Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Performance Based Acceptance - my story

Although I’d been a believer for a number of years, I knew my life didn’t measure up to what I believed it should as a christian and, to be honest, I didn’t see that anyone else around me was doing any better. Toward the end of 1997, my desire to know God more intimately increased and I began praying what I’ve since come to realize is a dangerous prayer. I told him daily, several times a day, that I wanted to know him. Well, he took me at my word but, if I had known what was ahead, I don’t know that I would have prayed that prayer.

A few months later, he led me to a church that later became abusive. I stayed there over three years and those were the most difficult three years of my life but it was there that God began the process of setting me free from the need for people's approval.

As with all spiritually abusive leaders, the pastor of that church preferred new and inexperienced believers. Since I had been a believer for over 20 years, it was obvious that I was being pushed aside in preference to the younger believers. I even once told him that I felt like I wasn’t wanted there. Of course, he denied it but I knew it was true. The young and inexperienced were definitely preferred over those of us who were more mature and seasoned in our faith.

I struggled to gain this pastor’s approval and I remember thinking that there was nothing I could do to please him. For someone who thrived on the approval of others, that was tortuous. I hated it there and decided to leave several times but each time, God made it very clear that he wanted me to stay. It was only years later that I understood why it was important for me to stay. He wasn’t punishing me as I thought at the time but he was setting me free in ways that I couldn’t even imagine at the time.

After I left, I found Wayne Jacobsen’s Lifestream website and later Darin Hufford’s Free Believers Network. I devoured their teachings and, as a result, I finally understood the bondage I had been in and how God had been setting me free through what he allowed me to experience.

I also learned that I have a Father who loves me too much to let me stay in bondage. My freedom began with a lot of pain as I struggled to make sense of why he put me in an abusive church. Now, I look back on those days and think that knowing what I know now, if I had to do it over again, I would. I sure wouldn’t enjoy the suffering I went through but sometimes to effect a cure, a surgeon has to cut out the sick parts and that’s always painful. However, when the healing is complete, the results are worth it.

For me, this was the start of a very exciting journey and it has been a journey. I haven’t arrived yet and, at times, I still find myself reveling in the praise of man and looking for it. I still struggle at times when family members give me patronizing looks that seem to say that they’re being patient with me but I’ve also learned to laugh at myself when I act like my elevator doesn’t go up all the way.

I’m learning that it’s okay to be me. God created me and gave me my unique personality and he’s pleased with me just the way I am. If there’s any changing to be done, he’ll do it in his own time and in his own way. I’m not supposed to get stressed about it and spend a lot of effort trying to change what I view as faults. I just need to spend my time getting to know him and, through that relationship, he will change what needs to be changed in me.


Sue said...

It's funny but it doesn't matter how often I go through the experience of him walking me through something and out the other side and having lost some detritus along the way ... sometimes I still don't quite trust he is going to do it again, you know? It's like each experience like that requires a fresh dose of faith.

It is so important we share our stories with each other.

That must have been such a painful experience for you, OUCH!!! I feel really encouraged by what you said, that it wasn't until afterwards that you could see what God was doing. I have many unanswered questions, but enough experience these days that I trust my Papa, I trust him in what he is doing. And yet lately I have been faltering a little in some ways - just as we do, you know, because we are tired and we still can't see the answers or the shape of certain things. Reading this was like having a drink of water. Thanks Aida :)

bino said...

Thanks Aida for sharing your story! you know, what touched me the most? It's your statement that "I’m learning that it’s okay to be me."

That is an amazing thing. A wonderful place to be. All because of our unconditional acceptance by our Loving Father!

Joel B. said...

Aida... thanks so much for sharing! You were obedient and your Father will be pleased. LOL :)

But seriously, I love how you look back and see how Father was truly working in your life in the midst of all of this. It's sad that you had to go through it, but along with what you were saying, it led you to where you are now and He never would let you stay in bondage.

I'm thankful for Wayne and Darin, and how they played such a large part in your coming to freedom!

Sue, I just wanted to say that your words stuck out to me: "It is so important we share our stories with each other." That is so true! The sharing of our stories helps to encourage one another, and to be real with one another about our struggles and about how we've overcome.

lionwoman said...

Aida, it is interesting how Father has also taken me through some rough, painful times in IC. I can see I had to go through it, although the reasons aren't totally clear yet. But, I can look back and know I never would have truly gained the approval of those people. It had to be so bad that I'd get out and walk down the path toward freedom. Like the Israelites when Father increased their suffering.
Thanks for a great post!

Aida said...

Thanks, Sue. It was terrible while I was going through it. I felt like I was dying and in a sense I was. Death to our hopes and dreams so that God can resurrect new life is never easy.

I really believe our past experiences of God’s love and faithfulness strengthen us for the next experience when things just don’t seem to be going the way we’d like for them to go. I think it’s good to share our stories with one another and I also think it’s good to hear our own stories once again since it’s so easy to forget.

Aida said...

Bino, it is a wonderful place to be. I’m so thankful that Father is teaching me that he loves and accepts me just as I am. It’s been a hard lesson to learn but it’s been so worth it.

Aida said...

Joel, when God spoke so clearly, I just had to obey. LOL

I really love and appreciate the good times but it seems that I’ve come to know God better through the struggles and the hard times. That was a really difficult and confusing time in my life but because of what Wayne and Darin taught, things finally started to make sense. There are still some unanswered questions but God continues to work through them and others to give me greater understanding.

Aida said...

Amy, it’s true. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I went there but now I understand that God was getting ready to answer the prayer of my heart. He had to increase my suffering otherwise I wouldn’t have been willing to allow him to change what needed to be changed.

Jim Robbins said...

My wife and I continue to get questions from family members like, "Have you found a church you like yet?" Or, wondering if we're fulfilling the command to "not forsake the gathering together..." If it weren't so sad, and often painful, it would be comical -- they just won't give up. Religion has to control others. Without it, it loses power.

Aida said...

Jim, manipulation and control are necessary for the religious system to survive and those who are attached to it feel threatened by those who live free from the control.

It's a shame but I expect you'll continue to get those questions.

Joel B. said...


I've dealt with similar situations.

A little background to set it up: My wife and I aren't exactly on the same page with certain things (which is fine). For the past two years, I've not been "going to church," but she has and she's been taking the kids. In short, I love the people of the church but I don't go along with the principles-based weekly sermons, etc, and the whole idea of "going to church."

I got a lot of comments and questions from people when they first began noticing me not being there. Like you say, if it weren't so sad, it would be comical. :) Then, last October the pastor called me and wanted to talk to me to see how I was doing. I don't doubt his genuine concern, but of course I believe it's misguided.

When we met together in his office, I told him what I'd already shared with him countless times about the principles/methods/rules thing. His preaching was really wearing me out and I just couldn't sit under it any longer. (Long story short). He ended up bringing up all those usual concerns about not forsaking of the assembling of ourselves, etc, etc. He then told me how "lonely" my wife looked when she sat in the service there all by herself. This is where things turned slightly unpleasant. What seemed to provoke the biggest response from him is when I asked him why it was so crucial that "I" follow "her" to church to keep her from being lonely. I asked him hypothetically, "what about her coming along with me." The look on his face and the tone of his voice said it all: "Come along with you WHERE???" It was as if it's some place that we're to "go to." I of course was talking about her joining me on my journey... not TO a place, but simply the daily journey of life as the church and not at a church.

I don't want to give the impression that my wife and I are on the outs or anything! LOL It's just that in our relationships with God she is more of a "go to church" person and I'm more of a "we are the church" person.

But it's impossible to get others to see all of this... so it's been great to be able to relate to others who have dealt with similar issues.

Ha... I was just going to post this comment and I see that the word verification is cutsms. At first I read it as "customs." Hehehe. The customs and traditions of man seems to outweigh truth and life.

Aida said...

Joel, I find it interesting that the pastor didn't realize that there were other solutions to your wife's "lonely look." Apparently it wasn't important to him that you and she be of one heart. What was important was that you take your place on that pew and be his audience.

I think you and Tracey have done a great job of working together on this even though you both have chosen a different path to walk. I'm sure it's difficult in many ways but by allowing each other the freedom to have your own unique relationship with God, you are more together than many who go to church together out of guilt and tradition.