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!

I Am The Women Sitting beside You In Church

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Church leaders say they abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it.

I hope and pray that all readers will pray about what they can do to help bring change to domestic violence happening in your church.. Whether you are in church leadership or part of the church. We can all do our part. No one should have to endure what many women have endured.  Psalm 91.4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” 

I pray that with the light shining on this issue, that there is a great opportunity for the church to better reflect what Jesus Christ calls us to be. May we listen to the Holy Spirit and may we listen and believe the women who seek help. 

I’m a normal friendly person, who loves the Lord with all my heart. If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know I’m a survivor of abuse. Until this year, I probably won’t have told you because I was too embarrassed and ashamed. But I was sitting next to you in church. Watching your happy family with tears in my eye’s. Feeling like I failed. Like my husband was right – that I used his imperfections (i.e.abuse) as an excuse to run away. Don’t I know that God hates divorce? Don’t I believe in forgiveness, grace, second chances? In love that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs? In faithfulness, perseverance, and sacrificial servant love? I do, I really do!  I never threw my vows away, I just wanted to be safe and my husband to repent and change.  I desired reconciliation with all my heart and he knew that.

But, All I knew when I left was I could not do marriage on his terms anymore. I could not live with the fear pervading my body when he walked through our front door. Holding my breath, placating, saying whatever he needed me to, to make the anger go away.  And now I wore the double sided guilt. That somehow the abuse was my fault, and that I should’ve seen, should’ve known, should’ve protected my children. Oh the guilt, of the damage I have let come to them.

The reaction and blame shifting of some Christians after I chose to separate has added insult to injury. I was desperate for help, any help.  I sought refuse at a church in my new area that I loved, until my ex-husband wrote a letter to the pastor that in his words was “vile and hateful” and they asked me to leave.  Me leave??  I thought the letter would have shown them how abusive he was, but instead he said “we cannot get in the middle of this.”  Here I was, alone and now leaving the second church that I loved.

Some Christian leaders responded with compassion and a desire to do better at caring for survivors of domestic violence, some have cried foul and wanted to point the finger elsewhere: “What about that group? It doesn’t happen at my church! They have an agenda! Abuse has no place in the church! The stats weren’t reported improperly! Regular church goers are least likely to abuse!” etc etc etc.

Frankly, they’ve missed the point. Stories of violence in the church, like mine, actually happen. In my opinion, One story is one too many.

Here’s the response I wish I’d heard from all Christians:

These stories are heartbreaking.

What can we as a church do?

Do we believe the women who come forward, even if their violent husbands claim to be Christians and are regular churchgoers or are on staff, or do we disbelieve/dismiss/blame them/tell them to go home and learn to submit?

Just as my husband would lock me in rooms to teach me submission.  “Your problem is you won’t obey me. The Bible says you must obey me and you refuse,” he yelled. “You are a failure as a wife, as a Christian, as a mother.  For years, I believed that God wanted me to submit to my husband, and I did my best, bending to his will, despite the pain I was in.

The church needs to hear the wake up call, and proactively investigate claims and check the attitudes, beliefs, practices and structures of each church to discover if there is any inadvertent complicity or unhelpful misunderstandings that contribute here. One woman or child facing violence in the church is one too many.

Here are some questions for the Church:

Why have there been so few sermons on domestic violence? Why do so many women report that their ministers tell them to stay in violent marriages?

Is the stigma surrounding divorce still too great, and unforgiving? Is this also a problem for the men who are abused by their wives — a minority but nonetheless an important group?

And if the church is meant to be a place of refuge for the vulnerable, why is it that the victims are the ones who leave churches while the perpetrators remain?

“Often people say it is the guilt of going against the church teaching that leads them to stay in relationships well beyond a time they should leave because they are trying to please the church as well as please their partners … they often feel they will have to choose between the church or violence.

We have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and the teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

I hope that my story can shed more light on the issue of domestic violence so that effective strategies can be developed to address it. I also hope my story is of some consolation to others who are or have been affected by domestic violence. To those who care about this issue, I propose that it is not enough to address domestic violence as a problem in itself for often it is only the first layer of abuse. The second and subsequent layers of abuse are the unconscionable responses of people who are mandated to help and don’t. There is a phenomenon in which victims of domestic violence are often ignored and/or blamed and the actions of the perpetrators are denied and/or covered up. It is tragic enough that these layers of abuse occur in the wider community but when they occur as pervasively as they do in Christian contexts we need to ask some serious questions of our culture and leadership.