last Monday's post for the first part.
Maybe this psychological abuse is one reason that the book I was driven to write, right after I finished the first one, was all about mind control. In Legendary Space Pilgrims, I describe a physical and invasive form of emotional manipulation and a journey to freedom. No doubt it carries reflections of my own pilgrimage in liberating my thoughts once more.
That picture was taken in the thick of it. I imagine I look a bit harrowed. Trying to talk myself into not rocking the boat, because that would just get me hurt.
A similar manipulative effect was thrust on my prayer life. As we prayed together in the group, this man would often interrupt and ask why I prayed this or that and whether I had asked God if that was the right thing to pray, because he was certain it wasn't. So I learned to spout highly spiritual prayers tailored to please the leader, but which came nowhere near my own heart. To this day I will not pray aloud in a group. In fact, I don't pray at all in the usual sense, not even in my head. Hence the companionable silence with God. I don't think he minds. He's not like that.
For years it was hard to even enter a church. Yet I insisted on doing it, because it remained the best place to meet people with similar moral standards to my own. Funnily enough, the same year I left the scene of that group, I ended up leading worship for several months with the guitar in a little church in Balbriggan, Ireland, due to sheer need - they had no one else to do it. They were very supportive and didn't notice the stiffness I felt. Anyway, back in New Zealand after that, all through last year, I would frequently run out of church services to weep profusely for reasons I couldn't pinpoint. Looking back I think it was grief for the faith I once had, the trust in the Spirit's guidance which had been so thoroughly destroyed.
Now I no longer grieve, but I have not regained what was lost. Rather, I have found a peace with the way things are. I'm thankful for all I have been given - and it is not inconsequential - and when I write, often it is as if the words come spiralling down from heaven to my screen. If that isn't living with God, I don't know what is. Woe betide any who push me and insist I'm not doing it right. Insistence is exactly what damaged me. I am now allergic to pressure and power plays. The life and the faith I have now is vastly different to what used to be, but I would go so far as to say it's better.
There are many who would say I'm not a real Christian, because of not praying, or my irreverent use of church services to write stories, or because I am sick to the stomach with what is known as Christian evangelism. That's okay. You can think what you like. Maybe I'm not a Christian according to your standards. But you know what? I don't think I care. And what's more...I don't think God cares, either.