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Mar 07, 2009

Amazing Free Believer letter

Dear Darin,

Last spring I heard you on The God Journey podcast and was very drawn to what you were saying about God's love and how we have a twisted view of it. I wrote down your website and checked it out a few days later. As I have listened to the podcasts and read your blogs, my heart is constantly resonating with what is being said. You have spoken what my heart has been crying out for all these years when I felt trapped by religion. So often I am agreeing out loud with you, Amy, Kim and Brian - I get so excited to hear the words I have thought or dared to wonder in the confines of religion(under the fear that I was in rebellion!).

My journey to freedom began in early 2005, when my husband Daniel and I walked away from a "truth-filled, spirit-led church" that had been like a family to us for 13 years. What seemed to begin as a church where God's Spirit was teaching us His truth, evolved into a highly authoritarian, abusive, legalistic church. Often we were told from the pulpit that we were to never question those in leadership over us- if they were wrong, God would deal with them, but it was not our job. Questioning was considered rebellion and a threat to our so called unity. At times we were told those stories of past members who had a spirit of rebellion and left the church - they were no longer under the covering God gave to us through the leadership and now their lives were full of destruction. When I had thoughts of leaving, I quickly pushed them away for the fear of God's wrath on my life. Deep inside I felt very empty, cold and distant from God. I had to pretend that I wanted to be there and felt so much pressure to conform and keep unity with the body. I felt like Rose in the Titanic...screaming inside of how trapped I felt and there was no way out. (God used that movie to speak to me in a powerful way during that time and I can see it even more clearly now! Jack(God) came to my rescue...). A few months before we left, I would be sitting in church longing to instead be walking at my favorite spot where I felt a closeness to God as I would pour my heart out to Him. I sensed God speaking to my heart that He wanted a simple, intimate walk with me without all of the rules and teachings. Just Him and I walking hand in hand by the lake. He kept drawing me to that place in my mind and the word "simple" stuck in my head.

So when my husband Daniel started questioning the newest teaching of being required to keep a physical Sabbath in preparation for the tribulation, he was called out in front of the congregation (including our children)as being in rebellion to God's truth. That was the last Sunday we attended, as Daniel refused to go back and subject our family to the abuse. I really struggled with this - they tried very hard to convince me that he was rebellious and I needed to go against his wishes and bring the children to church. We couldn't dare leave the covering. Thankfully my best friend Dianne(who didn't attend our church), lovingly told me what they were telling me to do was wrong and to listen to Daniel. This was HARD! I was so scared!!

Not long after we left, our daughter Rylea went to summer camp. I remember being terrified that she was going to die. I had such fear that since we were no longer under the covering, God would punish us by taking her life or injuring her. I felt such relief when she returned home safely.

The 3 years after we left, I was empty and confused, not knowing which way was up. What did I really believe about God? I knew that He was real...in 1997 He gave me a glimpse of His love for me in such an intimate way. His love washed over me and engulfed me and I drank it up. But quickly I lost grasp of it...in time the legalism choked it out of my heart. Since then I had been longing to feel His love again. I knew I didn't like the God our church spoke of. He never seemed happy with me and He had such high expectations that I couldn't attain. He required that I obey, no matter what. He wanted me to spend countless hours praying and reading a Bible that felt so cold and empty. I would read it, only to come away feeling condemned and unloved. I cried out over and over for Him to change my heart so that His "Word" would come alive to me. What kind of Christian was I if I couldn't read the Bible?? But nothing would change - it was dry as a bone.

So...I completely stopped reading it. I essentially gave up! I couldn't do it anymore. It felt like heresy, but I was at the end of my self.

I truly came to the end of all I knew about God and threw my hands up. I asked Him to show me who He really is...clear out all of the junk in my head and start over. Fill my head with the REAL truth of who He is.

One day after feeling so very lost and empty, I just cried on Daniel's shoulder telling him I didn't know what to do. He started telling me about a website called Factnet that was giving him insight and encouragement, and suggested I check it out. As I read about people's experiences in abusive churches and cults, I suddenly felt validated and no longer alone. I could see what we experienced was not uncommon - this amazed me! After all...our church claimed to be one of the few with the truth - set apart by God. But I soon realized, many men have taught the same things - it was nothing new. And there was a trail of wounded hearts not just from our church, but from all around the world.

This began my search for the wounded. I soon found Plain Truth Ministries where I read about God's amazing grace and how He loves us unconditionally. I learned about legalism and characteristics of a cult. I was in denial at first, but soon realized our church was a cult.

I then found recommendations for books on spiritual abuse and cults - "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse", "Bad News Religion" and "Twisted Scriptures" were a few of the books that blew it wide open.

One night last spring, I was reading and article in Plain Truth magazine titled " The Shepherd's Call". My heart melted as I read it...tears poured down my face...someone had put into words EXACTLY what I was feeling. For the first time in years I felt hope welling up in my heart! I was so drawn to the God this author spoke of. At the end of the article the author's website was listed - thegodjourney.com . This is how Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings made their way into my life. I soon started listening to their podcasts and just drank it up. They felt like old trusted friends who had been through much of what I had experienced, down the road a bit farther...pointing me to Father's love.

Soon I read The Shack and followed it with He Loves Me. I can't explain it, but as I read both books, God began to give me new eyes to see Him with. His beauty, so breathtaking, so overwhelming! By the time I was done with He Loves Me, I was a different person. The fear I had of God had been swept out and I was clearly able to see His great love for ME!!!!! As His love is revealed to me, my trust in Him has blossomed. As WAyne says, " I'm learning to live LOVED!" For the first time in my life I am experiencing TRUE FREEDOM as I live in God's grace and sweet love. His Good News is finally Good News - I always wondered why it never actually seemed very good! My heart always longed for something more. God is my dream come true! He is more than I ever dreamed or imagined!
I am finding such joy and peace in a simple, childlike walk with Him.

That's where you come in...when I heard you on the god journey, my heart leapt within me! You spoke words of life and even more freedom. The love series has unraveled many twisted lies that I believed of God. I have discovered I am not crazy and others have thought and questioned the same things as me! Through FBN and thegodjourney, God is laying a true foundation of who He really is.

Darin, it's really hard to express how God has used you in His great rescue of my heart. I'm so very thankful for the freedom you have shamelessly spoken into my life. Thank you just seems so small...my heart OVERFLOWS with love and overwhelming gratitude. You have helped to set this captive FREE and I will FOREVER be grateful.

a fellow free believer,
Shannon Brown




this song spoke to my heart in the middle of the journey to freedom~


BREAKTHROUGH by Michelle Tumes

Love, love will make the distance
It's song riding through the moors
Of all that's lost
Hope, the flag that leads the mission
Flying over rain and foe
To rescue me from harm
I see my love, see my love
With might to save
Scale the walls of yesterday
Break through
Be my joy, be my joy
Charge this path and
Storm the tower of my heart
For only you can break through
To me
Love, the banquet for the famished
Its song rising through these halls
To fill my heart
Hope the banner in the anguish
Writing words of faith
Erasing thoughts of a darkened soul
I see my love, see my love
With might to save
Scale the walls of yesterday
Break through
See my joy, see my joy
Charge this path and
Storm the tower of my heart
For only you can break through
Let the choir sing
Listen to the angels
Fill the chapel
Singing adulation
Let the bells ring

by Shannon Brown

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Comments

  1. Gravatar
    Aida

    Shannon, this is beautiful! What an amazing journey you’ve been on. I can relate to so much of what you said and I’m excited with you for the freedom you’re experiencing. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I have a blog where I occasionally post regarding spiritual abuse. If you don’t mind, I’ll be adding a link to your blog post. I believe my readers would be encouraged by your story.

  2. Gravatar
    Shannon

    Aida,I consider it an honor for you to share my story on your blog! To hear other people's stories of freedom are what kept going. To know that it really is possible to live loved by God...those are the stories that have given me hope to hold onto in the darkness. Your words mean so much to me - thank you!!!

  3. Gravatar
    Aida

    Thank you, Shannon. I added a link to my sidebar under my spiritual abuse resources section and I also added a post referring my readers back here. Leaving an abusive church and learning to live free is so very difficult and I believe your story is one that people need to hear. It may provide them with the encouragement they need to continue their journey. If you're interested in reading what I wrote, the address to my blog is http://forgettingtheformerthings.blogspot.com/

  4. Gravatar
    Stephanie

    Shannon you told my story almost to the letter. I have been out of the I.C. for 20 years. I live in a small town where the abuse still goes on...I have to see my accusers every day at the schools, in the stores, gas station etc. I was literally surrounded and threatened at my car one day with the old "a banana away from the bunch gets peeled" shtick. God has given Darin a very precious message in a very precious way and I am grateful. I walk through the fire with my head held high...I will not bow. Thank you for your letter as it touched me very deeply and Thank you Freebelievers for posting it. I draw the grace and strength of God from this site and it gives me courage to continue to share the truth.

  5. Gravatar
    Aida

    Stephanie and Shannon, Darin has set up a forum on this site. It's a great place to gather and we're free to share openly. The conversations are uplifting and we encourage and pray for one another. We loved for you to join us and become involved. Thank you both for sharing your stories. Religion is a cruel master but I'm thankful that in Christ there's freedom. Continue to hold your heads up high ladies because you're free and no man can take that freedom from you.

  6. Gravatar
    Barb

    Shannon, you have also told my story almost to the letter. About the only difference is what our husbands refused to go along with. Yours with the Sabbath thing, mine with Titles of Apostle so-and-so. I told a blogger once, I either know you or I am you, because of the parallels in our story. I feel the same about you. I have blogged about coming out of this kind of abusive church. The dreams that follow, the walking out of the fear that they place on you, the shedding of religion, and through much of what Darrin writes, the ability to be loved, lived loved and now learning how to actually love others. I finally came to the point the other day where I actually am GLAD that it all happened. Blessings on this wonderful journey.

  7. Gravatar
    Amy

    Shannon, thank you so much for sharing your journey! You summed it up so well when you wrote: "I essentially gave up! I couldn't do it anymore. It felt like heresy, but I was at the end of myself." This is what happened with me too. I'm glad you found your way out of a cultish church and into freedom. If you haven't checked Aida's blog, I highly recommend it. She has done a lot of work to expose the topic of spiritual abuse. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Gravatar
    Kim

    Shannon, I also linked your story to my blog. It was wonderfully written and so many people can relate to it. I have been compiling intro letters from various forums and as you read each one there is a common thread. It is very interesting to see this moving and recognise it for what it is (A stirring of God)... We are living in amazing times.....

  9. Gravatar
    Aida

    Barb, I can so relate to what you've said. I wouldn't trade my time in that abusive church for anything in the world because it's part of my journey and I am who I am today because of it. I made some wrong decisions while I was there that I wish I could change but Father started my journey to freedom there so like you I can now look at that experience and be glad. Thanks, Amy, for your kind words and your recommendation.

  10. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    WOW! I'm overwhelmed and so excited to hear that this is speaking to all of you! Our hearts are knit together through these common experiences. Stephanie and Barb - thank you for sharing your stories with me! Kim- I'm honored that you're linking it to your blog :) It's so exciting to see God setting the captives free one by one!!!

  11. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    Amy, giving up seems to be the beginning of finding who God really is, huh! It's a great place to be, but oh soooo hard. Aida,I need to spend some time on your site...it looks like it's full of wonderful information and wisdom! I will definitely make my way to the forum - thanks for the invitation :)

  12. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I would strongly suggest that everyone visit Aidas website!!!!

  13. Gravatar
    Barb O.

    Hi, Wondered if you all know about my website: www.ChurchExiters.com. I have researched this topic and have made my research available online. Enjoy. Bye for now, Dr. Barb

  14. Gravatar
    toxic sheep no more

    Shannon- what a beautiful letter! My aunt told me when she came out of the mental prison of a fellowship that she would cry as she drove down the interstate- sure that God was going to kill her with a swerving car for leaving behind 'the chosen people'. I would like to add your letter to my sidebar as a resource- THANK YOU for speaking out! My blog is: http://outofthesilverchair.blogspot.com/ My aunt's story is similar to yours- it can be found on : http://outofthesilverchair.blogspot.com/2009/01/happiness-is-journey.html Thank you! Thank you!

  15. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    Toxic sheep no more, Your aunt's experience sounds all too familiar - that fear just overcomes and surrounds you once you finally leave. It took a VERY long time for it to subside. The fear along with all of the superstitious teachings made me feel a bit looney! Slowly I feel I'm becoming normal again. Thanks so much for sharing your aunt's story with me - she has a lot of courage.

  16. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    Today I was remembering back to how God showed me clearly to not get into conversations with past members and to keep my distance...this became so clear after having a heated discussion with one of them and I came away feeling chewed up and spit out. Confusion settled over me for several weeks afterwards. I was a mess! I think this was key for me in the detoxifying process...God needed time to put me on solid ground without outside interference.

  17. Gravatar
    set free

    Shannon, I could relate to so many of the things you wrote in your letter. Thanks for sharing. I left a controlling church almost one year ago and I have a blog sharing my experiences. If you would like to visit it's - www.setfree0408.blogspot.com

  18. Gravatar
    konti

    Great story Shannon. There are many people within the system that feel like you used to. Could you please let me share your story with others on facebook?

  19. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    Konti, please feel free to post it! I am a member of the Free Believer facebook page and would love to share it there too.

  20. Gravatar
    Newtolife50

    Shannon, I am among the many in which you have told your story about. We are really just in the beginning stages of this wonderful journey learning about Father's Love! I live in a small town in the buckle of the "Bible belt". If you aren't in a building on Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night, you are not living for Jesus! That is what I have believed all of my Christian life which, has been 34 yrs. I sit at my computer till the early morning hrs reading, listening, and learning about this journey. Thank you so much for your letter, I am not good at putting a voice to my feelings but you spoke my heart as if it was your heart....

  21. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    Newtolife50, thank you so much for your words. What you wrote moved me and means so much. I know what it feels like to have someone else's words speak your heart and I am beyond moved that my story did that for you.

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