Cult story: Notes from one year ago.

Overdue cult story time!

I found my journal from when I was starting to process all of my culty feels. The two most important entries happened to be from a year ago today and on October 19th. Lots of words. Lots of feels. It’s entirely possible I wrote about this once before, but it’s okay. Enjoy. (When I mention Don, I’m referring to Donald Miller. Book club was reading “Blue Like Jazz” at the time of writing.)

“Chapter 12 is about church — how it can be horrible and great at the same time.

Don talks about when he used to go to church, how he “always felt like the adopted kid, as if there was  ‘room at the table for me.'” He says he was accepted, but not understood. This is the same experience I have always had.

Even when I was in church leadership, my ideas and questions were always met with a shaking head and a dismissive smile that said, “Oh, Sierra.” I never fully fit in, no mater how accepted I was.

The only time I felt somewhat understood was in my Spiritual Formation class senior year. Pastor Chris was the first religious leader who didn’t seem completely annoyed with my existence. One time, he basically let me hijack a class on prayer to answer every question I had. Admittedly, I left with more questions than I came in with, but it was the first time in my 10 years of Christianity that someone (many someones. Thanks, classmates) took the time to help me find answers.

Don says, “I felt stupid, too, like some bitter idiot all wet and wanting everyone to cater to me, to my ideas about who Jesus is and was and the way he wants us to live.”

“Bitter” is the number-one adjective I’ve had thrown at me since I started going to church. For years, I just thought something was wrong with me. For awhile, I thought maybe I was possessed. I’ve been prayed over roughly 23 times to be delivered from The Spirit Of Rebellion, only to fake some tongues to get people to stop praying. It gets exhausting and embarrassing after awhile, having everyone surround you and shout at a demon that probably doesn’t exist or at the God who may or may not be there and you don’t give them any results for their hard work.

Don eventually comes to the conclusion, “In the end, I was just different, you know? It wasn’t that they were bad; they just didn’t do it for me.”

This is the third time I’ve read this book and the first time I’ve really taken notice of this line. What would “do it for me,” though? I thought I came close with Crossroads, but the whole thing about making friends just to get people saved did me in. Lifepoint was almost it, too, but the pastor was a dick. I like the Bible Chapel, but large groups of people, especially Christians, make me antsy. I need a church where the community isn’t limited to greeting your neighbor or breaking into a cliquey Wednesday night bible study. I am perfectly content with Sunday nights at Starbucks, but I think I’m the only one of us who counts this as being church.

Don closes the chapter by saying not to hold grudges against other churches. This is hard for me. As much as I try to forgive (Pastors from the cult), I really can’t. I’ve thought I have a few times, but I still get pissed off when I think about what they put me through. I don’t know how to deal with this.”

My next entry says:

“It’s funny. Last week, I said I didn’t know how to forgive (Pastors). This week I captioned a show for OWN where Oprah gave this definition of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.

I never really thought of that. Part of my reasoning of why I can’t forgive them is that forgiveness would be saying it was okay for them to treat me like they did. It’s not okay. It’s perfectly acceptable to think it’s not okay. It wasn’t. I just need to accept that whats’ done is done and was meant to be done. It could not have been any different. Wishing it was and holding on to this grudge is giving them too much power over me.

On the same note, I’ve been completely unforgiving toward God for Brittani dying. I’ve been holding on to that for over two years and acting like everything is fine. But there is no changing anything. The accident was going to happen one way or another and being angry at myself for not going with her that night and at God for not saving her will not bring her back. It will not make me feel whole again.

That felt really good to put into writing.”

I don’t even know what to say after all of that. This notebook is a paper case of emotions. I’ll share more another day.

This is the only picture I could find of me being a BAMF youth leader. Bible trivia game. I’m probably cheating and giving answers.

5 thoughts on “Cult story: Notes from one year ago.

  1. I haven’t forgiven God for taking my parents. In fact, I don’t know if I will ever let myself do so. Even though things were really bad and mom was suffering more than I think should ever be allowed, I sometimes try to hold that over His head which I know is completely ridiculous. It let’s me think I have some sort of power. Which is also ridiculous. “God, you took my parents away. Wasn’t I good enough? Well now you own me…..” Stupid. Anyway, then I feel horribly guilty, knowing my relationship with him has never and will never work like that. I said all that to say: you’re not alone in your feels, Sierra. 🙂

  2. “Part of my reasoning of why I can’t forgive [myself] is that forgiveness would be saying it was okay for them to treat me like they did. It’s not okay. It’s perfectly acceptable to think it’s not okay. It wasn’t. I just need to accept that whats’ done is done.”

    This really hit home for me. I was a victim of sexual abuse by a close family member for years. I have been in counseling of various types for about 8 years. While I absolutely do not believe I have to forgive my abuser in any way, I do need to forgive myself. It took a lot of years for me to finally accept that I was not to blame or inherently “evil,” but I want so badly to “fix” what happened. I realized the other day that it’s not my fault that I can’t fix or change it, but I still feel that to move through it or be happy would be a betrayal of my wounded inner child. I am still struggling with this but I can’t live this way anymore. I too felt/feel like forgiving myself for not being strong enough to change the past and live my life without all this guilt would mean I accept that the abuse was somehow “okay” or “acceptable.” But it’s not. It’s so so hard for me to accept that “what’s done is done.” I know this has nothing to do with your topic, but reading your sentence quoted above just spoke to me. So, anyway, thank you.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Your thoughts inspired some thoughts about forgiveness. It got to be too long for the comment field, so I wrote a blog post about it. In short, I said that I don’t think anger and forgiveness are mutually exclusive, and that forgiveness is worked out in light of trusting in the justice of God to put all things right. If we don’t trust him for that, and learn how to see that he is fighting for us, how can we forgive except by saying, “what happened wasn’t important.” And so often, what happened was important. And of course he cares so much for it.

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