Jesus is teaching me how to say, "NO" to the lie of religious shaming.
In my past, abuse and shaming - forced on me by the religious men in my family - caused me to believe that I was bad and unworthy of Love. Abuse was justified through the perpetuation of the lie that I was deserving of punishment, and undeserving of love. Eventually, a deep, hidden part of me became brainwashed into believing that the different forms of abuse done to me, were my fault, and that I was the one to blame.
As a child, I was the one left holding this heavy, heavy bag, thinking all this weight was mine. This lie lead me into a downward spiral of self-blame and self-harm - and then later into the trap of codependency, and desperate people pleasing, where no matter what I did, I was never good enough.
The dark side of patriarchal authority and religious legalism seem to go hand in hand. They did in my family for generations. I kept my distance from them for a long time, but then I allowed myself to get pulled back into their world, thinking that this could be the way of forgiveness.
Looking back now, I realize that beneath it all, what I was really looking for, was the love and approval that I had never received from them in the past. Once again, I never got their approval, but what I did get was sucked back into their world of Evangelical legalism - where no one is ever unconditionally loved.
My sad addiction for seeking their approval, was then transferred to the church in general. And, what I continued to find over and over again in the world of Evangelical Christianity, was the theology of grace being mixed with social pressures to conform to institutionalized, legalistic conditions. In a word... Demands. They were never violent and blatant, like the abuse done by my father. They were more like the confusing, steady bulldozing, of my older brother. Not all, but many of the underlying currents of shaming - pulling me under - were there. The only thing different now, was that social pressures had replaced the outright force done so long ago, behind closed doors.
The main social pressure that can guilt trip people into bondage in Evangelical Christianity, is the subliminal, but strong message, that the only way you can prove that you are a mature enough Christian, and gain the approval of the church, is by completely, consistently, and actively obeying the church. Within this "boxed in" mind-set, obedience to the church gets translated into obeying God. Church is turned into a show because of this - a covert competition to see who is the most mature.
For those seeking to belong here, this can be a confusing and strangulating twist on God's Love that is supposed to be freely given. It can be a subtle, yet silencing oppression in which the fear of religious failure and it's threatening condemnation wraps around you like a slowly tightening noose - reminding you that you'll never make the grade. I was loosing what was left of my voice while under the scrutiny of this religious perfectionism. It slowly blinds people and shrinks their souls into becoming little religious robots - manipulated, monitored, and falsely motivated by the "holy" fear they are taught.
My senses were so heightened to all of it because of my past, but also because Jesus, in the midst of it all, had so intimately shown me, over and over again, who He truly Is - And I could not settle for anything less than the Pure Love and Freedom He Gives.
I was worn down from all of these religious triggers that were reinforcing the abusive shame that was put on me as a child. But I was even more worn down from thinking that I had to continue to subject myself to all of this, in order to overcome the pain of my past. Now, I was the one condemning myself. It's like jumping back into the water after you were bitten by a shark, in order to overcome your fear of sharks - and then you get bitten again. And then you repeat this process, over and over again. It's just plain insanity, and that's what self-condemnation is - Insanity. And codependency to the church is what takes people down that path.
But, Jesus deeply helped me here, in my self - condemnation, and codependency, which has been appropriately renamed as Self -Love Deficit Disorder. He strengthened me in very personal, and gentle, but Powerful Ways with His Absolute, Unconditional Love - helping me to rise up out of this pit.
My latest step in truly overcoming the harm of religion, has been in Knowing that I am healthy enough now to peacefully leave it all behind, because no part of me is trapped there anymore. I no longer believe in religious condemnation. I've always fought hard against it - but now, I just don't believe in it. In the Love and Truth of Jesus, it does not even exist. And I just want to soak up His Pure Reality.
This Is Who Jesus Is and what He does. He casts out condemnation - and all of it's disease and death. He does not want us to take it back on. But, that is what religion and it's legalism tries to get us to do. But, in Christ's Freedom, we get to say, "No" to all of that.
And here, in the practicing of good God given boundaries, is where authentic and complete forgiveness can be experienced. I am not going to remain in an unhealthy situation, constantly striving to "heal" and "forgive" the aftermath of religious thinking, within the system that breeds the sickness in the first place. That Is the trap of religion, and the codependent mind-set that it influences - at least for me. It's like an abusive "relationship" - And I will not condemn myself to that anymore.
I have discovered, that for me, the answer doesn't lie outside of me, in trying to find a healthy church. Because, no church is going to be as healthy as the Solitude that He brings me into, where He deeply reminds me of Who I truly am, In and With Him. The answer lies in my Health - Seeing and Loving myself as Jesus Sees and Loves Me, and in that Uncompromised Strength, rejecting the entire abusive lie with an All Powerful No. No - I don't deserve that. I deserve Love, because my God and my Source Is Love. Christ's Power is in Me to do so! And in God's Love, I am Love too - just like I was created to Be.
Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to deliver those who are oppressed." ~ Jesus
Christ made us free. Stay that way. Do not get chained all over again
in the Law and its kind of religious worship. Galatians 5:1 New Life Version
Jesus is teaching me to take Care of myself as He has taken Care of me - And to Love myself as He Loves me. He wants me to Love myself with this Courageous Love, because it is the very Strength I need to keep myself from ever falling back into the trap of my past.
Forgiveness never means forcing yourself to trust untrustworthy people and situations, by entering back into "relationship" on their terms - thinking that it's your responsibility to turn it into a trustworthy situation.
That kind of "forgiveness" will pull you right back into the trap of co-dependency - hopelessly hoping that what you have to give will be received - letting their lack of reception wear you down until you once again, forget to love yourself as Christ Loves you.
Don't take their lack of love onto yourself and make it personal. Nothing good can come from it. It can only tempt you to forget your fullness in Christ and deceive you back into thinking that you need their approval.
No, in these types of situations, forgiveness means mourning their painful lack of love, so that in Loves strength, you can let them go, and give it over to God ~ to move forward in the peace and clarity of Christ's Higher Love.
When this is the way that God calls you to forgive, it's probably because its not between you and them anyways, it's between them and God.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves. Matt10:16