Confronting My Church Wounds 3. The Pit of Despair


“I feel like I am standing in the middle of a giant pit…a pit of despair. It is difficult to go from one extreme where you trust, love and give your heart to an idea, you entrust your good stuff and not so great stuff to people that you believe you can trust…To the other extreme where it’s all a big joke, where it is really just an idea. So I have an ongoing struggle with trust. Do you know what it feels like to be pushed into a pit of despair? There is an extreme sense of hopelessness and fear that can overtake, overwhelm. Being pushed is not fun.” -my original blog, March 31, 2009

Being pushed is not fun. It felt like I had been sucked into a deep dark hole whether I had been pushed or had jumped head first on my own, I was here. And I wasn’t going anywhere.

The Pit of Despair

Many people refer to their emotional, physical, and spiritual reactions to an abusive church experience as having PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

For me, sorting the spiritual manipulation and then working through the overwhelming sorrow that followed was an arduous process. It took a long time to feel normal again. Sunday mornings had become an unbearable reminder of my deficiency and lack.

Church People Love to KNOW

It was particularly bitter when our child was born that spring and one of the church ladies offered to bring a meal. My heart stirred with hope and longing for inclusion and understanding. Her husband dropped off the food, took a quick snap shot of me with the baby and went on his way. I never heard from them again. Years later I learned that photo of my son was being passed around without our consent at that church we hadn’t attended in more than six months.

Church people love the details, they love to know.

It was all so violating. No one was asking why. Very few people were leaning towards us to understand. And I was desperately alone in my sorrow.

While the birth of our son brought new life and hope I was still a long way from experiencing joy again.

I felt it though – the spirit whether Divine or my own – pushing me towards joy.

“Be JOY” was my theme phrase on repeat. I didn’t want to “be joy” I wanted to: “BE MAD, BE DISAPPOINTED, BE BITTER, BE UNFORGIVING…yes that’s right I said it out loud. I don’t want those pit pushers to get away with their shoving and tearing and assuming.” (March 2009)

What I thought I needed was for them to see the error of their ways. I wanted them to understand what they had done. When were they going to recognize how cruel this was? It wasn’t fair. The pain wasn’t fair. Being alone wasn’t fair. There wasn’t going to be a “peace summit” or a making it right. I was alone. And I was going to have to figure this all out on my own.

How Do You Deal?

Are you facing the bottom of a giant pit of despair?  What do you feel right now: hurt, fear, and shame? You feel all the aches in your bones from that long falling head over heels downward. The landing even in the mud at the bottom was rough. And you don’t think your life is ever going to be OK again.

You cannot see a way forward and there is most certainly no way of going backward.

Some people hop right back up again and find a new church. NOT me. NO way. I couldn’t stomach it. There was no way of facing it.

I don’t know why church hurt is as painful as it is. Why we do to one another what we do all under the guise of Biblical and unity, smathered with a layer of prayer, and dipped in piety. I have no idea why the church ladies gather in church bathrooms and prayer rooms and living rooms to decide the fate of those they deem less than worthy. They cover us rejects in prayer and baptize us with their whispered judgments. And I have no clue why they applaud themselves when their will is accomplished. Their will.

  • What I do know is it is possible to fall down a giant hole and survive.
  • I know it is possible to find yourself upside down in life from where you intended to be and still find joy.
  • I understand how difficult it can be when you are facing it to not want to let any of the hurt go or to not know how to begin.

But you can be OK again.

A church building will make you cringe. That is OK. The Bible and Christian things might make you gag. You will find a new set of friends and companions, a new faith and a new life setting. You will move forward because you need to move forward. Life will be whole gain, perhaps even more authentically whole then you have known before.

Take the next first step. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. One clawing climb out, limb over limb up and up and out.

Reach for it.

Still Here,


Looking to join a group of people facing faith shifts, feminist journeys, adventures in recovering and learning new? a safe place from The Front Porch Facebook Group Here.

This is part three in a series on Shifting Faith – eight years in the making. You can find the rest below:

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