A Letter to Christian Women From a Domestic Abuse Survivor
Do you remember me?
We knew each other a few years ago; but just now, on a crisp Wednesday morning near the carts in the grocery store, you looked right at me and kept walking–as if I were a complete stranger.
Now we’ve all been there. We’re distracted, texting someone, deep in thought–it happens. I’m sure I’ve done it. And if it were just an occasional occurrence, it would be easy to shrug off.
But this is my new reality as an evangelical Christian woman who has left her abusive husband.
Be it the grocery store, a women’s Bible study, a school event, a restaurant or the playground, I now face this all over my city. Christians I once knew continually pretend they don’t know me.
I know this can surprise me at any time (and render me breathless and shaky), so I try to prepare myself for this phenomenon before I go places. Before I get out of my car, I pray for strength: I recount to myself how I never wanted to be divorced, how I never would have chosen to break up my family, how I did everything I could to preserve a safe home, how I chose to walk away because I believed God was calling me to protect my children’s bodies and hearts, as well as my own.
I left because it seemed, actually, the most God-honoring thing to do.
He who did not condemn David for escaping into the wilderness to preserve his life; He who tells us, “The prudent sees danger and takes refuge”– surely He cares for the safety and sanity of a mother with her young children? But even two years later, Christian women in my community continue to shun me.
I feel almost like I’ve died; as if my life has ended, and yet somehow I’m still here, a ghost–lingering around the city while former friends look through me, not seeing I’m here. Only this death was a death without a funeral, some kind of unspoken understanding that I am no longer worthy of a hello, a wave, or a phone call.
So, friend at the grocery store, please know this: I’m still His. We are still (I think) in the same camp.
In fact, God had to drag me kicking and screaming out of the marriage: I was terrified that to leave would be sinful, and terrified that I would lose everything and everyone. I had to finally come to grips with the fact that if I stayed, I would be complicit in further damage to our children, further damage to my health, and further damage to the true gospel of Jesus Christ in front of a world that desperately needs Him.
It might have appeared to you that everything was normal and fine until one day I just “snapped” and left my marriage. But if you look more closely into your memories of me, if you dig a bit, maybe you’ll remember the signs.
Remember that time I suddenly dropped a massive amount of weight? Or when I started sobbing every Sunday at church? And stopped talking much? Or when I had to start sitting down all the time or holding onto things because I couldn’t stand much anymore? That’s when I was seeing my little ones hurt; when I was being threatened; when I was wishing for death.
That’s when I was also coming to grips with the fact that God does not condone abuse. I believed God was calling me to leave, but knew that leaving would come with some larger-than-life trade-offs.
I was afraid people wouldn’t believe me. I was afraid of having a scarlet letter.
So, please. Next time a woman from your church or Bible study or other Christian circle suddenly “disappears,” and you hear rumors of divorce — don’t treat her like she’s invisible when you run into her. You have no idea what, perhaps, she and her children have been through. Maybe she and her kids need clothes, or warmer comforters. Maybe she skipped a meal to stretch her grocery budget this week. Maybe she had to call the authorities again about more bruises found on her kids when they returned to her. Maybe no one has hugged her in a long time. Maybe she still starts shaking sometimes, and a warm hug and “hello” from you could go a long way.
Because even though we know God sees us, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it; and when you ignore us, it feels like God Himself has passed us by. But when you embrace us, it’s a tangible reminder that He sees us, knows us, and accepts us.
Do you remember me? I’m still here.