say some of the godliest people fell in this area prior to their upcoming marriage.  A harlot is someone who sleeps around with anyone so I wouldn’t go there, nor receive that condemnation.  Yes, we all miss God’s best for us sometimes, but so did GREAT PEOPLE with GREAT faith.  David for starters, and his was WAY out of God’s best since his partner was married to someone else.

I feel the way you were publically shamed was very wrong.  Just because you missed the mark in this does NOT MAKE you wrong in all your thinking and decisions.  It also does not make others who opposed you personally necessarily right.  We have no idea what the intentions of their heart is; but PLAYING God by erroneously speaking for him to shut out his voice to you (in agreement with his Word) is wrong in any church!


« Last Edit: June 14, 2019, 06:39:25 am by Janet Easson Martin » Logged

For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.        - Saint Augustine
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2019, 05:12:53 pm »

I am so sorry you experienced that. You are not crazy. It all sounds too familiar to me.
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2019, 08:13:16 am »

Wingless Butterfly, thanks for sharing your story.  You were much more controlled than we were, but my husband and I also received all sort of "counsel" and "godly wisdom" about our friendship when it was strictly platonic (we were also best friends).  Our situation was a little different because he developed romantic feelings for me first, which then got everyone up in arms, me about "leading him on," him about "not guarding his heart," etc.  You know the drill.  We were "confronted in love" many times. When I realized I did have feelings for him, people then wanted to rush us in to marriage, even though we had just moved away and started graduate school.  Moving for school was how we got out, btw, for which I am so thankful. But moving was hard (because honestly leaving relationships in the cult can be heartbreaking, even if it's for the ultimate good) and it was a time to stabilize, not take on another big event. But I should have just "taken a step of faith" by getting married even thought I didn't feel ready.

I'm so glad my husband just allowed himself to love me without listening to those other people, and that I stayed in a friendship that was a beautiful thing even though I knew I didn't want to hurt anybody. Our story unfolded as it was supposed to and we have a solid marriage, which is good because we have weathered plenty of storms.  I do regret that a time that should have just been fun, lighthearted, and exciting, instead also contained angst, doubt, serious conversations, and having to manage the expectations of others, simply due to man-made, legalistic rules.

Please feel free to share as you are able.  It's helpful to write out one's story (even if you keep it to yourself).
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2019, 08:48:54 am »

I am terribly sorry that you had to experience this. There were so many couples that were just made a shaming spectacle of in front of the church -- and forced to marry. It's a very painful memory for me. And the book which was used to justify all of this -- the I Kissed Dating Goodbye book by Joshua Harris? Well, Joshua Harris is now divorced, and no longer a Christian. He is going on an apology tour, apologizing to everyone whose lives he's hurt or ruined, because of what he was promoting. This stuff is not healthy, not normal, and it's downright abusive.

I had so many friendships ruined because of this book.
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« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2019, 07:19:52 pm »

I am terribly sorry that you had to experience this. There were so many couples that were just made a shaming spectacle of in front of the church -- and forced to marry. It's a very painful memory for me. And the book which was used to justify all of this -- the I Kissed Dating Goodbye book by Joshua Harris? Well, Joshua Harris is now divorced, and no longer a Christian. He is going on an apology tour, apologizing to everyone whose lives he's hurt or ruined, because of what he was promoting. This stuff is not healthy, not normal, and it's downright abusive.

I had so many friendships ruined because of this book.

Don’t give Joshua Harris too much credit. That teaching was in GCx way back, probably before Joshua Harris was born. They had a booklet called How Should a Christian Date?, with the word How marked out. Also McCotter wrote a booklet on 1 Corinthians 7.

Back then the teaching was in line with a lot of GCx thinking: Jesus is Coming Back Soon and we need to Reach the World with the Gospel, so you got no time for dating and such.

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