Sexual Assault Should Transcend Party Loyalty

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Sexual abuse, assault & predation transcends politics & party loyalty. From top to bottom and left to right it is wrong regardless who is doing it!

For a moment there, It was exciting to see the tide turn and all sexual assaults were being taken seriously.   It looked as though the public conversation about sexual harassment and assault might for once escape political polarization by virtue of the plague’s depressing ubiquity. Fox News founder Roger Ailes was a pig, but so, it turned out, is Hollywood producer and Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein. There was little to gain by quibbling over whether Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly or Eric Bolling is pervier than NPR’s Mike Oreskes or ABC’s Mark Halperin.

Then came the accusations against Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and just like that, the issue was jerked back into more familiar, more partisan territory. Two women have accused Moore of sexual abuse, seven others have said he pursued them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s and an asst D.A. Party lines were drawn, the wagons were circled, and that old familiar positions were staked out. Moore’s fan base (heavy on religious conservatives) blamed the liberal media, Democratic haters, the Republican establishment, and, of course, all those lying women—all of whom Team Moore set out to discredit. Classic victim blaming at it’s highest.

In Washington, Republicans issued statements about how Moore needed to leave the race “if” the charges proved to be true. Fox News generally tiptoed around the erupting scandal, while Sean Hannity treated Moore with such gentleness that his advertisers began to balk. Donald Trump remains uncharacteristically quiet even now.

Having Moore ascend to the Senate would be like pouring kerosene on a campfire: “The Democrats could basically run on, ‘Look at what the other party has become: the party that protects sexual harassers and child molesters!’”

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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.

When Your Spouse Is In Sin

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I was a wife willing to keep my vows, no matter what. I desired—a godly marriage. Yet I failed, when my husband developed a hard heart and became abusive.  This was probably the hardest and most sorrowful time in my life.  When you love someone with all your heart, but try as you might you cannot change them.

I can speak personally, as my husband was a man of God. When your spouse has known the Lord Jesus, and you now witness them defying God’s Word, God’s moral standards, and walking away from their Lord and Savior, you become deeply grieved. I was personally burdened for the consequences that he faces if he does not repent of his sinful abusive lifestyle. There are many women around the world whose spouse may have been in the ministry or were leaders in their church who have fallen into sin. This is why we need to stand in the gap for our spouse, for their repentance and their joyous return to a surrendered life to the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:9-11

If you, like me are dealing or have dealt with a husband with a hard heart and find yourself in an abusive situation.  First off, I would like to say, I am so sorry and I know first hand how difficult that it has been for you. I certainly understand the feeling of being crushed under such pain and sorrow for your marriage. Believe me, God sees all that your husband is doing. He also sees and hears you as you continue to cry out on your husband’s behalf. I believe no one will pray for him as you will, so I encourage you to continue to intercede for his soul, asking the Lord to do whatever it takes in order to cause him to surrender. Remembering that it is God who will change the heart of a man.

You are in a battle, a spiritual war is raging around you. The enemy enjoys destroying christian marriages.  While it may seem hopeless now, know that God is greater than he who is in the world.  It is God who calls the sinner to Himself.  Seek counsel from your pastor and elders to intercede for you and your husband.

It is also important that you ask the Holy Spirit to examine your own heart to make certain that you have not developed a hardened heart, due to all the many circumstances that you are facing. Do not allow unforgiveness, doubt or unbelief to harden your own heart. If you do not repent of your hardened heart, your own sin will build up a wall between you and the Lord.

I know that you feel alone and deserted right now. I want to encourage you that God will never leave you nor will He forsake you. No matter the outcome of your marriage and your relationship, God will never ever cease to love you, care for you, and desire what is best for you. Man has free will, we cannot change anyone or force them to change, but we can pray that God surrounds our heart with His peace.

Get others in your life who will walk with you. Ask the Lord for those who have sound judgement, Biblical wisdom who will journey through this with you and help you make any necessary decisions. You need others in your life who will remind you of truth, remind you of who you are in Christ and remind you and help you to go on living as you wait and pray.

It can seem so confusing and that is understandable but God isn’t a God of confusion. He will show you what to do. Ask Him for wisdom, ask for discernment, ask for direction! He will be faithful to lead and guide you.

I’m praying for you now, I’m interceding for YOU! Praying that you would be comforted, that God would speak His peace over you through His Word. I’m praying that He would bring faithful friends who will surround you and help you through this difficult time. I’m praying for your beloved, that he would surrender his sin and his life to Christ.

Your identity is not in your marriage or your happiness, it is found in Christ, alone. I know it seems so simple but you truly can have joy by knowing Christ. I know your heart is aching for your marriage to be healed and this chaos to be gone but God will not waste this time – so, be willing to learn, grow and trust Him through this.

I know you long to live a Christ-honoring life. You need to draw from a deep well of biblical knowledge to set captives free.

Always remember, you are a beloved daughter of the King of Kings. No matter what any man has ever spoken to you or how they have treated you, you are spoken for, a treasure, a precious daughter to God Almighty.

Today do not allow the enemy to steal your faith, hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether your spouse was a believer who fell into sin, or if your spouse has never made that personal decision, the Lord Jesus is calling their name to come to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their life, repenting of their sins and have godly sorrow. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) Our Lord God created Adam, Eve and marriage. The Lord wants you to pray and intercede for your beloved spouse’s salvation. Keep praying that the Lord will break the chains of bondage or open your spouse’s spiritual eyes from their spiritual blindness that your spouse is living in today. May you start praising and thanking the Lord for what He is going to do in your life, resurrecting your dead marriage. Never give up on your husband or wife or on God!

So I’ve committed to pray God’s Word over my ex-husband. Today, I’m sharing what I pray and invite you to join me in praying for your husband:

Father, give my husband a discerning heart to know Your great love for him and the great plans You have for him and our family. Plans to prosper and not to harm, to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Father, give my husband the mind of Christ, saturate it with godly wisdom. Help him to take every thought captive that is not in obedience to Your Word, and in so doing protect him from pride and temptation. (1 Corinthians 2:16, 2 Corinthians 10:5)

Father, open the eyes of my husband’s heart to understand Your Word, so that he won’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of his mind so that he may know Your good, acceptable and perfect will for his life and our marriage. (Romans 12:2)

Father, help my husband to trust in You with all his heart, not depending on his own understanding, but acknowledging You in all his ways, so he knows what direction our family should take. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Father, may the favor of the Lord rest on my husband. Bless and establish the work of his hands and his heart. (Psalm 90:17)

Father, help us to live together in perfect unity by loving, honoring and respecting one another and serving each other for Your glory, honor and praise! (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

When we replace our toxic thoughts with the precious Word of God and then pray those words, we pray the Word that is living and active, capable of changing hearts and minds. We are praying the mind and will of God, as revealed in His Word, into our marriages!

So pray with hope, boldness and confidence! God will be faithful to honor His Word.

Heavenly Father, replace my toxic thoughts with Your life-giving words and teach me to pray those words over my heart, my husband and my marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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.

Stop Enabling Abusers

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To share your story ‘the only rule is to pray, love people, & seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit’  I am sharing this with this hope..The holy Spirit has been speaking to me on this issue for awhile now.

Today as I share with you, I am tired and a little disillusioned.  As a victims advocate with a christian agency.  I want to share a concern I have with victim blaming.

I recently read an article about Bill O’Rielly regarding his sexual misconduct.  He first blamed the media, but now he is blaming God.

“You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I’m mad at him,” O’Reilly said on the latest episode of his web series, “No Spin News.” “I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn’t happen. I can’t explain it to you. Yeah, I’m mad at him.”

 Actually, he’s mad at a “God” he made up because God doesn’t insulate sexual predators from the consequences of their actions.  He once allegedly assaulted his now ex-wife by dragging her by the neck down a staircase — in front of their young daughter.  The disturbing charges came out during a child custody battle in Nassau County Supreme Court with a judge reportedly granting McPhilmy sole custody of their two children.
I am more than a little tired of men feeling like the victim when they have a pattern of abuse.  Woman on the other hand feel guilt and self-condemnation which has deterred them from making a decision about leaving their abusive husbands. These are women that are not what the world would call “innocent victims,” because in some way they have fallen short of what people think a good wife should be like, so they in turn believe they are unable to seek a divorce. But just as abusers are not stereotypical, victims do not always look like victims.
One of the biggest problems is, we have bought into the world view on this issue.  Most of us have watched movies about what an abuser looks like, generally portrayed as the beer-drinking, lower socioeconomic bully who gets drunk, comes home and terrorizes his family by beating his wife and children. We have also seen (thanks to Hollywood) the other extreme, a well-dressed, professional, wealthy, and powerful abuser who uses intimidation and fear to control his wife and family. But what has been neatly presented to us by popular media is too stereotyped: abusers come from varying socioeconomic backgrounds and a variety of professions.

Here’s where I’m trying hard to land: to let go of the world’s standard, because too many women are stuck in abusive harmful marriages, because they are shamed into staying.  We need to come alongside these women praying for their marriages and helping both parties seek help.  Men need to come alongside the men and admonish abusive behavior and hold them accountable for their sin.  We need to stop giving men a pass, just because they are men.

Stereotypes also tell us the victims are portrayed as either timid, submissive housewives who married right out of high school, or as attractive, outgoing women who got bamboozled by a charming rich guy. Both of these types of victims exist, and I am in no way dismissing that their struggle isn’t real and valid. But here I am going to talk about what Hollywood does not present because it would be harder for people to sympathize with these victims. I am going to tell you my story.

I was married, I was born-again, to a (self-proclaimed) Christian man who did not drink, smoke, take drugs, or chase women. He is well educated, was just out of bible college, a little geeky, funny, and loves to be the center of attention. And he is an abuser. He is a teacher that attends church regularly and appears to be a good family man. And he is an abuser. When I met my husband-to-be, I had low self-esteem and little hope for the future. I was just abandoned by my first husband and had three small children, no job, no money.  Because we had chosen to home school the children and I would be a stay at home mom. I was completely vulnerable, I had no family (i separated from my family at 17, because of abuse and drug use on their part) except my children.  No one to rely on for help.

Into my life walks a man who pays attention to me, makes me laugh, and takes me to nice restaurants. Say’s all the right things.  He brings us groceries and generally was a life saver.  He doesn’t try to take advantage of me, and my children love him because he is fun and attentive. So, because we were best friends for several years and everyone at the bible college were sure we would be married, and I was in love with him, so, I married him.

After we were married, I lived with constant contention and fear of retaliation if I said something he didn’t like. As too many women know, the abuse consisted of so much more. But I was dealing with a lot of hurt in my own heart. I felt a lot of disgrace because I was divorced. The stigma of being a divorced women was huge, and I carried the weight of that shame into my second marriage.  Setting me up for further abuse.

Socially, I am out going and can talk easily to people. I am adventurous and fun-loving. My husband often referred to me as feisty, and it is true –I am not a meek and quiet woman. I also have a very sarcastic tongue. I was sexually abused as a small child, and as a result, I had a warped view of men and the world.

My husband towards the end of our marriage developed a habit of using pornography, which piled horror on top of the abuse. The men who abused me as a child and into my teens exposed me to pornography at an early age of about four/five. Much of my anger towards my husband stemmed from this embarrassment and self-hatred that I was exposed to, this recalled repressed memories for me.  I could not get my husband to stop, in fact he had demanded that I never bring it up again or else.  I felt more alone and afraid, because I could not handle this situation without freaking out and the enemy had me convinced I was in a dire situation where he would ultimately hurt me like the men before him.  I feared for my life.  I know that sounds unrealistic and dramatic, but when you have been systematically abuse from 4/5 to teen years with no emotional support, to me pornography was the reason…  All I knew was pornography equals hurt and violence.

I remembered a time when my daughter walked in on him screaming at me with his 6’4” body, threatening me with his finger in my face, punching walls, kicking furniture and becoming out of control.  This was before a special event, we had planned to go to a yale/harvard football game (something I wanted to do since I was a child), she would bring this up repeatedly, because she was horrified by the incident.  It was this along with the pornography, that I had the courage to finally leave him. I left without warning while he was at work.  Not my best work.

As is the rule with most domestic violence abusers, my husband did not change and the abuse continued. When we made attempts at reconciliation, I would come up and stay the weekend with him, but the anger and yelling continued, so I stopped coming back.   I desired reconciliation through counseling and pastor accountability not divorce…That was his choice.

We do not “deserve” to be hit, kicked, slapped, punched, or emotionally tormented. Jesus does not treat His bride this way — EVER.

Well-intentioned Christian friends told me what many women hear in the Church, “God hates divorce!” All marriages have problems, just suck it up.   I do believe that divorce is not God’s heart for us. But the problem was my ex-husband did not want to take accountability for his abuse and sinful nature.  I do think sometimes this scripture of God hates divorce is sometimes used as a weapon to admonish women,  and has destroyed any hope for them to ever be free of physical and emotional abuse. The fact I sought separation some felt I was asking for divorce, some said “what am I teaching my children about marriage”. We feel stuck, even though it is the abuser who has broken the covenant, and condemned us to a life of misery and bondage because he (or she) does not repent.  Why wasn’t this admonishment made to my ex-husband, instead he received support and nurturing from friends and the church.  He is still hailed as the wronged one as he proclaims he felt pressured to marry me (even though he asked me, I did not initiate nor would my confidence let me), in fact I had asked him many times while engaged..are you sure this is what you want?  and I that had abandoned the marriage through separation.  No mention of his abuse.  Every relationship he has had in the past ended horribly and hatred on the women’s side.

My point of this blog post, is that society and sadly even the church too many times blames the victims.  The men somehow get a pass, especially if they are charming, because of course he does not look like a typical abuser.  I would have probably said the same thing years ago.  We were together two decades.  I loved him with all my heart and I would have never divorced him.  I may have lived as a single women separated, but I believed that no one is beyond the reach of the Lord, He could change any heart.  The problem was he would not acknowledge his sin.

We can save some of these marriages, if we put aside judgment, shame and love them back to a surrendered life to Jesus Christ.  Changing their hearts first and foremost.  Instead I actually lost friends, because they did not believe me.  They told me to stay in my marriage, that I am a bad witness to the world, but these same people told me to move on after my husband made the decision to divorce me, when I tried to fight to save it.  They said Forget him move on.  As, I tried to bring the pastor alongside to bring him accountable.  I was then told Why would you do that if he is abusive.  Following this logic is not biblical and can make you feel crazy.

Does this make any sense? An abusive husband gets caught and says the “right” words to his friends and is quickly embraced, as the wife is disciplined by her/his friends for taking steps to protect her life.   Too many wives within our churches are intimidated back into abusive homes by unsupportive male leaders, who exploit their authority and misuse scripture in directing them to “try harder” and “stop making him angry.” This is a form of spiritual abuse that re-victimizes the abused and grants permission to abusers to continue their violence against a child of God.

I am saddened as I minister to women who are stuck in domestic abuse and violence.  How they are shamed, because of their meekness and the fact that they held this secret for so many years, their friends and churches do not believe them now.  I have seen and heard about women horribly beaten or even killed in this ministry.  We need to be like Christ, believe them, shelter them and above all else love them.  So, they can heal and have the courage to heal.  Please do not be like the world and automatically side with the men.

Today we are witnessing the power men have in our society, through Weinstein, O’Rielly, Cosby and the #metoo movement etc..we as members of the church need to be different.

Too many of us know abuse victims who have been instructed by a pastor or someone in their church to keep quiet about the abuse, and to stay with their abusive spouse in order to “work things out”. They convince these abused that doing anything otherwise is considered to be a “bad Christian witness”. The disgusting reality is that this has nothing to do with being a “bad Christian witness”, and everything to do with a church that worships itself as it sacrifices its vulnerable.  The “bad Christian witness” is proclaiming to love Jesus as you silence victims and push them back into the fists of their abuser. This is an abomination to the very Gospel proclaimed by so many of these churches.   Don’t they understand that Jesus gave his very life for the vulnerable and the abused? A church that silences abuse hasn’t encountered Jesus.

Ask yourself this, is your church a safe place for victims of abuse?

Any church that redefines abuse instead of stopping it, is not a safe place. Any church that devalues women instead of respecting them as equals to men, is not a safe place. Any church that silences the oppressed instead of protecting them, is not a safe place.

A safe church does not tolerate the abuse of women or anyone else for that matter. A safe church empowers and equips all victims to walk away from those who hurt them. A safe church is where the abused can leave the abuser being assured that is what God wants them to do.

We have much to confess and much to change.

Abuse Breaks The Lord’s Heart

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As I have shared on this blog, I just completed training to be a victims advocate.  I am so thankful the Lord has entrusted me with this ministry.  Today, I spent time with a Christian women who had just escaped a domestic violence situation.  While I was sitting with her and holding her hand at the hospital, I was heartbroken for her and heartbroken for all the women who find themselves in this situation. This is a situation, I am all to familiar with myself. I thought of my heavenly Father and how his heart must break each time one of his precious daughters is hurt.

I am hearing stories of so many Christian husbands and wives who are hurting each other.  I have recently been privy to intimate details of one Christian marriage after another where someone was being desperately hurt by their spouse.  Desperate women with nowhere to turn who are suffocating emotionally and not getting the help that they are begging for.

Emotional abuse is defined as “an attitude of entitlement and profound disrespect that discounts at every turn the inherent right of the other person to dignity, separateness and autonomy.  Out of entitlement and disrespect spring various overt behaviors that use anger, violence and/or contempt to induce fear, guilt and shame.  The other person is controlled, punished or demeaned.”

Harsh words and selfish actions, coming from the person who vowed to love you like no one else, kills a spirit slowly and methodically.  The woman living within this kind of relationship, especially long term, begins to lose track of reality.  What is truth?  Am I actually crazy?  Am I really an idiot?  Maybe if I did this, things would get better?  Maybe if I prayed more, cooked better, spent less, served more, spoke less, I wouldn’t deserve to be treated this way?  Or perhaps, I really do deserve this.  Perhaps, it’s not that bad.  Perhaps, this is what God has called me to.

What does this do to your heart when your spouse is constantly yelling and disregarding your worth?  Making you feel unloved and constantly hurting you? Can you imagine this? Can you picture your spouse doing any of these things to you?

I can tell you from experience living within an abusive relationship is a slippery slope.  I knew things were difficult, but I was blind to how wrong it all had really become.  Especially, since, I am a survivor of long term childhood sexual abuse, my perspective on how I should be treated is was somewhat skewed.  Compounded by the fact that I loved my husband, still do and care very much for his spiritual life.  Being together two decades, is hard to not care about the person.

These thoughts just scratch the surface of a hugely controversial topic.  If you or someone you love is in this kind of situation, please get help.  There may not be a black eye, but a heart is being broken a little more each day.

There is no place among the followers of Jesus for violence or harsh words, for sexual manipulation (withholding),  or for making threats. Blaming tiredness or stress, or never wanted marry her does not cut it. There is NEVER an excuse for this type of behavior. These things are symptoms of a deeper issue in your heart. All such abuse is inexcusable, a betrayal of the standard set for husbands by the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are abusing the family that God has entrusted to your care, then the issue is not with the Bible, but your refusal to trust and believe what it says.

The model for marriage that the Bible offers is good and beautiful. It depicts man and woman as complementary; it upholds the dignity of both; their equality and their differences. It takes its pattern from the person of Jesus Christ who loved his bride, the church, and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25).

I shared an open letter to my ex-husband on my last post.  It was not posted to hurt or through bitterness, but to educate to tell my story and more importantly, to hopefully bring him into repentance.  It is however, frustrating, when you try to go thru the proper channels, by notifying the church and counselors, but come up empty.  With the church, I was told, first to pray for my husband.  The second said “well you claim he is abusive, why would you want reconciliation.”  Because his spiritual life is at stake. With the counselor, we were both told to write a letter detailing the abuse, including any unforgiveness or bitterness.  When my husband read my letter his response was “If that is the way you feel about me I am outta here, I won’t bother you again.”  He then filed for divorce.  Even though I was doing what the counselor asked me to.  I was hoping he would see his sin and like Isaiah 6 say before God…Whoa, I am a man of unclean lips.  Sadly, he did not give counseling a chance and was ask to leave it.

One of our major problems was submission, if he felt I was not submissive, he would lock me in a room shouting scriptures.  What he and many fail to realize is Headship is not wielding power over another, but is the exercise of responsibility, in love, for the fulfillment of others. Submission is not the forced subjugation of one person to a cruel authoritarian, like my example, but a choice freely made to honor a person and acknowledge the weight of the responsibility God has placed on their shoulders. (And it is precisely because of that responsibility that the Bible places on husbands that it takes abuse and family violence so seriously.)  If you stood before the Lord and promised to love your spouse and were joined in marriage.  There is NO excuse for this kind of behavior, no matter what circumstances brought you into the marriage, or lack of love.  The Lord desires obedience, the covenant you made to THIS spouse, is what the Lord cares about.

Revealing abuse, in whatever context it is taking place, is necessary. 

Warning: If you are an abuser then there is no road to salvation that does not involve the bright light of truth shining into your heart and onto your behavior. Mercifully, the God who is against us in our arrogance and violence is also full of mercy when we turn toward him in humility and begin the long, hard road of repentance.  Repentance means the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse. contrition, penitence, the abuser needs to make himself right with God and the person he harmed.  If he does not make things right with the person he harmed there is NO TRUE REPENTANCE.  If there is no true repentance, he will abuse again.

The bible talks about true love in 1 Corinthians 13 makes it obvious that emotional abuse is wrong. The apostle Paul describes the actions of real love. First, he says love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). Emotional abuse is neither patient nor kind but instead is quick to flare up at small offenses. Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (verse 5), but emotional abuse is all about pointing out how another person is wrong in everything she does, so as to protect the ego of the abuser. Love is not rude or selfish or prideful or irritable or resentful—all unfortunate qualities of emotional abuse. Instead, love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (verse 7). Sadly, it is the loving person—the one who loves unconditionally—who is most often the target of emotional abuse.  She is the one the abuser vilify’s at the end.

According to the Bible’s definition of love, should an emotional abuser be silently tolerated? Does love require that one overlook the abuse and “persevere” through the pain? The answer to both these questions is “no.” There are loving options other than tolerating the status quo. Abuse is a learned behavior, and if we allow it to happen and continue, we are in fact accepting it. We cannot and should not accept verbal or emotional abuse, for at least two reasons: it dishonors the Lord and it often escalates to physical abuse.

Abusing someone emotionally is not the behavior of a person walking in fellowship with the Lord. How does a relationship deteriorate to the point of emotional abuse? Somewhere along the way there was a failure to obey God’s commands regarding your relationship (see Ephesians 5:21). It takes two people to make a relationship, and each side is to have his or her own fellowship with God through Christ and to be actively choosing to honor God and one another. Without that fellowship with God, and without that commitment to honoring each other, there will be a relationship breakdown.

Any relationship with emotional abuse will eventually have to choose one of three paths: one, the abuser admits fault, sees his behavior as harmful, and changes; two, the abused person walks away, at least temporarily; or, three, the abuse is allowed to continue indefinitely, to the harm of both parties.  The latter is what was allowed to happen in my marriage.

My point is this; the abuser will only find healing and forgiveness through genuine repentance and calling on the Lord. Second Corinthians 7:10 says that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” The difference between godly grief and worldly grief is repentance. A person who truly understands the nature of his sin will be able to feel grief that leads to repentance and salvation and a clear conscience.

I learned through my recent failed marriage that we cannot make choices for someone else. We cannot stop someone’s emotional abuse. That is a choice that the abuser must make. But we can refuse to accept the abuse without arguing or making demands. The most extreme cure for emotional abuse is separation (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). A separation from the abuser can allow time to seek godly counsel from a pastor or biblical counselor so that spiritual balance can be introduced into the relationship and reconciliation can occur.  In my case my husband chose the easy road and chose to divorce me, instead of facing his sin.  He still feels that I blew things out of proportion, his words.  Even though I was hospitalized right after I left with an emotional breakdown from his abuse.

Regardless of the choices that your abuser makes, we can make the choice to obey God and honor Him in our lives. Accepting the abuse is not the way to go.

The human viewpoint is that we can do “something” to change things. The Word of God tells us that only doing things God’s way brings peace that lasts.

The Lord has shown me, through my advocacy and through my experience that I do have something to offer to my precious sisters who are victims of abuse. I can pray. We can pray together. After all, I understand this is an intense spiritual battle. The enemy loves contention and abuse in marriages. I realize, I don’t have all of the answers. But, I can come along side and counsel those who are finding there-selves in this horrible position.

Please join me in praying for those who are abused.  And, please for those who abuse, please pray for my ex-husband for his heart and repentance, not for me, but for his spiritual life.  That he would break this cycle and not hurt another women.

Let’s surround these who are hurting so much with the power of God and of prayer together!

Almighty God,

You alone are the sovereign God of the universe. You are the Creator of the universe. You hold every star, planet, comet, molecule in Your powerful hands. You alone are God – there is no other. You are the Wonderful Counselor. You are the Mighty God Who Saves. You are our Rock. You are our Fortress. You are the only source of truth and love. You possess all wisdom. You possess all understanding. Nothing escapes your notice. If we rise to the heavens, You are there. If we make our bed in the depths of the grave, You are there. Where can we flee from Your presence? You are everywhere. You are all-knowing. You are all-powerful. You will accomplish Your good purposes.

How we praise You that no human, no demon, no power or principality can ever thwart Your plans. No sinner is beyond Your reach. No human evil is too great for the blood of Jesus to overcome. The blood of Christ is able to cleanse all of our sin. We are all in desperate need of Christ. You are more than sufficient for us!

You love marriage Lord. You love families. You hate divorce. You hate all sin. You hate violence. You hate people hurting one another in any way – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, physically, or sexually. You long for every marriage to represent the intimacy between Christ and His church, to bring You great glory. It is the enemy who wants to rob, kill, and destroy each of us, our marriages, and our families. Let us cooperate with You to heal and bless marriages, let us never cooperate with the enemy!

Lord, we lift up some very broken and hurting marriages and families to You today. We lay them at Your feet in heaven before You Father, the Most High God. We cannot fix these precious people for whom Christ died. We cannot heal them. But You absolutely can. They are not beyond Your reach. Wives cannot fix abusive husbands in their own power, wisdom, and strength. We cannot even fix or save ourselves. But You are the God who saves! You are the God who heals! You are able to change people by the power of Your Spirit working in them. You are able to turn wretched sinners into holy saints! You are able to change a person’s nature completely. You are able to destroy sin and death – Jesus already has done so on the cross! You are able to radically change sinners and evil people and broken, hurting people into people who demonstrate the very heart and mind of Christ. In Jesus, there is NEW LIFE! The old has gone, the new has come! In Jesus, You are able to make anyone a NEW CREATION! How we praise and thank You for this amazing miracle!

We lift up those who are being or have been abused by their husbands. We lift up those who are experiencing severe problems in their marriages. The spiritual, emotional, and mental damage that true abuse causes is so very devastating, Lord. And it is so rampant today. How my heart breaks and how I just weep for those who are being (or have been) mistreated – whether as children or as adults or both Father. I know that Your heart is greatly grieved over this oppression and cruelty. This is not Your will for anyone. You want all of us to have godly families that are healthy, vibrant, and flourishing. You desire all of us to walk in obedience to Your ways. You are a holy God. You cannot tolerate any sin. You will not ignore the cries of victims and You will not ignore the sin of abusers. You desire justice.You do not ever condone any sin.

Some of these precious people are hurting so very much, Father. The wounds are grievous. Draw them to Yourself. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. I pray that each one of these dear souls will find her worth in Christ. I pray that they will each find Your healing mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually. I pray that You might provide the resources they need, the wisdom of God, and the power of Your Spirit. I pray that You might help them to take each thought captive for Christ. Help them to see any lies they are embracing from the enemy of their souls. Set them free from spiritual oppression. Let them see that the chains that have bound them fallen away and that the dungeon door is open. Help them find freedom, joy, peace, power, and healing in Christ! Help them to have power over the wrong thoughts and ungodly ideas that hold them captive through Your truth and Your Spirit. How I pray that You might heal their wounds and bind up their broken hearts and let them stand firm in Christ. Let them know their worth in Christ!  Amen

 

 

 

Use My Ugly Past And Turn It Into Something Beautiful, Lord

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I think we all (hopefully) have a tender side with a sense of empathy and compassion. Our hearts break for others when we see them in unfortunate circumstances, like the Las vegas shooting or the hurricanes.  Seeing a friend lose a child or other family member too soon, and you can’t help but feel compassion and empathy for that person. You send notes, make phone calls, send flowers, send money, you do anything in your power to help.

The question is, what about when it happens to those you don’t know? So many times, our passion is fierce and burns deeply when someone who is close to you struggles even slightly, but we can often find it easy to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to those in desperation on the other side of the world.

The Lord has a very interesting way of revealing our calling in life. I had no idea that when I started writing my blog that a national coalition on assisting victims of rape/sexual assault and domestic abuse, would reach out to me and ask me to help with their cause.  This would also, be my biggest heartbreak to date. My counseling, support groups and writing was reaching many people and I started receiving a lot of  emails from women hurting, struggling and feeling hopeless. I was shocked at how many women were touched by domestic abuse in particular.

My prayer:

Dear Lord, please break my heart for what break yours.

I started saying this prayer shortly after my divorce. I was looking for His direction in my life.  I was searching for a purpose. It was a year in the wilderness with lots of  questions and confusion and lots of prayer.

I started to ask the Lord what was my calling in life?  What direction do you want me to go?  Should I focus on helping others?  I had one thing going for me; my passion was clear. I wanted to help people find hope through their abuse, sexual assault and rape. Since I am a survivor of all of these, I thought What the Enemy Intends for Evil, God Will Use for Good.  I did not want my life of suffering to be in vain, I wanted to be able to come along side women and be able to cry with them.  I wanted to help usher in their healing through Jesus Christ.  I wanted to be someone to break the stigma and help end the shame of rape/sexual assault and domestic abuse.  To raise awareness in the church and anywhere else I am needed.

I wanted people to see what real healing looks like. I wanted people to realize healing and hope is possible. The question was “how?” I needed direction. Should I go back to school to get my counseling degree. Should I get a job in a treatment facility? Should I write a book? These questions were never-ending.

He is Faithful and the Lord’s purpose for my life continues to be unveiled. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Each person, whether it’s rape/sexual assault, child abuse or domestic violence is searching for answers, when they reach out to me.  It is a part of my road map directing me in an exciting purpose driven direction.

I didn’t set out to become an advocate. It found me, the Lord used this pain in my life as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, stalker-rape, and domestic abuse/violence.  To help change people lives.  To be His hands and His voice, and be an instrument of His glory.  To do His will in all that I say and do.

Of course, being an advocate has been shaped by the fact that I am a survivor. I am here, not by accident, but because I am a fighter. From a young age, I’ve always had a sense of justice and felt that there was something larger, and greater than me, out there for me to discover and it was Jesus Christ.  My purpose in this world, is coming along side women in crisis as victims of sexual assault and abuse. Through out my life I have always kept going, through all the heartache and pain, because of this very calling.  I felt it deep in my soul. My hope is other victims will become activists and advocates. Because I know how it has changed my life and sometimes, it can even save it.  Every-time, I counsel someone or speak to an audience about my past, I heal a little more each time.  My scars are now a badge of honor not of shame.

So, as you can see this was a powerful prayer for me that completely changed the direction of my life. If you earnestly pray this prayer, be prepared it will change your life maybe through a series of heart breaks. It’s heartbreaking in the most beautiful way. The good news is, that your purpose to help others will become very clear.   The Lord will give you a lot of divine appointments as he trains you up. My heart broke not once, not twice, but hundreds of times over the past few years.

My sincere hope is that my heart will never stop breaking for those that are still suffering. My hope is that my heart opens a little more with each heartbreak and opportunity He gives me, and He will continue to use all of my heartbreaks to guide me. My hope is that compassion fills every crack that each heartbreak leaves. My hope is that your heart will break too and your purpose to help others will become clear.

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it,when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

So here is my challenge to you: Allow your heart to soften, allow it to truly and honestly break, and act on those feelings. That soft voice within you that wants to help is the Holy Spirit working within you. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and take a leap of faith.

Break my heart for what breaks Yours, I surrender everything I am for your kingdom – it’s a scary sort of prayer but we must pray it – our brothers and sisters need us to pray it! Don’t let the security of your world shelter you from the ugliness outside. Pull your head out from under the the rock, look around, and as your heart breaks be changed, be moved, be empowered!   Thank You Jesus for saving a sinner like me and using all my ugly past and turning it into something beautiful and precious in your sight.

If you find yourself in a difficult season right now, find encouragement through this reminder: God will turn it around for good. Somehow. He is faithful to His Word, and He Loves you. He will see you through, don’t ever doubt it. You will step out to the other side of the darkness. And who knows, but that many lives may be affected for the kingdom’s sake, because of your difficult season of struggle.