So many times, women who have left abusive relationships hop right out of the frying pan and into the fire because a man comes along who is a tiny bit “better” than the former abuser. It is so difficult to see that this new man might not be that great because (1) a former victim of abuse does not necessarily believe that she deserves, or can do, better and (2) that “tiny bit better” seems monumental. She needs someone outside of her world and paradigm to say, “He is not that great, friend. You deserve better.” One of the most difficult and painful parts of being in this ministry is watching women leave an abusive relationship to return to another one. And we believe it is because former victims of abuse NEED to understand that healing takes time . . . . detoxing . . . a new perspective that is truly Christian.
So often, I say to my wonderful husband (David), “No one has ever done that for me before . . . ” And he looks at me with love mixed with mercy mixed with pity. He says something like, “No one has ever filled up your gas tank?” I remember my Daddy doing that a few times but it had been years. David fills up my tank on a regular basis and acts like that is normal. In fact, he delights in it. He is always surprised when I over-thank him for normal acts of kindness that should be part of the every day Christian marriage. It has made me think about how little I knew of “normal” for such a long time. My “normal” was skewed and painful. I found myself in the center of swirling selfishness, inconsistency, blame and (near) hatred. For many other women who are struggling to understand how marriage can actually be wonderful, I have compiled a short-list of what is normal and not normal for a Christian marriage. It is imperative that “our” mamas know some of these things or they will find themselves back in another relationship where “normal” is actually not normal — but abusive. These are only some of the truths I have learned in the past three years of marriage:
- It is normal for a Christian husband to treat his wife with dignity, as an equal heir to the throne of God and a partner in this life here on earth. She has her own thoughts, ideas and passions. Sometimes these passions join together and other times, they do not. It is NOT normal nor biblical for a wife to simply be an extension of her husband. It is not normal for her to not have her own opinions or ideas or goals.
- It is normal for a Christian husband to be kind to his wife, to acknowledge her hurts and her tears and to apologize if he harms her. It is not normal for a husband to tell his wife that she is being oversensitive or ridiculous. It is not normal for a woman to wonder if she is crazy or defective because her pain means nothing to her husband.
- It is normal for a Christian husband to treat his wife as a fragile and beautiful vessel. He gives her extra sleep and cares for and warms her body and soul. He is strong for her and able to handle her deepest struggles. It is not normal for a man to ridicule a woman for her weakness . . . or make her hate herself for being a woman. A Christian man is forever in awe and wonder over his wife because he is captivated by her.
- It is normal for a Christian husband and wife to talk about things together and make decisions together. It is not normal for a husband to make decisions without the valuable input of his wife.
- It is normal for a Christian husband to encourage his wife in her dreams and desires. He upholds her with his strength — a safety net. It is not normal for a husband to dump all of his problems onto his wife to bring her down. It is not normal for him to vie for her pity and create an atmosphere of insecurity for her in her home.
- It is normal for a husband to provide a home that is safe. The one thing I asked my husband before we married is that our home is “always safe”. It is not normal to walk on eggshells or uncertainty around your spouse because you are not sure of what mood he is in. It is not normal to feel unsafe. Furthermore, it is not normal for YOUR NORMAL to be insecurity in your home.
- It is normal to feel like the apple of your Christian husband’s eye. A Christian husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church. She completes him. He readily admits that he needs her and adores her. He is not ashamed of that. It is not normal for a man to act like his wife (and kids) are his afterthought.
- It is normal for a Christian husband to keep his wife aware of where he is and what is happening. They are ONE. Out of respect and honor for each other, a husband and wife keep each other abreast. It is, in fact, joy to do so and to feel that connection. It is not normal for a husband to show up whenever and wherever and not stay connected to his wife. It is not normal for days of silence to ensue and then a great expectation for intimacy in the bedroom. That is not normal.
- It is normal for a Christian husband to listen to his wife and understand her point of view. It is not normal for a husband to blow his wife off and make her feel like a nothing. It is not normal for a husband to make her feel crazy.
- It is normal for a Christian husband to nurture his wife, to protect her and to cherish her and her body. It is not normal for a husband to work his wife to death, not offering any help with the children or around the house.
- It is normal for a Christian husband to love his wife because she is . . . . not because of what she can do for him. I love my children because they are. They do not have to earn my love. Likewise, a Christian husband simply loves his wife because of her beauty and loveliness. It is not normal for a wife to have to earn her husband’s love by hard-work, extra-biblical “godliness” or anything that involves striving.
A Christian wife can rest in her husband. And he delights in her. In this context, a Christian marriage can have a Garden of Eden-like experience where there is no shame, no lording over, no superiority, no entitlement. Of course, we all slip and hurt one another (so painful), but, in a Christian marriage, we know that the other does not want to hurt us. We know that the motivation of the heart is to love and bless. This is what we wish for all of our hurting mamas and all of those, in the world, who have been mistreated and abused. Dear one . . . . wait for that man who will adore you. You are worthy of being loved and cherished because of all that God has done for you. He died for you . . . He wanted you . . . He covers you with His love. You are like a bride adorned with jewels (Isaiah 61:10). Please, dear-heart . . . . do not accept anything less from a man on this earth. They are out there. Just pray . . . and wait . . . and worship, in the meantime, a God who is so much more worthy of worship than any human being in your life ever was or ever will be.