"It's been a year, now, since I left the assembly. I have gone through the different stages of feeling very alone, feeling like a total failure, feeling numb, etc. I think the most difficult part, is the "feeling" -- that self-satisfied "in-fellowship" feeling that I had when I did what the assembly said to do -- when I tucked my little promise under my arm each morning to use either for myself or for some poor soul who didn't know what it felt like to claim a promise from God.>p
"Reading the Bible is difficult -- not because I'm angry with God, or afraid that I no longer please Him -- but because I have zero confidence that I'm able to read the Word without the Assembly's slant/influence affecting my understanding. I have an overwhelming sense that I don't know anything anymore. "
Dear Wounded Pilgrim,
Thank you so much for sharing. Obviously, good counsel for those recovering from the Assembly has to be individualized; generalizations don't always work. While I try to share general principles, and particularly things that have helped me, there will be others who will bring a different perspective, as their struggles will be a bit different.
Finding those who will listen, understand, and offer consolation can fill a great need. The problem is finding such a person, as for decades most of us only hung with Assembly folks. My own story, shared in Enroth's book, Recovering From Churches That Abuse, shows that finding good counsel among Christian Churches can prove difficult. I am very thankful to Tom Maddux, Dave Sable, Steve Irons, and the host of Christian writers who have cared enough to address these issues with me; they rescued me from total confusion and possibly worse.
You hit the nail on the head regarding the problem of our "feelings", as the Bible, prayer, fellowship, etc. were all entwined with our assembly experiences. As we seek to live the Christian life these very things, meant for our blessing, trigger negative feelings in us; or at the very least we question whether we are truly participating in a life with God, or are still involved in deception (a quagmire of doubt).
As I said before, the first battle is to take back the Bible, and for me it was through reading books about the Bible from authors who understand grace and the Christian life. It does take time for this process to work and there are no instant cures. This is why it is so important to understand the errors of Assembly teaching, not to inflame angry bitterness against my past instructors, but to be clear about these incorrect assumptions that I based my Christian life on.
The mind must be clear regarding the true nature of the Gospel in order to dispel the doubts that float into the mind such as, "maybe GG was right regarding the inheritance." From this secure foundation we have peace of mind and find freedom from the anxiety that GG's teaching produced in our lives. It frees us from instant emotional reaction to a single verse that we were taught meant "God was speaking to us", to step back and reflect how the verse fits into the context of the whole Bible, and most of all how it lines up with the central Gospel message.
With prayer, as I stated earlier, we may have a larger problem, because we can't just read someone else's prayer, and at least in personal prayer the experience is very emotional. This no doubt triggers all kinds of negative, or at least confused feelings.
We need something to fix our minds on while we pray that will ward off these confusing feelings. I'm not suggesting imagery like pictures of Christ on the cross, etc., but more like what Gal. 3:1 talks about:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
Notice that the Galatians were bewitched. This is where one's clear thinking is overcome and they are led unwilling into a state of deception. This can happen when we are manipulated into an emotional state that actually controls the way we handle information. (Truth becomes lie and lie becomes truth.)
The solution is a return to the clear portrayal of the Gospel truth. This word, "portrayal", has to do with a sense of a public announcement, a placarding of the truth for all to see. This tells me that the Gospel must be very clear and large in our mind's eye. The Gospel of the grace of God states that the basis for my relationship with God is gift-based entirely and as such is grounded in the unassailable faithfulness of God.
Within this very secure foundation we should be absolutely confident and can let our imagination set sail. Ephesians 3:20 "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine..." From this Ephesians passage we can see how it is by the knowledge of the Gospel and God's love for us that we receive inner strength and are drawn into prayer ("ask").
Most of us probably know this, but it doesn't hurt to hear it again. The problem is not knowing these things but in the actual practice. It is these practical helps that most of us need in the actual trenches of our day to day experience. I don't pretend to have every answer here and often find myself failing in the actual experience of my life. We are after all Wounded Pilgrims -- the very ones that God loves to find and lift up.
Finding an individual to talk to and pray with could prove invaluable.