“No more!….A testimony of spiritual abuse”…by Linda Bijeaux

My testimony of spiritual abuse goes back over 20 years.  Having been raised Catholic, attending a pentecostal church was a brand new experience.  In the Catholic church we were encouraged to get our bible knowledge only from the priest that read it to us on Sunday mornings. I was once told that if I read it myself I might go “crazy” like some  people did. The first thing I heard in the Assemblies of God church was to go home and read the bible for myself.  Actually, the day I got born-again, I picked up my bible and started reading it for the first time in my life. I may have heard of certain scriptures by having them read to me on Sundays during mass, but now I was reading it without human permission to do so. I felt compelled to read the bible and even enjoyed it.  However, I stayed in the Catholic church a few more years so I didn’t make it known to many that I was reading the bible for myself. It wasn’t until I started attending the Assemblies of God years later, at the urging of a neighbor, that I was able to admit that I was learning the scriptures for myself and discovering things I’d not really known before. Therefore, it came as quite a shock when the things I was reading in the bible were not being practiced by the people that were teaching it and preaching it. I didn’t realize it at first. I was in that “honeymoon” phase when you  overlook things because you’re still in the process of making friends and learning how to get along in not just a new church, but a new KIND of church. After attending about 3 months, I got up enough nerve to make myself available to fellowship with others in the church. One of the first people I met became my best friend of 18 years (she died about 3 years ago from cancer) She and I quickly found we had some interest in common. She liked to travel even more than I do, so we, along with my kids, became “travel buddies”. To this day, she was the person I was closest to in that church. I made other friends over the years, but she remained the one that I felt closest to.  I actually left that church one month before she died, but at that point none of us knew that she would die a month later. It just happened that way. I feel that she had such a sense of loyalty that even though she had experienced some painful things there, she would never have left unless the Lord had taken her home.  Over the years, I experienced some  hurtful things, at the hands of those that are supposed to represent God. I am not and have never been a high-maintenance member of any church. I am not a troublemaker, and I don’t like drama. I love God and I love people. It takes a lot for me to actually dislike someone. I try to be flexible and allow people to be themselves. I can’t stand the idea that others have that if someone is a little bit different they are strange or weird. That doesn’t mean that sin should never be confronted. That doesn’t mean that I condone sin or rebellion. Actually I don’t. My pastor ended up verbally abusing me for almost all of those years that I attended. My husband left there first because he was seeing the abuse and couldn’t stand it anymore. He is a great husband, and gave me the option of staying, with his blessing, until I would finally admit it myself and leave there too. He knew I would eventually see it and not be able to stay any longer. But he didn’t force me to leave. He has always been the type to allow me to make my own major decisions. I was seeing some things but for so long was in denial. He let me confide in him, but I didn’t go to him with everything I saw because in the back of my mind I was hoping he’d return to the church with me. I knew that if he knew the things that were being said and done, he would never want to go back with me. I wanted to stay and wait it out. I kept hoping that somehow things would change and the pastor would get a revelation that the way he was treating me and some others was wrong. And abusive!! But it never happened. In fact, it got worse over the years. The hardest part is knowing that even though he was verbally abusive to me both in public and in private at times, there will be those still attending that church that will be in denial and never admit what they saw for themselves. Maybe at the time they were not aware that it was abuse; after all, who wants to believe a pastor, who represents God to the church, would make up such a thing? There has to be a reasonable explanation, right? Many believe that “if the pastor said it, then it must be true!” Yet, in the same breath, they’ll make excuses for his behavior, because after all, “he’s only human”. Well, if he’s only human then he is quite capable of abusing another person and even capable of lying. Which is what he did on more than one occasion.   I’ve always had respect for the leadership of churches. In the Catholic church I respected the priest. Years later I learned some of them didn’t deserve that respect, when it was revealed that they had participated in child sexual abuse and molestation. One in particular, a priest in the church I attended, was found to have molested dozens of boys, many that had served as altar boys over the years. It became a national scandal. To this day there are testimonies from men who were the boys that had been abused. Some have never recovered and suffer emotional trauma even as grown men. How many think that if someone stands as a representative of God they virtually can do no wrong. In fact, wearing the title of “pastor” or “bishop” or “priest” often just makes it easier for them to hide behind. This is not a witch hunt. I would like to be able to say that I’ve never been abused and I can’t understand those that claim they were. I am fully aware that many that read post like these will have a hard time believing someone’s personal testimony of abuse in the church. If it has never happened to them, it would be like trying to explain the pain caused by being raped physically. The person might be able to show compassion but they themselves will not be able to identify with the pain. It will always be thought that the abused person is exaggerating or too sensitive. I understand all that. I probably would have felt the same way if I were writing an article 30 years ago. But I’m writing it today, and writing as one who has “been there” and “done that” and not only knows it happens, but want to do all I can to help others that may be going through the same thing. First of all, the first thing I would tell someone that is being abused in the church is..”GOD did not do this. He is not the one abusing you, nor does he condone it. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He will NEVER leave you or forsake you”. There is nothing sadder than reading a story of someone who was abused for years in a church and decided to leave. The leaving was justified and even necessary. But then they’ll say that because of that experience, they have decided Christianity is not for them. That because people have let them down, that God was behind all that. They wrestle with doubt about God’s goodness because a person let them down. To anyone feeling that way…don’t believe that lie. God is always for us, and never against us. He will restore all that has been stolen from you. In the next few posts, I will reveal my testimony of abuse in the church(es) I attended. All the names will have been changed, except mine. I will not reveal a persons name, or a churches name, or a members name, unless God compels me to, or unless I have their permission to do so. This is not about hurting someone. This is about exposing some things going on in churches all across America and beyond. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to say anything. And all that does is allow the abuse to continue.