I spent a few months researching what I wanted in a new church. I asked around, surfed the web, listened to sermons on-line, made a short list of possible churches, and talked to my family about the options. When I found a potential church that looked especially good, I called a friend who had attended there for a few years and grilled her for about an hour. The pastors, elders and other members there have been extremely supportive in light of our prior church experience. It has been a safe place where I can breathe and recover.
I have attempted to stay on good terms with our friends and pastors from our former church, which was challenging because of what I have written about the church’s parent organization. (Note: Fortunately, the congregation chose to leave that group in late 2014, after this article was written.) I am pleased to say that those who were truly my friends are still my friends. I know some folks have been shunned by members of their former churches, but that really hasn't been an issue for us. I have taken the opportunity to communicate clearly with some of the pastors what my issues were with the church. They took the time to interact with me, they have expressed authentic sorrow, and I believe they have taken my words into consideration as they plan for the future.
I have given myself permission to handle this transition at my own pace without expecting too much. It certainly wasn't over the minute we left our old church, and frankly, they didn’t cause all of my issues in the first place. From what I've read on web sites about spiritual abuse, these kinds of situations can trigger PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), with the associated depression, anxiety, anger, apathy, disillusionment, distrust, relational conflict, and spiritual doubt. I have experienced every single one of them. It can be a complicated tangle that takes time to sort out. There are some phrases, songs, subconscious impressions, and even Bible passages that give me a spiritually allergic sensation and make me recoil. I ask myself, "Why am I reacting like this?" and try not to let negative associations ruin otherwise good things. It is especially comforting to know that God is big enough and loving enough to handle my angst. I find that I am much less "put together" than I thought I was before, but I've also learned to be OK with that.
What about you? What has helped you recover? What didn't?