When Children are Involved, in any harmful reality it is heart breaking. When that reality has underlined within it connotations of being from the hand of some deity the pain is a level of heart breaking that unearths a tenaciousness in me to bring change.
I’ve seen it all to often. Sadly, I am not unscathed. Not as a child but as a parent, I have owned my mistakes and asked for forgiveness. Learned lessons early enough as to make a difference still, thank God.
What I want to share in this post is how spiritual abuse upon the lives of children isn’t talked about enough. Yes, we have walked through the horrors of abuse from specific church entities in regards to flagrant and real abuse. What isn’t talked enough about is the day in and day out drudgery that is a real affect upon the children of pastors, ministers, and spiritual leaders. The fish bowl existence. The losing of relationships based on what is happening in the worlds of places of worship and ministry. The pressures and the realities of who mom and dad are, beyond just being mom and dad. Too many pastor’s kids and missionary kids, along with children raised in fundamentalist backgrounds that allotted for no curiosity or exploration of anything other out of fear of damnation; suffer silently.
Then you take the culture I was familiar with, Charismatic expression of Christianity (which I am not bashing, just asking for change.), where a child who can get up and pray for others, adult and child, are rewarded as being special beyond the norm. So the introverted child, whose prayers would be just as affective is left feeling less then. The celebration of a child who had a “prophetic” dream. The child then takes upon themselves some notion of special. If can’t repeat such a moment, then worries about becoming less special. My faith background did not and does not protect children enough from spiritual abuse. Then the stories of more main line or conservative realities, produce children who are afraid to think for themselves. I just know (don’t think), I know that that would never be the heartbeat of a loving God. We teach God or the Divine is love; then act in ways unbecoming at best, hateful and ignorant at worst. I’ve seen it all.
My hunger is to see spiritual realities truly undergird and strengthen individual’s lives. As such, I’ve been walking back through different moments that have scattered across two plus decades of my life. Holding the realities, the discrepancies, the stupidities, and the beauties all together. Letting them swirl. Looking for where actual spiritual experience and formation changed and strengthened lives, as compared to where it demolished them. Looking to touch what is of the origin of man and greed, versus authentic realities that were spiritual.
I’ve seen much in both the church and yoga world. Seen the industrialization of practices, watched as band wagons were hopped upon. I have journeyed myself. In hindsight, there is much I want to share.
I stepped into children’s yoga, out of a passion and curiosity. I found another industry. I learned quickly what I wanted and what I didn’t.
Perhaps it is because of my previous experiences, I am adamant to not sell children out as wares or products to be traded upon. If something works, it must translate from Beverly Hills to the ghetto. Without fancy trinkets, conferences, books, workshops, and all the paraphernalia that follow after all industries, kid’s yoga and spiritual growth and formation come naked and as they are and that is that.
Why am I so adamant?
Here is why…. If you are a PK, MK, child affected by ministry or watched as your child was; there is healing and hope. The passage of time and the allotment of space is crucial. The allowance and permission to have your own journey, process what you saw and what happened, change up beliefs, acknowledge what you saw and the discrepancies between words spoken and actions done are important steps.
Not making up any of these stories, I wish I was. These stories aren’t hear say, sadly I was there and watched. I did remove my children from the school and community but not soon enough.
The exploitation of children (by parents and ministry):
I had been within the Charismatic world for almost two decades at this point. I had seen genuine movements of the Spirit. One very sweet one was happening within the community of the school of children. What would play out was hideous. It would be capitalized upon. The stories that emerged weren’t of long time change, of experiences bringing life altering realities. I love that my tradition gave me an appreciation for the reality of the supernatural. What I take to task is the gearing up towards experience, that is no different than a junkie looking for the next high. The lack of true spiritual formation to undergird all seasons of spiritual growth.
One little child was weeping in the corner. I went over to her. It wasn’t that she had experienced a soft touch from the Spirit, and so was feeling it within her person. No, she had lied. She had lied about having a spiritual experience because she didn’t want to be; what she perceived as, the only one who didn’t have one. The culture placed a reality of “special” on certain manifestations. Instead of instilling the ultimate reality that all are precious. There was this felt and real need to experience something. (I’ve seen it all too many times in the old and young.) If left out or if nothing was experienced, can you imagine what thoughts upon the psyche are left. The reality of those thoughts attributed to the Divine, not just the stupidity of people. The questions of why am I not as special, what did I do wrong, is something wrong with me; and that list of questions goes on and on.
A missionary kid expressing to me how lonely they were, as they watched their parents go and work with other children. They were left at a missionary kid school. She prayed for over a decade that her parents would take a job at the school as house parents. When the opportunity arrived, they turned it down.
I will share personally here. I am not so untouched by this, just grateful for the awakening and the grace of my children to forgive. I have 6 kids. They are used to sharing. Yet, one child weeping because this child was tired of sharing me. Could allot for the reality of ministry, yet wanted for people to not try to get close as only to get close to the parents. Yes, that happened. It happened to my children. It happened to me as a spouse. The thought that people are actually your friend because they want to be, only to have it revealed at some point it was to get close to spouse or parent.
I would miss a child’s birthday because of trauma happening within a church community. I would make the wrong choices time and time again. I am not guiltless. The allure of ministry, the need to be needed by the more, the sensation of importance, and the lack of teaching that the most important “ministry” or job one can have is the formation of a child, one chooses to have.
I remember being at a conference. I was introducing the conference on opening night. As I stood in front of a couple hundred people, I realized what time it was. It was bed time. Four (the youngest two not born yet) children were going to bed. I knew, I knew… what was deposited into my heart that night was the thought that while these people in front of me were about to have a great weekend (or not) those human beings being put to bed by another were the ones I would have a greater measure of impact upon.
Now, I understanding working parents and the need for childcare. Please don’t read condemnation in these words. But this wasn’t that. Also, when “God” is a factor in the equation, the making sure that the truest image is what is lived by the parent. Again, mistakes happen. Life happens. I share because I am not immune to the doing of injury, nor have I stuck my head in the sand. I have openly talked to and apologized to my children for choices done in the name of some deity, when really much of the work I did and that is done is feeding the industry of churchianity.
What I want from this series is to open up a dialogue. I have watched so much destruction in the realm of church and faith culture. I have also seen much beauty. I have seen immense pain, the breaking up of marriages, the suicide of children, the effects of the realm of spirituality upon the lives of kids and adults for the good, bad, ugly, and beauty. I want to have dialogue. I want to learn. I want an avenue of healing and wisdom to emerge.