My Path to Healing from Spiritual Abuse

{By Laurie Wallin}


The first memory I have of church is of me at seven years old, sitting by myself in a vacation Bible school. I didn’t know the words to the songs the other kids knew by heart, so I stood still as they danced, because how many times was I supposed to attempt the 117 moves to “Father Abraham”?


After my parents divorced, my mom, siblings and I landed in a town that was welcoming, supportive, but, unfortunately, was run by an emotionally and spiritually abusive church. It was the kind of church where you were required to say the right things and wear the right clothes. A place where scriptures were used to guilt us and everyone obeyed strict dietary restrictions. People would follow and report you to the church authorities if your old Volvo was seen in a fast food drive-thru. And if you broke any of the rules, you paid in public humiliation that was emotionally damaging.


The only redemptive flicker of light in that stretch of time was the night my family attended a Billy Graham crusade. I was ten years old and didn’t fully understand what it meant to “ask Jesus into my heart,” nor did I honestly ask him in, even as I stood with my family on the grassy field with thousands of other “new believers.” But the voice of a woman, who offered me hope and a Bible that night, conveyed enough truth to prevent me from rejecting the idea of God for all together.


Shortly after that event, our family fled the town in the middle of the night. Everything we could stuff in the back of our beat up station wagon came with us, most of the rest would remain indefinitely in the rear view mirror. My young sister and brother squeezed together in the foot space of the passenger side seat, where I sat, knees pulled to my ribs—both for space’s sake and to keep my frightened heart from beating straight through my chest.


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From there, God-faith-church was a thing to try to control and keep at arms length. When my mom remarried and that came with the new routine of attending a non-denominational church, my only solace was that it was a mega church where I could eat what I wanted and live how I wanted because nobody knew me at all.


Until I attended high school youth group there. It was there that I discovered from my anonymous space at the back of the room that there was this guy named Jesus who loved messy people and ate with the rejects of society.


This guy who called hurting people, by name. Who invited women to approach. Who listened to sordid tales and wrote words in dust that sent accusers away, speechless.


Who the heck was this Jesus? I thought. He’s too nice. He doesn’t worship the rules. He lets kids pile in his lap, and makes palatable food for thousands out of some kid’s half-smashed fish lunch.


It took a year to let myself move outside my “city gate,” and honestly engage the pastor and youth who seemed to know this guy, Jesus.


It took 20 more years to see real healing from my childhood church experience which affected my concept of God and faith.


Which is why I’m here now. I am the new girl who’s not new to the hurts of spiritual abuse, relational brokenness, and the struggle to know Jesus who goes outside the city gate to find people trampled in houses meant to be places of love and worship.


Your turn. I’d love to meet you. As far as you feel comfortable sharing, what brought you to this space on the web? What do you seek here?


Looking forward to getting to know you. Thank you for the privilege of being part of this community.




Laurie Wallin headshotLaurie Wallin strives every day to live out her message to people: that no matter the challenge, in Jesus they can find joy and confidence. She is mom to four girls, two of them foster/adopted with medical, developmental and mental health special needs. Laurie is also a speaker, Certified Life Coach and, in an unexpected twist of God’s design, the Director of Growth and Impact Ministries at Carmel Mountain Church in San Diego. Her books, Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful and Get Your Joy Back, help readers find their way back to joy in their own inner landscape, and in families like hers with special needs children. You can find Laurie at her website ( and on Facebook (Living Power Life Coaching) and Twitter (@mylivingpower). Laurie, her husband and their four daughters make their home in San Diego, California.


9 Comments on “My Path to Healing from Spiritual Abuse

  1. How delightful to have you here to share with us and breathe the same air.
    I didn’t know spiritual abuse until our first assignment on the mission field. I now rejoice in the healing God has accomplished in a very short time as we prepare to move on into the new plans He has for us!

    • What an intense thing to learn in a space where you’re already far from home and stepping out of the comfort zone. I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you. I hope to hear more of your story here over time… to hear what has helped you move through that.

  2. Oh Laurie, it grieves my heart to hear stories like yours, where God is respresented in such a non-glorious way. I rejoice with you for the freedom you experience now. Especially, I am thrilled for how He is working in and through you to share His love and grace to others. May many find freedom and redemption in Christ through your testimony.

    • it’s amazing what begins to come out we are willing to let God show us what we’ve held in for so long. In part I needed to wait long enough that people would be safe. And in part, as I start licensing in ministry, I’m wanting to see where God was in that part of my story. I think there’s good stuff waiting there for me. 🙂

  3. Hi, Laurie! Stopping by from Suzie’s #livefree linkup and so glad I did. Your post was very powerful. I am definitely checking out your book,Why Your Weirdness Wonderful Strengths, since I wrote about this concept in my post for the linkup! 🙂 LOL! Great to connect with you.

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