I didn’t understand why he thought yelling was appropriate at the time. I nestled our crying baby against my shoulder and headed for the rocking chair in the nursery. He continued to yell, and then, he shoved me.
Shock. That’s all I felt at that point. Then he shoved me again. And again. And again.
It made no sense to me. The baby needed comforting. Anyone with half a brain knew yelling and shoving me wouldn’t help the situation. I would have shut the door on him, but he followed too closely to manage that.
After what felt like an impossible distance, compounded by stumbling every time he shoved, I made it to the rocker, sat down, and tried to comfort our daughter while my heart and mind raced over his actions.
But comforting my child wasn’t going to be easy. Now that I was seated, he began kicking my legs. It was summer. I wore shorts. For some unfathomable reason, he wore boots. When he exhausted his anger, I had a bruise the size of a softball on my scrawny leg.
This is how the abuse started.
I know many of you reading this wonder why I didn’t leave. To understand, you have to know more about my history with this marriage. as well as grasp the mindset of an abuse victim. If you haven’t been there, you probably won’t ever understand.
Abusers cut you off from any support structure you might have before the abuse begins. My family had become my enemies thanks to his efforts. Second, I was eighteen with no real job skills to speak of, and I was recovering from an illness that overcame me after the birth of our daughter. Close to death for a week following her birth, I lost all of my pregnancy weight plus another twenty pounds. Those eight days robbed me of the usual bonding time between mother and child. I was weak and exhausted and scared.
Plus, I felt guilty. I had been laying the baby down on a quilt on the floor, and I let go a fraction too soon. She hit her head and began to cry. He erupted in rage calling me an idiot, and other unprintable names, and accusing me of giving our child brain damage.
Later, he cried and begged forgiveness, and I believed him when he promised it would never happen.
Three years, and another child, later, I divorced him.
Why am I telling this story today? Because there are women dealing with this crisis every minute of the day. Unlike the typical abused woman, I didn’t grow up in a home with abuse. That means it was easier for me to leave…and it still took me three years. Many abused women grow up with abuse in their household. To them, it’s normal. I knew it wasn’t, but I had to regain my self-confidence and self-esteem in order to leave.
Another stumbling block for me was my faith. I believed that divorce was wrong. Once married, always married. Many abuse victims struggle with this issue, and their abusers use that knowledge to their advantage.
Jesus never meant for us to stay with an abusive spouse. Some people might not agree with what I’m about to say, but it’s what I believe. It is my own opinion, but I will use biblical references to demonstrate my beliefs.
Many abusers rely heavily on one verse. They know, love, and preach it to their victims:
Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,
his body of which he is the savior. Ephesians 5:22-23
What the abuser fails to acknowledge shows up just two verses later:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25
Did you catch that? Love her as Christ loved the church. What did Christ do for the church? He died for it in a horrible way. He didn’t beat up the church, he loved it enough to give his life for it.
Add to this the words of Christ in Matthew 19:9:
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.
What is unfaithfulness? Does a man show faithfulness to God’s command to love his wife as Christ loved the church if he hits her? Or terrorizes her? Or threatens to kill her?
And if those two points don’t prove it to you, then consider this: the Holy Spirit resides within our bodies. Our bodies are temples.
Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. I Cor. 6:19-20
How can anyone read this and believe a marriage that desecrates the temple of the Lord is right? That’s not honoring God with your body! That’s trashing it, treating it as something of little value. It took me three years to remember that I had value. I was lucky because I understood my worth at one point in my life. I just needed to find it again. Many of these women need someone to teach them this point. The church can help, but it’s often the church that stands in the way. Will you be a helper or a hindrance?
There are many resources available for people stuck in this vicious cycle. On Saturday, March 23, a friend of mine’s story of abuse will be told in Hub City’s Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival. You can read more about her and her story of abuse here.