Maybe it’s Abuse

“I have a praise,” the middle-aged woman raised her hand. “A christian friend of mine had a husband who wasn’t very nice. She sometimes would put the kids to bed at 6:30 and sneak supper to them so they wouldn’t have to be around their dad when he got home from work. He could be pretty mean to them, so she protected them. This went on for years. He passed away not long ago, but before he died he gave his life to Christ. He knew he hadn’t been nice all those years and for her to put up with him, well, he decided there must be something to this Christianity thing. Her kindness all those years was a witness to him. Praise God!” Others chimed in, “Yes, praise God!” and “A-MEN!”

Dear Conflicted Christian,

I’m sorry you were there for that conversation. You’ve been deeply hurt and confused by this relationship you’re in. And you’ve been listening – listening because you want to do the right thing and make the right choices. I know you’ve heard that true Christians turn the other cheek and keep their promises no matter what, but sometimes doing so feels wrong in your gut. It feels like a wrong against you, or perhaps your children. And you think it is your sinful, selfish flesh that makes you think of leaving instead of staying and sacrificing. You’re more afraid of being a bad Christian than you are of being mistreated. Please keep listening.

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Jesus loves you. You’ve heard it so many times perhaps you didn’t really hear it just then. Jesus loves you. The Creator of the universe, the Savior of mankind, your Redeemer – He loves you. Not only that, but Jesus loves you. He adores you. He was willing to give up His home, His power, His position in heaven to heal His relationship with you. And further more, Jesus loves you.  Perhaps you’ve been told in words or actions that you are not lovable. Or perhaps you believe that Jesus loves the institution of marriage and the character traits of purity and commitment more than He loves you. You and I understand that people are more important than things. So don’t you imagine that God, whose very character is the definition of love, prioritizes people over things even more than we do? Jesus loves you.  Now walk forward in this conversation from that point of safety.  Please keep listening.

Jesus is your Savior. Jesus is your spouse’s Savior. You don’t need to sacrifice your life in hopes of saving your spouse. Jesus already provided that sacrifice. I’m sorry for the messages within the church and among  Christians that have informed you otherwise. Please keep listening.

The cross that Jesus asks you to bear is not the abuse, it’s not your marriage, and it’s not your vow of silence. I know you’ve heard preachers tell you it is. But it’s not. Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and the burden He places on you is light. You need to carry your cross so you can die daily as Paul did. That means your selfish desires – including your urge to cleanse your life by being good – must be nailed to that cross every day. Please keep listening.

No one can help you unless you’re honest. That means being honest about everything – even the things that don’t reflect well on yourself. You will have the strength to do this only if you’ve accepted in your heart the things I’ve already said. Maybe you’re easily manipulated. That will need to be admitted for your own healing. Maybe you’re ashamed of things you’ve done that were not consistent with the person you want to be. Betrayal of self is perhaps the deepest of injuries. But there is compassion, grace and healing in Jesus. In the presence of a safe person, allow that wound to be opened so He can heal you.

There will be people who are not safe and may create obstacles to your healing. They may say things like:

  • “That doesn’t seem likely. I’ve never seen your spouse act anything like what you’re saying.”  Spare your breath. Their response doesn’t negate your experience or make them a bad person. They just can’t hear you right now. That’s ok. Find someone who can.
  • “You’re being too sensitive.” If you’ve lived with abuse for years, you probably believe that’s true. So let’s just say it is true. A loving spouse and friend respects – and dare I say even admires – a sensitive spirit. Find someone to talk with who isn’t going to condemn you for that character trait.
  • “You’re the one who decided to marry them. You’re just going to have to deal with it.”  No one signs up for abuse. You didn’t choose to be abused.
  • “You just have to put up with some things in order to have a long term relationship.” Yep, you sure do. You’ll experience differences in likes, priorities, and ideas. There will be a lot to work through. However, that does not include putting up with habitual mistreatment or manipulation.
  • “You’re not being forgiving enough.” Forgiveness relates to your attitude toward another person and impacts your motives. Forgiveness does not equal embracing destructive behavior.
  • “Your spouse probably has reasons for acting that way. You need to be more understanding.” There are always reasons for what human beings do. But understanding why a thing is so does not necessarily make it healthy or acceptable.

While there may be some element of truth in all of those statements, it still may be abuse that has you on edge and your stomach in a knot. Find someone who will believe you and give unbiased feedback. A counselor is a good option or follow this link to talk with someone at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Just because you and your spouse go to church every week doesn’t mean abuse can’t happen in your home. Studying religious beliefs and doctrine doesn’t automatically give you an understanding of the love and compassion Jesus has for you or equip you with the tools to share that love with others in a healthy way. Please get to know Him!

Talking about what you’re experiencing doesn’t necessarily mean your marriage is over or that your spouse is a horrible person. But it does provide a doorway to a future that is more peace-filled and less chaotic. Now walk through it.

Be strong and of good courage.

Much Love, Me

Church – Do we not realize that our words are encouraging domestic abuse to continue in our midst? Yes, praise God the man in the story gave his life to Christ. Praise God He is able to take a bad situation and bring about good. But no, not “praise God” that the wife’s “kindness” witnessed to him. Where did we get the idea that God requires us to enable abusers and how did we come to see it as kindness?  What is kind or loving about habitually shielding our abusive loved ones from the natural consequences of their actions?  Where is the growth in their journey when we do that? How will they come to the end of themselves and see their need for God when we run perpetual interference? Yes, relationships are complex and there will always be more give than take. But let’s not confuse that with abuse.

Please allow Jesus to be the Savior of mankind.

He is the hero.

And that’s good news.

 

It Ain’t no 4WD

Subtitle: The Adventures of a Wild West Woman stuck in a Mid-West Life

Since their birth, my children have gone camping and exploring in the Rocky Mountains. After being displaced to the Midwest due to the terminal illness of their father, we gradually parted ways with our “toys” and found ourselves with a mere tent. While I love camping, sitting by the camp fire, eating camping food, and snuggling into bed beside my family members in a small space where we can all say good night to each other while our heads are on our pillows, I’m not a big fan of tents. I know, if I call myself a “Wild West Woman” I should like a tent. But the truth is – I just don’t – especially not where I currently live. The sand in the beds, the rain soaking everything, the sultry summer heat, the unending trains with their obnoxious whistles blasting by nearly every campground in the state all night long…. it takes some of the joy out of the experience. All of these annoyances could be improved with a camper, but I no longer owned a camper nor did I have anything with which to pull one.  Until “that day”…

The vehicle was packed with our clothing, snacks and plenty of electronics for the trip. The car, a 2005 VW Passat TDI wagon, was not overly aged but was fairly worn as a result of the many miles between towns in Wyoming and frequent trips to see family. It had been well-serviced throughout its many miles. The tires had about 10,000 miles on them – not bad for a trip. And so the kids and I headed out on our 8 hour journey to visit a long-time friend of mine.

All was well, until somewhere in the middle of no where my son, who is blessed with a strong sense of smell, said, “What’s that smell?!”

“Oh, probably that semi in front of us,” I responded nonchalantly. Shortly thereafter I realized the road sounded different.  Strange, it didn’t look different. I pulled into the right hand lane thinking maybe the pavement would be smoother and the sound would go away, but it only worsened.  I immediately headed for the shoulder, stopped and waited for a safe time to hop out of the car. Yep – the tread on the front right tire was separated from the tire and about ready to fly off. I was happy I had stopped when I did – but sad I had no road side service agreement. So, after backing the car a short distance to the end of the on-ramp that was behind us, we began unpacking our nicely packed car to get to the spare tire. That was the easy part. Then I got out the German designed compact “jack” that came with the car and is supposed to lift my car and make this chore possible. And I looked at it some more. I am mostly of German descent so understanding the design should come natural for me, right? Wrong. So I handed it to my son who likes gadgets. No luck. And I looked at it some more. No can do. My decision was that even if I could figure it out, it looked nothing like “safe” to me.  About a half hour later our paid angel waved goodbye from the window of his big truck with lights on the top, and we carried on our journey now with the spare on the front right tire and traveling at a slightly lower speed.  All was well.

Several uneventful hours later we neared our city of destination. As we were cresting a small hill in the road, I felt the slightest hesitation in the engine. “Oh shoot!” I thought to myself. “Changing that fuel filter didn’t fix that problem after all. I’ll have to take this thing back to the mechanic (for the fourth time) when I get back and tell him we’ve still got a problem.”  My GPS told me it was time to exit the interstate and head towards my friend’s house just a few miles away in a suburb of this very large city, at rush hour – obviously hadn’t considered that during my trip planning. So amidst all the traffic, I took the off-ramp, pulled to a stop, watched for a break in the traffic to complete my right hand turn, and BOOM! NO WAY!  ANOTHER blown tire!?  I pulled onto the measly excuse of a shoulder and waited for another break in traffic to exit my vehicle – only to find all tires intact. Bizarre. We had heard it and felt it. How could all the tires be fine? I had no idea, but decided to forge ahead. However, my fine vehicle had other ideas.

After a “You-can’t-help-me-but-I-needed-to-tell-someone” call to my parents, I called my friend whom I was heading to see. “No problem.  I’ll have my husband see if he can go that route on his way home and get you guys.” Great, but what about the car?  In my newly created spare time, I looked on my smart phone for the nearest car repair shop. Super, there was one just a couple miles down the next road. They closed at 7:00pm. My clock read 6:59pm. I frantically called the number hoping beyond hope they would still be there. About the time I hit “send”, I saw my friend’s husband pull in behind me. I’d never met him before and with phone in my left hand,  extended my right hand through my open window to greet him. “Hey there- hang on a second. I’m calling the repair shop down the road to see about the car.” He smiled wide, straightened the corner of his jacket for me to clearly see the logo embossed on it, and suggested I could hang up the phone. He’s the manager of a car repair shop. Jack pot!

The plan for the next morning was to go to the zoo. Well, plans changed. The news on my “fine” car was that the transmission had blown, there was fluid leaking from the turbo, and the engine fan could be stopped with the brute force of a single finger. What might have been sold for several thousand the week before was now worth scrap metal. All personal affects were removed from the heap and my friend and I went car shopping at the nearest dealer. I hadn’t been dreaming of, evaluating various options of, nor doing any price comparisons on any vehicles prior to this. I had no intentions of purchasing a new-to-me vehicle. I had nothing I especially wanted. But I suddenly had an urgent need. My goal – find something that gets decent gas mileage, isn’t obnoxious to park in town, and can pull a toy. My dad raves about his RAV-4, so I made my way to the back of the lot where some CUV’s were parked. Hmmm.. only a 4 cylinder. That wouldn’t pull squat. Then I came upon a Ford Edge with a V6.  That should be good for pulling something.  By afternoon we were back on track to go to the zoo with a newly acquired car loan awaiting too many payments.  But such is life.

The Ford has served me well. Until “that day”….

The vehicle was packed with our clothing, snacks and plenty of electronics for the trip. The Ford had recently been serviced and wired for pulling our small but adequate new-to-us camper. We left a day early for our family camp adventure in Colorado in order to spend a night camping in our favorite state, Wyoming. We wouldn’t make the drive all the way back to our old stomping grounds, but instead would be camping in unexplored territory of Curt Gowdy State Park. The drive out was slow but uneventful. This was our first outing with our new camper and I was getting the feel for pulling it down the interstate and while climbing into higher elevations. All was well.

We pulled up to the attendant’s booth at the state park.  “Are there any spots open?” I hadn’t planned far enough in advance to reserve a spot so was left with the hope that on a holiday weekend some of the first-come first-served slots would be open. There were a few spots still available, but she suggested I drive around and make sure there was one we liked before paying.  She handed me a map and sent us on our way. We went to the first area she suggested.  She said they rarely filled up there. And I saw why. No trees. No access to the lake. Just a flat spot with places to pull in. It looked too much like the “camping” areas in the Midwest.  We pulled back out onto the main camp in search of something better. After winding around a couple different sections with camper still in tow, the children began asking that I please just go back to the other one so we could get on with supper. It was only for one night… I decided we’d go through just one more area. If there was nothing there, we’d go back to that forsaken flat spot of a campsite. Full. Full. And, full. Everything was full.  But wait, there was an open one!  I pulled in.  Yes, it was open all right, and the lake was nearby, and it had trees. But it was also situated on a very steep incline. After looking it over I decided it would probably challenge my camper-leveling skills beyond capacity. Not the best choice. So I decided to head out. Approximately 30 seconds later as the front tires were skidding sideways, I realized the significance of the fact that I had purchased a city vehicle and I was definitely not in the city. It was front wheel drive, not all wheel drive, and I was on a very steep hill with very soft dirt under my tires and was accomplishing nothing but frightening my children and digging two holes with the front tires. In an effort to get a head start up the hill, I began slowly backing down the narrow trail. This act frightened my children even more given my lack of experience at backing a very short trailer. About then I saw a vehicle approaching in my rear view mirror. And the thought struck me… “Where am I?  Wyoming.  What do you do in Wyoming when you need help?  You ask the nearest person for a hand.”  So I secured the vehicle and hopped out. I had a short chat with the gentleman in the Jeep, who obliged my request and climbed in my driver’s seat to give it a try.  It was no easy task, but he managed to get the city vehicle pulling the small camper to the top of the mountain incline.

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We went back to the flat spot with no trees. And all was well. But it ain’t no 4WD.

(For my long-time readers – yes, we are a family of three. Such is life. God is good. All is well.)

Neighborhood Ball

The inspiration for my prior post, Let the Kids Play, came from a conversation I had with a mom yesterday.  She’s a single parent.  Her youngest is a 10-year-old boy.  He is obese and is being tested for diabetes. She would like for him to get some regular exercise.  He enjoys basketball.  She’s checked into her options for him to play on a team.  She doesn’t have the money for the uniforms.  Her car isn’t reliable enough to drive out-of-town for all the games.  She can’t promise she’ll be available to drive him to all the practices because she’s got to work in order to provide for very basic needs.  They recently relocated to a new school and neighborhood so friends are few and they have  no family support system to rely on.

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They’ve tried some other sports but felt they didn’t fit in.  “All” (most likely “some” – but it felt like “all” to her, so…) “All the other parents were yellin’ at their kids – ‘Get over there!’, ‘You can do better than that!’ and the like.  These kids have been playing since they could walk.  My son had never played before at all.  And really we were just there wanting to have fun and play, ya’ know?”  It was too intense and discouraging to her son.

She’s come up with an idea that sounds like it should be a good one.  She’s going to make a flier for her son to hand out to the neighbor kids when the weather warms up.  The flier will be an invitation for anyone who wants to play basketball to meet at the local park at 10:30 Saturday mornings.  I applaud her efforts and hope it goes well for them.

Let the Kids Play

Recess time at the small, parochial elementary school I attended was one of the best events of the day. Sometimes we’d play organized games, and sometimes we were free to do whatever suited our fancy. When it came to sports, everybody played everything.  Sure, somebody was picked last. But everybody played.  Nobody was too bad to play. We learned to work together as a team, whoever the team happened to consist of for the day.

In the small parochial high school I attended, the story was a bit different.  The teams for after-school sports were chosen and stayed the same throughout the year. But, everybody who wanted to play was allowed to play whatever it was they were interested in.  It was a great time to socialize, learn and improve new skills, and get some exercise.  We didn’t have any matching uniforms, no coaches told us how to do it and the practice times – if there actually were any – didn’t interfere with study time or bed time. There were never any out-of-town games parents had to figure out how to attend. There were no concession stands or shirt sales.  Sure, somebody won and somebody lost. But we all had fun.

Next year my daughter will enter that same small parochial high school. She’s already attending volleyball practice in hopes she’ll be good enough to be allowed to actually be on the team and play during games instead of leading a cheer or warming the bench.

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Photo credit: Ryan Lindbeck Images

It’s all about winning.

What happened to having fun socializing and learning new things while getting some exercise?

Let the kids play!