By Cherilyn Clough, Jan. 28, 2015    See the art that goes with this essay at Visual Arts

The world is full of hurting people. Much of this pain comes from the misrepresentation of God by parents and religious leaders. As someone who has dealt with both narcissistic and religious abuse, it took me decades to trust God. When I realized God was better than I thought He was, I was filled with joy and wanted to share it with the world. Frederick Buechner sums up my mission with these words:

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

I was raised to worry about what people think. I was also not used to speaking my truth in private much less in public. The first time I posted in a chat group seven years ago, I screamed out loud and scared my cats. Since then I have learned to ignore the fear of what other people might think of me.

Not everyone was excited about my better understanding of God. Some relatives still clung to a more legalistic mindset and felt I was no longer walking with God. It was hard to have them misrepresenting what I believe to other people, but there is nothing I can do about what they think and say.

As I grew in understanding of God’s character, I also began to see how God had been misrepresented to me while I was growing up. The narcissistic minds that tried to control me and tell me I was wrong began to get more and more frustrated that I no longer allowed them to abuse me.

I wrote a blog for several years for my Adventist friends, but I realized I was preaching to the choir and I wanted to go outside of my comfort zone. The common ground I found to do that is narcissism.

I have had several names for my blog and most were very religious sounding. About a year ago I read an ancient account of Little Red Riding Hood where she was not rescued by the woodsman or a prince charming and she was not swallowed by the wolf.

In this oldest story, Little Red told the wolf she needed to use the outhouse.  The wolf tied a string to her finger and allowed her to go outside Grandma’s cabin to use it. That’s when Little Red tied the string to the outhouse door and made her escape. In this narrative, Little Red was not a victim, but used her freedom of choice to set a boundary and rescue herself.

After reading this story, I realized Little Red is symbol of all who have been innocently skipping through life, smelling the flowers, when they were suddenly shocked by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Little Red represents all who were abused in the name of love in the home and in the church.

I have posted a lot of information about narcissism and survivors of childhood abuse. I have plans to bring God further into my writing in the future, but my first goal is to mingle among the hurting so they know I empathize and understand their pain, before I bid them to follow Jesus.

Recently, I received a message at my Little Red Survivor page from a girl who has a page full of witchcraft pictures and asked me to lead her to a group for survivors. I sent the info she wanted, then she wrote back to say, “Please don’t be offended by my witchcraft pictures, I really need your help and I am just exploring ancient ways. I can tell you are a Christian and I just hope you are not put off because your blog has really helped me.”

This is how I know who to pray for each day. I am being allowed to pray over and speak into the life of someone who otherwise would never cross paths with me. I was glad to write back:

“Never worry about what others think my dear! You are free to be yourself with me and I hope others too. If we cannot allow people to explore ideas then we become like our abusers. I for one believe in God and I understand He is not an abuser like I once thought. I believe God grants freedom to all–it is false religion and humans who have tried to control others and ruined our world. You have a great day!”

About a year ago, I took an art class where we decided to make art for 101 days. This allowed me to create all kinds of messes and in the process I began to create art that spoke to me and others. This led to people asking if they could buy prints so I started selling them on Etsy. The biggest goal for my art is not to make money from prints, but to help the people who read my blog find hope and strength to deal with their abuse.

My goal is for the readers of my blog to realize we are no longer victims. We can stand up and let our voices be heard. Jesus gives us our individuality and He empowers our voices. We were not meant to live as the slaves of our abusers because, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”