One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is Esther. Esther went into the king’s chambers unannounced. Her bravery saved the life of her people. And I always wanted to be brave like Esther. But I wasn’t brave; I was a fearful child.
In the midst of the story is an interaction between Mordecai and Esther. “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NLT) It’s that moment of truth. Could she stay silent ensuring her own personal safety while her people were slaughtered by command of her king? Esther made the ultimate decision that even if she died, she would stand before the king and plead for mercy.
I’m not saying I’m Esther. Or a queen. Or that my personal life is in danger if I speak up. But like Esther, I am faced with a decision. Do I remain quiet and say nothing or do I recognize that I have been given a gift, for such a time as this? I can no longer hide behind fear. FDR said it best in his 1933 inaugural speech—…“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
I wrote previously about the place where I grew up. I called it a cult and received hefty criticism for use of that term. I still stand by my words, I grew up in a cult and I left a cult. I have emotional, mental and spiritual wounds and scars from my experiences. If you ask any current member of the organization if they are a religion, organization or cult the answer would be absolutely not. They explain my experiences away with one sentence. “She never had a vision.”
The church in Portland was dynamic when I arrived in 1991. Our pastor, Martin Baxter, was an amazingly gifted man and had all 5 gifts of the ministry operating in the assembly. Not only was he an apostle, he could teach, evangelize, preach and prophesy. His heart was for his people and he taught us how to think, to question and to ALWAYS follow Jesus. He would consistently tell us, “If I quit following Christ, you quit following me.” I loved him because he didn’t listen to the people who told him I was a mistake. The worst day of my life was when he announced his son was to be the pastor. I knew everything I loved was going to end and I would have to make the choice I didn’t know how to make.
I made the choice to leave in October 2007. I asked no one’s permission. I did not counsel with the ministry. I did not counsel with my husband. I counseled with Jesus. And he told me to leave. I left knowing I could lose my husband, my children, my friends…my identity. I left knowing it would cost me everything.
Jesus made a statement to his disciples that I memorized as a little girl. And I always believed it was his command for me to stay where I was. “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Matthew 16:25, NLT) (Note, we could only read the KJV, so I memorized the KJV version) I had to make a choice. Did I try to save the life I had, the one given to me by my parents or did I give it all up, in hopes to save my own physical life. I knew one thing: If I stayed in that church, in the “Body” as a whole, I would physically end my life. I was absolutely desperate. I trusted that Jesus did not tell me to leave just to abandon me. And that choice, of leaving everything I knew, saved my physical life…and gave me back the soul my father sold to them at 3 years old.
It’s been almost a decade. I’ve lost much and gained even more than I could ever imagine. I did not lose my children or my husband. And I realized I never really had friends when I was there. I now have friends. Genuine friends, who love me and I love simply because I can. I’ve found my voice. I’ve become honest and open. And I’ve shared my story of abuse and watched it help others heal. And now once again, I must be brave, to help others.
There is no way to leave that place and not know what is happening. I know they like to think they are secretive, but they are not. And so it is I learn of another change. One that moves them further away from the Spirit of God and more towards the Spirit of man. As they struggle to contain control of their power and position they grow desperate. Desperate enough to start doing things that should make even the uneducated start running. HUGE FREAKING RED FLAGS, as if the spiritual abuse and ensuing split in Portland wasn’t big enough. I could rail and I could rant, but that’s not what Abba wants me to do.
Abba’s children are trapped in the belly of the serpent. And he’s trying to free them. And they are going to be freed. And when they do, their world is going to fall apart. Leaving and recovering from a cult, is some of the hardest psychological work a human being can endure. It’s terrifying. Especially if you are woman and you were not given the opportunity to develop the tools and gifts one needs to live in the Kingdom.
I know right now, they won’t listen to me. I am dismissed. But one day, they are going to need a friend. They are going to need someone to tell them they can leave and they will survive. They need to know that they will feel like they lost their life. I know, because I walked through that. And in that journey, I discovered that I did lose my life, but I gained my soul. And I found my father. And I am loved beyond all measure.
So, I need to tell my story. The truth of what happened, and why it happened, and why it will continue as long as people continue putting their heads in the sand. And tell of a God who loves us, in our humanity, the way we are. And bring hope to the prisoners, balm for the wounded, peace for the brokenhearted. And when my brothers and sisters leave, I will be here. I will take their hands and I will take them to our Father. That is what Abba wants me to do.