A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Abuse and God’s Mercy: Martin’s Story

MY STORY

I was born in 1962, raised in a very strict Roman Catholic home in Roman Catholic schools.  Having been gifted with a desire to seek God, I sought Him as best I knew how within the Roman Catholic Church.  As a teenager, I felt called to service and even talked to several priests about entering into full-time ministry.  I became relatively well versed in Scripture (as defined for me at that time) and often found myself in the fellowship of priests debating God’s intent as revealed in Scripture.  Long story short, facing a combination of witnessing rampant immorality in the priesthood along with the overwhelming contradiction of the church with Scripture, I left the thought of service behind and set out to college for a career in corporate finance.

I had given up on service, but would not give up on the Roman Catholic church.  You see, we were taught, the Roman Catholic Church is the only church that will be taken up to heaven.   Salvation, it was taught, began with that qualification.  While I may have disagreed, my conviction was as if to say “I’ll just go about my way and the Sacraments and Church will protect me in the end.”  Of course, we know that’s a tremendous lie of the Devil.  My journey took me into the darkest hole of life I could have imagined.  My corporate finance career prospered but my life grew more and more miserable.

After getting married to Linda in 1989, I ended up being subject to abuse in a marriage for over 12 years.  I was punched in the face, chased, threatened, slashed at with knives and even promised death while asleep.  At one point, I slept in an empty bedroom for years afraid that I would be killed in my sleep.  One of my wife’s favorite tactics was to wake me in the middle of the night to begin an outburst that often turned violent.  Never once did I retaliate in kind, and I never once laid a hand on her in violence of any form.  For a while I prayed, and even tried to get her involved in the Roman Catholic church.  Of course, that was a joyful day for her because she knew that the Priests would never allow me to leave her.  She joined.  I tried to get the help of the Church.  She was right.  Imagine being a former college athlete and trying to get help because you’re being beaten by your 5’4” wife.  My pleas were met with laughter.  As the children grew older (three boys) her attitude grew more and more abusive.  It was nothing to find her in front of me with a kitchen knife, and threats to take my life became a daily affair.

I knew her behavior was escalating to a boiling point, and one day I came home to find her face down after taking a handful of sleeping pills.  She left a suicide note saying that it was my fault because I was abusive.  The police took quite some time to tell me what a wicked and awful man I must be after reading the note.  After talking to the doctor at the hospital, I discovered that the pill she took rarely causes death at any dosage and that in any event after pumping her stomach she was never in danger of dying.  She later admitted to staging the whole event, and her family confirmed that she had done such a thing twice as a teenager as well.   Her outbursts and violence escalated, and I ultimately made a terribly hard decision.

I left her there with our three young children – firmly committed in my mind that I would get custody.  How little I knew about courts and custody.  If I stayed and pursued divorce, I am certain I would be dead.  After nearly two years of separation, the divorce was complete.  After the divorce was over, she began abusing pharmaceutical drugs and then recreational drugs.  Her emotional and physical abuse on the boys escalated as well.  Eventually, they were around me most of the time because she had other places she would rather be than with her children.  A school counselor came up to one of my boys, who was sitting on the hallway as school  with his hands over his face praying.  She said, “Dan, what are you doing?”  He responded, “I am praying that God will let me live with my Dad.”  That school counselor was the first advocate the boys and I had found in 18 years. Finally, I gained full custody two years later.  The judge even revoked her right to visitation.

There are seven facets to this story which confirm God’s loving and guiding hand:

First, I received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior after the divorce and the Holy Spirit began a transformation process that would take volumes to describe.  The veil was removed from before my eyes and I suddenly understood God’s love – but most of all His Word came alive in my life.  My soul yearned for His Word, which became my consuming passion.  Scripture, Church, and my boys became my life.

Second, my three sons came to receive the Lord as well through my efforts taking them to church.  I will admit that in the beginning I bribed them with free lunch. One is in Bible college right now committed to serving the missionary field.  Though the others are still yet teens, they are committed to serving the Lord as well.  One has even committed to full time preaching the word of God.

Third, on the day I was baptized in a Baptist Church (May 11, 2008), right after the ceremony while still at church, God introduced me to the help mate he had in mind for my life – my dear sweet Rachel.   I was stunned and distrusted my feelings when I first met her, convinced that I was supposed to be alone the rest of my days.  I prayed about it, and refused to even talk much to her, for almost ten months before asking her out for dinner. We were married a few months later.

Fourth, my three sons had never known a woman that loved them unconditionally and would care for them deeply.  Their own mother had abandoned them to drugs.  Through God’s unending love, I have been married to my sweet Rachel for over three years, and my three sons now know that they too are capable of being loved, and not abused, by a woman they call Mom.

Fifth, my wife Rachel is also a former victim of domestic abuse who thought she would spend the rest of her life alone as well.  We had both been victims, and you see a victim has no problem believing that their life might somehow have to be lacking.  That’s the first psychological tool of the abuser – get the victim to somehow understand they are less valuable or deserving than the rest of the world.  Even after done with abusive spouses, victims seldom challenge abusive churches who would contend that we are still yet lesser than the rest of the world because of our divorce.  Today, Rachel and I stand in awe of God’s work in our lives and understand our value as children of God more clearly than ever.   I have a tear in my eye every time I describe it.

Sixth, having my own call to ministry being given by God after I came to Christ, I began pursuing a ministry degree two years ago, with the intention of sharing the good news of God’s redemption and deliverance through Jesus Christ.  I finished my M.A. in Theological Studies and am now only one short year away from my M.Div.   I now minister at a mission for the poor and provide preaching, worship, and counseling one to three times per week in the local prison.  It is amazing to me the number of stories of domestic abuse I see in the mission and at prison.  A woman I met last week has endured decades of abuse solely because of advice she considered to be biblical counsel.  I have found Barbara Roberts book, Not Under Bondage, so very useful.

Seventh, my ex-wife has continued her violent and abusive ways.  After she lost even partial custody (and child support payments) she quit her job here and went to go live in a distant state.  She has been arrested five times for assault and battery – usually against those she was living with.   We do not rejoice to know that she still harms others.  We do rejoice that we are no longer under that bondage.  We all pray for her.

MY PERSONAL ISSUES WITH DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

Given the overwhelming walk with the Lord described above, can you imagine how shocked I was when someone first suggested I was not qualified to be Deacon, Elder, or Pastor?  Yes, that’s right.  To add more, the words were “Brother, we’re sorry, but we’ve taken this into consideration and carefully considered your circumstances, and decided that you’re disqualified from being in Church office because of your marriage to Rachel.”  I had heard that people may have an issue with my calling to ministry, but God had spoken so clearly in my heart.  At the same time, He had given me and the boys such great comfort and love through Rachel.  How could she be the cause of bad?  I was standing next to Rachel when he told me.  I looked at her and said “we’ve got to go to the car.”  I cried for a good long time before we could drive away.  I will admit, at this point I gave up.  I hurt so bad, describing it here brings tears to my eyes.

During the summer that would ensue, I found a Baptist church here locally that does a great deal of community outreach, including door-to-door evangelism and six buses they send around town to pick up children.  I went to meet with the Pastor – who has a very extensive library of the works and sermons of Charles Spurgeon.   I soon realized he took most of his sermons from Spurgeon outlines, adding his own colorful illustrations, so I thought we would be in pretty good shape.  I played down any calling I may have, figuring I must have simply been mistaken.  It came time for August to come again, and suddenly God was directing me to get back into training classes.  Reluctantly, I said no way.  I told Rachel.  She agreed.  She had seen me hurt enough – we were done.  But God would not relent, virtually forcing me back into classes with the demand “walk by faith, not by sight!”

I enrolled in classes for the Fall and, perhaps because of my reluctance to re-enter, God arranged for me to be forced due to scheduling problems into my first course in Hebrew.  Man, try being unmotivated to study and learning Hebrew.  It is virtually impossible.  I was going to have to get over myself and get moving in God’s power on His path.  I did.  Soon after, I was asked to preach a message at the Mission worship service, so I did.  I told my story – how after all my trial God revealed Himself in Me, gave me a new birth in Him, and brought me into His light.   As I stood there, people responded, I could feel the Spirit and suddenly it was as if my notes were not even there.  I wasn’t preaching – I was watching myself preach by His Spirit.  What?  Yes.  Applause came loudly. I stood in awe of a mighty God who had once again affirmed His grace and call on my life.

Well since then my ministry life has blossomed.  A few weeks ago, for example, I was preaching to 19 inmates in a prison chapel.  At the end of the service, five made first time commitments to Jesus as Lord and Savior, and one of them shouted out “I want to be baptized,” and then another right behind him “me too!”   They will be baptized this Sunday.  We run Christ based recovery groups for all sorts of lost souls through the Mission – it is awesome.  At a picnic last fall, we had thousands of people at the park, many of which I know well through ministry.   They came up and talked with me, prayed with me, and asked me for guidance throughout the day.  Late in the day, after one such exchange, Rachel looked at me, and then gazed around the park at all my friends, and said “What do you think?”  With a tear in my eye, I said with great joy “These are my people.  God is so good.”

MY CURRENT SITUATION

During all this, I have continued my professional career in banking.  My current employer has been very gracious – allowing me to work very flexible hours and giving me assignments which I can complete on flexible terms.  But God is making it more and more clear – it’s time to take that next step out in faith to full-time service.  To the best of my knowledge, no church exists that would ordain a pastor with my background.  I rejoice in my service at the Mission and will wait on the Lord for the next opportunity.  At least now there’s no quit left in me.  God has given me enough trial to know – there’s no option besides perseverance for me.

There is a God in heaven that is more powerful than the nastiest group of Deacons, Elders, or Pastors.  He will show each of us His path for us to go, and He loves each of us no more than the other, that is without limit.

Thanks, again, for you wonderful ministry.

In Christ,

Martin

30 Comments

  1. Well, thank God for that, Martin. Clearly the Lord knows how it is for abuse/divorce survivors like you. I am so glad for His display of His true heart in how He has worked/is working in your and Rachel’s lives.

    Incidentally, He just used you again while I was reading this because as a supporter of an abuse victim who is completely in her camp on her choice to divorce I am also subject to some persecution of sorts in my church. God’s command to you, “walk by faith, not by sight!” was just the thing I needed to hear right now myself. I mean, I know this, but those pesky circumstances do insist on having their say. So it was good to hear this through you just now. Thanks for that.

    • I thank God for giving me the strength and the direction. It is wonderful that you are helping an abuse victim to be freed from the bondage of evil. I will pray for God’s wisdom, love, and strength for you both as you wrestle with powers and principalities of this world. Just remember, “the truth shall make you free!” (John 8:32).

  2. Another fantastic story of God’s grace. Awhile back I wrote a blog post titled “Men and Domestic Violence” pointing out that men can be victims of DV too, but they’re often poo-pooed when they try to get help. That is so very wrong.

    How amazing that God brought one abuse survivor together with another and now they are serving him, breaking free from the chains of manmade legalism that bind so many.

    • Amen! Thank God for His goodness!

  3. Bethany

    Thank you so much for your story. I have been faced with alot the past 3 month since I kicked my husband out. the top three being 1 was I abused (only a fellow DV victim can understand the “leaving a cult” possess that we go through). 2 is devorce alowed by God and 3 is re-marrage blessed by God. I have found the answes to the first to on this site and thanks to your wonderful story of you and Rachel finding each other I now belive I have the answer to number 3. Thank you again and may God richly bless you and your family.

    • Bethany;

      We read your reply here together this evening. It means so much to us – that our story helps reveal God’s love. I looked at her and said, “Wow, we’re helping other people through our lives.” She said with a confident but gentle smile, “I knew we would.”

      Be at peace tonight. You are a precious child of God.

  4. MeganC

    Thank you for sharing your story, dear brother. You have been through the grinder but, oh! What a story of redemption! God specializes in creating beauty from ashes. I am so happy for you and Rachel. There is so much goodness to look forward to. :)

    • Amen, Megan! God doesn’t just save, He delivers, redeems, provides, and oh so much more.

  5. LorenH

    Martin,
    I believe that you will find a church that will ordain you. You have a powerfull testimony and a proven gifting. Not every denomination interprets scripture as woodenly as those who would claim you are not eligible. Plus there are many non-denominational churches that rejoice to have you serving them. God has already used your experience as building blocks for His kingdom. Continue to believe Him. Meanwhile, you are blessing those you minister too, your wife and your children. Keep the faith!

    • Loren;

      You are so right. I pray every day, “just use me God.”

      Recently, I walked out of jail with a ministry partner after having a very powerful experience fueled by God in a three hour session with 20 inmates. My partner was going on about how awesome that was – and it was an awesome God-fueled event. But, then it dawned on me, “God used me.” I said to my partner, “let’s not forget that God Almighty who needs no one to get a job done used us today instead of just doing it Himself.” Wow! What a privilege! That sure makes the ordinances of man – like pastoral ordination – sure seem secondary.

      Thanks, again, for the important reminder and encouragement.

  6. Martin, thank you for your story. I understand a lot of what you must have felt like with the ordination issues. I was a worship leader before my divorce and also spent time writing and recording my own Christian music; I assumed that any music ministry I could have was gone with my divorce. I am finding that there are those who do not consider me unclean because of my divorce and I am cautiously trying to re-engage some of my former musicical endeavors. I still fear the day that someone realizes I’m divorced and tells me I am not allowed to perform or lead worship, though.

    • We’ve got to keep praying for a church that understands the true nature of divorce and remarriage in the Bible. The truth is there – that will fix the church and set us free from bondage of lies. Let’s just keep praying that more church leaders start understanding the truth in God’s word.

  7. Just Me

    Martin, thank you for sharing your testimony. You have a gift for teaching. I wish you, your wife and your children many blessings.

    • Thank you so much.

  8. Jeff Crippen

    Martin – I read your story to our women’s study group this afternoon and they wanted me to tell you how thankful they are to you for telling it. So, many thanks to you from them.

  9. Jeff Crippen

    I also sent it to our son to encourage him. He finds himself living alone once again after his wife of 7 years decided she just didn’t want to be married at all anymore. It was hard for him to return to his church even though they did a pretty good job handling his situation and encouraging him. But I think that one thing they missed is just how extremely tough it is for a Christian to go through a divorce, even if they are the innocent party, and be in the atmosphere of the church where divorce is so condemned. And then there was just the fact of going back to a place where you once sat with your wife, and now you sit by yourself. We all really need to get ourselves into the shoes of fellow believers who suffer in this way and come to a better understanding of what they experience.

    • LorenH

      Sorry to hear about your son’s separation. Having led DivorceCare groups for seven years I would suggest that he try to find a local group. He can go to http://www.divorcecare.org and enter his zip code and a list of local groups will pop up. He will find people who understand perfectly what he is going through. It is a big step towards healing.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thanks for the info Loren. I will pass it along:)

    • Sorry to hear about your son’s situation, Jeff. He will need God’s love and time to heal from this deep personal wound. I will pray for him. As he heals, he might consider visiting a mission for the poor and even volunteering a day here or there. A local pastor came up to me at last fall’s Mission picnic, where I was interacting with my friends throughout the day, and suggested “I bet your past problems look like peanuts compared to the issues going on in this crowd.” A typical Pharisaical back handed compliment – but still so very true. I will never forget my first Bible study group in prison – about ten men. Before I even started, one raised his hand and said with great sadness “My wife divorced me. Will God ever forgive me for divorce?” Maybe, like myself, helping others will help him heal and give him growth, commitment, and confidence the loving guidance of God’s Word. For now, we pray.

  10. Kay

    God bless you Martin.

    • Thank you Kay.

  11. joepote01

    Martin, thank you for sharing your story!

    The church that labeled you “disqualified” because of divorce and remarriage is SO wrong! I wish I had more time and room to tell you how many ways they are wrong. That just is not a defensible position from a biblical standpoint. Yes, I know many believe it is, but they are wrong, and they are grossly mishandling scripture to result in that interpretation.

    Two areas I would tlike to encourage you:

    First, yes there are many churches that will not have an issue with your prior marital history. They are a minority, but they do exist.

    Second, God’s call on your life is not subject to man’s interpretation (or misinterpretation) of scripture. God has called you to a ministry, for which He has equipped and ordained you. Nothing can stop you from carrying out that ministry, either as part of an established church or not.

    God bless you, brother!

    • Thank you, my brother! I am encouraged and determined to persevere.

  12. Thanks Martin for sharing your story with our blog community.
    I hope I’m not being out of order here, or raining on anyone’s parade, but as a female administrator of this blog I am always conscious of how our female readers may be taking things. Now, I know that many of our female readers have already written positively to Martin on this thread, and that’s great. But I have a word for the female readers who are not writing but just sitting on the sidelines:
    Jeff Crippen and I always assess comments and stories before we publish them and we don’t publish comments that have the marks of abuserese (written by perpetrators). We also don’t invite a person to write a guest post until we’ve known that person (by cyber contact at the minimum) for some time, and are confident in their bona fides. Now, some of you may be thinking “Who is this guy Martin? I’ve not seen him on the blog before. Where did he come from? I hope Jeff and Barb are still on track with their moderation of this blog.”
    So to put your worries at rest, it’s true Martin has not been commenting often on this blog up till now (he has commented a little, but not a great deal). But I have had cyber contact with Martin for quite a length of time and I’ve checked out his ministry as far as I could on the internet, and it all stacks up and seems (as we say in Oz) dinky di, ridgey didge, straight and sound.
    Martin, I hope you don’t mind me injecting this into this thread, (or knowing that I did due diligence in checking you out!) but I am always trying to be mindful of our ‘silent’ readers.

    Blessings to everyone.

  13. Debbie Price

    Thank You, Martin for Sharing Your Testimony & I Thank God for Enlightening You and Guiding You in the Ministry He has for You to Do!! God Bless You & Your Family!! The Path You are Taking… You will be Able to Help Others to Know that We have Second Chances(or More) and We are Conquerors Through Christ.
    Blessings,
    Deb

  14. Laurie

    Martin, wow. I am so glad that you are a dv survivor. I am also glad that you found the love and healing that God intended for you. I know that it is not easy to share what you have here, and it is needed to be told that this really is not a “women only” problem. May God continue to bless you and your family.

    • Thanks, Laurie. You are right. It is very hard to share. Honestly, like most victims I hide it the vast majority of the time. For years, I thought I should have handled it better. I figured it must have been me somehow (none of us after all are even close to perfect). My family and any church leaders I had come to know were all quick to tell me it must have been my fault. Then my ex-wife started getting arrested for attacking others. When I saw her mug shot on-line the first time, it hit me like a ton of bricks ripping away any remaining self denial left inside me.

      Rachel had a similar experience when she read Barbara’s description of abuse in Not Under Bondage. It was so real that it pierced through any remaining self denial and hiding of that she had become so used to. I hope she gets to share that experience with Barbara in person sometime in the future.

      Jeff and Barbara have helped us both understand the importance of sharing. I hope more people will do the same.

      • Yes, reading about abuse, sharing our own experiences, and being believed and validated are the most important ingredients for coming out of denial. God created us as social beings: we are meant to be in relationship with others and we make sense of weird experiences by talking about them and joining the dots in our minds, hearts and bellies.

  15. Martin

    Thanks so very much.

  16. I just re-read your story, Martin, and am moved all over again. God is so good.

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