Sunday, 4 July 2010

On Surviving Abuse, Part 1

I'm a survivor.

It's been a long time coming, this post. Even now I'm trying to avoid writing it. But I owe my friends an explanation, at least of the sort that can be given in public, as to why me and God co-exist peacefully rather than partaking of talk and action as Christians seem to like to do.

You see, the abuse I suffered increasingly over a four-year period was not physical. It was psychological, spiritual, and personal. It slammed me right at the hinge of my faith and snapped a fair few choice ligaments.

At the centre of the horror stands a man who still haunts my dreams, telling me I will never be sufficient, in that absolutely convinced voice of his that will permit no argument. It came as a surprise when he stepped in to lead a loose prayer group I had been involved with, yet he took the reins and set off at a gallop. I cannot call him a pastor, for he was never that.

He meant it well. Of that I have no doubt. It's just that he seemed perpetually unable and unwilling to consider the viewpoints of others, or that he might be wrong in his assessments of the miserable flock he had been given. Any disagreement at all, no matter how slight, was met with anger like a brick wall. No, let me rephrase that. Like the Great Wall of China, coming at you on the back of a hundred tanks. We either gave in and agreed, or remained stubborn and received a thorough verbal shredding. Me being the rather hard-headed type, I ended up getting hammered often, at times to the point of screaming.

The matters we disagreed on? I've forgotten most of them. They were probably minor. But one thing that came up again and again was the direction taken in the music. We were the kind of group who didn't like to plan out how many times to sing a song or its verses or chorus or bridge or instrumentals, or even which songs to sing. We'd just start into it and reach into the Spirit inside us for guidance on where we felt it should go next. If you're not familiar with that practice, don't weird out on me, it's called free worship and it can be a lot of fun, even making up spontaneous songs on the spot.

Well, you guessed it. We disagreed on just where the Spirit was leading us. I had to learn to quash my own sense of listening in favour of the leader's. Did I mention my position was actually the worship leader? Yeah. It got tricky. Often. Many, many times, too often to count, I would lead a song in one direction, only to be stopped short and admonished for hearing wrong - and this in front of everyone in the meeting. The meetings were never large, but it gouged my soul nonetheless. He taught that every note we played had to be guided by the Spirit - and not only that, but it had to match up to what he believed the Spirit was saying. So an incredible heavy stiffness and uncertainty came into every note of our worship. I never knew when I was going to be right or wrong, commended or berated.

All the while, I was trying to convince myself that he was right and I was wrong, as it was the only way to go on. I have not trusted myself to attempt free worship since leaving that group. Since free worship was the source of inspiration for my songwriting, guess what? I haven't written any songs since then either. Oh yeah, and I've pretty much stopped playing the guitar. While in Ireland I took up the bodhran, a nice, safe percussion instrument without the necessity for leadership - just spicing things up, which suits me fine.

More next Monday. Quicklink to part 2 here. In the meantime, I sure would appreciate some virtual hugs.
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