Rebuilding trust


I have been reflecting on the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation and the Biblical support for both. My heart conviction is that because I have been forgiven by the Lord I understand forgiveness. I have been reconciled to him. As he has changed and altered my life and heart I am now able and called to give forgiveness to others, offer them grace, and work toward reconciliation. With the Lord at the center of the relationship I truly believe forgiveness and reconciliation is not only possible but necessary between two believers. Many I talk to do not share this same conviction though. They feel it is okay to say “enough is enough” and walk away from a relationship. They feel it is okay to create boundaries that keep the others at bay. While I am a strong support of discipline, boundaries, and accountability I believe these are only successful when done in love and with a heart of teaching others rather than building walls.

Steve Cornell has posted a good Biblically based article on Forgiveness and Reconciliation at his blog. Check it out for the full article, but here are two lists he posts: Actions the offender needs to take, and Guidelines for the offended.

The offender:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If have done anything to offend you…”).
2. Accepts accountability from others.
3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.
4. Does not have a defensive attitude about his or her being in the wrong.
5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.
6. Does not resent doubts about his or her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)
7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

For those who are hesitant to reconcile: Ten Guidelines to consider

It is common for those who have been seriously hurt to feel hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it is important to open yourself to the possibility of restoration. Remember, Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (see Matthew 5:23-24). If you are hesitant to reconcile, work through the ten guidelines on the next pages.

1.     Be honest about your motives
2.     Be humble in your attitude
3.     Be prayerful about the situation
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem
5.     Be honest with the offender
6.     Be objective about your hesitancy
7.     Be clear about the guidelines for restoration
8.     Be realistic about the process
9.     Be mindful of God’s control
10.  Be alert to Satan’s schemes


When I was in college I, like most students, took classes in different subject areas (departments) at the same time. I was a double major, but also had to meet all the prerequisites to graduate, so often I was taking four classes and was studying from 3 or 4 different subject areas at one time.

In the later part of my freshman year I learned a very valuable lesson that I have revisited several times in life. I had papers that were due in two different classes at about the same time. I was writing for both my English class and my Sociology class. Being a fairly good and very dedicated student I put my best effort into both papers and turned them in on time. A few days later I received both papers back.

Paper #1 the teacher gave me a moderate grade, told me that he felt my writing style needed work, said that I was not writing to an audience, and reflected that I did not cover my subject completely.

Paper #2 the teacher gave me a high grade, told me that my writing style was very easy to read and that I had done a great job on the paper.

Two different papers, two different subject matters. Two different answers.

The lesson I learned that day had to do with perspective. While there were different papers and different subject matters, there were also two different readers (my professors). One reader liked my style and connected with me, the other did not.

As we go through life we will find people who we connect with and others we do not, or others that we do not connect as well with/it is harder to connect with. I am learning that again as I am getting connected into a new church. At my last church I loved the people, I tried to make relationships work, and I was very committed. Just like with my paper I put forth the best effort I could at that time (which was somewhat limited since I was in a difficult season), but things didn’t click. Even today the leaders of that church speak negatively about me. Yesterday I received a message from my new pastor. In just a few words he expressed more care and acceptance to me than I have received in a very long time, “I’m grateful for your heart more than anything. It’s beautiful how he brought you into our presence. So grateful you’re with us.”

Two different churches, two different viewpoints toward God’s word. Two different answers.

One of the issues that survivors of abuse struggle with is trusting their own judgment and perceptions. This has been an especially difficult thing for me and is one that even now as I am doing really well I find I can still fall back into regularly. It is a larger issue for me because of the type of abuse I received and who abused me. I have listened to their words and taken them to heart causing me to feel that I am unacceptable and have a bad heart. It has taken a lot of work to get to the point to realize that I may have poor judgment and may not communicate my heart well, but that my heart and intentions are not corrupt and evil. Due to identity issues and insecurities I often find that when others around me question a decision I have made or actions I have taken I take their assessment and blow it up into something larger.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the condition of our heart and how important it is to look at our heart and what is going on there.  http://restoringtheheart.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/condition-of-the-heart/

Recently I was reading in my study bible and it discussed how we need to have hearts that are open to receive instruction, discipline, and guidance not only from God, but also from others. This world teaches us to be independent, to think for ourselves, to rely on our understanding. God’s word tells us to rely on him, to seek community, to listen to the counsel of others, and to give up our rights in submission to the Lord. Through Christ we find new life, a renewed mind, and a transformed character. However, we have to learn to walk in that. It is offered to us when we receive Christ as our Lord, but we have to accept it as our new way of life. The Israelites walked through the desert for years with God in their midst and they still struggled with this, so if you are still learning and struggling to live this way don’t beat yourself up about it. Just take a deep breath, repent of your lack of faith, and turn back to God.

Our judgment is shaped and renewed as we walk with God. The more we walk with him the more we learn the Lord’s ways and become like him in character. I am learning that my judgment may not be like Christ yet, but I am confident that today I am closer to Christ’s character than I was last month and definitely more like him than I was last year. Learn to trust your heart to the Lord, and he will give you a new heart. Then your judgment comes from his heart and not your heart so you will be like him in character and you can trust your judgment because it comes from him and not from you.

I recently read this story by Steve Brown which also reminded me of the movie Seabiscuit. These stories remind me of those of who have been hurt, abused, broken, disillusioned, and battered in the church. Because of our experiences are we now believing we are bad or broken? Have we forgotten what God has made us for? This was definitely part of my story for the last four years, and at times I could even see it in myself but I couldn’t escape from it until others walked along side me and helped me out of my entrapment. Are you believing you are bad or broken? There is a way out! Are you at a point to help others out so they can find the freedom, love, grace, and healing power of God? If you are, please reach out to those around you because you are desperately needed. There are far more people around you who need your help than you probably realize.

“I once had a German shepherd. His previous owner had beaten him.  His name was Calvin, and he was one big, strong dog.  He just didn’t know it.  I gave him the name Calvin because I thought it would help him with his extremely bad self-image.  It didn’t.  In fact I’ve never seen a dog expect punishment more than Calvin.  It wasn’t that he had done anything wrong; it was just that he had somehow gotten the idea he was a bad dog and that my sole purpose in life was to beat up on him because he was such a bad dog.  No, I never hit Calvin.  I didn’t raise my voice to him.  I praised him, petted him, scratched behind his ears, gave him treats, and did everything I know to foster a good self-image.  Nevertheless, Calvin flinched every time I came near him.  Do you know what happened?  He became the bad dog he thought he was.  German shepherds are supposed to protect and defend their owners – Calvin ran and hid under the bed.  German shepherds are supposed to lie at the master’s feet – Calvin wouldn’t come near me.  German shepherds are supposed to be strong and courageous – Calvin was a weenie.  I really believe Calvin felt sort of uncomfortable and abnormal because I didn’t do what he expected me to do – punish him.” (Scandalous Freedom by Steve Brown, p222-223)

Seabiscuit is one of my favorite movies because it represents such a real image of life, especially for anyone who has been abused, rejected, or battered emotionally. I am not a horse racing fan, but the overall message of hope and promise in the movie really touches me. It is a story about three men and a horse who are all banged up and broken. Like us, these men and this horse have walked through hardships and they show the scars and pain of that. Seabiscuit had been bought and sold repeatedly, had failed to perform, and had taken to heart that failure and worthlessness. He was actually trained to lose so he would help others win. He was frightened, bruised, and defiant until trainer Tom Smith and jockey Red Pollack come along.

Here are some quotes from Tom about Seabiscuit.
Tom Smith: “You don’t throw away a whole life just ’cause it’s banged up a little.”
Tom Smith: “You don’t throw away a whole life just because it has a few bumps.”
Tom Smith: “He just needs to learn how to be a horse, again.”
Tom Smith: “He’s so beat up it’s hard to tell what he’s like. He’s forgotten what he was born to do. He just needs to learn how to be a horse again.”

All of us get beaten up, bruised and damaged in the course of life. We need to believe that we are not defined by that. We may be misunderstood and mishandled, we may even lose our way for a time, but God has created us with purpose. God doesn’t “throw away a whole life just ’cause it’s banged up a little.” He believes our lives are worth redeeming. He believes we are worth another chance. We may have to learn how to be a man/woman again, but he is willing to walk through that with us.

This week will mark four months since being removed from my church, and two months from having the pastor tell me that there is no avenue for reconciliation and restoration. It has been a long journey, and one I have anguished and grieved over how to walk through this and communicate about it because I desire a heart of love, grace, forgiveness, hope, and mercy.

On Friday I finally shared my story with family and friends. Until that time only four people knew what had happened and two of them I had shared with face-to-face just recently. Since the very beginning of this journey one goal has been on my heart – I want to walk through this in the way that Christ would, I want to live in a way that is worthy of the name Christian. It would be very easy to take on bitterness, anger, malice, slander, gossip, and to walk in brokenness, but that is not what God would call us to. I knew that when it came time to share with those in my life I would be sharing with non-Christians, Christians who have been hurt and abused, Christians who were disillusioned, Christians who do not have a strong faith or Biblical foundation, in addition to some very godly people. I wanted to walk through this in a manner that would be a light and witness to everyone.

One of the biggest questions was what to share and how much to share. Due to the nature of my story and the fact that others have not been willing to walk through this with the same commitment to Biblical standards, reconciliation, and restoration there is still brokenness that exists. I have waited this long hoping that would or could be worked through, or that I could at least testify that we were working toward it. Unfortunately that has not happened. So, I was faced with the dilemma of how to share with honesty but with a heart to not hurt, slander, or cause disunity. I don’t know if I walked that line well enough. Some would say yes, others will say no. I have had to lay it at God’s feet and ask him for forgiveness and further training if I made mistakes. I do think I walked through it well enough to be a positive witness.

This weekend I received emails from a variety of friends, but it included a Jewish friend and a non-Christian, both of who I have known and walked with for over 13 years. The reinforcement they gave about my heart, my witness in their lives, and the love I have shown them I have for people and for God deeply touched my heart. I love the encouragement and support from God’s family, but there is a piece where I sort of expect it to be there. (I am not sure that is good, I am just being honest here.) To have the words shared by those who do not have relationship with God and to know that my life is a witness to them is deeply encouraging and reassuring.

Now that the news has been shared I feel like I can finally really step forward and move on. I have decided that I will not hide my story. I have no desire to hurt those involved in any way, and I am praying that God sanctifies my tongue and heart to keep them pure. I will not live in bondage and secrecy either. There is freedom in being able to tell my story, and with that freedom comes healing and hope. I have already had people asking me to share my story and my journey, and I want to turn the tragedies in my life into a witness that brings hope and healing to others.

The goal of this blog is to help others find a path of restoring their heart and coming back to God and hopefully to the church. As this chapter in my life has now closed I am really looking forward to embracing the opportunity to be more of a light to others and to focus on them instead of my journey. I do believe though that I now have even more practically knowledge and wisdom about how to walk through restoration and to find hope again. I praise God for that everyday!

Have you heard anyone use the phrase “unbalanced life”? Maybe it was used as a reference to a life where too much time is spent focusing on one area while other things are neglected, for example working 80 hours a week. Maybe it has been used as a reference to being too much a part of the world and not living a life like what people think God would want from us. No matter how it was used I expect it was used in a more negative manner than a positive one.

Life depends so much on our perspective. What is it that sets your perspective and views on life? Is it your family? Your job? Your relationships? Your past? Your faith? A combination?  Are you more pessimistic or optimistic by nature? Do you questions people and circumstances or give the benefit of the doubt?

Jesus the Christ came into our world and changed things. His view of the world was different than those he was around and he changed their perspective. He didn’t just go along with the culture or the church, but instead he knew God’s heart and his word and he choose to live it out 24 hours a day. Jesus lived an unbalanced life. His life was very slanted in one direction, the only true and right direction. His life was balanced 100% toward God.

God’s word sums up how we should live into two commandments. If we seek to live just those two commandments out we will face many trials, struggles, difficulties, conflicts, questions, heartaches, obstacles, and also will find tremendous joy, hope, promise, blessing, depth, and love. Those commandments tell us to love with all we have. Life will be unbalanced as it will be filled with three things: love, God, and others.

Are you seeking to live a balanced life and be in control, or are you willing to live an unbalanced life and go after God with all you have? It is a very scary and difficult questions for those of us who have been hurt, burned out, disillusioned, and devastated by Christians and the Church, but following Christ while it is unbalanced is the safest and most gratifying place to be as we will be close and under the eternal protection of God. It won’t be easy, but it is the best choice we can make.

One of the struggles people can face after spiritual abuse, disillusionment, or any type of hurt experienced in a church or by a church leader is returning to Scripture. Although scripture states it is truth, those who have been hurt can doubt that because they can doubt their own judgment or the way others have interpreted scripture for them. Misrepresentation of scripture’s truth and God’s character happens a lot more than we want to admit because we are sinful people. Paul addressed this same problem with some of the churches he wrote to many years ago.

In these quotes from the book A Faith That is Real, Daniel Owens addresses the why we should spend time in scripture and how important it is to do that in a real and authentic way, a manner without the misrepresentation and twisted interpretations that can happen through hurtful leaders. We should not just look at it as information to learn, but as a way that God can change and transform our lives.

FaithThatIsReal

If we read the Bible without allowing it to have an impact on us, if it does not change us from the inside out, then we have missed the old point.  The purpose of reading the Bible is not so much to gain knowledge as it is to transform our lives.  Meditation causes us to think: “God, that’s me.  I need to change.  I need you to work on something inside of me.”

In verse 22, James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.” In this verse, the word do indicates a continuous action.  Doing what Jesus commanded should be a part of our lifestyles. 

James is telling these Christians, “Don’t just study the word.  Don’t just look at it.  Learn that, know it, understand it, and to pass that information along to someone else.  But don’t forget: the reason you study and meditate on God’s word is to live it.”

Returning to reading, studying, learning, and knowing scripture can be a difficult part of the journey of recovery, but as we go back to it, looking for direction, healing, and hope God will meet us and will touch our hearts in a way that will begin the journey or restoration in a new way. He desires us to be whole and holy and will help us along that journey.

On Monday afternoon I was finally able to meet face to face with the pastor and an elder from my church to hear the charges that had been made against me and to seek a path to reconciliation. Despite as much preparation as I think I could have done in the word and prayer, and despite prayer cover from some people … the meeting did not go that well.

We need to learn to thank the Lord for closed doors just as much as we do for open doors. The reason God closes doors is because He has not prepared anything over there for us. If he didn’t close the wrong door we would never find our way to the right door. Even when we don’t realize it, God directs our paths through the closing and opening of doors. When one door closes, it forces us to change our course. Another door closes; it forces us to change our course yet again. Then finally, we find the open door and walk right into our blessing.  (http://sweetnostalgia.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/behind-closed-doors/)

In summary I was dismissed from the church not under “church discipline” but due to a pattern of behavior they did not view as matching the words and actions of a believer. They deemed I was a non-believer who was exhibiting a lack of submission and was at risk of causing division in the church. Since I was deemed a non-believer they did not follow Matthew 18 and did not take the issue to the church. I was informed that I have been “churched” and can talk the talk but that my ongoing questions regarding clarity of communication from the church leaders showed lack of submission. They felt my communication toward the leaders showed intentional twisting of words and creation of miscommunication and drama so that I would have control. I asked if there was any noted miscommunication with others besides the pastor and was told that as far as he was aware the issue was limited to him but of course he was not privy to all other communication.

Part of why I was told I was a non-believer was that I have struggled with some sin over an extended period of time. (I did not recognize it as sin until June when God started revealing it to me, but that was not addressed. This sin is unbelief, a small view of God, walking in victimization, doubting the power of God, etc. due to the spiritual abuse I experienced 4-1/2 years ago.) As they are firm believers in Lordship Salvation they believe that no true believer can fall into an extended period of sin, be taken bondage or captive by sin, or have an ongoing struggle where victory is not seen. I asked them about this directly and since they were deeming me as a non-believer I asked if they would help me right then to become a believer and be right before God because I desire to spend eternity as part of God’s family. The pastor told me it was too much to deal with right then and he would just leave that to the counselor to address at a different time. Even when I asked a second time to deal with it right then I was told no. (There was still 30 minutes left in the meeting.)

The pastor and elder came across to me with a defensive and unopen tone, and I witnessed absolutely no desire to reconcile or heal the relationship. They were quite angry that I had defied their communication to not “associate” with anyone from the church as I had emailed/mailed a group of people to express my repentance for my wrong actions and lack of faith and shared what God had been doing in my life. It was clearly communicated at the meeting that they desire absolutely no further contact from me directly and expect me to not communicate anything to anyone else in the church community. My counselor is allowed to contact the pastor and maybe in the future there will be some room for a path to reconcile fully with God’s family but at this time they believe they have no responsibility to me and washed their hands of any responsibility to see me reconciled or restored to God’s family.

Even two days later I am still not sure what I am thinking and feeling after this meeting. The most important things for me are 1) To have assurance that I am saved 2) to know that the relationship with this church and everyone that is attending there is now completely closed 3) to know that no matter how I move forward they will not restore me openly to God’s family and I will not receive their blessing no matter what life and walk I have with God.

I am very sad and grieved for those leaders and that church. I pray that God deals with the issues and shakes the church so that it will be purified and their leaders will move forward in Godly ways.

  1. The pastor and elder will need to stand before God to give account for why they turned away someone who came to them earnestly seeking a true walk with God.
  2. The pastor and elders deemed me as an unbeliever and therefore judged me. At this time no-one else in my life agrees with this assessment and I have honestly gone to others trying to take the stance that maybe I was not a believer and needed to address that issue. If I was a believer they will have to give account for their judgement and rejection.
  3. They are missing God’s heart which is expressed all over the Bible, but is summarized here in Isaiah 61:1b “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”. Also, Matthew 15 clearly shows God’s heart for the lost and how he pursues after them, looks for them, and welcomes and rejoices them when one that was lost comes home. Whether I am just dealing with my sin and repenting, or honestly moving forward with a brand new true relationship with God doesn’t matter as much as the fact that I am now standing in a healthy and right relationship with God and they were unwilling to even listen to or see that. Even if the decision to remove me was correct, they are missing the heart of accepting a repentant person and seeking to help them walk forward in a right relationship with God.
  4. They have lead an entire church community to cut off contact with another believer and to walk in disunity and brokenness within God’s family.
  5. They clearly articulated they are in a “protective mode” at the church right now and in saying that they openly showed that protecting their body and the unity of that individual local church is more important than God’s gospel and the unity and peace within his larger church and unity between his people.
  6. The pastor and elder showed lack of faith that God can change a person’s life.

Although I am saddened and grieving for God’s church I have forgiven these leaders and freely release them into God’s hands. They are not my enemy and I harbor no anger or bitterness to them. They are my brothers in Christ, and I love them deeply, extend grace and forgiveness to them, and will continue to uplift them in prayer and walk in unity and peace with them to the best of my ability. The door is open for the day they desire to reconcile and I pray that God will move them to that place in their walk with him. I honestly believe that no sin or issue is too big for God to overcome and I place this in his hands to resolve. God, I move forward in love, hope, and promise toward the future you intend for me. Lead me to where you want me next and show me the path to integrity, unity, peace, wholeness, holiness, and righteousness as I move there.

I was looking back this morning to a message that an elder of the church sent me about three months ago when I asked for direction regarding how to deal with the struggles I was facing. In that message he said, “The most loving way I think I can put this is that your problem is that you don’t understand the gospel like you should.” “Those of us that have come to know Christ aren’t afraid of our past because it got nailed to the cross, we aren’t afraid of our future because the resurrection was an amazing prelude to our future, and we live in the present with confidence because we are currently adopted children of God that are protected by a loving Father and literally have God in us.” “Your view of yourself and the church desperately needs to be through the eyes of God, not human eyes.  Pain and trials are not your enemy, but are instead a means to you looking more and more like Jesus Christ.”

This left me thinking back to all that God has taught me and changed over the last three months. When I received this message it didn’t make any sense to me at all, and in a way I was offended because he didn’t offer me help but sent me right back to the pastor that I was not communicating well with. Now that I have walked this journey though I realize how my mind was so darkened and deluded. I didn’t have the belief in God to be big enough to do the things the elder mentioned. I had limited God so much and was doubting the power of the gospel.

This week has been a time of dramatic shift for me. My heart is really softening, the healing has gone so deep into it now that most of the old wounds are covered and healed. I have found such joy and freedom that I can barely keep from smiling, and joy is just bubbling out of me. I feel such anticipation and am looking for places where I can share with others about all that God has done in my life because I want to testify to him!

My church dropped me when I really needed them most, but God is faithful and he refused to let me fall. Instead of leaving me alone to suffer and to be left at the hands of Satan, he came along side, healed, cured, grew, blessed, and filled me to overflowing. I see nothing in God’s word that refers to dropping people completely. There are references to cutting others off from fellowship for the purpose of causing them to repent, but as I have voiced in other posts the heart needs to be that people are still reaching out and trying to get the sinner to repent. I am sad that my elders will have to stand before God to give account for their decision to reject me and turn the entire church against me. I have forgiven them and am asking God to forgive them and show them mercy for this when the time comes.

The journey back to restored trust in the church and spiritual leaders is not easy, but I have learned this summer that if we stop doing it under our power and turn completely to God that he will give us a heart, love, and desire for those relationships like never before. I think I will soon be ready to return to a church and give this another try. I know with all that I am that it will be different this time because God has changed me so deeply. Thank you for being so amazing Father!

The pastor and an elder from my church have agreed to meet with me and my counselor. The meeting will occur on July 27th.

I am very thankful for God’s favor in providing this opportunity and excited to see what he does.  I will be praying for God to prepare our hearts, open our minds, and bring healing and hope that only he can bring.  I know this conversation will only be the first step if true reconciliation is to occur, but I am encouraged that a door is opening to take a step in the right direction. God’s heart is for reconciliation and restoration and he specializing in raising things from the dead so I have complete faith that he can work amazing miracles during this time. It is now my responsibility to spend the next two weeks diligently working on all that I need to do to prepare my heart, soul, and life for that meeting so that I am open as possible to hear, receive, and give all that is needed.

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