Category Archives: Divorce

The Faith of a……..

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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.

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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.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%203:1-4&version=NIV

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. 

httpfreepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com~florencenywindowsAltar.htm

 

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.

The End.

 

No, no…NO!

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!DSCN0041

The faith of a survivor.

The Beginning.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Ending the Silence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Color is Purple

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I am honored to be included with a number of wonderful authors on the website:

 Ending The Silence.

I invite you to visit the site for my articles and those of Lundy Bancroft, Melodie Ramone, Catherine Givans, Sherry Rentschler, P.J. LaRue, Vanessa A Ryan, Stephanie Neighbour, and Jenna Brooks (who is site originator, organizer and administrator), with individual site links and comment and contact opportunities. Each lends a valuable perspective to the diverse issues of Domestic Violence.

Throughout the month of October, Jenna will also be featuring Stories In the News, helpful information, and a Survey with results to be collected during the month, and write-in survivor’s stories.

I will be trying to post more often, on both sites. And I encourage you to take in the wealth of insight and information that will be available on all fronts during the month, not only web-based, but in communities. Check your local newspapers for articles, web-browse where services are located in your area and what they do. 

There is a HUGE need in churches, who preach compassion, to learn HOW to apply that to DV. 

I hear the salutation, “Love in Christ.”  And think of the motto, “Be Prepared.”  

This month is an easy opportunity to do both.

Blessings, Diane

The Big “D” and Malachi 2:16

Malachi 2:16  God hates divorce……

Ever heard that one? Ever quoted it? I included a survey of this verse in an earlier post, but got only two answers. One respondent answered “other” but I couldn’t access a comment. The other respondent said they had never heard the verse. One of the multiple choice answers was, “have you ever heard the SECOND HALF of the verse?”

Have you?

I found the complete verse, book, and context when I read through the Bible cover to cover the first time. Trying to see God and Jesus in context. The version I remember reading is different than what  pops up when I access Bible Gateway. So I went to other, older versions (like me), and voila! Here it is! So, let’s look at Malachi 2:16  in several versions:

    • New International Version 1984
      “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
    • New Revised Standard Version
      For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.
    •  New International Version
      “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

NOT ONCE in 20+ years was this verse quoted to me, in its entirety or in context, by friends or clergy. Just the God Hates Divorce part.

Why was that? When so much care is taken to quote some other passages in context? Was it because the “God Hates Divorce” part came first in the verse, and was therefore more important? If God hates divorce AND he hates a man who covers himself with violence as with a garment….which does He hate most? And reading the entire book of Malachi, I saw that this related not only to a husband and wife, but to Godly offspring, and God’s covenant with an entire race. And what should I DO based on that? I chose caution, conservative (legalistic) interpretation, that man meant person, and didn’t want to take any chances with Godly offspring. And, aside from any Biblical admonition, to protect my kids from their dad and the court system.

Then I wondered why, if marital unfaithfulness (meaning sexual unfaithfulness as defining adultery) was the only acceptable reason for divorce, did marriage ceremonies (which sanctify the covenant of marriage) include words such as “love, honor and cherish?” I wondered why we didn’t just stand before the preacher and say “I promise not to have sex with another till we die,” and leave it at that…since that is what seemed to be the actual substance of the arrangement. Since meanness, coldness, fear, financial ruin….verbal and physical abuse, are often considered non-sufficient grounds for divorce. Or for accountability within the church. And since Ephesians marriage verses seemed to be recommendations, rather than contractual requirements.

Matthew 5:32  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19:9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

******

At the time of my divorce, I understood it this way: I will go to hell more surely by taking my own life than by divorcing my husband.  I was shocked and bewildered by God’s silence, my unanswered prayers for healing (not just of Peter; I was willing to change, too) and for guidance. And had come (from a start of open-hearted faith) to believe that God was a harsh taskmaster, demanding colossal sacrifice and endurance in the form of testing and somehow displaying His glory, demanding no shrinking back or He would be displeased, and that fearing Him is a good thing (even after checking out the word “fear” in Strong’s Concordance for many verses hoping it really meant “respect” or “honor”). And that once divorced, I would, Biblically speaking, be forever in a poor plan B. These are some of the ideas, views of God, that come from some skewed interpretations of scripture and Christian counsel. And formed part of the gauntlet I ran.

I didn’t understand much about covenant, Biblically speaking. Thanks to Joe Pote (http://josephjpote.com/) I understand much better NOW. I wouldn’t dream of trying to express the content of Joe’s book, So You are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce…, because I could in no way accurately abbreviate the points he so clearly makes. But I will say that I have now been introduced to a kinder view of God’s interest in my former marriage and my life, which gives me greater peace in the present. This is what I learned (my understanding): God doesn’t use covenants to enslave or abuse – He redeems us from bondage, including that of marital abuse (and the word redeemed means a lot more than I thought it did); divorce isn’t sin (treachery IS sin); I have not missed God’s best plan for my life because I have been through divorce; I am not to blame for my divorce (it is not always the fault of both parties);  “divorced” is not an eternal condition that overshadows me or defines me – I am not Peter’s ex-wife – the marriage covenant no longer exists, so I am just Diane; my second marriage is not sin (my covenant with Peter no longer existed; there was no covenant to violate); my husband and I are each married to one person – the husband of one wife – the wife of one husband (we are not bigamists married to each other AND to our previous spouses – our former marriages no longer exist) and any evaluation for ministry can be made on that basis.

(If you want to do a very good thing, buy this book for your church library.)

There were two sides as I Ran the Gauntlet: my abusive Christian husband with his destructive and misinformed words and control on one side, and the Church with its destructive and misleading scriptural interpretations and control on the other.

As I am blogging and listening, both sides of the gauntlet are beginning to disarm and go away. Some of the harmful ideas used by both sides are now useless weapons, rusting on the grass. I’m listening. And feeling the breeze of freedom and the sun on my face.

Good Sabbath, my Blogger Church.

Covenant Abuse – by Joseph Pote

Joe Pote is a fellow blogger (Redeemed!) and author of the book: So You are a Believer Who has been through Divorce.

With Joe’s permission, I have included the link to his excellent post about domestic violence in marriage, from his blog “Redeemed!” I REALLY hope you read it. In fact, skip my posts for the rest of the month if it will give you time to read his!! 🙂 Watch the video, read the post, and all of the comments.

http://josephjpote.com/2012/10/covenant-abuse/#comment-3522

I read his book. I wish I had read it before my divorce. I wish ALL of the churches I had attended had read this book! I’m probably more suspicious than many about scriptural interpretation, but I found new and credible perspective, expressed with balance and wisdom.

FrontCover

Click photo for more information.

“Emily” and I talked about changing public opinion in my post “Why I Squawk” (http://wp.me/p2GxIs-58) I guess I still see such potential for change change coming through knowledge, empathy, and commitment .. passed on one to one. So please talk, squawk, teach, encourage, admonish with the information you glean. Pass the word, so you may help spare another abused spouse from being abused a second time by incorrect and defeating scripture. So they don’t have to “Run The Gauntlet” (http://wp.me/P2GxIs-2) but instead grow in faith and hope.

Thanks!

The Day I Figured It Out (contains obscenity, possible trigger)

 

Abby and Emily looked like this at the time of this story.

Abby and Emily looked like this at the time of this story.

“Peter” strode into the kitchen, cornered me and announced: “You’re a fucking asshole bitch, you know that? ” He raised his hand to squeeze and rotate my face, then neatly stepped beside me and kicked me in the butt.

Abby and Emily were happily coloring at the table, several feet away. All was happy, peaceful.

My counselor had told me to use “I feel” statements. So, I said, “I feel bad when you do that. I want you to stop.”

He sneered, repeated “You’re a fucking asshole bitch,” squeezed my face, and kicked me in the butt.

I said, “I want you to stop doing that.”

He sneered, repeated “You’re a fucking asshole bitch, ” squeezed my face, and kicked me in the butt.

I said, “You know, when you act like this, you put me in a really difficult position.”

“Oh, yeah…how’s that?” he mocked.

“Yeah.” I said. “If I allow you to treat me like this, then I teach those little girls at the table to buy into the same thing for their marriages. If I divorce you to make you stop, then they are trashed by divorce.”

He didn’t say a word, but seemed to tire of the game, and left the kitchen.

The girls happily colored and chatted at the table, oblivious.

OUT OF THE BLUE. I hadn’t done anything “wrong,” there was no prelude or issue. I suddenly understood something.  I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING. THIS HAD TO DO WITH HIM, NOT ME.  He wasn’t being picky, he was being ABUSIVE. For five years it had been eggs overdone or underdone, toast overdone or underdone, shirts not hung correctly, using the wrong word, wrong tone of voice, wrong route on the road, sausage overdone or underdone or “consolidated.” This time….it was nothing. Just because he felt like it.

A note on denial and crazy-making: I waited a couple of days, until Peter had changed back into Dr. Jekyl, and asked him about the incident. He didn’t know what I was talking about! I described in detail what he did and said. He looked at me as though I was insane, and said, “Why do you keep making up things to get mad about?”  I never knew whether he really didn’t remember, or if he was just not copping.

Over the years, he has told me how cruel I was to control him with threats of divorce (four times over 19 years – this was the second).

Now, I wonder what is going through your mind as you read.

My first guess is that you are confused about why I didn’t walk out of the kitchen, but stood there and “took it.” (He was blocking my way – it would have required a shove or physical body block to get out – which could provide an excuse for physical violence – escalate).

You wonder why I didn’t just INSIST he stop. (Because I knew that raising my voice or using what he called a “pointed tone of voice” would make him ANGRY and loud – escalate – and alert the girls of the ugliness in front of them).

You may wonder why I had seen a counselor alone. (Because, for him, it was MY problem. I guess, for me, it was my problem, too. I had to learn to cope better, because I was sinking).

Or why I hadn’t left long ago. (Didn’t want the court system to give him unsupervised partial custody, or for him to be more angry and with partial custody, hope for healing and that the “real and nice” Dr. Jekyl version of Peter would come to stay, honoring and fearing God as I understood Him, love for kids and him, no way to prove his actions, eroded confidence, financial inferiority, no one else seeing the problem – and more).

Or what did I do that might have provoked him? (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, or heck if I know).

If so, you are responding typically, by focusing on WHY THE VICTIM STAYS. Which is just a gentler way of blaming the victim. Which maintains the status quo in public opinion about domestic abuse.

Did you also wonder:

What motivates him to abuse?

What would stop him from doing that?

What is his brokenness that needs to be healed, and how can that be done?

What can she do to protect herself and her kids?

What would she need for proof in a court of law?

How are his actions affecting the kids?

What recourse does she have?

How can he be held accountable?

How can I strengthen her and widen her options?

If you were wondering these things, you are FOCUSING ON THE ABUSER ALSO, which is right. And on stopping the abuse. And on practical, proactive steps to empower the woman/children to greater safety and health. And you are one person who can nudge public opinion in the right direction.

This doesn’t seem like such a hard change in perspective, once it has been explained. A Christian, however, may experience some conflict with scripture as he/she understands it, and some challenge from other Christians for focusing on the types of questions above, rather than more scriptural options.

Such as:

Wives and submission (the Bible tells me so)

No divorce (only half of the verse….)

Causing him to commit adultery (a man has needs)

Causing him to stumble (poor guy)

Not acting in faith (God is saying yes, no, or wait….wait for it…..wait for it)

Giving way to fear (God won’t be pleased)

God’s ways are not our ways (so don’t think for yourself)

God won’t test you beyond what you can bear (so you must be able to bear it)

Etc.

Not everyone expressed these views. They were just out there….for consideration and confusion.

So….. I figured out it was abuse. But I still didn’t know what I was allowed to do about it. As a Christian wife, that is.

Round Two with “The Hammer.”

I “Ran the Gauntlet.” I am no longer RUNNING the gauntlet. I can choose. I took hits leaving two jobs because I chose not to deal with abuse. I don’t have the resiliency. Just like accommodating a gimpy knee or weak back, I accept and work with what I’ve got. In time I hope to be stronger; this IS the real world.  But NOW, I experience out of proportion anxiety and confusion when I encounter: yelling, forceful in my face YOU statements,  chronic interruptions, too much too fast (of anything), noise, clamor, intensity, meanness, lying, drama games, rigid dogmatism, entitlement, arrogance, forcing, shallow character judgments.

May I tell you about my friend?

We’ve been close friends for 15 years, through my divorce and her 3-year separation. Through times of mutual devout faith, and times when her faith continued and mine waned. Through my anger at God and her defense of Him. We’ve laughed a lot and been able to discuss anything. All the forbidden topics – politics, religion, relationships. We have made annual pilgrimages to hyperventilate over glitzy Christmas decorations and fabric.

I have known her to go half-cocked on some things – to easily embrace “facts” I didn’t see evidence for – and to be very confident of choices, changes, opinions she makes quickly and decisively. She is a hero, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, infidelity by a husband she adored, addiction, homelessness, domestic abuse. She was raped, conceived, and raised a beautiful daughterwho is now a missionary. She adopted and raised a child from another country. She was an actress and a businesswoman. She has re-started with class over and over. She believes God  speaks to her often, clearly, and that He is preparing her for a great ministry. She believes she has the gift of discerning illness and healing. One of her favorite quotes is part of Job 13:15 – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I think we have seen each other’s flaws through rose-colored-glasses of friendship.

Until last week.

Last week she gave me this counsel: You are a USER, USING the people waiting on you (“No, I’m not”) Yes you are, a USER. Everyone is walking around the elephant in the kitchen, but no one is telling you the truth you need to hear (“what is that?”) You need to make a decision (“I’m trying but the stakes are too high to make a mistake”). You need to just do it, just make a decision. Do you fight with your husband? (“No.”) Go home and fight with your husband – he’s the most passive man I have ever known. (“No – I’ve controlled with anger in the past – it doesn’t work”). Then divorce him – you’re using him. (“He can make his own choices”) Blah, blah.

I went home stunned. I felt hammered, cornered, like a failure, more immobilized, anxious, afraid. I looked at my bottle of Lorazepam (recently prescribed – I’ve only taken 1 1/2 tabs in the month since then). I looked at the WHOLE bottle, and thought of the frozen lake a few miles away. How it would be a relatively tidy way to make a decision. (Sorry, really dark). I took one tab and went to bed.

Since then I have gone from utterly fried to surprisingly calm. Like something burned out and clean. I’m not angry, not shocked, not hurt, not even sad. Shut off like a faucet.

I talked again with my friend, The Hammer.

I wondered if she would have anything to say about her proclamations to me the week before. Nope. Small talk.

So I brought it up.

Me: The way you talked to me the other day – I don’t want to do that again. (Friend: OK) I reminded her of how she felt before her separation – totaled by depression, unable to think or sleep, feeling overwhelmed and trapped and on-the-edge, and under condemnation from her spouse and church. (Yes.) Do you think maybe I am feeling similarly? (I think you need to make a decision.) This feels like the same energy as pushers/abusers Peter and C***, and V****.  ([Silence with authoritative stare]) Do you think your counsel to me was Godly? (Yes! My pastoral studies teach that….blah, blah, blah, blah.) You believe that telling me to go home and fight with my husband is Godly counsel? (Yes.) Do you think you were telling me the truth with love? (Yes! Jesus says he came not into the world to bring peace, but division [paraphrase from Luke 12:49]  ….and I think you have PTSD, your emotions are all over the place, you have no control of it….). I think so, too, maybe. Do you know anything about PTSD? (No.) Do you think the way you pressured me is the way to help someone who is dealing with PTSD? (Yes.). So you don’t know anything about it, but you think you know how to address it? (Yes.). Anything else? (Everyone is walking around the elephant in the kitchen, and I am the only one who loves you enough to tell you the truth. Enough to risk our friendship for it!). I see. You know, I believe I’m done here.

“OK.” she said. (Direct gaze, firm chin, head high) I left her house with her calling out “You are walking away from the one person who loves you more than anyone else in the world!”

How weird is that? Yep, studying to be a pastor. In my book, those are the same old “gauntlet” weapons: pride, ignorance, entitlement, scripture, and verbal assault – and tolerating that #&% is not in my best interest. No resolution with calm communication. No openness.  Just hammer away with the Word of God in a spirit of righteous entitlement. Been there done that. Motivation is irrelevant. History is irrelevant. Her integrity is irrelevant. Giving the benefit of the doubt works both ways. It’s OK. Not my deal. Shut off like a faucet. I don’t hate her, don’t judge her, don’t even feel sad, just know this is too toxic. Acceptance. EXIT in peace.

And I AM more peaceful. I have my own decisions to make, in my own time, as I am able. Between God/ the universe and me.  I will honor others needs, AND mine. Without guilt and forcing. Without pushy, strident voices. I will do the best I can, listen to my heart, my conscience, and God, the best I can. I choose to neither control nor be controlled. To neither judge nor be judged. Health. No more gauntlets. I CAN CHOOSE!:

Galatians 22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Life looks beautiful today! Blessings and Peace!

Self-help…HELP…..HELLLLLLP!

Yesterday I posted about mental illness, sin, and abuse. I said I am experiencing greater compassion and forgiveness. I am.  I have periods of peace, IF I have low stress and plenty of time to myself.

I also have, to varying degrees at different times, a shock sensation in the middle of my chest, fear of failure-the future-making a wrong choice-regret-hurting others-making mistakes-not coping,  memory problems, sleep problems, rapid-fire thinking, feeling like I’m living on the perimeter of what is supposed to be my own life, bursts of anger when stressed (especially at myself for not coping as I think I should), long-term utter block about making some huge decisions, near panic that I have to get moving paired with total stall about steps to make anything happen, because that circles back to the HUGE decisions, suicidal thoughts (rare, I get through them, hope, don’t want to hurt those who love me).  Run-on sentence.  Run-on experience.

12 years in a  paragraph: It was better for a time after I divorced. I was moving on with life, re-educated for better pay (M.S. Soil Science), married a great, calm, loving man. Then I encountered workplace abuse, repeatedly.  Really.  (This is embarrassing: do I have a “please torque me around” tattoo on my forehead?)  I tried to see it through – then resigned. I tried to see it through again – then resigned. Tough for a while. A lot of anger. Better again, working at a couple of low-responsibility jobs with few other demands. Better yet after eliminating food sensitivities, and with hormone support and stress reduction to improve my screwy adrenal pathways that divert to produce cortisol rather than progesterone (hence, anxiety and sleep problems). The adrenal issue is, apparently, a possible byproduct of (drum roll) long-term stress. Happily and comfortably off antidepressants after 23 years. Now, my wonderful 90 year-old parents need help and change but can’t quite get around their deeply ingrained collecting and habits – 1700 miles away. I’m just back from 2 1/2 months with them. No quick fix there.

I live in a small town, and have talked to the local counselors and psychiatrist, (who has almost flippantly said that I might be bipolar, or obsessive compulsive, or that depression may have just burned out brain cells that aren’t coming back – as he writes out another, different, prescription). In counseling, I heard a lot of, “well, what do YOU think?”

Overwhelming? Not compared to what many of my blogger friends deal with. Maybe quite manageable for most people. Even to me, it sounds like a soap opera. Sounds like high drama.  Sounds like excuses. Waah, waah. Time to get off my pity pot? No one can do it but me. So, in the absence of a voice from heaven, or real insight from counselors, friends and clergy (a couple of lovely bloggers excluded), I am troubleshooting it myself. I want to be stable, wise, calm, clear, faithful, peaceful, responsible, steady, trusting, decisive (about anything!!!), resilient, FAITHFUL – but I’m not. Could this be the after-effect of 20 years of “running the gauntlet?” Or is it just me? Hey, God, what do you suggest?

So I have recovery to do. The abuse is in the past. Now I live with the ME that is left picking around in the debris of my emotional health.  The me who has some big decisions to make that will affect the rest of my life, my dear husband’s life, and my parents’ lives. Now it is ME who fears coming unglued and being vilified and ostracized, who expects those I love to decide I am just too heavy to be around (and would be almost relieved if they did – then I wouldn’t have to take their needs into consideration, too).

Self diagnosing….I wonder if it might be the constriction characteristics of complex PTSD. Not full-blown. No flashbacks, or anxiety attacks. Definitely triggers. I’m looking into getting different professional help. Try, try again, I guess. I never before thought it could be PTSD, because I haven’t had a life-threatening trauma…just lifeSTYLE-threatening, SANITY threatening, long-term HELPLESS-feeling trauma. Some family members may see me as a lazy hypochondriac. Oh, well.  Can’t do much about their opinions, if they even have them. My husband doesn’t “get” this, so he patiently and passively waits on me to figure it out. My closest friends are devout Christians. They have their own ideas. Tremendous love and support, but this is my baby.

Often lately I am able to relax,  to “hear” God, or myself, or the universe….in any case… to feel calm, loving, hopeful, strong-enough, get to the core of the issues without freezing again. Able to bask in forgiveness and let my heart out of its tight little cage. To quiet my mind, and open myself to faith, in whatever I am able to believe. I nurture that most protectively. It feels like the beginnings of real healing.

This is what helps – A LOT:

  • Bloggers who encourage and empower with their stories, prayers, courage.
  • Gratitude, and lots of time alone and peaceful.
  • Meditation, prayer, massive journaling (and blogging).
  • Visualizations of spiritual protection and barriers against bad energy, soul ties, or spiritual strongholds, for lack of better terms.
  • Writing and speaking affirmations of progress, faith, hope, self-encouragement.
  • No Bible advice (book or human) – too misused, too confusing – staying open, asking questions, but not willing to juggle jots and tittles or commit to blind obedience.
  • Physical care: good nutrition, avoiding food sensitivities, avoiding blood sugar spikes, exercise, rest.
  • Complete start-over with God/universe – no expectations, but being wide open to a more positive paradigm than via churchianity. Being still enough to “hear” and maybe see the Person beyond the hype.
  • Some very good books with really relevant information.

This is a long, odd post. I know. Makes me feel very vulnerable. But there is a purpose. How do other people know what it feels like if no one talks? How do people support someone when they HAVE NO CLUE? Other bloggers have blessed me with their honesty. My turn, I hope.

At this point, enter from right stage, my friend “THE HAMMER.”  (Tomorrow’s post)

Sin or Mental Illness?

This is what I said to myself: You don’t divorce someone for being mentally ill!! You promised to be with him in sickness and health! Maybe he doesn’t mean to be abusive! Maybe God needs me to wait a little longer, so He can work His healing! But maybe he does it on purpose, just because he can! Maybe God wants me make a stand (in love, of course) against his sin. What say you, God? I’m listening the best I can!!!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8)

“I do believe; help me with my unbelief ” (Mark 9:24).

Etc. Etc. Etc.

With permission I quote my amazingly articulate fellow blogger, Kina, aka Human in Recovery (http://humaninrecovery.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/bloggers-for-movember-i-think-im-committed-to-someone-with-bpd/):

Many people consider risk factors for people diagnosed with behavior and personality disorders to be mere excuses for people who don’t care about anyone other than themselves. So they turn away from them, ostracize them and vilify them. All very easy things to do if you’ve been flattened by their personality tornado or psychologically and emotionally gutted by desperate grasping interspersed with their porcupine offensiveness.

Sometimes, it becomes necessary to distance yourself and those in your care from someone like this.  Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your loved ones, but, please try to do it with compassion, understanding, and forgiveness, because more than likely the one who harmed you is hurting tremendously living with the knowledge he or she caused you pain and pushed you away, against his or her inclination and will.

I commented on Kina’s post and she responded back:

The ways that undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses and disorders play into and exacerbate the very real effects of domestic violence is inestimable. Alternatively, to have all these kinds of symptomatic issues and behaviors written off and masked as “simple” domestic violence further invalidates and stigmatizes people who need help and can benefit from actual psychiatric evaluation and treatment modalities beyond anger management and counseling.

ILLUMINATING. NOT COMFORTABLY SIMPLE.  Worth learning. Worth remembering.

The wisdom I am hearing from other bloggers is BLOWING MY MIND! And feeding my soul!

You know what?

It has taken me 12 years to realize that blame is POINTLESS. I gave my abusive ex-husband, “Peter,”  the benefit of the doubt in every way possible. I didn’t show myself nearly as much mercy.  I waited on God and used every means I knew to discern His will. I did the best I, me, myself could do, assuming the best of God, Peter, and others. Nothing wrong with that.  Blaming Peter,  MYSELF, God, the victim, the perpetrator, Christians, pastors, scripture, society? Pointless.

My daughters tell me that their dad is crazy (but they love him), and that he still thinks he did nothing wrong. That’s OK. It’s not my deal. I wish him well. But I am ABSOLUTELY DONE with his abuse (or anyone else’s), whether done helplessly or intentionally. And, I don’t need the anger to protect me anymore. Just done. Big peaceful sigh of relief.

And you know what else?

Just recently compassion and forgiveness have taken residence, I hope to stay. For Peter AND for myself. And everyone else. They are very welcome, peaceful, companions!

These books helped:

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate, a Canadian M.D. who works with absolute down and out addicts. My daughter gave me this (huge) book, full of facts and insight, which morphed to compassion for Peter (and me).

Forgive For Good, by Dr. Fred Luskin, a long-time forgiveness researcher and therapist (whose work includes parents of murdered children and families of victims in Northern Ireland). Practical, simple steps to bridge the gap between my WILL to forgive and ABILITY to forgive.

So, the title question. Sin or mental illness?  Should those who care about sin, Christians and the Church, deal with SIN and MENTAL ILLNESS differently? How do they tell the difference? DOES IT MATTER? Interesting.  People have been burned as witches, devil worshipers, due to misunderstood mental illness. The punishment for abuse isn’t nearly as severe, it seems. Isn’t that odd? Why? Another book:

Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties, by Dwight L. Carlson, M.D. This is copyrighted 1994, and thank goodness there have been some improvements, but society and, especially the church, have a long way to go. It is really enlightening!

I welcome your insights!

Seeking Help from Pastors # 6 – Pastor 6 of 6

Pastor # 6 – South Dakota

PASTOR F IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT CHRISTIAN LOVE, RIGHTLY APPLIED, MEANS.

Peter took a business trip. When he returned,  he liked country music instead of rock music. He said God had suddenly given him such a great love for his wife that he required marital intimacy at least twice a day, and cried crocodile tears when I told him that when he yelled and badgered me he might as well be bashing my head against the wall. Model, loving behavior, except that my sleep and, shall we say…my physical limitations, with respect to his new-found love for me, was, well, irrelevant in the face of his new-found “love” for me. Model behavior disappeared when I got sick and couldn’t or wouldn’t, shall we say….keep up with him.

A few months later, a good friend passed on anonymous information from friends of hers (“that she would trust her kids to”) that they had seen him with a prostitute (time and place omitted), and were concerned for my health. (I paid hundreds of dollars to be tested for every disease under the sun – nada….all is well). Anonymous rumor? Lovely.  I asked him. Of course, he acted horrified that anyone would tell such lies about him. I looked for documentation, but never found it. His best friend claimed to know nothing, admitted that he probably wouldn’t tell me if he did – but suggested I have said testing. He had Peter’s back, I guess.  How noble.

Very soon after that, Peter had a serious “reaction to a drug for gout” that resulted in the weirdest behavior I had seen yet. We were out of town, and he was so far into the twilight zone (publicly, embarrassingly) that I snuck away and called the hospital to ask about his symptoms given the medication he was taking. They said bring him in. I tried. He got out of the car.  Scared (this time for him), I called the police for assistance. Long story shortened, the police officer thought he was on meth, the ER doctor said he was agitated and uncooperative and wouldn’t give a urine sample and that if he was having this type of reaction to that drug, he had some serious psychiatric issues. I said we had been for counseling many times. The M.D. said, “YOU AREN’T UNDERSTANDING ME. THIS IS NOT A YOU AND HIM PROBLEM. IT IS A HIM PROBLEM. AND GUYS LIKE THIS WON’T GET HELP.” Some wake up call!  Peter berated me for calling the police. Not one bit of concern that it was his behavior that scared me, or that I was scared for him, or that something should be addressed. Just blame, shame, blame, shame. And anger. I asked him if he was using drugs. He said no. I asked if he would tell me if he was. He said no. Where do you go with that?

I really – really wanted to die, and I wasn’t sure God wouldn’t just let me do it while He stayed silent. I was trapped and exhausted. It was time to act, right or wrong. The girls were 18 and 15 – old enough to have some means of control of their circumstances when with him. I knew I couldn’t be the buffer, or do it this way anymore. So, I told him I had to divorce, or I would die. He cried, but had nothing else to offer. In his mind, he had tried everything, but he just couldn’t please me.

And I began the broken record speech I gave him over and over for the next couple of months: “I love you. I want to be with you. I am not looking for anyone else. I don’t want anyone else. But you have issues you need to get help for, and if you won’t deal with them, I have to go.” His broken record speeches consisted of strategies for maintaining the status quo, and the statement that “I just need a woman who loves me.”

I prayed for restitution. For this course of action to motivate him to get help (Chuck Swindoll’s “isolation with restitution” concept). In a KIND of faith, I had taken a tough stand and prayed that it was what God would use to produce a healed marriage. Through and after the divorce I prayed this (even after I found out that he had replaced me before I was gone; I stopped praying after his honey moved in, and was going to get married).

The night before our divorce was to be finalized, I was so distressed that I called Pastor F (which stands for FULFILLING THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS – LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR !). Pastor F was a regional youth pastor/director, from another town, who I didn’t know well, but he was acquainted with Peter and me through Bible Quiz for youth, in which our family was involved. I told him my story very briefly.

He had seen us. 

HE COULD TELL WHEN A WOMAN AND KIDS WERE WALKING ON EGGSHELLS!

That something WAS  going on.

That I was taking the right course to make a stand.

My RELIEF was not because he supported my course of action or thinking. IT WAS BECAUSE HE COULD SEE!

HE COULD SEE THE PROBLEM.

HE COULD SEE ME!

AND HE HAD THE GUTS TO SAY SO!!!!

HE SPOKE THE TRUTH IN LOVE.

HE DID NOT ADVISE ME WITH LIMITED INFORMATION.

HE LISTENED.

HE HAD THE COURAGE TO HEAR.

HE DIDN’T “FIX” IT – HE LIFTED MY BURDEN JUST A LITTLE – AND STRENGTHENED ME.

HE WAS AWARE, AND SPOKE THE TRUTH OF WHAT HE HAD SEEN FOR HIMSELF.

HE BELIEVED ME.

HE GAVE THE BENEFIT OF HIS LIFE EXPERIENCE BUT DIDN’T GO DEEPER THAN A PHONE CALL WARRANTED.

HE WENT BEYOND THE HYPE, DOGMA AND DOCTRINE, TO SPEAK WHAT IT REALLY WAS, NOT WHAT WE ALL WISHED IT WAS.

HE DIDN’T PATRONIZE ME BY QUOTING SCRIPTURE I ALREADY KNEW, OR TAKING A NOBLE PASTORLY STANCE.

HE SPOKE TO PROTECT  ME AND THE GIRLS,  RATHER THAN GUARDING CHURCH DIVORCE STATISTICS OR DOCTRINE.

We haven’t had contact since then. It was as though he ministered to me by giving me a cup of cold water, and kept on walking….in the footsteps of Jesus.

Matthew 22: 39-40  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

James 13:17-18  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

As I write this, I feel such gratitude, for Pastor F and others whose care, ideas and words give strength rather than condemnation, limitation, fear.  And yes, faithless one that I am, I thank God for them.

I hope you will pass this on to pastors you know, even though it is uncomfortably revealing (for ME especially – I almost couldn’t post it), because maybe they will be encouraged by Pastor F to act as wisely and courageously when it is their turn to offer such counsel.

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