A sweet mama that I know, who is in a lot of pain due to her husband’s abuse, recently said to me ,”He said he doesn’t want me to leave because I am all he has.” Somehow, that did not make her feel like staying. He has her; he is comfortable with her; he knows how to push her buttons. She cooks for him; she is a warm body in the home; she takes care of the children. He “has” her. She is his. So, he doesn’t want her to leave, even though they both know that the abuse is heating up to an unbearable temperature.
I remember when I first met my ex husband. He was super-possessive and, in my naïveté, I mistook that for love. I thought, “Oh, he cherishes me! He is protecting me!” I should have heeded the red flags. Later, I experienced much anger from him if another man spoke to me. In fact, when I first left my first marriage, I could not look a man in the eye. I had spent years training myself to stay away from other men, lest I roused anger in my spouse.
In my book, I talk about how love and freedom are inter-twined, like strands of licorice (the good kind — the red kind because it tastes better and love and red go together). Love and liberty cannot be separated. Love is not control. Love loves toward freedom. Love does not give a bit while it hurts a lot. Love does not take, then take some more while offering a crumb of hope. Love is extravagant and healing in its generosity.
For the former victim of abuse, she stands at a crossroads. She may not understand what love truly is . . . . she may have never experienced love. This may help:
Love is creatively discovering what is best for another person and then carrying it through. Love is sacrificial. Love gives freedom. Love is looking outside oneself to help another. Love is helping others to become all the can be for God’s glory with no expectations of a return.
The reason my young friend does not feel love is because the abuser, in her life, did not tell her that he loves her and wants the best for her. He told her that she belongs to him. Abusers always see others as an extension of themselves or as a person to be used. If you are a victim of abuse and you have left, the anger that you are experiencing is the same kind of anger as though someone took away his favorite play-thing. You are his and no one else can have you.
Abusers are takers. Look back over your life with him. What were your prospects before he came into your life? What were your dreams and plans? What talents and gifts did you have, just waiting to be used? What material possessions did you have? Did he take it all? Maybe he did. And for that, we all grieve. But, if you have gotten away and you are free, then he really truly did not take it all. He couldn’t. That dreamy little girl is still inside you, no matter how old you are. And, even better, you have freedom in Christ. A freedom intertwined with His love for you. In fact, He is in the business of freedom . . . freedom from slavery, freedom from abuse, freedom from sin, freedom from our own chains, freedom from unhealthy relationships, freedom from our own selfishness. I could go on and on. You are free! And He paid a high price for your freedom . . . Oh, did He ever. Do not give that up nor give it away. It is your gift. Do with it what you want. I choose to follow Christ and belong to Him. But, not as a slave . . . as a friend. He calls me friend. He calls you friend.