Experiencing God’s grace while sick with the ‘flu

For the last five days, I’ve been stuck in bed with the ‘flu. I’d love to say that it’s been a great opportunity to rest and catch up on worthwhile spiritual activities, but the reality is that I’ve been feeling so lousy, all I can manage is to binge-watch silly comedies on Netflix and toss and turn at night, feeling feverish and miserable…

This experience of coming face-to-face with my broken human weakness has been VERY humbling.

Although I have been trying to learn to develop a more self-compassionate attitude, I actually seemed to be stuck on a loop of self-pity, complaining, and regret…

I kept trying to give myself little pep talks, to count my blessings and remember those less fortunate than myself…

But the truth is that it hasn’t been working. Earlier on today, I sat on the floor in the hallway and complained bitterly to my poor, long-suffering husband, about all my woes and my terrible frustration at not being well… ๐Ÿ˜ฉ๐Ÿ˜ฉ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

Then, I felt ashamed of myself and apologised for my childishness…

And so, I’ve been ping-ponging between feeling sorry for myself and then becoming embarrassed for not coping better with a simple bout of the ‘flu.

I realise that I am trying to regulate my emotions in a very human way: either by expressing them openly and unrestrainedly like a child, or attempting to control them with an iron fist.

The fact is that neither strategy has brought me peace.

Before starting to write this, I lay down on my bed and cried out in anguish to God, asking for help and relief. I apologised for my immature behaviour, and then began to feel that I don’t really deserve pity or help, because there are many more people in the world who are suffering much more than me… I mean, I have a warm bed, nutritious food to eat, a husband who cares for me… I thought: do I even have the right to feel bad???

Then I sensed a still, small voice of grace in my heart, telling me: it’s not a competition, Emily. I love you. Rest in my love”.

And then I began to cry, as I felt so moved and humbled again.

Jesus knew that I didn’t need a motivational pep talk about my emotional “failures”… During my moments of pure weakness and brokenness, he knew I just needed to feel loved and appreciated.

If you have been feeling unwell, undeserving or alone, please do let me know so I can pray for you. I’ve been so grateful today for some lovely, supportive friends in the Faith after Deception Fellowship who have been sending me prayers and encouragement during my illness. I almost thought I didn’t deserve to ask for prayer as it’s only the ‘flu, but I’m so glad I did. We often need to reach out of our comfort zones to receive support and that can be hard and scary, but it’s definitely worth it. Big hugs to everyone, and have a great week

Finding our true identity after spiritual abuse

I personally find that when you’ve been around toxic people long enough, either in a family environment or as part of a cult or a highly controlling church, (or worse, BOTH!), you tend to get a very twisted view of your own identity and also human nature in general.

In a religious context, you may end up feeling that you are a “lowly worm” and that in general, people can’t be trusted. Since all you’ve known of relationships has been painful, complex and tiresome, it can give you the impression that this is the norm and that’s all you can expect ๐Ÿ˜ซ๐Ÿ˜ซ

Neuroscience has proven that when we’re chronically tired, stressed and/or emotionally depleted, our ability to make wise decisions is severely impaired. We’ll generally just resort to what feels comfortable, familiar or safe. The problem is: if we aren’t used to being in a truly safe environment, we may find ourselves surrounded by yet more toxic people, because that’s what feels normal to us.

On the other hand, if we meet people who are genuinely kind, sincere and loving, we may get scared and run away, because they just feel so unfamiliar and foreign to us. Or, we may be terrified of opening up and being vulnerable, because we’ve been hurt so many times in the past and fear we just can’t risk it again…

Maybe we don’t believe we actually “deserve” love or are worthy of someone else’s affection, so we distance ourselves from them…

This is also the reason why toxic churches and cults can be so damaging to our ability to form healthy friendships and relationships. There is a constant environment of criticism, blame, and gossip, and they don’t teach that we are beloved or saved by grace, but that we must strive after perfection in order to earn God’s love.

However, once we begin to stand in our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Most High, we can move towards healthy relationships that are not dictated by fear, manipulation or selfishness.

I truly believe that once we can accept that God is good and that he loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, we can really flourish and start to form healthy relationships. When we receive His love in our hearts and it starts to irradiate through our being to othersย because it will be Christ’s love that is flowing through our veins, not our own. Our whole self will be founded on the rock of Christ’s love for us, rather than on the slippery sinking sands of fear, self-loathing or insecurity.

This transition to self-compassion and the deep knowledge of our belovedness can take time and isn’t usually immediate. We have acquired many toxic thought patterns in our brains that tell us that we “aren’t enough” and can constantly slip back into anxiety, self-doubt, and envy… Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to make a conscious effort to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:12) so we can finally understand with our heart and mind that we are beloved and not cursed. This can be a long process, and we will need the encouragement of others on the way and great patience and grace towards ourselves.ย  If you’re currently going through this process and are looking for a safe place to share, I invite you to email me at faithafterdeception@gmail.com or to join our Faith after Deception Fellowship group if you’re not a member already. I’d love to hear from you and to pray for you.

Much love in Christ,

Emily

The Prodigal Son

 

Do you struggle with the concept of self-care?

If you’re anything like me, you may struggle to make self-care a priority in your life.

I realised this morning that part of my subconscious mind seems to have the impression that I need to “earn” my times of rest, by doing all my pending chores beforehand. However, by the time I do complete them all (which isn’t always possible anyway), the day is gone and I’m stressed, exhausted and on the verge of burnout.

Because I often suffer from fatigue and frequent colds, I do need to take rest seriously, even though it goes against my perfectionistic desire to “get everything done”.

What do rest and self-care look like for you? I’d love to hear what works for you. Please do share if you’d like to in the comments below.

As for the argument that self-care is “selfish”, I have this to say:

1. I actually see self-care as a sign of humility. It means admitting that we are frail human beings and not robots… We can’t attempt to be superhumans who don’t need self-care without falling into pride, imho.

2. Even Jesus had to escape the clamouring crowds around him to spend time alone with God, in order to recharge his spiritual and emotional batteries. We also know that he took the opportunity to rest and sleep, such as on the boat during the storm, even though it seemed to his disciples that He had chosen an inappropriate time! (Matthew 8:23-27)

3. Taking responsibility for our own need for rest, nutrition and exercise is a vital step on the road to maturity. As we grow up, we can’t expect other people to look after us or take care of us.

4. When we do make our own self-care a priority, by setting appropriate, healthy boundaries and learning to say “no” in a kind but firm way, we will then have the energy to give to others from a refreshed and abundant heart, rather than a stressed or frazzled one.

If you’re reading these words and feel guilty that you’re “not quite there yet”, take heart; neither am I!!! We are all a work in progress.

True humility implies recognising where we need to grow, then praying that God will give us the strength to get there.

It is also important to be aware that any change isn’t easy and we will all find ourselves falling back into bad habits at times. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve “failed” or that we’re “no good”, it just is a gentle reminder that we all need more grace. We can’t get there on our own, and we’re not supposed to.

Leaving shame behind

A friend of mine shared the following reflection recently:

I have noticed that when trying to help a person who has made many bad decisions through their life, even a whisper of correction sounds to them like a yell through a megaphone because they are not living with guilt, but shame.

They don’t have the resolve to change because they don’t think they did something wrong, they think there is something wrong with them.

The difficulty is trying to convince them that they are complete and enough while challenging them on their wrong beliefs and actions that only continue the destructive results they are getting.

There is only a spiritual solution to this. The mediator between God and man, who makes us righteous, calls us complete, shows us our worth, and then helps us change and recover from the mess we have made of our life.

There is no other way than through Jesus. Only he can take the worst of us, give us such incredible worth, then comfort us as we change into the image he has for us.

Image result for hebrews 4:16

Freedom in Christ

Sometimes, I get the impression that people meet me or get to know me online and think I am a lovely person. Then, when I do something that disappoints them or lets them down or say something they disagree with, they think they have seen the “real Emily”, who is not such a nice person after all and is most likely a hypocrite…

Of course, I can’t control how people see me or know exactly what they’re thinking. My worth and self-esteem are not conditional on their approval, but I do find it sad that many people have such a “black and white” way of seeing people…

For example, they tend to consider that people are “good” or “bad”, rather than a complex mixture of different factors and characteristics… I actually think that this is what Jesus meant when he said: “Do not judge”… He was speaking out against the idea that we can sit in God’s seat and decide if someone is “good” or “bad”…

Image result for Matthew 7:2

On the other hand, “FOGGY” believers (those whose faith has been drilled into them via “Fear, Obligation and Guilt/Shame”) usually try to use these same tactics when bringing up their children. They may have some “success” and breed a robotic clone of themselves, who goes to church/meetings every week and will in time bring up their own children in the same, tyrannical way…

However, more often than not in this day and age, “FOGGY” believers will see their sons and daughters rebelling against this kind of toxic control…

This is a cycle which perpetuates itself, whose ONLY fruitful end is in the arms of Christ, who is always knocking at the door of our hearts, ready to bring us peace and FREEDOM from the abuse and manipulative control that we suffered at the hands of toxic religion…

โšก๏ธ Be aware!!โšก๏ธ There are too many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there. Jesus said to His disciples:

Resultado de imagen de Matt. 10:16

#ListenToTheShepherd

A word of sincerity

As many of my readers were in some kind of cult or highly-controlling religious group, hearing messages about repentance and sin can sometimes be very difficult. Rather than imagining our loving Father running out to meet us as He did with the Prodigal Son, we hear echoes of the condemnation and shame that our former group used to heap upon us…

Therefore, it can be very tempting to slip into a very liberal kind of “Christianity”, where the words “sin” and “repentance” are rarely used at all and anything goes…

I am walking between these different worlds, actively choosing to follow Jesus and not human leaders or religious traditions… ๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’–

#StuffJesusNeverSaid

This is my prayer:

I want to be honest with you all; I have NEVER set myself up as a teacher or prophetess or guru or anything like that at ALL… I just want to offer encouragement, compassion and prayers for those who have been in a cult or toxic religious environment. I also like to share things I’ve been learning about finding healing after suffering spiritual abuse. Another aim of this blog is to expose and shed light on the way cults work, so we can spread awareness and help those who have been hurt in this way.

I don’t want to impose my own convictions and personal beliefs regarding the Bible’s teachings on you all, but at the same time I don’t want you all to get the impression that I am an airy-fairy relativist who no longer believes in absolute truth or morality. This is not the case at all!!!

Just because I advocate for compassion, tolerance and mutual respect doesn’t mean I have let go of my principles or scruples…. I don’t often share my personal beliefs here regarding Scripture or Christian behaviour because it is not my aim to cause debate or division, but you may be surprised to learn that my husband and I are very Bible based. I do not judge others who are not, but I have personally found that every single one of the commands in the New Testament for Christians are designed to bring us FREEDOM and joy. Jesus’s yoke is light and not restrictive, and following Him has always brought me the greatest joy โ˜€๏ธโ˜€๏ธโ˜€๏ธ

#Inspired

You are beloved

I’ve been thinking very deeply about the way I understand the “commands” and “rules” in the New Testament. The way I like to see it is, these “rules” could be more accurately described as “Guidelines for Human Flourishing through Love”.

I believe that they were given to us by the Author of Life, and lived out as an example for us by Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ.

However, after leaving a cult or a toxic church, many people find it very hard to read the Bible and connect with the Author of Love, because its words often remind us of the destructive and legalistic way that our former religious group twisted the Scriptures to shame or belittle others, making them feel unworthy of God’s love…

If this is your case, I would encourage you not to give up. You can prayerfully find a way to rediscover God’s Word in order to reconnect with Jesus, so you can see that He was always on the side of the oppressed, the hurting and the wounded, against the oppressive spiritual leaders of his time. Ultimately, they couldn’t bear his threat to their authority, so they plotted to kill him. But “death could not contain him”, and he overcame the stigma of sin and shame on the cross, opening up a new life for all of us.

The New Covenant of grace and love through Jesus Christ our Lord is SO revolutionary that most “churches” and religious groups have strayed from Jesus’s original message and instead, have placed themselves in the role of Pharisees, “lording it over” others, just as Jesus told them NOT to do.

I lament and mourn deeply when I see this, because there are SO many victims of this kind of insidious spiritual abuse, and they often feel like they have nowhere to turn.

I know I say this often and it may sound like a clichรฉ by now, but I mean it very sincerely: you are NOT alone. I invite you to join our online group: Faith after Deception Fellowship if you haven’t done so already, and you can also send me a private email to faithafterdeception@gmail.com if you don’t feel comfortable sharing things openly with the whole group or aren’t a fan of Facebook.

I’m going to say it again: you are not alone. You are beloved and beautiful in God’s sight. May His grace be with you today ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–