If I had to pick a theme for 2021, it would be walking away. My greatest accomplishment and what I am most proud of is being a cycle breaker. I went full no-contact and walked away from a narcissistic abusive family of origin. There is no going back. That chapter of my life is closed. It’s been a long time coming, and I am grateful that I got out alive and with my health intact. Whenever my lifelong friend SJ and I talk about it, he says, “With all that you had to endure, most people would have given up and or committed suicide.” He is right. Suicide is an unfortunate result of narcissistic abuse, yet the thought has never crossed my mind. Life is too bountiful and beautiful.
I also walked away from a spiritually abusive pastor and church, The Brooklyn Tabernacle; yes, that Brooklyn Tabernacle with the Grammy award-winning choir that I was once a part of in the alto section. I felt uncomfortable sitting in the congregation for many years, especially while listening to this sermon because something about Pastor Cymbala never sat right with me. You should know that at the end of this letter was a request to meet with the pastoral team to share my concerns about the message. Not only did Pastor Cymbala block me from his inbox, but that request fell on deaf ears. So, what is spiritual abuse? David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen, authors of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, define it as:
The mistreatment of a person who needs help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining, or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment. It overrides a person’s emotions without regard for the consequences. Power is used to bolster the position or needs of a leader, over and above one who comes to them in need. Spiritual abuse happens when the caregiver fails to care for the person seeking help. Instead, they use that person to meet their own needs, perhaps out of needing affirmation or support of their authority.
During my time there, I had several meetings with the pastoral staff, who was manipulative, controlling, dishonest, and dictatorial. I should have left when I was escorted out of this Bible study, but I continued to attend. I also should have left when the choir was singing during a Sunday evening service, and a pastor walked up on stage and asked my friend to come with him. A few minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder from my friend who said, let’s go. I hurriedly grabbed my purse, and we left. When he told me the reason, I was astonished.
I thought someone died or there was a life-threatening emergency. No one died. The reason given was the absence of a jacket, shirt, and tie that was distracting to Carol, the choir director. I cannot make this stuff up. He wasn’t wearing a tank top with pierced nipples protruding which he did not have, by the way. Instead, he wore a short-sleeved dress shirt with a pair of black slacks and hard sole Sunday best shoes. He left the church and never returned, not even for a visit.
As I was walking away from the old and what no longer serves me, I am walking into newness. New places, new people, new projects, and new passions. According to Google, I visited over 1,000 places and twenty-five cities in 2021. One of those places is a new church where I have direct access to the pastor and his family, a musical family I have been a huge fan of for a long time.
We will see what God has in store even though I am over all the antics that come with attending church. I told my pastor so a couple of weeks ago. Meeting real people to do life with is the goal, not people hiding behind a spiritual mask. I am sincerely over the Sunday masquerade show, yet I remain optimistic. Logging on from my bed during the pandemic was perfect. Since we are still not fully out of it with Omicron floating in the air, I just might continue that practice. In closing, I am walking into 2021 with confidence and gratitude. Crystal clear about my boundaries while leaving room for whatever God wants to do in me and through me. Onward and upward.
Something to think about…
What say you? What did you walk away from in 2021?
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