A Charge to the Church to Have Compassion Toward Victims of Abuse

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.

Love, Megan

We are so EXCITED to be teaming up with Leslie Vernick for a special event!

We are absolutely thrilled to be joining Leslie Vernick for an incredible opportunity to raise money for Give Her Wings! This Fall, Leslie Vernick is offering her INCREDIBLE Conquer Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska, October 12-13. We are so honored and blessed that she has decided to offer VIP tickets to this worthwhile gathering, involving keynote speakers Leslie Vernick and Sherri Keffer. Nicole Nordeman will also be there as the main worship leader for the event! Further, our own Megan Cox will be giving a special workshop on Safety Planning!

The special VIP will support Give Her Wings! After you purchased your ticket to the Conquer Conference you will have the option to upgrade your ticket to VIP.

The entire $500 will be donated to Give Her Wings, our non-profit organization that helps women secure housing and pay bills when leaving an abusive marriage.

Your VIP ticket will also give you the following bonuses: 

  • You will receive a receipt for a tax donation from Give Her Wings
  • A sterling silver bangle bracelet with the words “Be Brave Grow Strong” hand stamped on it (designed by Lisa Leonard) 
  • A catered box lunch on Saturday during the conference, where you can meet and greet the speakers and ask questions. 
  • Special seating, close to the front for all sessions. 
  • A package of signed books and a CD from all main conference speakers.

Have you ever been knocked down or felt overwhelmed with life? Betrayed, abused or thrown away by someone you thought loved you?

Or just felt too small or too scared to
boldly and freely live your life? 

YOU are not alone. And,… you can’t grow into the strong godly woman God made you to be alone. God hardwired you to thrive with connection and grow in community.

At CONQUER 2018 you WILL hear stories from other women who became brave and strong through the most difficult situations. You will gain tools and be given specific strategies to move past your fears and become your best self. 

If you’re ready to stop living scared and to start living brave and growing strong, then come gather with other like-minded women October 12-13 for the 2018 CONQUER conference.

Click here to purchase a ticket and then upgrade to the VIP ticket to support Give Her Wings. This is so important, friends! Due to Leslie’s generosity in supporting our ministry, we have the opportunity to help COUNTLESS women who are in need of support after leaving an abusive marriage. So, sign up quickly, as it is already starting to fill up! And be deeply encouraged this fall by attending the Conquer Conference: Be Brave, Grow Strong!

Why A Woman Does Not Speak About Abuse While in an Abusive Marriage

I recently read this:

“Well, I was a friend Megan’s in seminary and she never ONCE told me she was abused.”

She didn’t see it and I never told her.  Reading her comment on a recent blog post about my experience (on another person’s blog) led me to realize, once again, that people simply do not understand the dynamics of an abusive relationship. At least, that is my giving her the benefit of the doubt. I would like to believe she simply does not understand and that there is not some sort of desire to “take me down”. I will go with the former and assume the best.

Friends, women hardly ever tell anyone what they are experiencing. And, even if they did tell someone, they probably would not use the term “abuse”. I did not use that term for my marriage until someone else pointed the abuse out to me. This is pretty typical. I left my first marriage because it had become unbearable. And I was so spiritually brainwashed that I believed I was going to hell for it. That’s how bad it had gotten. In talking with an advocate, a few weeks later, she explained to me that I had been abused for years. But, I waited until the abuse got physical before I left because, for some reason, I believed abused women were women who were thrown down staircases or given black eyes. I did not realize that I was (barely) living under spiritual, emotional and mental abuse, as well. Even back then, I said things like, “Well, he only squeezed me too hard once. He only hurt my child once (I am not giving details to protect my child). He only hit me once.” This woman actually put her hands on my shoulders and said, “He should NEVER ONCE hurt you, Megan. One time is one time too many.” 

I would like to just pull back the curtain a little bit into the psyche of a victim enmeshed in abuse, to help those who do not seem to get it (keep in mind that this is before she finds freedom). Here is a shortlist:

  1. Abused women make excuses for their abusers. There is a deep deep shame involved with being a victim. I mean, who wants to be a victim?! I, personally, thought I deserved it. I felt crazy. I did not want anyone to know what happened, in my home, because what if they thought I deserved it, too? And what if they treated me that way, also? Oh, how I covered it up. And it ate away at my sanity: “Loyalty to that which does not work, or worse, to a person who is toxic, exploitive or destructive to you, is a form of insanity.” ― Patrick J. Carnes, The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships  
  2. Abused women are often seeking validation. Again, maybe if I please him, he will love me . . . There really is something to Stockholm syndrome. While it is often associated with those who are kidnapped, think about it: Women in abusive marriage feel like captives. They end up trying to please their abusers. They also end up trying to please those to whom they feel they are supposed to submit (church leaders, professors, etc.). In fact, if you find that a woman at a church or a seminary is overly grateful, it could very well be that she does not feel deserving of anything good she is given. If you find that a woman at a church or seminary is trying her hardest to be super-submissive to church leaders, you might find out that she thinks very little of herself and thinks that her only value is in being a servant/slave. Her esteem is shot. You might want to ask her if she is OK and look for signs of abuse that she probably cannot even articulate.
  3. Abused women may struggle with depression. Again, she cannot vocalize this well. Listen, when your life becomes nothing but submission and menial tasks, and there is very little by way of creativity or pleasure, getting up each morning gets harder and harder. If you believe it is simply your duty to re-populate the earth (spiritual abuse) and meet every whim of your husband (more spiritual abuse), it will not feel like life is really worth living. But, a godly Christian woman cannot say those things out loud, right? So, why is such dark fruit coming from doing God’s will? (sarcasm)
  4. Abused women may be living a double life. This cognitive dissonance takes a toll on a woman because she does not want to do this and may not be able to figure out why she is doing it. She tries to appear cheerful, godly and happy and like she is enjoying this miserable existence because submitting to an abusive man is God’s way (not God’s way, in case there is any misunderstanding of my sarcasm here). Believe it or not, she believes she is doing the right thing. Then there is the covering for her husband. Oh, the covering. Re-wording things he says so he doesn’t “leak” his narcissism on the friends you are having for dinner . . . making sure everyone knows how much you respect and admire him because godly women do that . . . praising him . . . pretending. Its exhausting.

Look for these things: Pretending, defending, covering, depression, physical signs of abuse, seeking validation from any man (by way of being subservient and administrative), making excuses and exhaustion.

Listen, most women in the midst of an abusive relationship do not come out and say, “I’m being abused.” They will say it later, after therapy and after advocacy help and after being educated. But, please, do not expect a woman in the swirling mess of abuse to be able to tell you all about it. Furthermore, certainly don’t expect her to if you are an unsafe person. In fact, be a safe person. For the love of Pete . . . be a safe person.

If she never told you about the abuse, maybe you need to look inside yourself and, instead of asking why she did not speak about it, ask yourself why she did not feel like she could.

Love, Megan

Megan is a Pastoral Counselor (MAR in Pastoral Counseling), founder of Give Her Wings and President of the Board. 

 

Megan’s Response to Recent Happenings in the Church

As I prayed for the Church this morning, I sensed God bringing me peace for the first time in days. My heart is grieving over all of the issues that are happening within the church, but I am grateful that there is a little bit of justice and that the painful uncovering of infested wounds may begin to bring some healing.

At the same time, I am still seeing the re-victimization of precious women happening. They are shamed into being silent. They are told to put the past behind them; they are told that they are bitter for bringing up their painful stories of abuse and misogyny. It HURTS to watch. I have seen men praised, of whom I know personally, who have carelessly put women down a hundred times. Today, I noticed a grand tweet praising a seminary professor who went to school with me. I’ll never forget the day that he blew up at our theology professor because I received an ‘A’ on a paper and he received a ‘B’. I sat there, in silence, watching him. I was afraid because he was so incredibly puffed up as he told our professor that I only received an ‘A’ because he liked me and I played the piano. It was humiliating. I have seen people ask for prayer for the man who perpetuated abuse at my seminary . . . and very little asking for prayer for those who are victims of abuse (not to mention their children). I have seen outrage over the “ruining” of men’s careers when these very same men ruined lives. What about the victims?

I don’t understand why there are not more expressions of deep sadness over the lives of the victims. But, if I focus on it too much, I become deeply sad. And, while that fuels my fire to continue with our work, at Give Her Wings, it also takes my mind off of issues at hand, on which I need to focus.

While praying this morning, the stark reality of the fact that only God can change hearts has hit me, once again. People get caught . . . but it does not equal repentance. Not real repentance, at least. We see it all the time. I have seen cover-ups, back-pedaling and discrediting of truth-telling victims. These leaders are not changing their minds. They are not saying to themselves, “Oh my word. What have we DONE?!” No, power is a powerful addiction. Its the same old story that we see in the New Testament. The religiously powerful seem to always abuse. How many times did Jesus point out the down-trodden, oppressed, poor and weak as His rightful followers when they knew Him? Everything is always upside-down.

I cannot wait until Jesus makes it right-side up again. Come, Lord Jesus.

Seeds have been planted and the ugly has been exposed, but powerful men still love their power and they will not give that up so easily. Deep-rooted ideas connecting to poor theology about women are not going anywhere, anytime soon. And it aches to know that.

Women still have very little voice, when it all comes down to it. But here is my joy: Women have a great big voice with God. No powerful man can alter that truth. And that is Who I will go to. He sees, He knows, He is intimately aware of the thoughts of all men and how some of them denigrate and belittle God’s daughters. We are not at the end, yet. So, in the meantime, I am praying. I am asking God to continue to expose evil and validate victims. In the meantime, we will continue our work at Give Her Wings to help women who have been shamed, left desolate, in pain and unsure about whether or not they are in the Kingdom of God because of what churches have done to them. That is all we can do. Please support us. We need you, now, more than ever.

Love,

Megan

 

“Sunflower Joy” by Megan D Cox

Do You Struggle With Hate Toward Your Abuser?

The struggle with hate is a very real issue among former targets (or current targets) of abuse. I include “current targets” due to the fact that so many of our mamas still often experience post-separation abuse from their ex abusers.  It is all understandable. Every single one of these ladies feel like they gave the best part of their lives to a narcissist –their younger selves, their stronger selves. They gave up their dreams, their hopes, their bodies their sanity to hold together an abusive marriage that lasted way too long. And look at what he is doing to their children. And what he has done. These ladies are spending their energy reserve trying to care for children who, very often, have to see him every week or every other weekend. And he hurts them. I get it. I really do.  Here is a direct quote from one of our mamas:

I hate what he is – he pretends to be a Christian but is the antithesis of a believer. He is a master deceiver and built our life on lies on top of lies on top of lies. I hate that he made me trust him when he cannot be trusted in the least. I hate that he manipulates and abuses the children. I hate that he made me look like the bad guy for filing and moving, when in reality it was his years and years of cheating and gas lighting and abuse that did it. I hate that he makes me out to be a gold digger when in fact I pay all the bills for the kids and he contributes almost nothing. I hate that he stole my youth, my innocence, my trust.

I used to hate my ex husband, I don’t mind saying it. It was an issue that was between Jesus and me and I have resolved it, with much help. My ex husband took my life and my body and used everything for his own gain.  Without going into tremendous detail, it took years of therapy to undo what he did to me. I hated him for that. I hated him for ruining our marriage from the get-go. I hated how he treated our children. I hated him because he knew what hurt me most and always did what hurt me most. I hated him because he seemed incapable of love.

I recently posed the question, on the private mama’s page, of whether or not anyone else had this struggle. I was shocked when there were over ninety comments in just a few days. It wasn’t just me. Some of the women still hate (I don’t blame them), some have healed. And then everything in between. I learned so much from this discussion. Those who have found a way to reconcile hatred for the sinfulness of their ex husbands and yet have no bitterness are my heroes. And I think I have finally reached that point, myself, which has released me.

Do you struggle with hate? Its OK. It won’t be this way forever. But, here are my observations, with help from my friends. After the observations, I will tell you how I overcame and resolved my own struggles.. Remember, though, each of our situations are unique. The way that I overcame will be entirely different than how you overcome. All I can do is share what I have done, for better or for worse. I hope this helps:

1    The ladies who have been able to go completely no contact are able to overcome their hate much easier than those who are constantly being poked at by their exes. It was faster and easier for them because the thorn was removed. Going no contact, for me, brought me tremendous healing and clarity. I began to see that the rest of the world does not function like my abusive marriage functioned. Most people are normal people. But, the women who still have exes tormenting them, on a regular basis, have a great mountain in front of them to deal with. But, they are dealing with it . . . . here is one way that I thought was particularly insightful:

2     Hate can be used. Here lies an oxymoron for the Christian, right?! But, typically, abuse victims tend to be more empathic than most people, which is why they are often chosen as a target for abuse. One of our mamas said that, because she always wants to quickly forgive and forget, she had to use her hate in order to keep herself and her babies safe. Once she was in a safer place and had moved away from her ex abuser, she could let the hate go. It reminded me of the Israelites when they had left Egypt. They forgot. They wanted their leeks and onions. They forgot what slavery was like. They complained. They had to be reminded of their former wretched slavery in order to get to freedom — to the promised land.   Here is another thought:

3   Holy hate is not a bad thing. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” ~Proverbs 6:16-19.

How many of us were taught that “hate” is a bad word? When I was growing up, we could get soap in our mouths for using that word! But, the truth is, hating the destruction that abusive men cause is not bad. God hates the violence that causes divorce (Mal. 2:16 ESV — and FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, FRIENDS, READ IT IN THE ESV OR ANOTHER more literal TRANSLATION). We can join Him in hating this.

Says team member Ruth,

I detest my ex because he embodies everything in this verse. The difference is, I do not allow that emotion to rule me, but instead, allow that emotion to ground me to what is True and Righteous. I’ve spent enough time catering to him, I’m not about to give him any more of my energy. I don’t think about my ex every day but when I do, I pray. Hate isn’t a bad thing. We should feel repelled by such wicked characters.

4   Many women feel indifference and wonder if they are sinning . . . they wonder if indifference is the same as hate. To that, I would say “no” — not in this case. Indifference can be one of two things. First, it may be a survival tactic in the midst of trauma. It is clear to those who have studied PTSD that dissociation is often the best way a person can survive a constant barrage of abuse. Ignoring, distancing one’s emotions, pretending to be somewhere else . . . these are all methods our subconscious minds use to simply make it through. It is necessary. Second, being indifferent could also be an indicator of having healed. For most of the women we serve, their marriage disintegrated years and years before they bravely take the step to leave. They have already worked through the hate and have moved on. The divorce was simply the last step in a lengthy process to get healthy.

5   Hate is a normal response to abnormal behavior. This is craziness we’re dealing with, friends. When someone snaps at me, out of exhaustion, I don’t struggle with hate toward that person. I say to myself, “Oh, man. She is so tired and stressed out.” Done. But, consistent abuse is abnormal, psychopathological and evil. Hate naturally follows. We have to accept that we are responding normally, while understanding that we cannot live in that place forever. We all know that bitterness will eat us up from the inside out.  But, give yourself mercy and time. There are stages of healing. As the wise mama above said, use the hate. Let it be the first step — the one that sets you and your babies free. Then, move to the next step.

For me, the next step, once we became financially stable (big shout out to my awesome husband, David!), I was finally able to get trauma therapy, including EMDR. A few years ago, as I described the things from which I suffered at the hands of my ex husband and others, I heard my wise, older-lady counselor says these words, “That. is. brutal.” I wept. She saw it and affirmed it. Through her wisdom, I began to understand that my ex husband did what he knew. He does what he knows. He decided, at one point in his life (AND despite all of the godly counsel he was given), that his way of entitlement and ownership was best. Contrary to the Gospel, he decided that he would always see me as his slave, as well as his children . . . just there to fill his cup and build him up or else . . .

I saw it. I remember the day where I saw that he is simply not capable of true, genuine, selfless love. He lived in his version of “the law” that had been passed down for generations. He did not want to be free. And, if he could not be free, neither could we. This is what helped me:  He is simply not capable of anything except mental, emotional and (a few times) physical abuse. That’s sad. Truly, deeply sad. He won’t ever get to experience the truly beautiful act of sacrificing something to see one of his children (from his first marriage) succeed. He will never get to understand that incredible rush of running around to make sure all kids’ events are attended, well-cheered on and supported. He will never understand how it is to give to someone freely, knowing that that person gives himself/herself freely, as well. He will never get to see them grow into the amazing people they are becoming. He will always be in charge, which means that he will never have the possibility of saying to his wife, “I’m going to support you for this season of our lives”, like my David is doing for me. He will never be anyone’s “safe” person. He will never get to see anyone freely choose to love them back and serve and bless them because she is loved so well. He will never have the good kind of pride, that my now-husband has, of being able to say, “I always give my wife just a little bit more than she gives me.” That was David’s goal when we married. And he is over the top. My ex will not be adored because of that. He will have things his way . . . and we all know how that feels, right? When we were children and we wanted our way, that just didn’t feel great. I just imagine being a grown up and struggling with wanting to control everything and everyone. That is a never-ending leaky bucket that cannot be filled. One can never have enough — always afraid of losing control. That is miserable.

In all of this, understanding his dysfunction will never and would never justify our staying with him. I can understand without subjecting us to abuse.

That is where I finally found this strange, unique compassion for this man who had stolen so much for me. He’s missing it — and choosing to! I cannot even comprehend what would have to happen to my heart to keep me from wanting to inquire about my own children or check on their well-being. I am sorry for him.

And, therein, I find my peace. And the bitterness is gone and the hate is gone and I just feel . . . nothing. To me, my ex husband is just another person who had an unfortunate upbringing and chose to live in that lack of fortune. And for me, finally — healing.

Regardless of your story, I believe that Jesus can always bring healing, even if it takes years. And, even if it takes years, there is still progress within those years, even if it is baby steps. And that is OK. Celebrate those baby steps as you and Jesus figure out how to overcome, eventually, as needed. And ask Him. I know He will tell you.

Love,

Megan

Art Credit: Megan D Cox

 

Megan is a Pastoral Counselor and also President of Give Her Wings, Inc. She carries a Masters of Arts in Religion in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in crisis counseling with the AACC.

A Former Victim’s Need for Self-Compassion

When I sit down to have coffee with a brave, brave woman who has left an abuser, one of the recurring themes in her lament is, “How could I have gotten myself into this? I saw the red flags and I married him, anyway. I should have known. I’m educated and smart. I never thought I would find myself in this position.” Listen, I understand. I will never forget standing in the middle of my mess and saying to myself, “I have a counseling degree and here I am . . . ” And the comments that others make about how they would never have put up with abuse for so long . . . or that they would never have been in that situation in the first place . . . these things hurt. They make it all worse. Its just a little bit more of re-victimization and a lot more judging.

So, here are the thoughts I have regarding self-compassion and the entanglement of “I should have’s” for former victims of abuse:

  1. Anyone who feels the need to tell you they would have never ended up in an abusive relationship is simply not your friend and not worth your time. We have the Holy Spirit, thank you very much, and we do not need people to point their fingers our way to tell us, right upon our leaving, how foolish we were to marry this person, in the first place. If there are extenuating circumstances, we know what they are. People who say foolish things about abuse are not educated in how abuse works (thought-reform).  They have not been in your shoes, in your home or in your difficult relationships. They do not get to judge. Let them go. In these vulnerable moments, our need is support and empathy. Period.
  2. If you park your emotional car in the parking lot of “I can’t believe I am finding myself in this position . . . “, you will stay stuck. There is plenty of time, later, for allowing the Lord to help you to understand what happened. But, for now, it is not your job to condemn yourself. Don’t you think you have had enough of that? Sadly, it seems the Church’s default is legalism. There is some tough condemnation there. Then, there are the lingering and ever-present words of your abuser(s). A cornucopia of finger-pointing and blame. Friend, be your friend. You need a friend, right now. And move forward. Be proactive. Do what needs to be done.
  3. There is not some deficiency in you that would cause the abuse to have occurred. Do you hear me? It is not you. It is your abuser’s psycho-pathology. He has used everything possible to abuse you — your loves, your vulnerabilities, your pain and fears, the Bible — because of his sickness. No more self-blame. NO one deserves to be treated that way.
  4. You got out of it is as quickly as you could. I know, I know . . . we all wish we had not stayed as long as we could. But, considering the kind of oppression we were all under (from all sides!), the fact that we escaped or walked away is nothing short of a miracle. As soon as you could understand the full extent of the abuse and pain, you left. You are to be commended. We all know the courage that entails.
  5. Look how far you’ve come. Do it! Just look back, over the past weeks or months or years and be amazed and wonder-filled. I mean, you have choices now. You did not have those choices before. You can make a decision, right now, about what you will do with all you have learned. That’s exciting! What you have accomplished, in the face of perceived hopelessness, is incredible. You have been brave, in the presence of intense fear. Each time you choose to stand up a little bit straighter and look people in the eye . . . each time you do not give into terror but breathe through those panic-attacks . . . each time you take one, tiny step toward independence or self-improvement, you are looking evil in the face and saying, “You will not conquer me.”
  6. The Christian life does not work this way: If I do thus and such, I will have a good marriage and a good life. This is the fallacy that is rooted in legalism and is can cause severe depression. Affliction happens to the best and shiniest of Christians because Jesus told us affliction would happen. The promise is that He will not leave us when affliction occurs. So, rather than beat yourself up, trying to figure out where you went wrong when you were trying, so hard, to make the right decisions before God, accept that life is messy. It always has been! And then look at the mess, knowing that Jesus loves you and is with you in the mess, and figure out what to do with it all.

Listen friends, treat yourself with compassion. In Jordan Peterson’s incredibly successful book, “12 Rules for Life: and Antidote for Chaos”, the very second rule is “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping.” But, for an even more meaningful reason, consider this: Jesus cares for you, for your heart, soul and body. He adores you. His desire for you, beautiful and broken one, is that you live in a whole relationship with Him and others. In order to do this, you must start with being in a whole relationship with yourself. Jesus feels strongly about how you are treated — by others — but, also by you. You belong to Him! Show yourself compassion because, dear one, that is what Jesus shows you, every day. Be like Him.

Love,

Megan

 

 

Happy Galentine’s Day!!

Dear Friends,

One of the things we strive to do for our mamas is give them the assurance that they are loved, cared for and appreciated!  This year our precious team member Audrey spent hours putting together these beautiful picture cubes for our mamas along with a beautiful sentiment and of course…chocolate!!!

We hope you’ll help us fund these gifts to help remind our mamas how special they are!  They are are special gals…our Galentine’s!  For just a single $10 donation, you can be part of making this day special for them!

Thank you for your support of this ministry and of our precious, beloved mamas!

Q&A: How Do You Hold Onto Faith in the Midst of Unjust Affliction?

For Megan (and/or other survivors): how did you keep your faith while divorcing your abuser, and watching your child suffer as the courts give generous access to an abuser? I’m exhausted. Battle weary and burnt out. I am losing my faith. I don’t want to but I am and don’t know what to do anymore. Any tips you have would be appreciated. (I’m in therapy with a wonderful counsellor, but I’m still so exhausted).

Your question is incredibly honest and I find that to be beautiful. I understand — I really do. There have been a few times, in my life, where my faith was hanging by a thread — A THREAD. And it felt like it was going to be impossible to ever move forward with Jesus again.  After I left my ex husband, my family kind of joined forces with him and seemed to turn against me. I have never been so alone, in my life, and I just could not understand why God would allow all that was happening. And the exhaustion. Further, I felt like my life was in a fish bowl and I could not find freedom nor protection. It was like their hobby, for a few years, was to try to destroy me and take away anything or anyone that I had or trusted. There is so much more to the story but, here is the bottom line: I found that the faith I was losing was not my faith in God, but my faith in people (which I decided was OK during that time). Further, a lot of the faith I had was connected to false beliefs I had about God. My faith was actually about to receive a complete overhaul. And what I discovered . . . . was that God was taking me into a very deep (and often dark) place where He would reveal Himself to me in ways I could never imagine. His Words would begin to jump off of the page and into my heart and light a fire there. What I thought was faith before was nothing more than rule-following . . . striving . . . a shallow, black and white imposter of a vibrant, life-giving, love-of-my-life interconnectedness with Jesus.

I was holding onto a faith that wasn’t really real and holding God accountable to be doing the things I thought He should do.

Here are the things I falsely believed, at the time:

1. That things would always go well for God’s children if they did what He asked (lived a godly life, etc.)

2. That affliction was a sign of a lack of trust, on my part.

3. That if I made the right decisions,  my children would not suffer and be protected.

4. That God’s people would always be there for me.

5. That I could overcome trauma (death of my parents at a young age, abuse, etc) by having enough faith and that I did not need any intense therapy to overcome.

6. That I was now a “second-class citizen” because I had to divorce.

7. That God would not use me, since I was divorced.

8. That my children would be scarred, because of my divorce.

9. That women were God’s “afterthought” and were created to serve men.

10. That I was supposed to put all of my desires, gifts, time and energy toward my husband’s calling (bury my talents for fear).

These were my “faith”. And that “faith” actually needed to go. I confessed to God, in tears, that I believed these lies. And I only found mercy from Him. All He did was love me! Once that old stuff was gone, I was free to take a deep breath and tell God that I wanted to know HIM. Not through His people, but through a deep and abiding, every day relationship with Christ. Not through what I heard preached in former fundamentalist churches and seminaries . . . but through reading the Bible, myself, and getting to know Him, as a Person. And everything changed. I wouldn’t go back to that old “faith” for a million dollars. Now, I know God. And He knows me. And we have this thing together. And I work from THAT place.

Now, I am nearly-thankful for the rejection I suffered, because it drove me right into Jesus’ arms. I am kindred spirits with the man thrown out of the temple (John 9) . . . the one Jesus came to look for so He could make the man His. I relate to that. And the people who rejected me? They probably need each other and I am glad they have one another.

I go to church, where my husband serves as Lead Pastor. And I love the people there. I go healed; I go solid; I go, knowing what I believe and in Whom I believe.  And I hope to love . . . and love and love. From a place of health and healing. Faith is simple and utterly intricate. It breathes and moves and revives and uplifts. It says, “Here, beautiful child of God. I’m going to shake your world . . . it will come down crashing until you only have me. Now, its just the two of us. What will you do?” Faith calls us to dig into Scripture, with everything in us, leaving the old, broken faith that did not work behind. It challenges us. Faith dares us to put away the comfortable things and embrace the counter-intuitive. And we trust, and we do. We do ministry. Real ministry now.

“Jesus doesn’t call us to simple. He calls us into complexity. The human soul, psyche, mind, and emotions are complicated. And if he calls us to anything, it’s to enter into the mess that is day-to-day life alongside broken people in the midst of chaotic circumstances. Scott”
Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides

So, my sister. Do not give up. Shake off that old snakeskin and move, now, into what is real — what will last. Move into that awesome plan that God has for you. This is your race. It is not fair, nor is it just. But, it is the path Christ has put you on, and only you. And it is your calling to grip the hands of both Suffering and Sorrow and climb that impossible mountain. God believes in you. We believe in you.

Love,

Megan

Hinds Feet on High Places

 

Our January Mamas! “Hope & Healing” and “Forgotten Dragonfly”

We are so excited to be able to help two precious mamas, properly vetted and ready to soar! We spent time in December working on getting to know these precious ladies while visiting with them. They are so worth helping! Meet “Hope and Healing” and “Forgotten Dragonfly”.

Hope and Healing: “Hope” is an incredibly strong mama with seven beautiful children. Her husband struggled with mental illness and Hope did all she could to stay (mostly, she admits, out of guilt). Her husband was diagnosed with a heavy (yet treatable) diagnosis but he resisted treatment. Unable to endure the abuse any further, Hope left and was awarded a 50-year protection order from the judge who handled their divorce. Due to the instability of her ex husband and his violent temper, Hope does not receive the support she needs to press on. We are over-joyed to be able to pay for $1500 of Hope’s bills to keep her and her little lambs afloat, beginning in 2018. “I don’t know how people can do this without God. I know I couldn’t,” Hope explained to team mentor Lori. Hope is asking for prayer for her children and for herself. Many of them suffer from PTSD and the ongoing, full-time work drains Hope.

Forgotten Dragonfly: I was blessed to be able to talk with “Dragonfly” and her precious son (who nominated her). Our dear ministry friends, Marisabel Matta and Mellisa Procter were kind enough to drive out and see this precious mama and her two little lambs! Thank you, ladies! (See photo below!) Dragonfly’s ex husband is a military man who has kept Forgotten fearful and looking-over-her-shoulder for years now. She feels as though she never knows when he will hurt her, again. This dear lady works but struggles, as she has survived several Traumatic Brain Injuries. She is making it, though, and we are privileged to be able to help her pay some bills and (hopefully) get her moved into a better situation. We adore this mama. Please pray for her. Life is hard . . . all the time. Dragonfly and her children have not been able to go to church or talk with many believers. The hurt they have experienced, at the hands of church-people, has made it difficult. She and I prayed, on the phone, and her heart was deeply moved. Jesus has plans for this lady . . . no doubt in my mind.

Thank you, Mari & Mel, for traveling to vet a mama!!

YOUR DONATIONS go toward helping these precious ladies and their families! Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of our angels for the tremendous gifts you send our way! Because of you all, we will pay $3000 worth of bills and help these ladies find their wings! If you would like to donate, please go to our website and make a tax-deductible donation. In the meantime, please join us in praying for these mamas and ALL of our mamas!

Love,

Megan

 

Thoughts on Mercy and Forgiveness by Megan

“Mercy means compassion, empathy, a heart for someone’s troubles. It’s not something you do – it is something in you, accessed, revealed, or cultivated through use, like a muscle. We find it in the most unlikely places, never where we first look.”
― Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

Anne Lamott, in her acclaimed book, Hallelujah Anyway, describes mercy as something that we may have always had. She describes it as something she began with, as a small child, but it was folded up and put in a drawer, as her family saw mercy as weakness and would not tolerate such radical forgiveness in a small child. Her upbringing was very much about how things looked. Oh, can I relate to that. One of my sisters wrote of me as being “embarrassing”, when I was hurting, at my most . . . desperate to find help and healing, reaching out, grasping at unreachable solace, drowning in single-motherness, painfully aware of the post-separation abuse I was suffering, at a loss as to where to live.  It was “messy” to them. And embarrassing. The cruelty of that word when a person is suffering is unconscionable. It did not look good for an Owen girl to be in so much pain. And no one knew how to handle it.

For years, I have wondered if I could be like Joseph, when his brothers came back and found him there, stately and unrecognizable. Would I cry? If my family came back and said, “Wow, Megan . . . DID WE EVER handle that badly! Could you forgive us for the ways in which we hurt you? And then tried to cover it up by making you out to be unstable? All the ways we justified our bad behavior . . . I’m sorry.” Would I cry, like Joseph? Would I be gracious? Would I want to bless them, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure they would have been happy if I had just died? 

I think I know now. I remember that child . . . that little girl that just wanted to forgive. I even remember my Mother smiling at me, once, as a preteen and saying, “Megan is the one who doesn’t hold grudges.” What happened to that girl? I wasn’t sure, for so long, if she was in there. I wasn’t sure that I could ever find her, amidst the rubble of scars and pain and brokenness that just wouldn’t heal. But, she’s there. I’m sure she is there, like a deep and underlying lake that has been buried under thick, red, caked-over mud. This week, I could feel her, sense her, and lean into her. And oh, what consolation. It is so true, what they say about how forgiveness releases the forgiver. For years, I have wanted to reach out, make amends, fix relationships that seemed forever broken. It is in me to do that. But, the vulnerability to people who have only harmed me for so long was simply too much. I may never have relationships with said folks again. And that is OK. All I needed was to lean into that merciful Megan that I had missed so much. For my sake. From my vantage point and for my heart. And so,

For putting me on a pedestal that I could never live up to . . . . I forgive you.

For the character assassination . . . . I forgive you.

For the brutal, ongoing and relentless judgment . . . . I forgive you.

For not seeing me as a person . . . . I forgive you.

For not respecting me, as a mother . . . . I forgive you.

For not knowing how to help me . . . . I forgive you.

For trying to keep a relationship with my children while disparaging me publicly . . . . I forgive you.

For choosing sides with a man who tried to murder my soul . . . . I forgive you.

For wishing ill for me and justifying it with piety . . . . I forgive you.

For the gossip and rumors and slander and mob-mentality . . . . I forgive you.

For not knowing me because I am not a person deserving respect to you . . . . I forgive you. 

For the jealousy and envy . . . . I forgive you.

For lying and twisting the past . . . . I forgive you.

For screaming at me, throwing things, blaming me for all of life’s troubles . . . . I forgive you.

For trying to ruin every day that was special and/or precious to me. . . . I forgive you.

For what felt like pure hatred against me . . . I forgive you.

For not having any mercy for me . . . I forgive you.

Oh, the relief.

Release, release, release. Releasing them to Jesus. Letting Him deal with it all. Dropping the burden. They are no longer judged by me or accused by me, in my heart. This is not for them. I doubt that they care. This is what I need. 

And I will never bring it up again.

And I have mercy. I have a heart for their troubles. Because I believe we are all human and that none of us deserve mercy and so we all deserve mercy because of the Great Mercy Giver. It is who God is . . . and I want, so badly, to be like Him. They could not make Him hard-hearted, no matter how many times they slapped Him, spit on him and tore at Him. And I will not allow them to make me hard, either. This is how I know God IS . . . because He could keep me soft-hearted in the midst of hatred all around me. That is a miracle. That makes Him very very real to me.

And people hurt out of their hurt. I get that, too.

Those who injured me do not know how to help, to love, to be vulnerable and show kindness to me. To others — yes, sometimes. But, not to me. It was a habit not to. I see it now. It was what started, after our parents died. Or maybe it was before. It was all the relatives growing uncomfortable when you “let me have it”. But they did not speak up. It was how you all coped. You needed someone to blame for your peacelessness. And that is all forgiven. I have compassion for that. Because I am so, incredibly free now. I am loved by the One who loves me enough. He fills the holes that were left there by the bullets of hate and soul-crushing that you did and that I did to myself.  And I forgive me, too. Thank you, Jesus.

So, I wasn’t supposed to be this person. Despite everything that happened, God has made me His Beloved. With all that has happened, I should be mean, unforgiving, callous, twisted, hateful, lonely, unable to to thrive, anxious, depressed, fearful, angry, distant and more. I should not be able to have sustainable relationships. I should be ruined. And yet . . . . here I am . . . . loving mercy. Truly, deeply, happily loving it. And thriving.

Isn’t that what God requires? Do justice, love mercy and walking humbly with Him? Oh, yes. I can do these things . . . I can do justice and I can love mercy because I walk humbly with Him. That is a very attainable standard, and quite quite different than the other standards I hear about. 

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for forgiving me so I could forgive them and I could forgive me, too. I can honestly say, I would be so so lost — so forlorn and hopeless — without You. Oh, how I love You for that. Oh, how I feel Your love and compassion for me and for others. And Your healing . . . every single day. Thank you for walking beside me, as I admit to You that I don’t know what I’m doing but that I want to take your light and easy burden. As I admit that my way doesn’t work and that Your way is better. Thank you. You are my Hero, the love of my life, my everything.

 

Love,

Megan