We, some of my friends and readers, have a shared past. After reading today’s post maybe some of the story will resonate with you, as well. The historical highway of Christianity is littered with wounded fellow travelers. A review of ancient Israel tells of abusive activities of the priests against the worshipers in the name of JHWH, the God of Israel. Recalling the account of Jerusalem during the time of the historical Jesus reveals that he, too, witnessed the religious sects of that day using the law and tradition to perpetrate and justify abuses. The priests of that era took advantage of those trying to meet the demands of a God who seemed full of His own harsh religiosity. Religious requirements detailing the worship activity, sacrifice, diet, tithing and other legal strictures belied and clouded God’s prophetic intent to point to covenant relationship, not rules.
Sadly, our institutional church landscape the last many years has not brought much improvement. There does seem to be an awakening from the importance of religious rule-minding and returning to our mission given by Jesus himself, and this is encouraging. We must not live in the past because . . . well, it is in the past. But there are a few friends who still struggle with the various stages of healing and some who have yet to begin the process.
My Doctoral dissertation is on the topic of spiritual abuse but it is an academic piece whose purpose is to meet certain university standards. If you wish to read it, it is at this link: http://catalog.georgefox.edu/search/?searchtype=X&searcharg=spiritual+abuse&searchgo=
With that preface, I offer this piece of fiction in my meager effort to promote healing. The characters do not exist but their story does. You may identify with their experiences, as well.
Coldly held tight by her memories and her guilt, Ramona crouched next to the damp concrete bridge abutment. The dark evening and rocky soil held no promise of comfortable accommodations. Why had she let him so close to her? Perhaps his affirming compliments about her features disarmed her usually impenetrable wall of protection. She didn’t particularly think of herself as beautiful but it did feel good to hear someone tell her nice things. Ramona’s father certainly couldn’t. All he ever did was demand obedience from her and make her feel like she wasn’t good enough. He did talk about love, a kind of detached, theoretical love, especially in church. But now she couldn’t recall ever seeing much of anything that sounded like the kind of love she wanted and needed.
Church! There was a joke if ever she heard one. The way most people acted there she didn’t care if she ever heard another “Amen!” or “Praise the Lord.” Take the worship leader, for instance. Randy was a nice guy and all but Ramona knew he was always hitting on Jenny, the main vocalist. Maybe that’s why she was the main vocalist. And the pastor seemed preoccupied with the Old Testament laws and rules and stuff and kept reminding everyone that God wanted us to be perfect like He was. He suggested that “real” Christians did stuff like fast and pray a lot and read their Bibles every morning. She tried for a while and liked that she was making God happy by obeying what the ministry said but she got tired of doing it and decided it was too much work. She had more fun hanging out with the kids at college. At least they knew how to party!
At first Ramona felt guilty. She recalled being warned that University would destroy her faith because she would be dragged down by sinners. But Ramona enjoyed her imperfect friends. The kids her age in the church would never go to the show or even be seen with their neighbors. The pastor said the evil in this would influence them and cause them to sin so they should stay away from worldly attractions and people who were not Christians.
So that was it. Ramona had tried to be a good girl, she really did. It did seem funny that very few others in church had the same problems with rules that she did. But how could she know? No one ever talked about any struggles they had—maybe they didn’t have any. Maybe she was the only one who couldn’t live like Pastor Marlowe demanded. So she quit going to church and put a wall up to anyone who seemed to be telling her what to do. It seemed like the only one who understood her was Paul. He was the guy across the bar from her who smiled kindly a few weeks ago. It was only the third or fourth time she had gone to The Rock Ness Bar and Grill. The music was fun and kind of like what she listened to anyway.
Paul asked her to dance. Not having much experience with dancing she declined so Paul sat down next to her. “What’s a nice girl like you . . . never mind. And yes, I say that to all the girls I meet.” Ramona laughed. He had a great smile and pretty teeth. A few minutes later they were speeding along on the way to a private party Paul had told her about.
Several hours later she slowly came to and felt something was terribly wrong. Her body hurt and her head still pounded like her blood pressure was going crazy. Where was that guy, what was his name, Paul? She slowly sat up and looked around now realizing she was on someone’s lawn; someone’s lawn she didn’t recognize. A few beer bottles were lying here and there. Pushing herself to her feet she went to the front door. She knocked several times but there was no answer.
What happened last night? Why didn’t she remember anything? But this nagging pain below was the scariest. Suddenly she knew what must have happened and a dreadful fear gripped her. Why had she been so stupid? Surely this is what Brother Marlowe predicted.
Now, here in the cold darkness the guilt seemed to smother any hope for a way back home. Her father had thrown her out of the house when he heard about the baby. He was embarrassed. She had made him look bad to the whole church. She deserved it. She was only trying to have fun, something no one in church would understand. But how could she explain that now.
What choices, what kind of life, if any, would there be for a 20 year old who was pregnant, didn’t know her baby’s father and worst of all, she had burned the only bridge of hope when she swore off the church and all those hardcore, hard-hearted perfectionists?
“Anyone here?” Ramona heard a voice. “I thought I heard someone crying. Are you OK?” She looked up as she saw a dim flashlight.
-To Be Continued-