Sometimes I wonder if, when people think of my past (which I am not self-centered enough to believe that people are sitting around thinking about my past!), if they think if I was over-reacting when I left my ex husband. Or over-sensitive (that’s the kind of stuff my ex would say when he would kill my soul with his words). The people who were hurting me, once I left (for their own personal reasons or because they believed I was sinning by leaving my husband), may not have been aware of the other people, in my world, who were hurting me at the same time. It was kind of a group effort, unawares. It rather looked like this:
(by the way, you would never know I am an artist . . . or that I can spell)
Several years ago, my sweet uncle was in town and wanted to visit with me. Everything in me froze. My PTSD was completely out of control back then (pre-therapy) and I simply could not. I have not seen my family in many years. A few years ago, we attended church and the music minister was a robust, large man who was very dominating, by nature. I played the keys for him a few times and then I simply could not. When my husband worked at a church, a few years back, where people talked and gossiped and I was in the fish bowl of Pastor’s-wife-ville, I shut down. I could not talk to people. I just could not. There had never been a force, in my life, so strong, so paralyzing, so threatening, so fight-flight-freeze, so powerful, as the fear that accompanied my PTSD.
While trudging through the hard work of therapy and EMDR, we discovered that the PTSD most-likely began when my parents died but morphed into a C-PTSD from the day-to-day emotional, mental and spiritual abuse in my first marriage. What finally tipped the scales, though, was the post-separation abuse that came from leaving my ex husband. See, it was not just one person. It was not even just one church. It was not even just one family. It was the combination of all of those and more. And, as a result, everyone became dangerous. I felt like everyone would betray me. I lived, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was scared . . . so, so scared. I just kept proverbially gripping my children, trying to protect, trying to provide, trying to survive while having finger after finger pointing at me — in Jesus’ name. That does something to a person. I know what it is to be desperate; to do things you would not otherwise do; to fight and fight hard; to accept cans of food; to shop at Goodwill because you actually have to; to sit on the cold floor with your kids and teach them Bible stories on Sunday morning because you are afraid to face God’s people for the hurt they inflicted on you and your family. This should not EVER be so.
Our response to the broken people in the world is to look at those who are enduring it, and we’re saying to them ‘all you have to do . . . if you had just . . . this is partially your fault . . . ‘, instead of sitting with them in the midst of their discontent and hurt and brokenness and loving your neighbor in the manner that you would like to be loved . . . how many of you would allow yourselves to starve to death? How many of you would allow yourself to be homeless? How many of you would allow yourself to endure injustice? Loving your neighbor as yourself presents an ethical imperative for you. — Pastor Brandon Washington, ENGAGE Justice
What are we doing, friends? Church, what in the world? Families? Where are you? Who do we think we are? Is the pride so tremendous, so all-consuming that church people believe that they can play with the lives of those who are hurting? Do you (church people) think that you are exercising “tough love” by accusing? Or by putting your ideas of doctrine above the well-being of the hurting and accuse, belittle, “discipline”, shun and more? Do you, Church, believe that Jesus is proud of this? That He has somehow put His stamp of approval on it? If you believe that, then you do not know Him.
The God-became-man of the Gospels went looking for the very man who was thrown out of the religious group (John 9). Jesus stayed at the home of the one of the most hated men in the city (Luke 19); he crossed a thousand boundaries to give women their dignity (John 4; Mark 14, Luke 8); He came down HARD on the religious leaders who “stuck to the law” (Pharisees) (all throughout the Gospels).
I have healed, tremendously, over the past several years, thanks to really great and knowledgeable counseling, my own Masters’ studies in counseling, a TON of research and a lot of help. In fact, emotion-regulation has become my best friend. I worked hard to master it. My husband’s love, the love from my children and God’s love have carried me through this journey. I “should” have given up my faith altogether, considering what I went through. But, God gripped me. And I was not willing to allow anyone to take one more thing from me. I dug deep, studied original languages in the Bible, re-thought, re-framed and asked God to help me to understand Him deeply. What I see, in the Law, is protection and provision for the vulnerable — not “allowances”. And my faith is stronger than ever.
However, almost every day, I hear about or read about another woman whose decisions are not respected by the Church. Or about a church shunning her or exercising church discipline on her because she chose to do the the bravest thing, in the world, and leave her abusive husband to save herself and her children. When will it end? I know . . . it would take tremendous compassion and a whole lot of repentance (possibly even church-wide or family-wide) for these things to change. And that seems impossible to me. Admitting that you are wrong is hard. I get it. It must seem like there is so much to lose. But consider, what are you protecting? Do you think Jesus needs you to be the “keeper of the law” at the expense of the hurting? Do you think you are saving these women? Because you are not. Many of them leave church and never, ever go back. Or, they lose their families for good. Or (the very worst), they give up on Jesus. Do you think you are upholding the integrity of the Word of God? Ok, REALLY. Does God need YOU to do that or do you think He can handle that all on His own?
Where are the books you are reading on abuse? Do you know that a man will “repent” over and over so he can then garner the church’s support and continue to abuse his wife and further isolate her? Are you prepared to hold this man accountable for the long-haul it will take for him to get the YEARS of counseling he would need? Do you know how easy it is to re-victimize a woman who has been living in abuse for years? Do you know the percentage of abusive men who stop abusing? What research have you done?
It hurts us to know that our ministry at Give Her Wings is still sorely needed because so many churches won’t get it together and just love people. It is ultra-frustrating and painful to watch these ladies suffer and to tell them that Jesus loves them when you all have shown them the opposite. And yet we press on. We say things like, “I know what they said but they are wrong . . . your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. No one can take that from you, beautiful child of God.” Oh, my heart.
When will it end? When will eyes be opened? When will you just love? Repent of the un-love. Repent of the lack of compassion and of the pride. And then . . . Just love them. Please, just love them.