Why Does it Matter? Another tidbit in the fight against abuse

It’s 12:15 a.m.  I’m awake again and can’t sleep.  This happens to me alot.  It’s lightyears better than it used to be, but it’s still a common occurrence.  I wake up in the night disturbed by my dreams.  While I can filter my thought processes during the day, at night the gates are open and “unmanned.”  That’s when all the emotions overwhelm me.

 When I was in my late 20s I realized I had nightmares every night and had for as long as I could remember.  These nightmares were the product of the church terror motivation campaign – the world is out to get Christians and will torture and kill us all if they get a chance (including showing graphically violent movies depicting this to teens and adults – talk about abuse!); the government is controlled by evil gremlins who hate Christians and will tear apart Christian families if they get a chance; etc. 

On the other side of the coin was the church’s constant drill that I was inherently evil and unacceptable.  In real life I was regularly held up for public reprimand and ridicule in youth group and at Christian school and that phenomenon appeared in my dreams frequently as well.  Fortunately, I knew my parents loved me, but in my dreams they turned on me just like the church did.  Those dreams were a reflection of what was happening in real life, just magnified and concentrated.

Realizing I was being plagued by nightmares allowed me to address those fears on a conscious level.  But they reappear from time to time still.  In more recent years, the dreams that haunt me are of my marriage and rejection by the church.  By the time I left my husband the last time I was having nightly terroristic nightmares that he was either trying to rape me or kill me, or had lost our daughter and was blaming me for it.  These dreams were direct products of the reality of our daytime relationship; somewhat magnified but reflections of reality.  I woke from these dreams sometimes sobbing out loud, sometimes shaking with terror so hard the whole bed shook, and 3 or 4 days a week I woke with a full-blown migraine in progress.  The church couldn’t help with this.  It took a psychologist to help me get free of these nightmares and the resultant migraines.

Though my days are peaceful for the first time in many years, I still relive the nightmare at night to a lesser degree.  I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes literally hurting so bad it feels like I’m having a heart attack.  WHY???  Why does it have to hurt so bad?

What hurts the most is that the church both allowed and encouraged me to stay in an abusive marriage for 20 years.  In fact, it did more than just encourage me to stay in that marriage.  The church held additional rejection and judgment over my head if I dared to get out.  I knew if I defied the church and got a divorce I would be branded forever.  But staying and “working on” my marriage year after year after year was literally killing me.   Ultimately it came down to choosing the rejection of the church to stay alive.  That’s a simplistic bottom-line view of a complex issue, but it is true.

In the nights when I wake up crying and can’t sleep I wonder how the church can justify it’s attitude toward marriage and family.  The sanctity of marriage is not paramount.  I wonder how the church can justify a gospel of fear, judgment and rejection.  I know God cannot be pleased.  This has to be opposite of His desires and yet it goes on and on and on, with vested (or perhaps “encrusted” would be more appropriate) church leaders holding staunchly to tradition to the detriment of people’s real lives.

It is wrong, it matters, real people are being hurt by the church, and knowing this, I cannot sit by and do nothing.  And I have to live with my nightmares and sleepless nights in the meantime.