I Was Spiritually Abused and I Blamed Myself

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on March 20, 2013.

On the outside, my childhood looked blissful. I was raised outside the box, free to roam and explore. I was raised to think wide and deep, to argue and to question. My home was overtaken in creativity. On the outside, we looked normal.

At the same time I was sheltered from ideasI was free to think — but only within a narrow framework. I was a 90s kid, a homeschooler, and I had no idea gays and lesbians existed, and I was raised to believe outsiders were ungodly. Other homeschool mothers, and homeschool organizations put enormous outside pressure on my family that ended up driving my parents into shamed-based parenting. I was fed nothing but bread and water if I was disrespectful. Sometimes my mom threw books across the room. And I would collapse in tears because I was to blame, and wept wondering if God would ever be pleased with me.

I lived in a world of contradictions. On the one hand, I was encouraged to explore. But then on the other hand, a gendered childhood hovered over me. I was told that girls are not brilliant like boys, and I was told married girls could not and should not have a career.

For example, at Advance Training Institute of America conference – a homeschool conference in Knoxville, Tennessee – we (my friends and I) asked to rock repel with the boys. The leadership just looked at us like criminals and said, “If you ever mention this again, I will go get your fathers. You are girls, and you should be grateful to get to sew.”

A piece of my heart was cut off that day.

Why the heck did God make me a girl? I asked myself.

I screamed that question and my heart beat and my guts hurt for years.Why did God give me a mind for debate and academics if he wanted me to stay home? Why did he give me a desire to teach if I could not speak in the church or teach anywhere outside an elementary school? Why did he give me a forest to explore if I was suppose to wear dresses? Why did he give me a desire to do everything else but sew if sewing makes me the definition of a quiet spirit?

So I ran.

I left for college, and I admitted I was a failure in God’s eyes. I had failed. Clearly.

I went to movies. I had “worldly” friends (also called regular people). I stood up and said I’d had it with courtship. I studied what I wanted. I studied Marxist theory, even, and read and read and read.

But my spiritual abuse caught upI now had buckets of shame.

Towards the end of college my stomach went in knots over my choices. I felt this enormous sense of shame and guilt. So I did what every daughter of spiritual abuse does — I blamed myself.

Lana, you are a filthy sinner. If only you had kept your heart pure. If only you had tried harder. If only you had not read such liberal books. If only you had better friends. If only you had never turned on the TV. Your parents were right. I spewed lies to myself.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

OH MY GUT.

Soon after graduation, I started crying at night and begging God to remove my guilt. It was the most depressing few months of my life.

*****

5 years later I do not feel anymore shame or guilt over my college life. It’s not because I’ve had a great spiritual moment where I repented of my sin and finally learned to get it all right. Heck, I’ll never get it all right. No, rather, instead I finally admitted that I had been spiritually abused, and I finally realized that I had been programed to feel guilty just for watching a freakin’ movie.

“The truth will set you free.”

The process of learning the truth at a healing level has been slow and rocky, but underneath it all I can feel the truth rushing through me.

I am His beloved.

3 comments

  • This is excellent – thanks for sharing.

  • I am so sorry about what you went through. I was spiritually abused too and I recently had to return to my old church after a long absence because a friend of mine died suddenly and I wanted to be there for his widow and his adult children. It was great to be able to walk in from the other side and realize that leaving was the best decision I made for my own spiritual sanity.

  • “Girls are not brilliant like boys.”

    If that were true, it would just be true. We wouldn’t have to shove this expectation down anybody’s throat.

    Fellow Christian homeschoolers:

    There is, in your very Bibles, a certain parable about the servant who buried his talents.

    I have to wonder how that servant would have fared, had he been stealing OTHER people’s talents. And burying THEM.

    Oh, and btw Lana:

    Good to have you free. ; ) Please let us know when you go rappelling.

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