I made an early connection to this man, drawn in by the clarity of his teaching and his apparent love for us – for me. Very quickly, I wanted to make a meaningful connection to him so I gave him a coffee and told him I wanted – no needed to be accountable to him. I desired to be a better husband, a better man, and this man was offering a way for me to be that. I was also aware at my own failings in my life up to this point, in my attempt to have any meaningful connection to a man. Instead, I had been harmed repeatedly by many men over the years.
Those early months were amazing. I was enjoying my relationship with him. I was enjoying learning how to be a husband, a father, and a man of God. I enjoyed our traveling out to the ranch as it really felt like two friends connecting. When he transitioned to the church on the island my heart would grieve when he was gone. I was invited to go down to the island on a couple of occasions with him – to visit and to engage with the ministry there. It was like two friends spending a fun weekend together.
Time went on and the church on the island asked him to leave. He left and took half the church with him, instead starting a home church at one of the previous elder’s homes in the same city. I had the opportunity to travel down a couple of times to visit this new ministry as well, sharing in his grief over the situation, as he explained where the church had gone wrong.
Meanwhile, back in the valley city, our prayer meetings were growing and some amazing things were happening. When he would come back from the island, one of the very first things he would make a point of doing was to contact me and ask for great detail around what had happened during the prayer meetings, and in the lives of the people here for the week or so that he was gone.
He would seem upset that while he was down on the island, all this great ministry and answers to prayer were happening back in this valley city. When he was back home he would then want to participate in all those meetings, and at times – it seemed he wanted us to recreate what had happened. His intense focus on the lives of everyone then lead to his focusing on my own painful journey through my past. I had expressed already my desire to find freedom – to find healing from my past loss and trauma, and so during the island breaks when he was back in town, that became his primary focus.
It came to a place where I was beginning to dread him coming back to the valley. First I would be instructed to update him on the happenings of everyone’s lives, sometimes recreating certain events so he could gain better understanding. Then the attention would turn to me, where he would challenge me on my own fragmentation, my own struggle with my emotional experiences, my own poor behavior, and resistance to finding freedom in Christ – to regurgitate his words.
The prayer group that was meeting out at the ranch was continuing, although it had grown much smaller and was now for the most part – only men. At first, this was a comforting place for me, but slowly it evolved into a deliberate place in which to focus their energies on my ‘freedom’ – lead by this pastor. As they pushed I was becoming more and more fragmented – my emotional experiences being released without the space or the safety in which to explore what the hell was going on. Instead it was all squished into a place called freedom and I was doing it all wrong.
Much of those times I was heavily fragmented, experiencing intense flashbacks of my own sexual abuse story – although all undefined. I was falling apart and relied on my old coping mechanisms, utilizing dissociation in order to cope with my current reality. At the climax of this period was a particular evening where after some intense prayer, this pastor was determined to lead me back to this image of a door that had come up in previous prayer sessions. This door, in some fashion, symbolized something from my past, and this pastor – this man – was hell bound to find out what it was. I had much anxiety around approaching this door and opening it.
I remember breaking. That is the best way to describe the experience. I was being flooded with fragmented emotions and images, and I found myself completely overwhelmed. I shut down and completely disconnected. I was done. I did not open that door. I ran from that place. I pulled away from the prayer meetings. I pulled away from the group. This made this man upset and he reset his label of rebelliousness on me with renewed passion. I was now in danger of losing the intimacy of friendship with this man and I did not know what to do.
I didn’t oblige him and that left me vulnerable and quite broken.