The Long Con Of Child Grooming

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I never imagined I’d be writing a post like this one.  I’m sharing this scenario because it was unimaginable to me and may be to you, too.

As I have watched the news about Roy Moore and Bob Coy, I started thinking about the phenomenon of child grooming.  Reading the controversial article released a torrent of memories.

Many wonder where were the wives in these situation?  Why did they allow this?I thought I would share a story from the wife’s perspective:

I want to share a story about a women who married a man that was grooming a student of his for years.  This was before they were married, but she now realizes she was used in his long con.  She knew absolutely, nothing sexual happened, because she knew the young lady well.  In fact, she was mentoring her. But, she now also realizes, she is the one he desired all along.

Looking back, she was extremely naive, which is why I’m writing this. This women wishes she had been aware of the scale, method and ferocity of child grooming.  He spent time with this student, bought her gifts and treated her like she was special.  He joined our church, which she also attended and became her youth leader.

The worrying truth about child grooming, however, is it’s not just the child who’s being manipulated by a predator – it can be you, the adult, as well.  She realizes now that the reason he became her friend in the first place was to have access to her.  You see, In order to have access to a child, a predator needs to go through their care-givers – and in such a way that they don’t arouse suspicion.  The three of them were always together they enjoyed, sports, movies and church.

It’s also important to note that the perpetrator most likely won’t exhibit behaviors which would make him look like a predator.  So, you can imagine our surprise when she was a senior in high school after allegedly grooming her for 4 years, he gave her a gift for valentines day.  He was a man of 40.  In the envelope was a proposal and a diamond ring along with a letter of his desire to have lots of children with her. Luckily, she declined and showed her the letter and returned the ring.  But, not before this young women was shocked, startled and afraid. Especially, because she was innocent and blindsided by this whole revelation. She was not alone in this.

A few months later he had a major mental breakdown, which in her mind explained his bizarre proposal and behaviors.  She assumed he was in a desperate situation and clinging to any life line he could find.  She found herself as his medical contact as he had no one else, so she became his proxy.  She sat at his bedside everyday, meeting with doctors and counselors.  When he was released, She was forced to be his legal guardian, even though they were the same age.  This was the only way, he could be released from the hospital after several weeks.  He came to live with her and recovered for more than a year.  Unfortunately, due to this women’s strong nurturing side, she let her guard down and after 2 years fell in love with this man.  Thinking he was genuinely remorseful for what he had done.  She chalked it all up to his mental illness.  The counselors said with medication he would be fine.  She believed them.  He went on to attend Bible college and they were married.

As most of you can guess, this marriage did not have a happy ending, they  had a marriage filled with domestic violence and lack of trust.  She had learned early in her marriage, while he was at bible college he was interested in a relationship with a 19 year old girl from another country.  Again, nothing inappropriate happened to this young lady, I doubt she was even aware of the situation at all.   This relationship (in his head) happened at the same time he was at her home everyday as if nothing had happened. So, once again she had become an unwilling participant in his obsession with youth and the paradox of what is appropriate and what he desires.

One of the aspects that has been the most difficult for her to deal with is the realization that she was fooled by this man. Conned if you will. She felt (and still feels) like a fool.

Her life was like a virtual reality — her home like a movie set consisting of false fronts. Like the Truman show.  She came out of the marriage confused, unsure of what was real and what was fabrication. She was embarrassed. Thinking, how could she have been such a fool?  She had been literally sleeping with the enemy. The crime was intensified by the fact that it was carried out by the man who had sworn to love and protect her.

She hopes that writing down her thoughts will help her untangle them. She still doesn’t know how she feels or how she is supposed to feel. She is constantly reliving her many interactions with this man, hearing his voice and his laughter, remembering his every touch and facial expression — a slideshow of once pleasant images, before they were married now viewed after their marriage through a distorted lens, nightmarish and cruel.

Now the cold, hard truth sets in. She was deceived; She was played! She was led on. You see the relationship was never what she believed it to be.

It’s funny, when the dusts settles and the pain goes away, you are able to see things so clearly.  She realizes now, she was used..plain and simple, by a man that wanted a relationship with someone else much much younger.   I believe now this was the reason her now ex-husband became friends in the first place.  She was part of the long con.  She was not the one he wanted, she was the one society would approve of.  No wonder he has told people, he felt pressured to marry her.

Hearing this story, I am starting to be much more educated on the subject now.  After training to be an advocate for women and children.  I am becoming more aware of the signs and the behavior of these men that have a mental illness and are preoccupied with young women.   As parents we need to learn the signs, be aware of who our children are spending time with.  Talk to your children and educate them too!  We must understand that the Christian community is not immune to this phenomenon.  Sometimes, I think we can be more vulnerable.  In our attempt to give forgiveness and look for the best in people, we sometimes over look dangerous behaviors.

The Christian vision of manhood is men as givers, not takers. Men as self-sacrificers, not self-gratifiers.

I am dedicating my life to educating and bringing awareness to this phenomenon.  I pray for her ex-husband that the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to him and his pastor.  I pray he gets the help he desperately needs.  She has revealed the truth as she now knows it to his pastor and the people that need to know,  it is no longer her burden to bear.  People need to be accountable for their actions.

In the meantime, the Lord has richly blessed her. Her kids are healthy, Godly and all either married or will be in the next several months.  She is happy and fulfilled.  She is happier than she has ever been.  Peace reigns in her life.  She no longer bears the shame of her marriage and realizes through the Lord’s help it was not her fault.  Her biggest fault was being a gullible women wanting to believe the best in someone she loved.

Was she foolish to marry this man, ABSOLUTELY!

While she is no longer “in love” with her former spouse, this side of divorce.  For her, divorce was the beginning of understanding that God’s love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out. That kind of love will never leave her.

She has learned that there is a freedom on this side of her divorce, a freedom that she was hoping for.  The Lord has shed light on the darkness in her marriage and in her life.

1Cor 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 

For more information on the signs of Child Grooming:

https://thejoyfulchristianministry.com/2017/11/15/stop-child-grooming/

http://themamabeareffect.org/1/post/2013/11/do-you-know-how-to-identify-grooming.html

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The Penalty For Abusing Authority

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The headlines are bursting with stories about people in positions of authority who have turned a blind eye when it comes to protecting someone under their care—failing to do the right thing—the very thing their occupation demands. Teachers having inappropriate relations with students, politicians sexually harassing young girls and pastors falling in sin.  Husbands hurting their wives and children. Does looking the other way, or pleading ignorance, really exonerate someone who could do something to stop abuse yet, for political, or personal gain, does nothing?

All is not well in this world. Husbands are hurting wives, Teachers are predators, politicians are predators, despite their political affiliation, church workers are predators precisely because we allow them to be. Victims stay silent (it’s normal for a victim to wait decades before they share because of fear, threats, and shame), and when they expose the predators, they are then berated, unbelieved, and marginalized. And yet, I see this great kingdom of God advancing in precisely the opposite way, with the weak ones, the broken, overlooked.

Certainly, as Christians, we struggle with the reality that everywhere we turn there seems to be a moral battle raging and, at times, it may seem hopeless, to stem the tide of evil. With the media onslaught of moral corruption pervading our world, it’s little wonder we have become desensitized and almost ambivalent to the moral failures of those who are in charge, some of these men are members of the very churches we attend.  But, can we adequately plead “not guilty” if we do nothing?

This made me start thinking about someone, long ago, who took the easy way out defense too. He was the high priest, he was the only one who was permitted to meet yearly at the mercy seat with God. His sole ministry was to represent Christ—who intercedes for the sins of his people. Yet, within Eli’s own family, a dark secret was lurking. He heard the rumors but, somehow, he failed to muster the courage to stop the evil. Why? What could he possibly offer as an adequate excuse for allowing such heinous sins to be committed on his watch, within his own church, and by his own sons? He had a choice to make and he chose to do nothing. Sound familiar?

Years pass by and God appears to be silent. He sent a warning message and now He waits to see what His servant will do. I’m sure the Spirit was pleading for this reluctant father to correct the evil course of his sons, but to no avail.  Finally, in a very unexpected manner, the message comes. When Eli has procrastinated too long, God speaks.

The Bible tells us, “The Lord came and stood there, calling… “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)  The message God spoke to Samuel that night long ago has similar implications for us today! Are we listening? If so, are we willing to say, “Speak, for we are listening”?

God had previously warned Eli about the sins of his sons and what would happen if he failed to check their sins. “The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father’s house, …you will see distress in my dwelling.” (1 Samuel 2:31-32)  Do we stand firm in protest of evil or, like Eli, do our sympathetic actions toward a fallen minister, teacher, husband or politician counteract our ability to adequately protest their iniquities?

What could possibly be so wicked that it forced God to deal with Eli and his sons so harshly? It was the same sin that is destroying many in authoritarian positions today. “Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.” (1 Samuel 2:22 ) Not only was the sacrifice disgraced and polluted, the personal lives of the priests—the very ones who were to be godly examples of holiness—were defiled with sexual immorality and abuse.  Sound familiar?

Can a minister, teacher, husband or politician who willfully chooses to destroy precious lives under his care simply excuse his actions as “a fall from grace”? Obviously, we know people make serious mistakes.  But this is on a deeper level.

And today, thousands of years later, there are those who still fail in their responsibility to protect those vulnerable under their leadership and care. When a transgression of this nature takes place, those who refuse to correct the evil done by a person of authority are guilty of the same sinful neglect to God’s heritage as was Eli.

It is time for pastors to believe the women who come to them seeking help from their abusive husbands.  To admonish and impose must needed church discipline. To believe the children that come forward about the teachers who have taken advantage of them.  To believe the small child that is being hurt by a parent.

It’s time we Christians, with sound mind and deep conviction, call predators and abusers out within the church. It’s time we stop tolerating any kind of abuse, stop looking the other way hoping things will improve. The statistics prove that predators and abusers typically continue to offend until they’re caught.   Our inaction, then, allows for more abuse.  We need to wake up and take this seriously!

Are we as Christians becoming desensitized by sins leavening effect—precious souls are being violated everyday.  I sat with a young women of 15 last week, who had been involved sexually with a teacher.  This poor child had tried to commit suicide from the shame and confusion.  I have to think that this teacher, who claimed to be a christian is just as guilt as Eli’s sons.

Recently in Papillion, Nebraska, a high school band teacher, Mike Pollock, was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a former student. After his resignation, a spokesperson for the school stated that what Mr. Pollock had done was  “…not just a violation by that one teacher, but it’s a violation of the entire profession.” If the secular community can see how important the reputation of all teachers are, and that such actions committed by one destroy the reputation of everyone in that profession, certainly the church is in desperate need of true reformation when it comes to how we deal with a fallen christian.

All who hold positions of sacred trust and, like Eli, knowingly fail to take a stand against the abusive actions of leaders under their charge, will have to face serious consequences for neglecting their responsibility to guard the flock under their care.

Take heart, those who have been preyed on. The light is shining brightly, and the web of lies will be exposed.

Thankfully, there is still time and mercy still pleads with our hearts. The signs around us loudly proclaim judgment is soon to be executed upon this earth. We, like Eli, have been given a message of warning. God is still waiting to see if we will correct our errors, retrace our steps, and implement justice before He executes judgment. If we fail to heed Heaven’s admonition, we too will pass beyond the line where mercy will no longer be able to reach our ears. Sadly, God will ultimately say to us what He said to Eli, “…I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” (1 Samuel 3:14 )

The Secret I Kept

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I received an email yesterday that has me a bit discouraged. Without going into detail, I will say that this path God has me on is difficult.  I love sharing Jesus with people. I enjoy communicating about His healing. I love being an advocate for women.

But, I have been convicted about a secret I held for someone I loved, for way too many years.   When he shared the secret with me, I was not educated on the subject and didn’t take the necessary precautions I should have.  I watched this secret put a wedge between us for years.  We as of a couple years ago are no longer together, I think this secret was a big part of our downfall and divorce and lack of trust. Now I deal with the ramifications, that, maybe I could have done something to change his heart long ago. This secret has left me with powerful feelings of fear and shame.

The Bible say’s “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matt 10:26-28

We may harbor secrets because we think the truth about a single evil past act or a continuing bad habit is too shameful to tell, or we may keep our secrets hidden because we don’t want to risk losing our friends. Either way, we remain alone, isolated, and desperate to stay hidden.

My own choices to keep this secret has caused me a lot of pain and confusion for years.  I have shed many tears on how I could done things differently.  I am ashamed that I did not make a bigger deal of it when he shared.  I truly thought he had changed had genuine sorrow and that it was a thing of the past…well..it wasn’t.

I have found that Sin grows with secrets..“As Iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  Proverbs 27:7.  Did I fail at this.  Because at the end of our marriage this secret came crashing back.  He had not change one bit.  He was still stuck in this sinful past.

Our sinful nature always desires more.  When you get away with something in secret, the deceitful nature of sin will convince you that it’s a reason to keep going.  Eventually, you find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, and there are only painful ways out.

What I realize now is, that darkness causes sin and pain to grow, the light brings redemption.  In keeping this secret, I allowed darkness to grow.  I also did a disservice to him for keeping it hidden.  Some secrets bring much greater destruction into our lives than if they were revealed.

The truth is: this secret costs me a lot. My marriage…and that’s okay because perhaps it is my cross I bear. I just wish I could have had the joy of seeing him find healing and freedom which would have trumped all this angst.  But now, I am ready to close the door on this: I need to close the door on my expectations.  My expectation that he would really change his heart and be a new man.

Revealing this kind of secret can be a painful and a fearful experience. However, I realize now that it opens up new opportunities to experience God’s healing.  But ignoring sin is never the solution. Never. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that we can sin “safely.”

Even among Christians it can be a real struggle to find the balance in when to keep a secret and when to reveal a secret sin-whether it is your sin, or your friend’s sin or your husbands sin.

It gets even more complicated for some Christians. Even if you have confessed your sins to Jesus, which sins should you reveal to others?

One young man who had been married for about a year revealed to his wife that he had been struggling with pornography. He thought this honesty would help their marriage. But his wife was so devastated by this admission, that her distrust of him grew to the point that she divorced him.

So should he have kept this secret from his wife? Would they still be married if he had said nothing to her? There are no simple answers to these complex questions.

God clearly reveals what lies in our future. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17) We can’t hide our sins forever.

The power of shame can cause us to give far too much power to our failures of the past. You can begin to believe the lie that “if others know about my failures, they won’t like me. They won’t trust me.” So we put up walls to hide our secrets, and live in fear of what will happen if others really know the truth about me.

Jesus states clearly that His arms are wide open for you. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 )

You can’t keep any secrets from God. No matter what you have done, He still loves you. Learning to live in the light of His truth will put you on the path to healthy living and peace in your heart.

The problem comes when we seem to be left in the dark. God often does not give us His 5 year plan for our future. He wants us to learn what it means to walk by faith-taking one step at a time, and putting our trust in Him that He knows what is best.

This faith walk goes against our natural desire to be in control. Surrendering control makes us feel vulnerable.

When we allow God to be in control, we open the door to a new level of freedom in our lives. You can have the confidence that He has your best as His top priority.

Since only God knows all the future, it’s a great choice to give Him full control.

If someone came to me today, with this same secret I would point them to a male counselor/pastor and probably would have distanced myself from him.  I am not sure, although I know I was wrong in the way I handled it.  I pray the Lord forgives me.

When the people closest to us sins, it hurts. Sin is destructive. When we are standing close by, we often get hit with shrapnel.  My shrapnel was the secret.

The truth is, we all have a sin problem. That’s why we need Jesus so much. But if someone you love is trapped in a pattern of sin, or refuses to repent from sin the stakes can seem sky high. When I don’t know what to pray, I pray God’s Word.

But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

I pray for them to see their sin as God sees it.

 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 26:36

I pray that their heart will be soften.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Pray the word changes their heart.  

God is in the business of dealing with sin. There is no sin too big for Him to forgive and no sinner too far for God to take them back. As you wait for Him to do the miraculous redemptive work only He can do, keep praying with great expectation.

Do you know someone stuck in a pattern of sin? Which of these prayers will you start praying on their behalf?

 

Why Are Voices Are Not Heard

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I am truly disheartening at the number of women who have shared stories, including my own, with pastors who, in one way or another, advised them to stick with their abusive husbands: to be more submissive, to pray more, etc.

So I started thinking about the fact that so many women having such similar stories.  If it had not happened to me, I would have a real difficulty believing that any one of these pastors, would ever condone domestic violence.  Especially,  since these are Godly men, who teach anointed sermons.  Who have continually blessed me through their ministries.

And yet here we are with all these women sharing the exact same thing happened with their pastor. And I know those women are not lying, or somehow mistaken about what happened to them.  Because it happened to me!

What I wish these pastors understood is how brave these women are when they finally come forward.  How scary it is to finally tell our secrets, secrets we have hid for years.  And that when a woman is writing/telling the real raw truth of their lives, their words take on an integrity that even the most accomplished fiction writers struggle to write. There could be no doubting the truth of these women’s stories.

Just this week, I wrote a pastor that dismissed my allegations, to clarify now that I come from a position of strength and healing as opposed to the weak woman asking for help.  Warning him he has a man capable of hurting women a sociopath in his congregation, and asked why he never confronted him when he was clearly in sin.  Even if he had doubts of my accusations, wouldn’t you want to investigate.

But howHow could these good, loving, Godly, well-intentioned men give advice that’s so manifestly, egregiously, cruelly wrong?

Is it because to a Godly man Domestic violence is fundamentally unbelievable. Like all true evil, domestic violence is basically incomprehensible. Most people find it simply inconceivable that any man would systematically victimize his own wife and children.

So, maybe, it’s easy for pastors to, in fact, fail to imagine it. When faced with a woman saying that her husband is abusing her, pastors must sometimes immediately and even instinctively assume that in some fundamental way the woman must be mistaken.  Especially, when every interaction he has had with her husband has been positive.  They can even seem charming, loving, and care deeply about the unsaved in the world.

What I think pastors are missing is the fact that these men are master manipulators.

For example, my husband was the friendliest, most sincere, open, warm, kind, generous person I had ever met.  That was the very thing I was drawn to.  But, wife abusers are sociopaths. They can talk the stink off a skunk. And guess who’s at the top of the list of people the abuser is determined to fool? Exactly: The family pastor. Who is very much inclined to love and trust people. Most pastors don’t stand a chance against a perpetrator of domestic violence.

Or could it be that a lot of pastors hold to the traditional Biblical definition of the proper relation between a husband and wife. Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”) But I hardly think that from that pastors typically think that it’s acceptable for husbands to abuse their wives. Most pastors know that the rest of that passage from Ephesians enjoins husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … .” I think it’s safe to say that pastors get that it’s wrong for a husband to beat or otherwise abuse his wife and kids. But I also think that not enough pastors have spent the time thinking about the broad, fuzzy line between biblical submission and repugnant victimization.

I think Pastors need to face and acknowledge this truth. They need to take case-by-case responsibility for drawing a clear line of demarcation between the kind of “submission” they and the church has traditionally understood as healthy, and the kind of submission everyone knows is unhealthy.

Pastors believe in the power of Christ to heal, to bring new life, to reclaim, to save, to resurrect.  They believe that through the community of church God radically and permanently transforms people’s lives. They believe in the enduring, righteous strength of marriage and family.

Pastors are not in the business of divorce; they don’t recommend the shattering of a family unit. They believe not in dissolution, but resolution.  And really God Bless them.  So am I, but there is a time when it is necessary, if the man is not repentant.

Let’s face it Domestic violence is simply not a subject present on pastors radar.  so a pastor faced with a domestic violence problem is likely to counsel patience, forbearance, and the discernment of the will of God. Each man is just doing what he knows. And in so doing each, of course, creates pain.

It’s not enough for us to simply desire that our pastors do a better job of handling issues of domestic violence. We must also help them to understand and obtain the training necessary for doing so.

So, although I failed to get the help, I so desired from my church, I will not turn my back on God.  I will continue to educate and support women in crisis.  I also, learned that all churches are not devoid of the knowledge of domestic violence.  There are many churches with great support groups for women in crisis.

Remember, It is impossible with our limited knowledge to see all God is doing to convict your husband and bring him to repentance. You might not see evidence of his conviction for years. That doesn’t mean God isn’t pursuing him. Remember that God has an eternal perspective. His timetable is not your own.

Also, remember although it isn’t fair what has happened to you with your pastor,  God hasn’t disappointed you; man has! God is the one constant in your life. If anything wasn’t fair it was piercing the hands and feet of the totally innocent God-man for your vile sins. If need be, Repent of your bitterness toward God. Ask Him to give you a right perspective of His love for you.

This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. God wants to do a work in you. He doesn’t want to leave you where you are—He loves you too much. He wants to increase your faith, your reliance upon Him, and your love for Him. Be willing to allow God to transform you.

God loves you. He will never reject you. He hears your cries! He longs to draw you close and fill you with His supernatural peace. No matter what your circumstance, no matter if your situation never changes this side of heaven, God is there. He is the steady hand underneath your days.

I Need Your Direction Lord

 

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I have shared many times on my blog about my divorce and it’s aftermath. These past several weeks have been a bit difficult with regard to my attitude about my ex-husband.  I shared my sadness/anger of discovering he placed a praise the Lord and christian fish after his name on our divorce decree.  Compounded by the fact, that I work with Christian women who find themselves in abusive marriages, has made it even more difficult.  I realize daily that he desperately needs to change his heart so he does not abuse another women.  Truth is, I do not miss the man I was married to, but I do miss the best friend he was for years, before we married.  It is hard as a christian, you are told to fight for your marriage, which I did while we were separated even fight while the divorce is being processed.  Then the decree is final….then what?

I forgave him three years ago, but sometimes I still get annoyed with him. Especially, when every time I need to get a hold of him, I receive angry emails from his family attacking me. He acts like I am a non-person after 2 decades together… Funny, they are never from him, he just ignores me, he hides behind his family. It is such a paradox for me, professionally, I work to educate and stop domestic violence, then knowing that I personally know someone who needs help to stop their abusing behavior.

I’ve been pondering the whole response to an ex that needs help, do I just turn a blind eye and walk away or do I try my best to make sure he never hurts another women.  If he does, is it a blood on my hands kind of a thing.  I know that isn’t exactly accurate, but it is hard to see someone you loved living with a hard heart either. Of course, I am far from perfect, and I have my own issues, and only by the grace of God do I live.

I believe that God is showing me to just give him up to the Lord, period: in an attitude of love, goodness, blessing and prayer. My eyes focused not on my life, not on my circumstances, and not on the wrongs done to me, but rather focused with laser intensity on Jesus!

The verse that the Lord continually bringing me to is Luke 6:27-28:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

It seems harsh to refer to my ex-husband as my enemy … although sometimes it feels that way. I believe in my heart that he isn’t my enemy. I think I feel like I’m in a spiritual battle with him, but maybe we are more like opponents in a tennis match—but there’s definitely no love in the score.  Which makes me sad.

“Love your enemies.”

Awww, Lord. Really?

“Love … do good … bless … pray.”

Love him? Love him. Really?

What does that even look like? ‘Cause I did that for a long time and it ended up almost destroying me. I ended up abused, used and thrown away like thrash, notified he was divorcing me by email.  Love the person who put praise the Lord and a christian fish on our divorce decree?  So I’m praying as I write because I really don’t know what that looks like.

Talking about love always reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is:

Patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Am I patient with God’s dealing with my situation and my ex? Am I kind in the face of my ex’s attitudes, accusations and actions? Am I rude when I could choose to be kind? Do I insist that things go my way regardless of God’s plan? Am I irritable and resentful? (Ugh. Definitely.) I do not believe I rejoice in my ex’s wrongdoings, but maybe I do a bit when it’s me trying to justify my angry response to him. Do I rejoice in the truth?  I hope so.

But in this circumstance, do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Nope. I wanna cry and hide in the corner. I want to yell and argue and fight with my ex, telling him how much he hurt me and the children.

Who am I kidding—I can’t do those things! Love like that? That’s not logical.

But when has God called me to do something that He hasn’t enabled me to do?

Once again, I’m gonna have to rely solely on Jesus. After all, He has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).

And I’m going to need the Lord in my life, because not only am I called to love that man, but to do good, bless and pray for him.

 

But what is my role in the meantime?  Am I you supposed to sit around and passively wait for more persecution? No, the answer is to become aggressive with good. When wicked behavior is running rampant, it feels like it is in control. However God’s Word tells us that good is more powerful than evil. God does not say that doing good to others will help us tolerate their evil. He says that we can overcome it. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Light overwhelms darkness. Hope triumphs over discouragement. Love casts our fear. It is our task, in the face of evil, to offer good. Why? Because good invites repentance.  I pray he repents, before it is too late.

Consider Romans 12:20 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” The phrase “heap burning coals on his head” referred to awakening the conscience of another. With good, we can melt the heart of evil with burning shame. Constantly repaying evil with good holds a mirror up to the perpetrator reflecting only their evil; in some cases this will bring about a change of heart.

I believe I will pray for God to enable me to live the way God desires me too!

Cycle Of Abuse

In honor of October Domestic Violence Month

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Stopping the cycle of abuse is one challenge, but a bigger challenge is knowing how to raise a son when the men in your life have been abusers.

This is an honest and raw post that is very difficult for me to share, but my hope is, it will speak to someone’s heart.  That after much prayer, there is someone who needs to hear this, it’s my story.

This has been an interesting and exciting week for me, getting ready for my son’s wedding which has made me both emotional and also reflective on my life.

I have often wondered and worried about what kind of husband my son will be, since his male role models were emotionally unavailable and abusive.  With his step-father, I would watch him bend over backwards trying to please him and gain his approval, but always came up disappointed.  He was young and always felt that he never measured up.  Leaving me with guilt and regret, and causing me to question, how would he love his wife, if he only knew emotionally unavailable and abusive role models?

In the two years I have witnessed my son and his fiance’s relationship, it has at times brought me to tears of joy.  He is a sweet loving gentle giant, who praise the Lord, treats her like a princess.  I have talked to his fiance at length and she always talks about how kind, loving and patient he is.  I asked him one day why this is and he answered  “Mom, I witnessed you being hurt too many times, the look in your eyes, made me as a child promise that if I ever married, I would never want my wife to ever feel that kind of pain, fear or sadness.” and “Plus, I want to model Christ in my home and love my wife as Christ loved the church.”  Blessed and humbled mom.  To be fair my daughters have also successfully found healthy loving relationships.  With the Lord there is hope to break this awful cycle.

My Story

In my marriage, I had denied the truth for so long I was unable to recognize what was really happening. The abuse had started subtly and grown insidiously. My husband and I claimed to be Christians, so how could our marriage be abusive? He was my best friend for years how could this happen?

I met my ex-husband at a Christian church we both attended. He was handsome, intelligent, charming and interesting—always looking for adventure and fun.  He could make me laugh like no one else. He often discussed the gospel and he cared genuinely about people’s salvation. He loved telling me and everyone else who would listen, how he was alone in the bible college chapel and the Lord spoke to him “Cheryl will be your wife,” something he now denies.  Our wedding was a God-centered event, shared with many of the students from bible college. I envisioned and hoped our marriage to be a shared life of service and impact for God’s kingdom.  I was so in love. I truly believed that if I was a good wife, my marriage would go well and we’d have a loving life together.  I was so blessed to marry a man of God.

Though, looking back now, I realize he was somewhat self-centered before we were married, but, I did not see any red flags about the abuse that was to come. But very early in our marriage I saw signs that life was going to be very different from what I’d envisioned. If I didn’t comply with his expectations, he’d become angry and yell for hours at a time.

 As I began to internalize his accusations and criticisms, both my confidence and my self-worth began to crumble. I couldn’t even confidently discard old food from our refrigerator without fearing a blow up may occur because I’d mistakenly tossed out something he wanted to eat. As my self-worth eroded, I questioned my ability to be a loving wife and mother, and whether I was truly a woman of faith.  Was this somehow my fault.

On the outside we looked like a loving couple, especially in our Christian circles. He appeared spiritually mature. He prayed eloquent prayers, participated in deep theological discussions, and often referenced Scripture to support his insights.  I did everything I could to establish the appearance of the godly partnership I so desperately desired.

But behind closed doors, things were far from normal. Unable to predict when the switch would flip on his anger, I walked on eggshells. Without warning, I’d suddenly become the object of  his uncontrolled, frightening rage. There was no escaping his anger.

Because our situation was so intense, I was in constant prayer with the Lord. I pored through Scripture to find direction and answers from my Savior. I took to heart his accusations that I was ungodly, unsubmissive, and prideful, and constantly confessed my sin to the Lord. I also took seriously the scriptural reference to forgive 70 times 7, so as his rages continued, I focused on forgiveness and mercy.  He repeatedly told me what was “true” about me: I was disrespectful, unsubmissive, and wanted to take the lead. I lost confidence in my ability to identify reality. “Truth” had been verbally twisted and used against me. The fear and constant threat of attack rendered me an emotional weakling.

All attempts to stop the abuse were unsuccessful and now with pornography added, he began to criticize me for what he called my lack of trust in him, resulting in him yelling so loudly everyone in the house heard and lasted for hours into the early morning.  This would occur more frequently than I would admit. I made the decision after seeking counsel to separate.  I wanted restoration, and I thought that if we separated, it would be a huge wake up call, that he would miss me, repent and change his heart.  I did not think divorce was possible.  But, after a couple failed reconciliation attempts, he stopped counseling and wanted a divorce, citing I never wanted reconciliation and I had abandoned him.  Which was not true.  There would be more hurtful reasons he would tell friends and pastors on why we divorced.  Always with me the villain and would further strip me of any dignity and worth.

The grief I experienced over the failure of my marriage was overwhelming, and the recovery process has been grueling. But God never abandoned me. Rather, he’s drawn me closer to him. I learned God’s grace is completely reliable, and he can handle the messy truths in our lives. And the most awesome realization is that God wants to use me. As God now regularly opens doors of ministry to me, I’m charged with telling my story and sharing his message of grace.

One of my ministries is, I led a support group and counsel women who have been abused. One question that often comes up as I talk to christian women is the relationship between domestic abuse and the Christian teaching that wives must submit. Specifically, people want to know if abuse occurs more often in homes where they are taught that husbands are the head of the household.  Since, my ex husband once locked me in a room to try to teach me submission. I looked into the research, but, I don’t believe it to be true. It is something that should be beautiful and good. What I found was abuse happens across the board, with people in every belief and non-belief, it is not the teaching of the church, but the heart of the person.  In regards to submission to our husbands that are abusive, Christian husbands are not Christ. They are fallible, forgiven sinners. They do not stand in the place of Christ. Their wives relate directly to Christ (Hebrews 4:16; 11:6), not merely through their husbands. Husbands do not have the wisdom or the power or the rights of Christ. Their likeness to Christ in leading their wives is limited and focused by these words: He gave himself up for her . . . nourishing and cherishing . . . not be harsh and hurt them.

Therefore, an abusive husband is ALWAYS breaking God’s law. He is directly disobeying Christ and he is in sin. He is not to be indulged but disciplined by the church. The wife has every right to ask the church for help. A Christian woman should not feel that the only help available to her is the police. That would be a biblical failure of her church.  So, again,  it is NEVER your fault, please do not fall into this trap.

Encouragement – Plea To Women Touched By Abuse

What I want to say to you today, is this, I know that many of you – because of your experiences with or watching a parent – have been hurt by men in some way.  I know this hurt is very, very deep and raw. While I cannot speak on behalf of men, I first want to tell you how sorry I am for what you have been through. I want you to know that no woman EVER deserves to be hurt by a man, and there is nothing you have or could have ever done to deserve the pain you have experienced. No action or inaction you have ever taken warrants the hurt that has been done to you. It doesn’t matter what excuse he may give, if he wanted to marry you or not, felt pressure, was stressed, he fell out of love for you. You did not deserve to be treated this way.

I know how easy it is in the midst of this kind of hurt and abuse to submit to the trap of believing that all men are unkind – that all men may be hurtful, manipulative, or abusive.  I know you have been conditioned to believe that this is all there is, that these are the only kind of men that exist. If you have given into this belief, I want you to know something…It is not true, it is a lie the enemy wants you to believe.

There are men in this world who are good, kind, gentle and have love running through the core of who they are. There are men in the world who are committed to and surrendered to Jesus Christ and His example. There are men in the world who are willing to sacrifice and love you deeply, the way YOU deserve..

I promise you this – the good men in the world may be difficult to find, but there are many.  Like my son.

I want you to know this, too, in your head and your heart – Jesus Christ wants to place His healing hand on your broken heart, and make it whole again. He wants to restore your faith that men can be kind and loving. He wants to restore your belief in your worth, your wholeness, your beauty, and all that you have to offer the world.

Christ loves to meet us in the depths of our brokenness, He brings wonderful restoration. Today I pray that if these truths speak to your life, if you like me have experienced this pain – that God would bring good men into your life – to restore your faith that men can be kind, and good, and true.

for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13

 

My closing plea is to all Christian men

and in particular to the leaders of churches: You have a responsibility to raise up men of faith to be good loving husbands and fathers.  Teach them to love and cherish women, the weaker vessel that the Lord loves so much!  His much loved daughters that he has given to you the responsibility to protect and love.  Please be the messenger of a beautiful vision of marriage that calls men to bear the responsibility for. Make it part of the culture of manhood in the church that the men will not tolerate the abuse of any of its women. Ever!

The church should not harbor an abusive man or woman whom the civil authorities would punish if they knew what the church knows.

 

 

 

Overcoming Betrayal

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I have heard,  “The most surprising thing about divorce is that is doesn’t kill you instantly like a head-on car crash because it should. Instead, we are left trying to process the impact and cope with the painful aftermath.”

I recently got together with a dear friend who shared with me the difficult news of her impending divorce. It was a hard conversation, filled with sadness and her shame of having failed her marriage. The hurt and betrayal she was feeling, unfortunately,  is a pain I know all too well.   Especially, since we both wanted to heal our marriages and seek reconciliation, but faced hard-hearted spouses.  In my case “I thought separation would be a powerful attention-getting boundary to stop the abuse” Instead of counseling, I was met with divorce. As we sat together crying and sharing, I immediately thought of Psalm 55 12-14.

12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:13 But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.14 We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company. Psalm 55 12-14

As we know David was no stranger to betrayal. I think we can learn a lot from the way he cries out to God, in real raw honest truth. David shows us how to overcome the pain. “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice” (Psalm 55 16-17).

I think there are few things in life more devastating than finding out that the person you once loved could become the object of your pain and betrayal. The person you promised to love until death do you part.  The person you dreamed of spending your entire life with.  Someone you thought was your friend and spouse could become your enemy. Trust is shattered.  Faith is questioned. The covenant is broken. A life built becomes the focus of a battle to dismantle. I have experienced the pain, anger, and resentment of divorce, along with it’s never ending repercussions.  How do you stop loving someone you have shared so much intimacy with and as David spoke in Psalm 55 “sweet fellowship.” I now understand why God hates divorce.

Who can we turn to when the one who betrays us is our spouse? Especially, since they were the person, you use to run too? Ultimately, our sinless heavenly Father is the only One who will never sin against us. He will not betray, abandon, or reject us.

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23).

God loves you. He will never reject you. He hears your cries! He longs to draw you close and fill you with His supernatural peace. No matter what your circumstance,  God is there. He is the steady hand underneath your days.  God wants to do a work in you. He doesn’t want to leave you where you are—He loves you too much. He wants to increase your faith, your reliance upon Him, and your love for Him. Be willing to allow God to transform you.

This path begins with taking our eyes off our ex-spouse and on to Jesus as the power source for our love.

I am praying for all who need to believe that Christ is with them in their pain. If you are struggling with your faith, I am praying that you will have the strength to surrender your doubt to Christ and ask for his strength to believe. May you know that He loves you more than you could ever know. He has promised to never leave you, not ever, no matter what you are going through. God is close to the brokenhearted. His word is true. He is with you now. Let him work this out but trust him with the details. Your faith shows the world that you belong to Christ. May God give you his peace and may you know that you are not alone.