Church, Collage, Counseling, counselor, Divorce, marriage, Pastor, ritual abuse, Therapy
In order to tell the whole story, I have to go back to how I met my counselor in the first place. On July 8, 2000, I was invited to an event by a friend, who was, at the time, attending the church I go to now. This all came about because of something that had happened at my old church. When my marriage fell apart, I started meeting with one of the elder’s wives. This was not for counseling, but for spiritual guidance and accountability. I made it clear in the beginning that this was all I was looking for. I did not want to become somebody’s ‘project’ and said so. My doctor had suggested that I talk to her, because I refused to go to a counselor, and I finally agreed. I found out much later that this woman was in training to be a counselor for the church, but I didn’t know this at the time, and she never mentioned it.
It turned into a nightmare.
Somehow, she got the idea that the extreme grief I was experiencing as a result of what I was going through with my husband was really because I had been abused as a child; specifically, ritual abuse. (If you’re not familiar with this, bear with me, as this could all sound a bit odd. If you are familiar with it, well, I’m sorry.) It all culminated with a meeting in the Pastor’s office one day, when he was out of town. I had thought it odd when she said that she wanted to meet there, instead of in her office, as we usually did. When I got there, my best friend was already in the room. I found out later that she was also being mentored by this woman as a counselor-in-training (I hadn’t known this, either) and, lo and behold, I was the person they were practicing on. I have no idea what transpired between them, or how or why my friend came to be in the room that day, and had no idea what was about to happen. As we sat down at the table, the elders’ wife said, with a nervous laugh, “If he (meaning the pastor) only knew what we were doing in here today, he would never allow it.” That should have been my cue to leave the room.
I don’t know what made this woman think that grief from a broken and abusive marriage warranted a ‘deliverance’ session, but apparently she believed it did. It was a humiliating and painful hour; I sat frozen through most of it. I could not look my friend in the eye, and the friendship ended soon after. I had never, to my knowledge, told her anything that would have led her to participate in such an event, and could only imagine the talking that had happened between the two of them behind my back. At one point, before they started praying and ‘casting out demons’, the elders’ wife put a wastebasket next to me, as she had heard that “people sometimes throw up when the demons come out.” Really.
To my knowledge, the pastor never did find out what happened in his absence, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell anybody. I did, finally, tell the elders’ wife that I had heard that she was in training to be a counselor for the church, under the leadership of the person teaching our biblical counseling class. I only found this out when I signed up for the class myself; the unwitting secretary had told me, and suddenly, everything made sense. So, when I asked her “Do the other church leaders think that you are my counselor?” she became very angry, and said she would no longer meet with me, or help me in any way. And so, we were done. Immediately. And she stopped speaking to me completely, even in church. But, she kept something of mine, and hid it in her husband’s office without telling me, or asking if I minded that she put it there. (Since my husband golfed with her husband, I would have minded very much.)
At one point in meeting with this woman (before the casting-out party) she had asked me to make a collage; it was a project from a book that she had ordered for the bookstore. I thought it was somewhat juvenile when she suggested it, but went home, borrowed some of my daughters’ glue sticks from her home school supplies, and sat down with a pile of magazines and a pair of scissors. I started cutting out pictures, and little snippets of headings, and parts of sentences. I couldn’t find anything sturdy enough to use as a backing, so I took the cover off an old copy of the church directory, and glued the pieces around the logo of the church. So much of my pain was about the church, and my experience there, that it seemed fitting, and made the finished collage make sense. To the right of the center fold was everything about the church and my divorce, and my adult life, and the left was about my childhood and growing up. (For the most part). This wasn’t really planned, but is just how it worked out. I worked on it for at least three days straight, and did very little else during this time. The collage really created itself, as most artwork does. I can remember it clearly, if I think hard enough, but it, too, is gone now. I cry about that, a lot.
After I finished the collage, I took it to her, and we did talk about it a little, but it seemed to be a bit too much for her, so we put it away. Actually, she put it away, and that was how it ended up in her husbands’ office. When I finally asked for it back, she told me where it was, and went down the hall to get it. But it was ruined; without even so much as asking me first, she had put it through the laminating machine in the office. She said she was worried that all the little pieces of paper would come unglued, and she had hoped it would come out of the machine okay. Then she said that she was going to use it to show to other people she was meeting with. There was nothing about ritual abuse, only a lot of hurt and confusion, all poured out on paper. Some of it was spiritual, and some was about abuse, but none of it was intended to be about the things that were in the books she was ordering. (About ritual abuse, which I had never heard of until I met her, and started reading these books.) I have no idea how many people in the church she showed it to, without my knowledge or consent. Only God knows. To say I was embarrassed is an understatement. So, this is how it came to be that my friend, out of sheer desperation, said she wanted me to meet this counselor, who went to her church, and was going to be speaking at a women’s event in July.
I don’t believe that all therapy needs to be an intensive archeological dig, but mine did, only because of what I brought with me. I brought my collage, and wanted my counselor to help me make sense out of it. I desperately needed help. I was a confused, depressed mess. Although, come to think of it, that is how most people end up in a therapists’ office, so I guess there’s nothing all that strange about that. What is strange is how it all ended. But we’re not making a collage of that. Or anything else, for that matter.