It is time for me to stop ignoring the elephant in the room. For too long I have allowed a “no reply unless asked” about what happened a year ago to both me and my family which has in some instances created an “elephant in the room”. Now elephants cooped up will make a very large mess. It is time to set the elephant free and clean up some mess. I believe the only way to do this, at this point, is right here with some facts. No naming names, if you know me you will know who I am talking about just like what was done to me publicly from the pulpit, emails and group meetings. See no names were named publicly by others but we became known as were “the people who left” and people did know who exactly whom was being talked about. This is in no way to “get back” or “get even” it is only to set the record straight, tell my side, and just tell some what had happened (if I told every fact here it would be pages) for those that have been too afraid to ask me.
Everyone always wants to know how things got started, I usually have to point back seven years ago but for here we will start with…..
…back in November of 2014, the morning of Thanksgiving, the Lord began to reveal to me over the next three days something which changed my perspective of how I see God, which in turn radically changed my whole life and the life of my family. It wasn’t something really new but in fact very old. If you want you can read about it in this post It’s Time to Let Go of the Rules-Otherwise Known as the Law. Through the last twenty years I had learned something very different from the churches I have attended. So, what the Lord began to reveal to me flew in the face of what most churches in America teach or adhere to. After the three days, on Saturday, I posted on Facebook: “The Lord has revealed something to me that has changed me and my family forever. I feel like my face is shining like Moses did.” My pastor (the lead pastor), at the time, had asked me the next day if I could send him what the Lord revealed to me and my husband, who was standing next to me, said yes. I wrote out three pages of notes for the lead pastor and my husband read them before I sent them. After the lead pastor read it he stated to me that the essence of what I wrote was that the enemy always tries to make us forget who we are. That statement was not the fullness of what I had written nor the summation of what had been revealed to me. A couple of days later the Lord answered my question, “What is the essence of what You showed me?” He answered,
“The essence of what you wrote is that church leadership likes to put rules, regulations and standards on My sheep to “protect” them but what it actually does is put them in bondage-(you yourself have done this before-God had given me a very distinct open eyed vision of what I had done and what it looked like which helped me to “see”). This is a core value that I want pulled out of the church because it is based on fear not faith.”
I later posted this statement on Facebook and the next day is when I first got an email to consider the post from the co lead pastor at the church we had attended for almost nine years. By “consider” I knew the post needed to be taken down, because this was not the first time I was asked to “consider a post” I had on Facebook. I replied I would not take the post down because I thought it was true regarding the world wide church and needed to be said to bring freedom. Later, I received a text to call the co lead pastor. I called and was then accused of trying to hurt my church and them, the pastors. I said no, that I never intended to hurt them or the church. I related again it was truly meant for the world wide church as a whole and I had used myself as an example in the post, making it personal to me. It was then I was told, because of the post,there were people questioning my feelings about the church, pastors and leadership. I asked if they would please refer these people to me. I even referenced Matthew 18 and how it is biblical for the party to come to me first and ask me if they have questions about my feelings or thoughts in regards to the post. I was then told they would not refer the people questioning and I had to understand people prefer coming to their pastors instead of asking the people involved. The post remained up for several reasons: first I was not going to give away my free choice to follow God and not fear man anymore, second it is my Facebook page, third it was a true and accurate statement and fourth my heart intent was not to be malicious with the post, but to bring freedom. Next, an associate pastor called a couple days later and requested we meet about the post. We met and the main question was, “When will you submit to the lead pastors?”. Actually four times that same question was asked. I told her I was doing what the Lord had asked me to do, my heart intent was never to harm but to bring freedom, even using myself as an example in the post. She asked me would I ask the Lord again and I agreed to. Later that night the Lord said, “It is finished…” So I deleted the post on a Thursday night and let all the pastors involved know the post was down. I had also let one very close friend know the post was taken down, as she was praying for a peaceful resolution in all of this. My friends husband had seen the lead pastor the next day and asked him privately if they are making a habit of “policing Facebook”? That same morning, I got a phone call from the co lead pastor stating we needed to meet immediately. We did meet that same afternoon. Our conversation boiled down to the fact she was mad because she claimed she had never told me to take the post down and I believed she had asked me to take it down.
By now, I had also begun to blog again about what the Lord had revealed over the Thanksgiving weekend. I think it was the next week when Bryan (my husband) and I got called into the office with the lead pastor. He had said he wanted me to explain in more detail what the Lord had revealed in what I had sent him. I knew before we went that wasn’t exactly what he wanted and knew there were two things that were going to be required by the end of this meeting. Here is what it all came down to: He wanted me to write a post on FB that stated I was not talking about his church, the pastors or the leaders in the post I had deleted (this I didn’t expect and told him that would just dredge it all up again and didn’t think it was wise), I was to no longer blog against their doctrine or theology, if I did blog again he would have to authorize it and lastly “was there anything I would like for him to take back to his wife”, the co-lead pastor (I think they were fishing for an apology; but I am still not completely sure). I blogged again, fully aware that I would most likely be asked to step down from leadership, my family and I would be shunned, we would be pushed out of the church, my boys would lose friendships, and I would most likely be called Jezebel and probably worse. How did I know all of this would happen? Over the years puzzle pieces were taking on a form from questions that never were fully answered about others that had disappeared from this same church. All of what I thought might happen did indeed happen and more.
First though, because I had blogged again, my husband and I got called in to meet with the lead pastor again. This time there was an associate pastor present. The meeting, probably at the most, took ten minutes. The Lord had told me I was to be silent as a sheep before a shearer fully knowing that I would be asked to step down from leadership. The only thing we were to say is: “That is your choice” and ask two questions for clarity. There was no reason given for asking me to step down. I was simply told that is what they decided. My husband said that is your choice. The two questions for clarity were about my husband and our boys regarding leadership duties. Bryan was to step down also but the boys could continue. We got up and left, civil and short. Yet, this became only the beginning of an almost year long nightmare.
Not only was my family targeted, but also any family that would ask questions about what was happening with us, question the statements made about us or try to bring restoration by hearing all sides and bring together a meeting. Next the same good friends of ours that had asked about “policing Facebook” were told by the co lead pastor and an associate pastor to ban us from their place of business. My friends said “no” and asked these pastors this very important question, “If Darlene is that deceived, shouldn’t we, like Jesus, leave the 99 and go after her, not shun her?”. This is when one by one each of their children were told they could no longer serve in any form of leadership position in the church and my friends business was shunned by all pastors and the leadership of the church followed suit. It went so far as people were being told my friend was a witch and she was practicing voodoo out of their business. I know it sounds CRAZY. Yet what is crazier is people believe it even to this day. My friends lives became turned upside down all because they said they would allow me to come into their business and if all of what the pastors were saying about me were true they would do what Jesus did and go after me. Next two other families were also targeted, one because she had stepped down from leadership because of the “gossip” that was happening in both the pastoral team and leadership about me and the co lead pastor wanted her to lie about why she was stepping down. The other family wanted to bring biblical restoration and was told by the lead pastor that will never occur. All of a sudden all four families were caught up in this same nightmare.
See, we never intended to leave our church. We loved the people. Yet when the preaching from the pulpit begins to be directly pointed at what you last blogged about; you are shunned and made to feel unwelcome; while at work, with children all around, two different associate pastors approach you separately, one female and one male, (the male being very angry, so angry spittle comes out of his mouth and his face is red as a beet) they accuse you of being deceived and the deception is over and when you ask what deception they don’t answer but continue to just say that same sentence over and over to you, you begin to not feel safe; young adults and adults you have known for years all of a sudden don’t know if they can talk to you and begin unfriending you on Facebook and Instagram; people literally run from you in the store; my boys youth pastors don’t even have the decency to text them back; you are being lied about; and you are then told to leave the church through an email. You decide it is best to leave. Even after leaving, the character assassination continues for months later: you are then likened to fallen angels; called Jezebel; a bible study is given out stating “those that have left” are rebellious like the sons of Korah; you are considered a hyper grace advocate(whatever that is or isn’t); the pastors/leadership are insinuating your children will fall away from God and so most of their friends that go to that church are too afraid to be friends with them anymore; it is stated you no longer follow God; it is said you wanted to control them; other church pastors in this area are “warned about us”; I am deceived and anyone that is close to me will become deceived also; and on and on. You then begin to understand why many people were thankful to move away from or simply disappear from these pastors themselves and the people they have influence with. Because quite honestly you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
There is so much more to this story…but what I have found is I am not the first that this has happened to. I would like to hope, I am the last. The cycle needs to stop. Not just in this church but in any church that in anyway thinks this behavior is okay. The “code of silence” calling it “gossip” if facts or truth is told needs to stop in the church. What I have seen is real gossip isn’t called gossip and non-gossip (fact telling of your story) is considered gossip-that is simply backwards. Others have said: God is your defender! And yes, why yes He is. But we also need to see ALL Jesus accomplished at the Cross. At the Cross Jesus gave us dominion of the earth back to us. He paid a mighty price for it. We have a part in all of this that must be done. Remember He called us His Hands and Feet and He had no problem calling things as they were. Why because of LOVE. REAL LOVE. This pattern of demonizing people, trying to control them with fear, and when they aren’t controlled we must shun them is unhealthy and not Christlike in any way. All that has been stated about me, my family, my friends and those this has happened to in the past has ALL been done in FEAR. I truly believe that His perfect love casts out ALL fear. If we do not rightly believe: that no matter what happens, God loves us…..then we can easily give place to fear. That fear spot is the ONLY way in the enemy has in our lives. He preys on that fear. I fully rest in Him knowing- I abide under the shadow of His wings; no weapon formed against me will prosper; He will never, ever, ever leave me nor forsake me; and I am fully forgiven because of what Christ did not what Darlene did, Thank God!!
Like I said I am not the first in a long list of people that this has happened to. Many on the long list I have met or reconnected with over the last year; yet I know there are many more out there I have never met. The personal stories over this last year have broken my heart to hear. A few of them I was a part of because I had believed the lies I was told about them and either never had an opportunity to see the person again or I chose not to contact the person and had to go seeking forgiveness for believing the lies and acting in those beliefs. Restoration has been the theme this year in so many areas. I will not be naming any of you in this post. I understand the desire for anonymity in these circumstances, it has not been easy. Though, if you see this and want, feel free to tag yourself and add your signature to mine to make the bold statement, “WE WILL NO LONGER BE SWEPT UNDER THE CARPET”.
Besides, the pile of names is getting too big to be able to be covered up anymore and healing can only come when the bandage is taken off and the wound cleaned out thoroughly and completely; so that healing can happen from the inside out.
Oh and one last thing an update a year later: I and my husband are still walking with God; my boys have grown a deeper relationship with God then ever before and have grown deeper in true friendships; I am not Jezebel; I, my family or my friends did not cause a split in the church-people ALWAYS will have their own choices unless they give that freedom away; nor are any of us like fallen angels or sons of Korah; we never wanted to control anyone-we just wanted to walk freely with God and be who He called us to be and fully believed others could, would and should be able to do the same; we never forced anyone to listen to us or ask questions; we desired for biblical restoration but were never allowed the opportunity to do so.
As we walk into 2016, I am excited for even more revelation from my Father in Heaven…❤️ Darlene, Bryan, Taylor and Cameron Gaston
There has been such an overwhelming response to this post I would like to add something from a trusted Christ following counselor, Judy Friederich. Below, I have pasted what she wrote on my personal Facebook post regarding this and it is spot on. Early on my friends and I had gotten a hold of a book Toxic Faith and it helped us to heal. What Judy wrote was very similar to the book. Please take a look below. Also she said if anyone needs to ask further questions they can private message her on Facebook. With no further ado her post:
This discussion brings out the fire in my gut to help the Church become abuse-proof. In order to counter the enemy’s plan to blame God for the behavior of those who are abusive “in His name,” we need to be diligent to know and spread the truth about church-based manipulation and abuse. I am going to list some characteristics of controlling, narcissistic personalities as they can manifest in a church setting. Please comment and add other behaviors that you have seen so we can all have good radar to spot this behavior and not take part in it. Controllers are paranoid – they assume the worst about someone’s words or actions and assign evil motives to anyone who questions or disagrees with them. They are also defensive, recruiting others to back them up in their stance and to go on the offensive for them. They are protective, but the protection is about their own reputation, appearance, or the kingdom they have established for themselves, not about true righteousness. They must monitor everything that goes into or comes out of the church and paint themselves as the victims of other’s manipulation when they are the true manipulators. They may establish that they are superior to other churches, programs, or revelation and aim to recruit people of positive reputation to back them up. They are very charismatic and able to convince a person that you are just who they need to advance their plans using “you are the best thing that ever happened to me” types of flattery. Until you challenge them, then “you are the worst thing that ever happened to me.” This type of “I love you/I hate you” treatment tears down self-worth and creates confusion and weakness in their victims. You become dependent on what they think of you rather than what God thinks of you. They further promote these ideas by trying to isolate their minions so no one is able to challenge their authority. They promote the idea that they intend to rescue you out of the deception you have been under from inferior teaching. There becomes an “us and them” mentality and a violent resistance to correction or change, but others must change to meet their ideals and become like them. There often is great effort put into teaching and recruiting others so there is strength in numbers of those who follow them, strong peer pressure to follow their dictates, and multitudes of admirers to build up their egos. Slander and shunning are employed if there is any perceived straying from their control as this is seen as a threat to their existence. They will recruit witnesses to prove their side and to testify that they did everything they could to reconcile in a godly way. They will trap you into saying what you do not mean or twist your words, then turn around and lie about their manipulation of the situation. They call good evil and evil good (i.e. gossip – they are free to tell everyone how they are wronged by you and others and to defame your character, but you reporting how you have been wronged by them through Biblical channels is forbidden.) Focus is on punishment of what they perceive as a crime and not on loving discipline and reconciliation. They may go through the motions of reconciliation, but it ends up being an exercise in proving how wrong you are. If you disagree with them, you are rebellious and need to repent and be convinced of the errors of your ways. Apologies from them are only an attempt to appear righteous, but they cannot truly apologize because they are never wrong. They are invested so much in their behavior that their mindset is twisted into anything that will promote themselves as supreme. They refuse to think logically because that would destroy their primary beliefs to the point that they could feel as though they are dying. In order to change, they have to see a reason or need to change, and because of their belief in their superiority, they will never acknowledge that need. They will give you just enough hope that they will change to hold on to you, but it is all part of the manipulative process. How do you respond if you recognize yourself in these situations? Too many people, out of love and pure hearts, try to stay and change things. I have never seen this work. I must admit that all things are possible with God, but when Pharaoh’s heart did not change, God released Moses to leave. There are many other Biblical precedents that support a choice to flee unrighteousness. Find free, godly people to support you. Do not blame God; He has nothing to do with the behavior of these people. Heal. And become a person who brings freedom from abusive bondage to the Church so the Body can focus on Kingdom come and not dealing with fear and pain. Bless and be blessed!