You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Word’ category.

Back in October 2000, when I first gave my life to God and left an abusive relationship, I was not aware that it was not an end to unhealthy relationships but rather a begining of learning how to grow into a whole woman so I could enjoy healthy relationships. 32 years of living with abuse was not going to be cured over night. As I have learned about God’s love and overcome my natural tendancies to do wrong and be healed of my wounds, I have crawled, walked and run out of mindsets and behaviours that if kept would lead me back on the path of chosing to live with abuse.

Now, 8 years later, I am glad that God took me this way. As I was not brought up in a church system, I have been able to see the church’s response to Domestic Abuse first hand. While I want to be able to shout from the rooftops that we as God’s people can protect the weak and hold the perpetrator responsible, I am sad to say that in my experience, I have seen little evidence of this.

Now, I am not saying that the church does not support the needy, homeless, prostitutes, the youth etc,. The church as a body is going some wonderful work, what I am saying is that there is still along way to go with how we deal with Domestic Violence

Only in that last decade of so has the secular world taken Domestic Violence seriously and I feel that the church response has been even slower. While the church should be at the forefront of addressing oppression and she does a good job of defending the poor, she sometimes is the last to take a stand where domestic violence is concerned. I believe this is because we have feminised the character of God – over emphaising forgiveness and turning the other cheek, while justice and setting a limit around evil is something we are too afraid to act on. I also believe our lack of education about an abuser’s character is another failure and our tendancy to blame the victim for ‘putting up with it’.

Take the woman who goes to her Pastor for help with her abusive husband. If a man is abusing a woman she should not be told to go home, be a good example, pray for her husband and forgive him. Yet because of the misuse of scripture for a woman to submit to her husband, this faulty, dangerous and unscriptual guidance has put many women at danger and sent a message to her husband that its perfectly OK for the church to send back his wife and be mistreated over and over again.

What I find more disturbing is the neutral response a church adopts when faced with abuse. I went through a situation where I started to see controlling tendancies in my boyfriend and after a season of confrontation and trying to sort the issue out, I decided that I had to leave before the behaviour escalated. I thank God that I had grown enough to see the warning signs and leave. Unfortuately, it was when I left the relationship, that my ex-date became very verbally abusive and threatening. It seems he was not too taken with my show of boundaries and responded how abusive people normally do when others say not to their control.

I took the matter to my church and told them about his behaviour, hoping to find protection and support for myself and accountablity for my ex. What I got was a neutral response, here is what I mean:

  • We won’t sides: Even though he has been threatening, we won’t take sides as there is always two sides to every story.
  • He must be in pain over the split and that is why he is mistreating you
  • He needs as much protection from you as you do from him
  • We won’t get involved because we want to maintain relationships with him
  • We won’t confess he has mistreated you, we will just keep emphasising that he is hurting
  • You must have done something to trigger his anger
  • We won’t hold him accountable as we don’t want him to feel worse or upset him even further

My bible tells me and my experience of dealing with abuse tells me, that this passive neutral response to abuse does not heal the victim or heal the perpetrator.

A leading Counsellor in this area, Lundy Bancroft, states that when a community does not tolerate abuse, the abuser loses his control. Isn’t this what our God wants us to be, a light in our communities, standing up against evil and holding perpetrators responsbile? The abuser can only find healing by firm confrontation and the abused can only find healing by support and strengthening. That is what our bible teaches but we give the perpetrator our understanding and weak hand and victimize the victim again by telling her she must have done something to be treated that way, which reinforces the abuser’s justifications for his abuse. It tells her she is alone and that there is no one really there to protect her.

I know its not easy to confront evil. We fear losing friends, being made to look the bad person and what others will do and think. Just think about your own life for a second, think about the times you gossiped because you did not want to contront your mate who offended you. Or you withdrew in angry silence and never bothered calling again. Anything but confront. Yet victims of abuse are chastised for not making a stand and then beaten down again because her community won’t stand up and confront with her and for her.

I had to stand against my abuser by myself but I was not alone because I had God with me. He brought several key people into my life that helped me through but the place I expected to help was unable to help me.

If anything, this experience taught me a lot about how our Christian values that were intended to be the moral fibre of our hearts and a firm foundation for our communities can be so distorted and weakened that we give evil power and the power of good is once again seen as the losers team.

It has also taught me how I can educate and support the church in applying wisdom to working with abused women and how to give the perpetrator the best support by taking away his perceived rights to control and own his partner.

Advertisements

Releasing a book about how to break the cycle of unhealthy relationships, find restoration and learn how to build healthy relationships, always invites the question ‘Have you married yet?’. People look straight at my wedding finger for evidence and I reply ‘No, not yet’.

Like my inquirers, I once thought that walking the journey to wholeness would eventually ‘reward’ me with a great relationship and without realising it, I felt under pressure from both myself, the media and the women I met, to prove that doing things God way would ultimately reward me and others with marriage.

Fact is, God did not save me for marriage, He saved me because He loved me and wanted me to be free from broken relationships and that is the message He wants all of us to understand. It is a bit like the Spiritual Prosperity message promoted in some denominations, if you are following God you will be blessed in your finances – as long as you pay your tithes and give to the church and if you are struggling there is something wrong with your faith.

Fact is when we do good, we sometimes suffer for it, in fact we are called to suffer for Christ. Jesus said we would have trouble in the world but to be of good cheer for He has overcome it. So while I walk with Christ, I do suffer in my flesh when my longings for a companion are not yet fulfilled. I suffer when I choose to wait rather than choosing a sexual relationship or dating someone or staying with someone that is not right for me. That hurts and I suffer for doing good, yet the rewards from God are far greater. I am blessed for doing things right and I trust God that everything He chooses in my life is for my best.

My last thought on this is that there are lots of safe and fantastic singles who have not been through abusive relationships and haven’t met Mr right. A healthy background doesn’t guarantee a partner, so lets not assume that following the steps I outline in my book, means we will be rewarded with marriage. There are thousands of Christians who haven’t met the right person yet, and even with all my healing and blessed wisdom God has given me to help other women, I too have not met the right person – yet. In fact, all of my dating relationships (and one engagement that didn’t lead to marriage) since I have been saved, God has used to help me grow and learn and become more like His son.

Doing this work has not saved me from disappointment or heart break from a relationship not working out. That is the reality of living in a fallen world and being a woman saved by grace. What it has done is saved me from a life a continued abuse, living without hope, destroying myself and the people around me. It has let me know how loved I am by God, that I have value and something to offer others – a life with God. That has been the rewards, which far out weigh my desires for marriage.

Whenever I am interviewed about Domestic Abuse in the church, a question about Ephesians 5:22-25 normally arises. The word says: For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. (NLT). Peter echoes the same type of sentiment in 1 Peter 3: (read all) ‘In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands’….

Does this mean that a woman should submit even when her husband is abusive? Should she accept his authority as the final word even when that authority is misused?

Some people will interpret submission as an opportunity to be controlling but Paul is not giving anyone the green light to being oppressive.

Lets start with how Paul begins chapter 5 – ‘Follow God’s example in everything you do….’ then he embarks on a long list of character qualities that we are to develop. In verse 21 Paul then states what will happen as a result: ‘And further, you will submit to one another out of reverance for Christ. You wives will submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord‘. In other words: As you develop a Christ like character you will find that you will submit to one another, even you wives will submit to your husbands as you do to God and just as the church submits to Christ.

So what does it mean to submit? Submit means: to yield, to agree with, to give in. So, as a result of developing these qualities a woman won’t resist her man. When and why does she resist him? She resists when there is no trust and love. A woman will pull away when her man is abusive, untrustworthy, uncaring, unholy, unfaithfuly, neglectful, intimidating etc.(by the way a guy will shut down when a woman is this way too!).

Now some people argue that an abused women does yield to her perpertrator. But I say this is different to what Paul is talking about. An abused woman is not free to give and yield her love or herself freely. She lives in fear, resentment, mistrust, pain, etc. If a woman is submitting to an abuser its because of the power and control he has over her – it is not the same as the submission Paul is talking about. Remember, Love is a Choice and is given freely just as Christ freely choses to love and give Himself to us.

Now lets look at our relationship with God: I yield and agree with Christ because of WHO HE IS. His love has won me over. It certainly would not be that way if God was a tyrant. God wants us to be like Him so that we submit to one another. We all know it’s a lot easier to yield to people who are loving and safe then it is to move towards difficult, uncaring, unloving people.

So what is this list of qualities a man is to have before expecting his wife to submit?

  • He needs to have a heart filled with love (Love is gentle, kind, patient and hopes and believes in all things)
  • He needs to be sexually moral and pure
  • He can’t be greedy and selfish, he needs to think about his wife’s needs and not just his own
  • He mustn’t be verbally abusive: obstaining from course jokes, foolish talk and obsence stories
  • He doesn’t blame others for his behaviour, he doesn’t commit acts of darkness and evil (hitting, controlling, stalking, lying, abusing, torturing, molesting, raping are all acts of evil).
  • He doesn’t act thoughtlessly but considers God in all his ways
  • He doesn’t get drunk and is controlled by the Holy Spirit

Submission comes as a result of Christ like character.

Submission due to demand, threat and control is not biblical submission it is the response of someone who has a fearful expectation of what will happen if they don’t comply.