The moment I realized I had been abused, I was staring at my computer screen.
I’d been working on a book about reading the Bible without anxiety, and decided to include scenes from my high school youth group, at the church I still attend.
There, I’d made amazing friends, had my first heady experiences of fellowship, the Bible and evangelism.
All positive. Except for a gigantic caveat.
In college, I learned my youth pastor had sexually assaulted my best friend for much of high school.
Now as I typed, I held the good and bad in my mind, and tried to write down the middle. Only my memory wasn’t cooperating.
Instead of earnest spirituality, or teenage high jinks, all I could write was darkness. I remembered my pastor speaking poorly of other adults. Asking me to “pray” for the students who didn’t curry his favor or show up to every event. I recalled his weird involvement in my dating life and extracurricular activities, and the moment I thought he was going to kiss me while I shared a prayer request with him.
I’d known he was abusive. I just never recognized that he’d abused me, too.
He spiritually abused me.
In his book, Healing Spiritual Abuse, author Ken Blue explains, “Spiritual abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses that authority to coerce, control or exploit a follower, thus causing spiritual wounds.”
There at my desk, I finally understood how my friend’s abuse was possible. How our pastor isolated us from healthy adults, punished those who didn’t conform and broke down physical and emotional boundaries.
For the first time, I also understood my wounds: the anxiety I felt about spiritual practices. The strange cynicism I felt about pastors. My recent desire to stay as far away from church services as possible.
Maybe I wasn’t a backslider. Maybe I was grieving…
I’m honored to have my first piece up at Relevant Magazine’s website today. Join me over there to learn how I’m starting to heal from abuse.
Image Credit: The Casas-Rodríguez Postcard Collection