At the end of myself…at the feet of Jesus

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


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Looking at Domestic Abuse Through a Biblical Lens

I guess my perspective is different from many Christians. I have lived among abusive people my whole life. The good Lord saw fit to not just dip my feet in the water of abuse but to plunge me into its depths. Because He graciously has allowed me to live in the midst of abusers (though many times, I must confess, I’d have much preferred He hadn’t), I have an understanding of what abusers do and what the abused go through at their hand. In the end, the pain God has allowed me to deal with has been a blessing in some ways because it’s opened my eyes in a way some folk’s eyes are never opened. I know the pain of abuse. I’ve lived with abuse. I’ve been abused by multiple family members at various times of my life. I understand abuse far too well. Because of this, this is where I take my stand: Domestic abuse in any form, by anyone towards anyone, is sin and the church needs to wake up and realize that there are abusers in their midst who are masquerading as Christians; these abusers are hurting their families, sinning against God, and bringing reproach on the church and on the name of God. The church needs to educate themselves about abuse. They need to help the abused who members of their churches. To fail to do so is to choose to sin.

If you’ve not walked in the shoes of Christians who have been abused by those they’ve loved, I guess it’s easy to look away. After all, you don’t understand what’s going on. Anyway, some of the people being accused of abuse are “just the nicest people” or “the best Christian man I know”. Right? It’s much easier to dismiss the accusations than it is to have to deal with the messy fall-out. Anyway, God hates divorce, doesn’t He, so what can you do?

No, you’ve got your facts wrong. God doesn’t hate all divorce. If He did, He wouldn’t have divorced Israel. But, it’s easier to say He hates divorce and just tell her that if she wants to please God she has to stay with her abuser, than it is to risk the wrath of her abuser, than it is to have to sit down and study that Scripture in context, or than it is to actually have to step up and figure out a way to help those who are abused.

Or it’s easier to say “Just leave” and leave it up to her to figure out how.

It’s easier to tell her that the man she’s accusing of abuse can’t possibly be doing what she’s said he is. After all, seeing him once a week or even two or three times a week means you know him far better than his wife does. Right? Wrong. You dismiss her concerns because you don’t want to be bothered.

Because you aren’t looking at her situation through a biblical lens.

There are a lot of godly women out there who really love the Lord and who haven’t a clue what they need to do because their man won’t stop abusing them, neglecting his duties, won’t provide properly and on and on, but who cares? It doesn’t affect you. It doesn’t stop you from sitting down to a good meal forgetting that somewhere in your city, a woman who loves God with all that she is, is struggling to figure out how to keep food on the table for the rest of the week, or is pulling roaches out of what little food she has and serving it anyway, or is not eating herself in order to feed her kids. It doesn’t stop you from buying two or even three cars while ignoring the fact that this woman who has claimed to be abused but you’ve wondered about her faithfulness because she isn’t always in church, isn’t showing up to church because she has no running car. It doesn’t stop you from buying brand new clothes for your family, forgetting that the woman and children you think are dressed so poorly probably don’t have a way to buy any clothes–not and have a hope of keeping food on the table. It doesn’t stop you from going on a vacation, all the while ignoring the fact that she’s about to be evicted because her husband failed to pay the rent–and this isn’t the first time it’s happened to her.

You need to know. You need to look. You need to see. You need to listen: Abused women, children, and sometimes even men (because, yes, men can be, and sometimes are abused by their partners), because of the stress they live in, tend to have more health issues than the non-abused and are often not allowed to have access to health care. They tend to eat more poorly, often because of lack of resources. They tend to be quiet and subdued because they are afraid of anyone finding out for fear of what will happen when the abuser finds out someone knows, or because they fear being looked down on because they’ve been abused, or because they’ve just been abused so much that they haven’t the strength to pretend all is well. Abusers often keep their money for themselves, even demand that the abused turn over their earnings to them, then they do what they want to with it (frequently providing for themselves but not for their family). Sometimes the abuser wastes his money through gambling, through drinking, by doing drugs, through other selfish purposes or by carelessness. Some abusers are so careless in their own lives that they keeps losing their job so they lose everything–over and over again. Whatever the reason, many of those who are abused live in roach-infested, mold-ridden, run-down houses, own shabby second-hand furniture, drive a barely working car (if they are allowed one), and wear clothes most of us would throw away. They are alienated from others because their abuser makes them be–so no one finds out his secret. They often don’t have friends. They often have no credit or their credit has been ruined by their abuser, and they often have no money, so they feel they have no way out.

The abused Christian woman (or man) who gets up each morning and prays for the strength to get through the day and does all that they can to protect their children, to raise them and provide for them, is fighting a war most of you will never have to fight. And because they are so often ignored by the church, the very ones who should be helping them, they are fighting it alone.

You can ignore what I’ve written. You can refuse to care. But if you do, please don’t say you are doing all that you can to honor the Lord. According to statistics, one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. Maybe it’s a parent, a sibling, another relative, or her partner doing the abusing–but some of these “statistics” are sitting in your church.

I’m one of them.

This is just one issue the church is facing. Abortion. Biblical ignorance. Promiscuity. Poverty. Orphans. And on and on and on, the issues just mount up. Ignore these issues, forget that your help is needed and tell God you plan to do so or repent of your failure to care and ask the Lord how you can help. Somebody somewhere needs you to pray for them, to lend a helping hand, to be a friend, to teach them the truth of God’s Word. Look around you. God commanded us to be His hands and His feet. What are you doing to obey Him?

Soli Deo gloria!


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You are not to blame for his buse

If you are a woman who is being abused by your husband, you need to know that his abuse of you isn’t your fault. You didn’t bring the abuse on yourself. You aren’t, by somehow failing to please him in some way, asking to be abused. Your failures as a wife, however great or small, whether real or imagined by him, in no way gives your husband the right to seek to destroy your body, your mind, your heart, or your being. If you are a woman who is being abused by a man, the sin lies squarely on his shoulders and not on yours at all.

You didn’t cause the abuse by being sometimes being difficult. It doesn’t matter if you somehow “slip up” in your duties at times, serve supper late, fail to pick up the dry cleaning, or keep the house in a bit of a mess when you get busy. Maybe there are things you can do better but that can be said of all of us. Nothing you’ve done or haven’t done gives him the right to yell at you, smack you, terrorize you, castigate you, assault you, rape you, discipline you, or abuse you in any way, shape, form or fashion.

Abuse of any kind is the fault of the abuser. Abuse of any kind means the abuser is sinning not just against you but also against the Lord who created him.

Abuse needs no excuse. Abusers need no reason to abuse. They abuse because they are abusers. They don’t think like normal people, they don’t react like normal people, they don’t respond like normal people. They think, react and respond like abusive people because that is what they are. Because of that, it doesn’t matter if you failed or if you didn’t fail, they will abuse you anyway. Abusers can be driven to abuse by anything, or by nothing.

If you are being abused you have a right to protect yourself. You have a right to leave. To tell your story to someone who can help you. To get to safety. You have a right to protect yourself and your children. You have a right to divorce. You have a right to live in peace. You have a right to live a life that is free from abuse.

There’s a life out there that’s free from abuse. It’s where most people life. By God’s grace, it’s where you can live also.

Soli Deo gloria!


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The Unbiblical (and Common!) Way to Handle Reports of Abuse in the Church

The Reformed Reader

http://ssofdv.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/a-cry-for-justice-book.jpg?w=112&h=169 In their helpful book on abuse in the church, Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood give an outline of what typically (and sadly!) happens when a victim goes to her pastor for help.  In other words, the following is an outline of how abuse is sometimes swept under the rug in Christian churches.  Why am I posting this?  Basically, I want Christians (especially elders and pastors) to be aware that abuse can and does hide in churches.  I also want to point out this helpful resource for those needing some guidance on the topic of abuse in the church.  (Note: since victims of abuse are often women, the authors use a woman in this example, but they make it clear elsewhere that sometimes men are the victims as well).  I’ve edited a bit for the purpose of this blog:

1) Victim reports abuse to her pastor.
2) Pastor does not believe…

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Church, Will You Not Care?

There are many like me, women whose men have, through their abuse, torn the very fabric of their lives to shreds. There’s no organic wholeness to our lives, just a grasping terror due to trying desperately to hold on. There’s no plan for the future, no stability to plan one, just a prayer to make it through this one minute. Over and over again, this one minute lived takes us places we’re both afraid to face and hungry to embrace. Maybe it will bring the change, the hopeful future, we long for. More likely, it will bring more of the same deadness, full of fear and confusion, that has haunted our lives for years.

This is the life of an abused woman. As fear grows, hope diminishes until she is afraid to hope. Too much disappointment is a destroyer, a killer of dreams. As the blows from her husband intensify, be they verbal or physical, she retreats further inside herself, afraid even to look up lest she make him angry. It’s no different if the abused wife is a Christian. The life she lives, she lives alone. Afraid both of the consequences she’ll face at home for reaching out to others and of others reactions should they find out the secrets of her life, she hunkers down and cries out at the foot of the cross.

Does God see her? Does He care for her pain, for the pain of her children? Does He want her to stay? Will He enable her to leave? How can she provide for them? How can she protect her babies? How can she make it through another minute, let alone another day? Thoughts and prayers, hope and fears, bump against one another during the crawling fearful minutes of her day. In the late night hours they mix and mingle, twisting crazily into one another, giving her yet another night of fitful sleep and terror-filled dreams.

You wouldn’t know by the responses of the church that God cares. They are more willing to ignore such a woman than to get involved. Time and time again, an abused woman’s story is told; time and again, her story is ignored or disbelieved by those who claim the name of Christ. Refusal to listen, to help, to get involved crosses all denominational lines. If advice is given, it’s usually bad. “Go back home, serve him, keep praying and know that you are suffering for Christ” seems to be the most widely used piece of junk advice Christians have to offer. Junk because in that one sentence, they are both linking Christ to her abuse and excusing themselves from having to extend any effort to help her.

But her pain remains. The tears keep on falling. And, for now as in the past, most churches keeps right on failing abused women and their children.

Church, do you see our tears? Do you not care for our wounded hearts? We are mourning, will you not embrace us? Will you not care? Do you not remember that the same God who told you to rejoice with those who rejoice also said to weep with those who weep? We are weeping, we wives of men who abuse and misuse us, will you not join us? Will you not weep with us? Will you not weep for our children? Will you not be Jesus’s hands to us, gently wiping away our tears? We are your daughters, your sisters, your friends. One in four women, women you know, are weeping, reeling from the pain caused by their man. Will you not help us?


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God Hates Divorce: Slogan or Scripture?

The Reformed Reader

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41rOl3VlaiL.jpg Several weeks ago, I noted how some common translations of Malachi 2:16 are unhelpful because they make the text say that God hates divorce (e.g. NKJV, KJV, NIV).  However, the Malachi 2:16 doesn’t say that; it says, ‘For the man who hates and divorces,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘covers his garment with violence….’ (ESV; see also HCSB).  Based on this discussion, I appreciate Barbara Roberts’ words in Not Under Bondage, a thorough biblical study of divorce, abandonment, abuse, and remarriage.  Here’s how she says it:

“The words ‘I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel’’’ which occur in many translations of Malachi 2:16 have frequently been paraphrased as the slogan ‘God hates divorce.’  At face value this slogan appears to condemn all divorce and all acts of divorcing, with no thought for who is the innocent, or less guilty, party.  Understood like this, it…

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The Church and Single Moms

I was raised by a single Mom. Not single by choice but rather by necessity due to my Dad’s abuse, Mama struggled alone to be our provider and to fill in for the Dad who was incapable of loving either of us. It was hard. Her own health wasn’t good, yet no matter how poorly she felt, she worked on for bills had to be paid. My health wasn’t good, either, and I spent my childhood in and out of hospitals. For many years, we practically lived in doctor’s offices. My doctors gave up on my living long enough to make it out of childhood. I don’t think Mama ever did. Fortunately, the doctors were wrong. I survived. Through it all Mama tried. She supported us for many years through her sewing. A gifted seamstress who could make anything from wedding gowns to men’s suits, Mama was bent over her sewing machine from sunup until long after I was in bed. Often she didn’t stop until after midnight. The next morning, she was up and going again.

I am writing this because my mother was a single Mom and because, while the church sometimes stepped up and did all that they could do, they often didn’t. I’m grateful for all that those who loved God and loved us did for us. For their prayers, their kindness, their love. I’m especially grateful that they stepped up and helped her escape her abusive marriage. But we were still often alone. My mother still had no one to turn to for counsel most of the time. No one to help her navigate the rough waters threatening to overwhelm us both. She was still lonely. She was still alone. Because she was alone, her fears often overwhelmed her and then poured out on me.

I often write for abused women since my mother knew abuse and since it’s reared its ugly head in my own family too. Some of the issues that abused women face and those faced by single Moms overlap. Some of the suggestions I will be putting forth over the next several days could be effectively applied to abused women/mothers or married-wives-single-Moms (it is just what it sounds like, a married wife whose husband either refused to or is unable to step up to the plate as Dad).

I’ve never been a single Mom myself but as the daughter of a single Mom, I do have a birds-eye view of single Mom life. I know the pain Mama felt at being the odd-woman-out. In a world of couples, she was alone. Consequently, we were rarely invited out. Couples simply didn’t know what to do with us. It’s a complaint I’ve heard from other single Moms. The only person, outside of family, who ever invited us anywhere was the one other single Mom in our church. She herself knew the trials my mother was going through since she herself was going through them also. For many years, they watched each others back and shored each other up. It was nice having someone who understood, who didn’t stumble over asking me where my Daddy was or worry because there was no man for Mama to round out the seating arrangements at suppertime. In a world of couples, they were two lonely women doing the best that they could.

Loneliness is one of the main problems facing single Moms. Along with the myriad other problems such as exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, coping with depression, fear, confusion, wondering if they are messing up, being sure they are messing up, desperation and, quite often, poverty. The problems meant for two must be solved by one. And it’s hard.

The main thing that single Moms need from the church is for truth to be preached, unwatered down and non-sugar coated, and then lived out. Through truth proclaimed and lived, the Moms will get the spiritual succor they need to grow, to know the Lord and to depend on Him and they’ll also get the support from fellow Christians that they need. Truth lived out can’t help but help those who need it most. Single Moms definitely fall within that group.

Over the next few days, I’ll be writing more about the church and single Moms. Once truth is lived out, sometimes ideas are needed as to how it might best be applied. That’s what we’ll tackle next.

 

Soli Deo gloria!

 


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What the Abused Really Need

I remember the morning my Daddy jumped up and, cursing, screaming at Mama, “I’m going to shove your *** teeth down your throat!”. I can’t say I remember what happened that lead up to his outburst (though they were common) but I clearly remember jumping between them and yelling at him to “Leave my Mama alone!”. Mama was trying to pull me back, afraid of my father’s reaction. Instead of acting at all, he stared at me and turned and left the room. My memory ends there though I wish I could remember what came next. What did Mama say to me in those moments following his attack? Did she scold me for interfering? Did she hold me close and cry? Did she quickly dress me and herself and leave the house? I simply don’t know. Mama’s been gone for a long time now and even when she was here, asking her questions about my father led her down a pathway I seldom dared to tread.

Mama was an abused woman. I was an abused daughter. I married into an abusive family. The seeds of abuse grow in the hearts of those who have not the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and lay to waste precious lives. Abuse is sin, plain and simple. Those who live in abuse, grow up in abuse, have a difficult time understanding the love of God, trusting God or even understanding human love and trust. When your sky has been black around the clock all of your life are you really going to believe someone who tells you that where they live and, indeed, everywhere else, the sky is blue during daylight? Who could believe such a thing? That would be…weird.

Normal behavior is weird when you’ve been abused. What’s normal to others is so abnormal to you. They speak of trusting. You can’t trust. They speak of joy and happiness. You don’t feel. They speak of engaging, being involved, accomplishing goals. You go numb, hunker down and simply try to survive. The pathway to survival might include drinking (as it did for my father who himself was abused as a child), it might include drugs, promiscuity, overspending, dedication to perfection or any other kind of addiction or coping mechanism. They do that because they often don’t know what else to do. No one is there to teach them, help them or to care. They need someone. They need Christ.

Some Christians respond with loving compassion to those who have suffered abuse. My mother was blessed in that regard. When we finally managed to escape my father, we settled down in her hometown of Tallassee, Alabama. There we joined a church and that church surrounded us with love. They cared what she’d gone through. They hurt for her. They supported her in leaving my father. They even supported her when she, fearing that he would come kill her, take me and vanish with me, as he’d threatened to do so many times, decided to divorce him. The leadership of the church was with her every step of the way. Her story is an anomaly.  Most women suffering from abuse don’t have such loving responses from their churches. That hasn’t usually been my experience nor that of  most women I have spoken with.

You might think that domestic abuse is something you will never have to deal with. Something far away and foreign to you. You might be right but, honestly, I don’t think so. More likely you simply aren’t adept at seeing the signs. One in four women in the USA is affected by domestic abuse at some point in her life. One in four. That means that somewhere along the way every single person has likely come across someone who has been abused or is presently being abused. Most likely, you’ve come across several. Likely there are some in your church right now.

You don’t know what to do? Be Christ to them. If they don’t know Him, teach them of Him. Then serve them. That’s what He’d do. And that’s what they really need.