Cognitive Dissonance by Megan

I grew up firmly believing what I had been taught: Divorce is not an option. I chose a man who claimed to be a strong Believer. He wanted to go to seminary and be a missionary! He led worship, was talented and believed in family. Surely, if we both loved Jesus, we could get through anything! On our wedding night, I wept quietly in the bathroom alone, as I had discovered exactly what my husband thought of me: That I was created to be used by him. And, oh . . . did I feel it. For the first 11 years of our horrific marriage, I held on to (what I believed) were promises God made about marriage. Most of those “promises” were twisty half-truths other Christians told me:

1. If I showed him unconditional respect, he would become respectable.
2. If I “suffered for Christ”, God would fix this mess.
3. If I were more lovely, I would be easier to love.
4. God was using my husband to sanctify me.
5. If I were more submissive, my husband would love me.
6. If I gave up more of myself, I would be pleasing God.
7. I would be more like Christ if I sacrificed myself on the altar of marriage.
8. If I could somehow manufacture a “quiet and gentle spirit”, in the midst of chaos, I could actually be responsible for my husband’s salvation.

Then came the day when I realized that my children were going to be destroyed. And none of the above requirements mattered, anymore. Then, another day when I realized that my husband was not going to change because he liked the way things were. Then came the day when I realized that he enjoyed seeing me strive, as he withheld the love I so desperately needed. He felt he had control over me as he watched me try to “respond appropriately” to his attacks (when I did not fall apart, in which case he pointed his finger at me in derision). Those 8 “commandments” gave him even more power over me. So, on a day when he did the unthinkable to my oldest child, I decided to leave. I went against everything that I had ever known or ever been taught in order to protect us. Half of me was saying, “God wants you all to be free.” The other half was saying, “God wants you to stick it out.” I was experiencing cognitive dissonance. My mind was warring against itself. It was so confusing that I had thoughts such as, “Well, God is no longer with me but He is pleased that I am giving my children a chance to have a healthy life.” What?! How could those two separate thoughts come together?

It took a year of unraveling and study about what God really says about me, about His children and about marriage to finally find some relief from the dissonance. The lies I had been told had to be undone, one at a time and (not only that), truth had to be accepted. Slowly, the fragments of my mind began to be pieced back together in all the right ways. And I found peace with Jesus (and joy) and calm, cognitively.

For many of “our” mamas, that cognitive dissonance can cause extreme anxiety, sleeplessness, panic, uncertainty and can shake one’s faith down to its  very core. Do you know how many of the mamas to whom we minister believe that they will never be in a right relationship with God again? Or, when things are hard, that God is punishing them because they could no longer stand the abuse and had to get out? Part of our service here, at Give Her Wings, is to help untangle these lies with biblical truth. Not only have these mamas been reduced to almost nothing (in their minds) by their ex husbands, but they have been reduced by church people, as well, because these precious ladies could not keep their marriage together. (Of course, all of this stems from our strange idolization of marriage over the gift of life, but that is another blog post.)

One of the ways we counter-act these lies is by constantly reminding these precious ladies of whom they are. Our emails, letters to them, gifts, etc., all include their names, followed by, “Beautiful child of God.” We also explain that none of us is responsible for another person’s salvation. No way. We tell them that they do not have to die for their husbands to come to Christ — that Jesus already did that . . . and it was enough. We tell them that their lives matter more to Jesus than their marriage (this is often shocking to them). And we tell them that God was not pleased by the abuse they endured (also shocking).

Have we, as a Church, really swung this far over in our thinking about marriage that these precious ladies believe that they are going to hell because they left an abuser? Or that they will barely eek into Heaven? As hard as it is to admit . . . yes. And I say this as a woman who is joyfully married to an amazing man and who now has a healthy marriage and family life. I have a very high view of marriage . . . but not idol-high. There are things that the Bride of Christ needs to go back and fix. We have some undoing to do. Right now, we are doing the best we can, in our little ministry, to do just that.

If you are one of the women who has been so deeply hurt by the same lies I once also believed, please know this . . . He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6). You are written on His hand (Isa. 49:16) and there is no place you could ever go to escape His presence (Psalm 139:8). You are deeply and infinitely loved by the One who died for you. Did you hear that? He died for you . . . so you would not have to die.

Love,

Megan

“Never Alone” by Megan Cox

 

11 Replies to “Cognitive Dissonance by Megan”

  1. Amen and Amen, Megan. As you well know, I too have been there – done that almost exactly word for word.

    This beautifully – if painfully – outlines the mantra of many who have been deceived themselves. It is heartbreaking to know that the saving grace we have in Christ, the love of God, His love for women and His design for godly marriage have been so distorted.

    The fullness of truth is our most powerful weapon against these untruths and half-truths, to bring freedom and restoration to the abused and misunderstood.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing Megan! It’s been over 7 years now since God said it was time to go… and I still feel cognitive dissonance. As we deal with raising children, sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier to stay, to be there to protect the children… then I remember that I wasn’t able to fully protect them when I was still there.

    Sometimes I wonder if things would have improved if we’d stayed together, if I could have worked it out…. Then I hear that sentence and remember that *I* wasn’t able to work anything out because he wasn’t willing to participate in the work.

    I didn’t wait for physical abuse to be the definition of our relationship, I walked when it was still (mostly) emotional and verbal abuse. So many people refuse(d) to see that as reason enough to go. So many refused to see what he was doing. I lost our church family over it. I still have anxiety over attending church and so still don’t have a church family. I miss that.

    I, too, believed marriage was forever, that divorce wasn’t an option. I’m still struggling with the concept that despite all my precautions, divorce is my reality. I pray God renews my joy, and restores the fullness my life. It’s hard to have faith it will happen though.

    I’d like to link this post to my blog, if that’s okay?

    1. Thank you so much, Rose. Your blog looks so helpful to victims/former victims of abuse. Thank you for your ministry. You may definitely share this blog post.

      I understand the dissonance caused by wanting to protect the children. I do want to stress the importance of your children seeing their mother protecting herself, though. Because they saw that you were worth protecting, they will believe that THEY are worth protecting. I also want you to know that we recognize, here at GHW, the “invisible wounds” of emotional and verbal abuse as being just as devastating, if not more so, than physical abuse. You are incredibly brave and we are honored to hear a part of your beautiful story.

  3. Thank you so much. I literally could have written this. Just before our 11th anniversary, my “husband” threw our 8 yo out of the house with a trashbag full of clothes at 10 o’clock at night. That was the final straw. It was last July. So I am in the middle of a nasty custody battle and trying to get the pieces all put back together. There is not a doubt in my mind that I made the right decision. God is so good and I have felt His peace, even in the tempest. Thanks for your post. Another reminder that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the future is bright.

    1. I continue to be amazed by how many women suffer through the same types of trauma! There IS light at the end of the tunnel. My heart goes out to you and your little one. Stay strong! You will get through this, sister!

  4. Thank you Megan. I’ve been there, and still, occasionally, fall back into that thinking. But those “occasions” are thankfully not so often any more!

  5. This post came at the right time for me. I am constantly struggling with the back and forth “should I go back and try again, or should I stay away and grow stronger by myself?” I have to constantly remind myself how bad it was in order to keep pushing forward. I’m just thankful my eyes were opened just 3 years into my marriage while my daughter was just an infant and won’t remember any of this nastiness we’re going through right now.

    1. So thankful that you are able to get out now, Kelsey! One thing that helped me, years ago, was reading the report on abuse that I had typed up for my attorney. If ever I started thinking that “Egypt was better”, I read that report to remind myself of how horrific everything was. That helped me. Praying for you, this morning, as you push ahead. You are very brave! Hugs!

  6. Love this. Yes, those half-truths and downright lies supposedly based on Scriptures do need to be untwisted. Freedom is to be found not only in escaping the abuser but also in discovering who God really is. Very thankful for your work, and glad to have “discovered” you!

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