Posted by: michelle2005 | August 26, 2008

Heartache At The Hands of The “Church”

 

The short story below is part of a larger work that is, yet, incomplete.  All events are true, the letter from my senior “pastor” is verbatim.  There were certain names that were left out for privacy sake.  It would mean a great deal to get some feedback from those of you that take the time to read this.
Michelle
_______________________
             

All the previous abuse culminated with a spiritual awakening by spring.  The Lord began to bring clarity to my heart. I realized that scripturally I needed to address the issues ongoing in my marriage.  The abuse began to take a toll on my church life. I was so afraid of my husband that I avoided going anywhere with him, or where he had been.  I stopped attending and serving in the church. This had nothing to do with my love for my pastor, other leadership, or the congregation.   My senior “pastor” was aware of the abuse.  I was told that I needed to “fit myself into my husband’s plans”, needed to pray more, needed to fast more…it was implied that it was my fault. (A fractured eye-socket and a broken jaw due to being hit with a hammer…in the opinion of the authorities was ABUSE)

 

  

In July, I sustained numerous injuries because of yet another violent encounter with my husband.  This time while being chased I had fallen from a porch and sustained numerous fractures to my right leg, torn hamstring of my left leg and all the toes on my left foot were broken.  I was restricted to bed rest except to use the bathroom with the aid of crutches.   The pain from the fractures was unbearable. As I was recovering from my injuries, a letter from my pastor arrived.  So excited was I to receive a letter from my pastor that I tore the end of the letter and read it immediately.

 ___________________________

  

“Dear X,  

 

Sincere Christian Greetings! I have been informed a couple of times and most recently by (another church leader) that you are unhappy with me because I have not called you concerning your absence from church. 

 

 

Let me say first of all, you have been contacted numerous times through my wife and Pastor (       ) either directly by phone, by mail or through your husband.  We have tried to show concern for you.  Secondly, I rarely call a woman for or about anything.  Thirdly, I have been very cautious about ministry problems; giving my time to the living and not the dying.

 

If you have an issue with me, the appropriate thing would have been to bring it to me.   You walked out of this ministry with no word or explanation.  An ordained minister by definition is a “mature one.”  You should be focusing in on what you did and how you did it rather than being upset with me for what you think I should have done.  I am disappointed in your behavior.

 

The Holy Sprit has revealed more to me about your situation than you may be aware of.   I do love and pray for you. 

  

Lifting Jesus Higher!” 

 

 Pastor XXXXX 

____________________________   

 

The author of this letter was my senior pastor.  I should say, too, that at no time was I ever contacted by anyone.  The information he referred to was totally false.  Prior to this,  another letter from my senior “pastor” arrived outlining an additional perceived offense on my part…however, I was not even in the USA at the time.  Yet, no one bothered to check his or her “facts”.  Once it was finally realized I had been out of the country…there was no apology…no anything.

 

 

Upon reading this, I was so devastated that it felt as if I had been kicked.   It was difficult to take a deep breath.  Then I thought that perhaps I had misread it, so I reread the letter.  This time I realized the depth of my pastor’s disconnect.

 

Here was a man who professed to understand and minister to the needs of his leadership team, and the congregation with integrity and wisdom.  Moreover, in one stroke of his pen he had dismissed as trivial all the years of pain and suffering I endured in silence. 

 

Furthermore, he denigrated me as a mere woman who had maturing to do.  I was not sulking at home like some petulant child; I was trying to find a resolution to the ongoing issues in my marriage while continuing to serve God at the same level of excellence that I had always strived.  And if true his reference that “The Holy Sprit has revealed more to me about your situation than you may be aware of” I am left to wonder why he didn’t seek to intervene.         

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Responses

  1. Hi Michelle – I’m returning your kind visit. This is so sad and tragic that it breaks my heart on several levels. I’m appalled that a man of God would act as this pastor has acted – shame on him. He seems to hide behind his power and to taunt with supposed words from the Holy Spirit is horrid and cruel. He needs to be held accountable by his church because he appears to not be shepherding his flock. Take comfort in knowing that our Lord is so aware and will mete out justice when the time comes. I’ll come and visit more. Hugs, Linda

  2. Linda,

    Your gracious comment felt like the beginning of a healing of my heart. Unfortunately, this “pastor” has no oversight….which is where the problem started.

    The “Word” tells us that we are ALL to be accountable to someone. To disregard this command allows one to have a ‘cowboy’ mentality that they can do no wrong. He also has himself surrounded by “Yes” men…which was why I wrote the post on “Where’s Our Objectivity””…this was posted on August 2.

    Linda, I am profoundly grateful for your comment. It meant a great deal.

    In His Hand,

    Michelle

  3. Hi Michele,

    My heart hurts to read this. So unnecessary this pain, and all it would have taken to stop it would have been one wise word from a man with a real pastor’s heart.

    I know it doesn’t really help much, but… you’re far from alone. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard stories like this… how many women I’ve met who have been told to stay with abusive husbands by pastors who are too self-righteous to be human or humane… how many families have been shattered when their beloved pastor turned into a self-defensive enemy because a woman in the family was injured by a man and they refused to remain silent about it.

    Be assured — as I know you are — this is not God’s will for you and this pastor’s words are not God’s words for you. Continued prayers & blessings for your healing… Peg

  4. Peg,

    Your words carry great weight with me as I know your heart. Reading this post gave you a better glimpse into what I was refering to as “residual hurt”. Thank you, too, for your continued prayer support. I’m so grateful.

    God Bless You Peg!

    Michelle

  5. I found you through Kaylee. I, too, was in an abusive marriage and believed that it was all my fault. If you have not left this man….RUN RUN RUN! And find a different church to attend. This “pastor” (I use the word loosely) is disgusting and gives all religion a bad reputation. You need to find a better life for yourself… If you need any help, I will help you find someone in your area to help. (Maybe I need to read more of your blog than just your last post.) I really am here if you need anything at all.

  6. Michelle,

    Thanks for your comments on my site. I am so sorry for your abuse and the lack of response by your spiritual leaders. That’s so sad. My hope is that sites like yours and mine will shine a light on these problems and even provide help for those hiding their wounds and their sins. I welcome your reviews as I write about these issues and more. I hope we can both help other believers. I will be praying for you. Mike Messerli, Whenapastorfalls

  7. Many of you have asked me (by email) not to post your comments. I understand your reluctance and will honor your wishes. However, if more of us would come forward and let it be known that my experience is not as uncommon as most would think…perhaps, we could be a “voice” for change.

    Some of my email has been from Associate Pastors, Elders, Priests, etc. They have verified that this is an ongoing issue in many churches.

    My personal experience of being part of leadership…yet, in an abusive marriage is NOT something (other leadership) is comfortable addressing and bringing resolution.

    This is a grief and something that is not going to just “go away” by itself. We are our brothers keeper…

    Is it ever too late to do the right thing?

    Michelle

  8. There is something my dad always says when he hears stories like this, he says “God and his many children”. This sums everything up to me. The Church is a spiritual rehabilitation centre – or it should be. Everyone there has one issue of the other so does this Pastor. He is a work in progress himself and is even more clueless than he let on. The only tragedy is that he was allowed to be in such a sensitve position and has hurt people by his carelessness. You need to pray for him Michele – He needs God desparately (even more than the Pharisees).

    I can’t even begin to tell you what my family and I have suffered at the hands of believers. If you read this post – http://thereservoir.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/road-trips-conferences-and-bitterness/ you should get an idea.

    Thanks for the visit…

  9. You are a strong woman, Michelle. May you have the strength to bear the burden of the past while not letting it affect your life now. I am not a believer. More of an atheist if you may … but I am amazed by your belief, your faith, and your dedication.

    And you are right about more and more of us talking about abuse …. to let people know that it still exists in our society … and that it needs to be dealt with. Statistics say that 1 in 3 women all over the world get abused and yet, do we find out? Nope, it’s all hushed up. We never hear. It’s about time we start hearing of it.

  10. Roop Rai,

    It meant a lot to me knowing that you not only took the time to read this…but also took the time to leave a comment.

    You are absolutely correct in the statistics you referenced. Thank you for pointing out this particular fact. It was appreciated.

    Kindeset Regards,

    Michelle

  11. Dear (((Michelle)))
    I’m amazed at how God has led me to you – I too was in an abusive marriage, I too was told by the vicar to stay, I too was “the problem” and left the church (together with a big part of the congregation). I understand your heartache and anguish.
    I now am free, God has healed my soul and led me on and inspired me. Perhaps we “burned cats” will always have a problem with trust, but we have learned to rely on and trust our heavenly Father. We are blessed with faith.
    Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog – I look forward to walking a while together, Jonie

  12. To be suffering terribly, in great pain, and unable to move freely must have been horrendous beyond belief. To then receive a letter of comfort – only to find it was not comfort, but another hard kick…ouch.

    I’m sorry your pastor did not know what or how to minister to you. I’m sorry he chose to be a nasty, spiteful person instead. And, I’m sorry that the church supported him in this form of ministering.

    I’m glad to know that you are healing. Take care.

  13. Hello Michelle,

    Checking your ABOUT page I am so glad you escaped the abusive marriage and now know some healing. No one has a right to abuse his spouse and ministers must be careful not to enable or excuse those who do so.

    I will pray that your days ahead will be filled with nurturing and gentle love. God bless!

    FATHER JOE

  14. Thank you for leaving the comment on Ask The Box Questions, I replied to your comment. I hope it helps a little bit.

  15. Thank you for bringing me here. It is so disheartening to hear stories like these. It is proof of how deep male privilege is in our society. 0Let me know if it is ok to share your story. Men of all walks of life need to confront the messages that they have received as children and see how it effects them today.

  16. Chello,

    Feel free to use this post. If it will help but one person…it’s worth it.

    Kindest Regards,

    Michelle

  17. Dear Michelle,
    I appreciate what Sharon (Sept.1st) had to say. She is right in saying that this Pastor, too is a work in process … or a “cracked pot” is what I might say. Thank God that our chief shepherd is Jesus himself and He is the Good Shepherd, the Door of the sheep, and the voice we follow to go in or go out. I think He was calling you out (of this particular sheepfold) at that particular time. To go out and follow Him is the walk of faith.

    Jesus was rejected by His “church” and suffered at their hands “outside the camp” … and we join Him there – not to suffer, but to rest in His work. It is done. We don’t need to be crucified – that was His work. Ours is to rest at the foot of His precious cross – or as Lucy and Susan rested and waited at the stone table – and saw Aslan alive again.

    I know that you are receiving a balm of healing from Jesus himself. He rescued you (a lamb) from the jaws of a lion and is binding your wounds as no one else can. Keep entrusting yourself to Him – you don’t need to entrust yourself to any human.

    With a hope for grace and peace made just for you,
    Kim Andersen

  18. Dear Michelle,

    As a pastor, I am both hurt and angered at the post. I am hurt for you and angered at the way that the church has become a business in our day instead of a church, a family. A pastor is supposed to care and love his people as his own family, and this concern will be shown in his willingness to take note of little things that may not be noticeable to others. I have had one lady in particular that I could see was going through this same trouble and I wanted desperately to help. Her family, on the other hand would not hear of it. It is not hard to notice the look in a woman’s eyes when she walks into the church with her husband and hopes that no one notices the thick make-up that is intended to cover the bruises that have no reason to be on her cheek. I wish you all the best and can only offer prayer for you. I am, of course in another place and our church is far from you. I hope that something does come up that will deliver you from what you are suffering. As a matter of fact, I know that as one of God’s children, something will. Please don’t let this experience cause you to lose all confidence in preachers and other church members. There may be help closer than you think.

    There are times that a man can become so wrapped up in his own self importance that “religious” speech seems to make him feel like he is actually doing something worthwhile. If you look at Eli and Hannah in the opening of 1Samuel you will see a good example of a man who has lost his fellowship with God and is truly not able to discern what is going on in the congregation on the spiritual level. I do know that God does not tell us everything as preachers, but He does give good enough sense not to lie about the fact that He has revealed something to us. Some preachers try to appear somewhat above the average. If you honestly examine your situation, and follow the word of God, it only takes one false claim to label a man a false prophet. I don’t know you and am not doubting what you have said, but if it is just as you have presented it, you should seek a new church home. God has given us good enough sense to know some things and when a man is not following Him yet is willing to lie about receiving messages from Him, then he is a liar and not to be trusted. If a preacher loves his people, he will be moved to do something, or at least try too. Please pray about where God would have you to go. I don’t think there is any doubt in your mind that He would want you too.

    Please feel free to post this on your site, I am not worried about what people think of me. I love God’s people and want what is in their best interest. God bless you.

    Pastor: James H. Knight

  19. currently i’m in a very abusive relation ship. Like you, I was told it’s my fault. also like you my husband is a minister. I’ve had broken bones, concussions, the need for sutures, broken nose and lots more over the course of 21 years.

    I’ve tried to get help, but everyone here knows my husband and always tells me what a great guy he is. Well, he is not a good guy. I’m trapped and don’t know what to do.

    If I email you, would you write back to me? I have a lot of questions.

  20. City Girl…

    Of course I’ll email you back. There are numerous resources I know of and would gladly help point you in the right direction. YOUR safety is top priority.

    Please know that I care. I’ll be eager to hear from you.

    Kindest Regards,

    Michelle

  21. As I said in my email to you, this story made me want to vomit. Why are there so many sicko pastors and churches out there? If I were God, I’d do something about it. But, then, He’s smarter than me.

  22. My husband finally agreed to go to our priest for counseling with me. Like you, I was told that I must be doing something wrong.

    Fortunately for me, my husband came to his senses and the abuse has stopped. I think my case is very, very rare and I’m not advising anyone to stay in an abusive relationship in the hopes that this might be the case for them. I was never seriously injured, never ever suffered more than a bruise. My life was never in danger.

    I did take half the priest’s advice — I started behaving differently, it just wasn’t the way he suggested I should. It took a lot of courage, but I started going out without any makeup, telling everyone who noticed exactly how I got the bruise, etc.

    My family (and my husband’s) came to my rescue and did a sort of “intervention” with him.

    That too is not an option for very many women. Again, I must say that my case is the exception, not the rule.

    Anyway, this is my first time here and I love your blog and am thrilled to hear that the abuse is in the past for you also.


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