God's Will is Not Abuse

An excerpt from THROUGH MY EYES...
"There had been many times before when I felt like I was at the end of my rope, but this was different. I was dangling by a thread. I was forty-three years old. I had spent almost twenty-seven years beating my head against a brick wall. And at that moment, it felt like I had wasted the best years of my life on a man who was not even my friend. I began to weigh my options carefully. I was fearful of striking out on my own. I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t self-assured. I was flat out scared to death. And I wasn’t sure what God expected of me. But there were a few things I felt certain of. 
Dennis was more impossible to get along with now than he was when I married him. And he remained completely unwilling to look at himself or examine his priorities. Everything was always someone else’s fault—usually mine. He had sent an intentional message that I didn’t matter by tearing up the fourteen pages (of documented abuse and neglect) he vowed to keep forever as a reminder of how his behavior made me feel, which was extremely significant to me and powerful evidence that change would never happen. I believed that staying with Dennis could potentially shorten my life because of the toll the heavy stress was taking on me physically. I knew I was about to hit midlife and menopause. I knew there would be no compassion if I struggled the way some women do and I couldn’t imagine what that would be like as his wife. I concluded that if the marriage was hopeless, no matter how hard it was to start over at age forty-three, it would be easier at forty-three than at fifty-three. I couldn’t change the years I’d already given up, but I could refuse to throw away the next ten..."

The decision to leave is a difficult one no matter how many years you've invested in a marriage. It's hard to accept defeat when your heart has clung to the hope of perseverance resulting in success. It's hard to accept that your unconditional love and perpetual forgiveness have only been met with increasing exploitation and disrespect. It's hard to accept that a person you have loved with your whole heart and tried to have empathy for has no interest in extending the same to you. Instead, he views you with contempt and robs you of human dignity by making you an object for his use. Whether you are his whipping post physically and/or emotionally, or you are used as a reflection for his glory by making him look good, the message is sadly the same; you are an extension of him and his needs, nothing more.
An abusive man lacks empathy and introspection. He is not craving connection through vulnerability and shared humanity. His needs are met when he has power over you. And for him to win, you have to lose. It might be in a big way and it might be in a small way. You may not get to have your own opinion without emotional consequences where you wind up feeling like you've been steamrolled for daring to challenge anything he says. He may intimidate you with cruel, punishing words and never be willing to acknowledge that emotional battering is just as serious and wrong as physical battering. He can't admit this to himself because he is not strong, as he wants to feel and project. He is actually weak and insecure to the point that any perceived inadequacy is excruciating for him to confront or admit rather than a common thread of human existence that unites us all.

Whether the abuse is verbal, emotional or physical, what motivates intimidating behavior is the drive to control and dominate others. Where that desire does not exist, these behaviors do not exist. And as long as these persons are unwilling to look within themselves for answers, but choose instead only to find external blame, they will go through the rest of their lives feeling victimized by the very ones who have loved them and tried with all their might to be loyal to them. Ultimately, whether it takes a day, a year, or decades, we survivors have something in common; we ultimately relinquish our false hope and choose the only path to health and peace. That path begins with letting go of the chaos no matter how much you may love the person whose greatest desire is to dominate rather than to love you.
I've shared in so many conversations that the question "Why does she stay?" annoys me. It makes the victim our object of bewilderment and frustration instead of the abuser.  There are so many reasons women struggle to leave an abusive man. Some are held by threats of physical harm to themselves or family members. While some of us are held in the grip of our false beliefs. We are told by our Christian communities that God hates divorce. But we are not told how much God hates abuse. And He does. It's wrong for spiritual leaders to encourage Christian women to subject themselves to evil and to enable ungodly behavior as a way to please God.

An abuser is not fulfilling the biblical definition of husband. A biblical husband honors and protects and loves his wife the way Christ loves His church. A biblical husband lays down his life for his wife. We must be so careful, even as friends, let alone spiritual leaders, not to focus so exclusively on law that we forget the compassion of Jesus and the stand He consistently took against oppression and injustice.

In the church I grew up in, blame was attached to the person who left and filed for divorce unless there was evidence of adultery. So I initially struggled with the fear and anxiety that God was mad at me for leaving. My point is this: I took marriage seriously. I was not looking for greener grass or chasing happiness. I was determined to make my marriage work at great expense to myself and my own needs, and I gave everything I had in me toward that goal. I was an imperfect wife with flaws and inadequacies, to be sure. But I gave it my all. And it was not enough. God never sprinkled pixie dust over my ex and turned him into a godly husband because I tried so hard to be "a good Christian wife." Divorce is never God's design. But we live in a broken world where many things happen that do not line up with God's original intent for us. There is grace. And God has showered me with His love, grace and unmerited favor ever since I made that difficult decision to stop being abused and trust Him for my future.
I did not see an inviting future ahead of me when I chose to leave an abusive marriage. I was scared and insecure and filled with self-doubt. I even feared God's rejection, which is really the greatest tragedy because there is nothing that can separate me from His love according to Scripture. Some of you reading this are in that same scary place I was once in right now. You're choosing the familiar over the unknown. It's a tragic mistake.

No matter who may be telling you your role is to accept and endure abuse, whether it's your abusive spouse or your pastor, don't believe them. God's will for our lives is not abuse. Enabling ungodly behavior does not glorify or honor God. Sometimes the only way to flee from evil is to end a destructive relationship. God knows our hearts and He sees every tear. He will not abandon or reject you for saying "no more" to abuse and torment. I'm living proof of that.

I'd like to share two helpful links on this subject. The first is a video produced for Domestic Violence Awareness Month by our local Women's Resource Center. The second is a sermon my son gave recently on marriage and divorce...


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