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Featuring: Daily Stories in the News
The Faith of a……
Green and alive, a kaleidoscope in swaying tender grass. A whispered breeze, its breath bearing the fragrance of honeysuckle. Early morning, fresh and crisp with promise of a beautiful day. A child. Sweet tendrils of gossamer curl clinging tenderly to a rosy, plump, and slightly sweaty cheek. Bright, wide open, unguarded eyes sparkling with delight and trust. A body resting, still for once, as all intention focused upward, in adoration and anticipation. Daddy. Papa. Abba!
The faith of a child.
Adorned with flowers, a kaleidoscope in sunlight dancing through intricate stained glass. Breathless stillness echoing restrained yet festive voices. A young woman, tendrils of gossamer curl clinging tenderly to a rosy cheek. Bright, wide open, unguarded eyes sparkling with delight and trust. A body moving, all intention focused ahead. A Savior. A man. One flesh. Mystery.
The faith of a woman.
Ephesians 5 in motion. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%205&version=NIV
She makes her groom a lovely dinner. He doesn’t like it. Or her driving, or the way she does her hair. He asks her to keep herself more presentable and lose weight. He doesn’t laugh at her jokes. He snorts with derision at her requests and suggestions. He corrects her choice of words. He insists she cooks the eggs just right, and hangs his shirts just so. He makes himself clear, whether loudly, or quietly. He lets her know that her hobbies and work are somehow inferior. He brings her flowers. Takes her to dinner. To church. He acts gallant and she loves him. He becomes angry and controlling, and she tries to please him. The cycle continues. Romance and retribution. Love and fear. Hope and despair. She becomes isolated from friends. Unsure of herself. Timid. She wonders if she is losing her mind.
Sun streaming in windows of a home that always feels dark. Bright, guarded eyes, darting to and from his face, alert to the ebb and flow of his mood. A body rigid, all intention fearfully focused on learning the rules, and following them perfectly. Or else.
She prays that God will heal her, heal him, and bless her with strength and wisdom. She listens to others, and tries to do what they tell her is right, because something seems wrong with her faith, with her, and her marriage. She doesn’t know what to believe any more. She talks about this at her Bible study. She doesn’t know she is experiencing psychological and emotional abuse. No one else does either. Time passes, children are born, and she walks a tightrope between joy in her life and children, and fear of her husband. She is so tired.
And she can’t please him. He says it is her fault. He wouldn’t get so angry if she was a better wife, a better Christian. Then he wouldn’t want to hit her, or body block her against the wall, or tickle her too hard, threaten her with the children, or humiliate her in bed. Or embarrass her in public. It’s just that he loves her so much, and it could be so much better. If she would just get it right.
She goes to church, and talks with friends, hears sermons, and reads her Bible. She dares to speak to her pastor and a few Christian friends. They tell her to submit to her husband and that God will honor her. That if she is completely obedient, God will be her protector. That she should walk by faith, not by sight. She is told that he might be an unbeliever, in which case her goodness and kindness could win him over. And that she should not let the sun go down on her anger. That she should forgive seventy times seven. She is suffering for and with Christ. God hates divorce. Their relationship mirrors that of Christ and the Church, and she must keep trying.
What they just told her is TO SHUT UP AND PUT UP.
She is NOT in an Ephesians 5 marriage. She is in an ABUSIVE marriage. Her husband does not relate to her as Christ to the Church. He does not honor her. He does not love her. He will not change. He sees no need to change. He is entitled. He is a 2 Timothy 3:1-4 man.
Over time, she will find that neither God nor her husband seem to honor her submission or obedience. She wonders, as the abuse escalates, what to do about the reality of her life by “sight” while she is waiting in faith…for what, now? She wants to leave, but is afraid for herself and her children, and of what he might do. There is so much unexpressed anger and frustration at unresolved and un-repented meanness that she goes to sleep with it and wakes with it. She drives it inward, downward until it doesn’t show, and becomes depression. She wills herself to forgive, but doesn’t really know what it means any more. She is suffering but wonders why God wants it that way, since she has prayed and believed and valiantly suffered for Christ. But she just doesn’t feel any of the peace that passes understanding that was promised. Or wisdom. And since she feels fear, not love, God must not be pleased with her. But she doesn’t know what else to do. He doesn’t seem to hear HER prayers. And she is tired, and confused, and doesn’t trust her husband, or God, or Christians who counsel her. She wants to be strong and be noble for the faith, but there just isn’t much left. She no longer knows what to believe. She no longer believes.
One in four women are abused to some degree. And the children, who carry it into the next generation. The church is NOT immune. Christian Domestic Violence Advocates, who attempt to educate others, tell me that those in CHURCHES are the hardest to reach, because they are afraid the advocate is promoting divorce. I have encountered rigid theology, in which the letter of the word is more important than the soul of the abused.
Shards of sunlight reflected from intricate stained glass. Voices from inside, singing? A woman, traces of curl limp against a shadowed face. Steady, guarded eyes, hooded by disappointment and mistrust. A body moving, one foot after the other. No savior. Nothing left to say. Nothing left to trust.
The faith of a victim.
I don’t like the way this story ends. So let’s write a different ending:
She is not in an Ephesians 5 marriage. She is in an abusive marriage. She talks to her pastor, and to her Christian friends. They listen respectfully, carefully and lovingly to her. They assume her truthfulness, and choose to believe her. They don’t know what to say, at first, other than, “I am so sorry you are dealing with this. He seems so nice; I never knew. What do you think you need? How can I support you?” Then they look for information on the type of behavior she has described, and learn about abuse. They tell her what they learned. They present options, but don’t push. They give her support to leave, or to stay, knowing that she is united with Christ one way or the other. They remind her that God loves her, and doesn’t want her to be abused. That fear and anger are normal, but she will move past them and again know joy. They re-read and study up on Malachi 2:16 so they can regard it the way it was likely intended. They include her in fellowship that is fun and healthy, and has nothing to do with jots and tittles. They point her to agencies, and advocates, and wait with her as she makes her choices, in whatever time it takes. And if she does divorce, she becomes a single woman, not a tainted woman. It wasn’t her fault. She bears no shame. They remind her of this. They remind OTHERS of this. As often and as long as necessary. I have also known those who understand, and speak words of strength and love and encouragement.
Amber and gold, swirling grasses bow and sway. A fragrant fall breeze, bearing the scent of mown hay. Leaves frolic and dance, as if celebrating the abundant harvest. A warm and mild afternoon, fresh and crisp with promise of a beautiful sunset. A woman. Sweet tendrils of curl springing free to gently caress a sun tanned cheek. Wise, wide open, unguarded eyes calmly gazing with serenity and trust. A body resting, focused inward, in adoration and companionship. Jesus. Abba!
The faith of a survivor.