Dear Wounded Pilgrim,
I would like to continue my explanation of how grace works in the process of recovery from the assembly by using a personal example. In the example I hope to explain how we go through an emotional transition from being dependent on the group/controlling leaders to personal autonomy in Christ.
When I first left it was because I sought to make a decision regarding where I lived without submitting to "counsel". I was "relieved" of my duties as a leading brother for just considering a move without approval.
At the time, I never would have even considered making an independent decision, but at that time God had been showing me that there were contradictions between God and assembly teaching and practices. These revelations were an eye opener, but I still held a great fear of independent action from the group approval. I had great misgivings about leaving and suffered from nightmares and great anxiety over my decision for months after leaving.
What if it was true that I left God's one true testimony and was destined for outer darkness?! Maybe I was just making excuses to do my own thing, as was suggested by Assembly leaders? Or worse yet, maybe I was, as I was also told by assembly members, "a divisive and devilish man who was seeking to divide God's flock"? As GG always taught, "It's what you think God is saying that He is really trying to say."
I used to have a recurring dream that I was in a gathering with GG and all the Leading Brothers from the West Coast. I was in the center and all of them surrounded me while they asked me why I left. I would wake up in terror and anxiety feeling that I had made a terrible mistake in leaving.
The last occasion of the dream followed some study that I had been doing regarding false assembly teaching on grace. The same brothers appeared around me in a circle that night, and as I began to answer them with what I was learning they all grew silent and cast their eyes down. I then began to get angry with them and to turn the tables on them by insisting they answer me why they had offended me so. As I did so they all disappeared one by one and I never had the dream again.
Recovery of confidence came to me when I was able to shake off the nagging self doubts regarding why I left. When one has habitually submitted to abusive control the shackles of slavery still are emotionally attached. This may be true even if in my mind I know better.
Part of taking off the shackles is to realize that God never intended for them to be attached, and that those that attached them were wrong for doing it. This process awakes, from the deep dark prison of my self loathing, a revived sense of "I'm mad as heck, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" -- a self assertion of personal rights as a liberated soul in Christ! As the Jews say of the Holocaust, "Never again!"
The need to find justice in the matter is not only for one's own personal autonomy in Christ, but for the sake of those who did the abuse or unwittingly still continue in the system that encouraged the abusive practices. The false teaching and practices, if not acknowledged and repented of by the former leaders/followers, will ultimately lead to a very bad end. Clarity is absolutely essential for spiritual health.
To courageously stand up and face the former slave master can not be done without some passion. As I've often shown, Jesus attacked with great emotion the "whited-sepulchre," pharisaical leadership of the false religious system of His time. Paul also spoke strongly against those that would bring God's people into bondage. Paul chided those of God's people who would allow false apostles to slap their face (a metaphor for the false use of authority) and not to stand up to them.
What of exhortations to silently submit to God in abuse, with the knowledge that God will vindicate? Should we follow the assembly interpretation of submission given to Judy that a wife should just silently accept their beating by a Christian husband? "Sometimes silence is golden, other times it's yellow," said Vernon Mcgee. It would be worthwhile to understand what the Bible means by submission. Suffice it to say, there is a big difference between not taking up the sword against Nero, and the issue of submission to authority in Christian relationships.
After this process of removing the emotional shackles by the abused asserting their individual worth in God's eyes, and the former bully is confronted for his evil behavior, the former wounded soul gains a peace and confidence. If the bully also confesses and apologizes to the offended there can be a most blessed fruit and healing of relationship with my brother.
The fear of this process becoming destructive, through the unleashing of negative emotions, should not be a reason to stop the process from continuing. Can this process short circuit and trap an ex-member in a continual cycle of bitterness? Yes, sadly yes, this can happen. Can we just skip the anger part and get on to the confidence and peace part? Not likely, though some are more sensitive and have been more deeply hurt, and yet others seem to find their footing quickly.
The fact that people vent their anger against the assembly is proof that they are seeking answers for the pain they feel. We can help by listening and weeping with those who have been wronged. We can take their side and help them to see that God takes their side too, that they were wronged and that those that abused them should admit it, and that God was not supportive of those who used a false authority to control their lives.
From this we can then show them who God really is and how very concerned God is for them. Jesus, the original Wounded Pilgrim, has a very special place in His heart for those abused in a false religious system. God does not consider the abused one's pain a small matter, nor does He expect us to "just get over it", or put a sunny-side spin on it.
True comfort, and the resolution of angry emotion, comes when we realize that Jesus understands and takes our side regarding our former abuse. He is not telling us our emotions are unjustified, that we can't express them, or that he doesn't share in the indignation of a false religious system. Through that consolation we begin to express His same love for those trapped in the system, whether abuser or abused. The evil side of anger is replaced with a righteous determination for clarity in the lives of all those effected in the assembly.