A Cry For Justice

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

Beware the Jello

I had been in Colorado for a week with my four children, having just left my husband in Germany for good. We were borrowing my grandmother’s house. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I would go, live, work, etc. I was still shaking when I entered the church with all of the children to talk to a pastor there about getting help. A friend from Alabama had told me that this was a good church. It was within walking distance so the children and I walked about six blocks, strollers and all, to meet with this man. I was not really using the term “abusive” yet, but I had my hands on a Patricia Evans book and my eyes were being opened.

I bared my soul to the pastor right there in the multi-purpose room with the kids playing basketball and babies and trains. I told this man everything. He listened quietly and then told me that he would like to Skype with my husband and me. I think he thought he might be able to save our marriage. I told him that we had had several years of counseling . . . on and off and with different men. And, not only that but . . . that my (ex) husband is jello. Jello. That is the very best word that I could come up with. He could mold himself into anything he wanted. He could actually be what looked “good”. He knew all the right answers. But, if you reached out to grab onto some substance, it will all just fizzle out in your hand. There was absolutely nothing to hold onto. You find yourself reaching for a mirage — your hands just fall through a dream you have created in your mind. A mess of green goo everywhere as you wonder what you thought you saw. I told the pastor that he would be penitent and loving. He would probably even cry. The pastor would then wonder why I left him and I would look like the bad wife. I left with the children, disheartened.

One survivor writes:

I thought for YEARS that there was a heart in my ex that was, perhaps, wounded but present. I believed that there was some part of him, deep down inside, that wanted to be a good man, wanted to love those around us and wanted to glorify God. Right before I left, I realized there was no such part in him. No foundation, no character, no solidarity. Just a man who had learned to be what he wanted people to see so he could do his evil in secret. In fact, the evil was rampant. He bled wickedness.

The conscience of the Believer is substantial. Christ gives us depth, meaning and substance. He gives us His fruits and even gives us spiritual gifts. As we change, our roots grow deep by that water of Life and we bloom in ways we never imagined. Not prosperity in the worldly sense — but in spiritual richness. There is a Firm Foundation in the life of the Believer. We become solid. So, how can a woman like that yoke herself to jello? She cannot. It feels just like you are picturing it now . . . Β it feels like you are grasping onto something very very slippery. It feels like you are sinking every single day. Your marriage is a sham. In fact, there is no marriage. It cannot be done.

I believe I would have rather been married to a man who abused me in plain sight rather than a man who could mold himself into an upright, charming “mission-minded” individual in front of everyone else whilst hurting all of us in secret. The confusion is too great. The damage to the psyche is irreparable, but for the grace of God. The abuser sways, like a leaf in the wind, blowing this way and that . . . promising to change over and over but never being able to keep that promise while you are somehow to blame.

The good news is that I am just now learning that there are people in the world who are not this way. There are men who say something and mean it. These upright men do not change their tune and they do not pretend. They ARE there! Imitating Christ, our Ultimate Anchor for the Soul, there are men (albeit, not many) who are solid structures upon which we can rely. Oh, God . . . I want my boys to be men like that.

29 Comments

  1. Excellent analogy, Megan. I would just add this comment. There is a ‘foundation’ there. Unfortunately, it is the evil that forms, fashions, and presents the ‘jello.’ It unveils itself when the evil is challenged face to face.

    • That’s true, Larry. I think I know what you mean. It is the sudden blow-up when an abusive man is confronted or doesn’t get his way. The monster inside that scares everyone around him and reminds us that we are to be afraid. Thank you.

  2. Marcie

    “I thought for YEARS that there was a heart in my ex that was, perhaps, wounded but present. I believed that there was some part of him, deep down inside, that wanted to be a good man, wanted to love those around us and wanted to glorify God.Right before I left, I realized there was no such part in him. No foundation, no character, no solidarity. Just a man who had learned to be what he wanted people to see so he could do his evil in secret.”
    How can they all be so alike?

    • I am always amazed by that.

    • His beloved

      Yup, exactly. I have come to that exact same conclusion. In fact there was no other conclusion to come to once I faced the reality of his behavior. Took me many months after the separation to really figure this out- and another year to stop doubting myself and wavering. Glad to say I rarely waver now!

  3. Deborah

    I really needed this today, as my abuser joins yet another Bible study and leaves scripture in my kid’s lunch boxes on transition day (maybe for me to find?). Here I go again, swinging on the pendulum of “am I the crazy one?”

    Yet he is also currently flirting with yet another in a long line if women who don’t know about each other and think they are the only one’s, introducing them all into the kid’s lives as mother figures. This on the back of yelling at my son for throwing up on the carpet and at blaming the kids for anything he forgets to do or doesn’t want to do for them.

    Just when I think I have him figured out and exposed, like you so accurately put it, Jello. He slips out of the mold I caught him in, and into a more respectable shape. Learning only to hide there until he can slip back into whatever shape gets him what he really wants again.

    Thanks for this. I really needed the reminder today.

    ~Deborah

  4. Cindy

    We are dealing with a spiritual abuse situation right now and someone else that is involved with this person stated after we had been told this person had repented that it was not true it was strategic, situational repentance. Sounds like Jello to me.

  5. Happytobursting

    I experienced a very similar thing in a church in Colorado. I would be very interested in knowing if it was the same one I attended.

  6. Excellent, excellent post and brilliant analogy and explanation! I could just picture you and the strollers and the children and the toys…..I’m so sorry you experienced that. You perfectly nailed exactly what it feels like. Jell-O. Thank you!

  7. John

    Hey MeganC, were you ever able to expose your abusive former husband? Was he ever made accountable for his actions to you? I believe that God will indeed judge his evil ways, but my question is more about the community, family and friends around you both. Wonderful post, really like the Jello image!

    • John — I’m not sure I know what you mean. I did try to expose the abuse to my family and others, but I was not believed nor really listened to. My family seemed more focused on the fact that I was seeking a divorce. I did have a precious few friends who rallied around me eventually, which saved my sanity! But, the first year after I left was lonely and filled with strife and post-separation abuse.

  8. BeginHealing

    Megan…. wonderful analogy. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you for those words they put substance and tangibility to an intangible substance.

    How is it that this behavior seems in many ways consistent among too many men but it is kept under wraps. Why did it have to reach critical mass for most of us to see it for what it is. There needs to be classes in churches for young girls. They need to be armed with knowledge to be able to spot the truth of how some men operate.

  9. fiftyandfree

    I agree with the others. EXCELLENT analogy. I swung on that pendulum for years (am I the crazy one?) because he could present himself so well in any light that was favorable to himself (repentant, moral, forgiving, loving). It took me a long time to understand that he was jell-0, but I did notice early on that he had what I used to describe as an astonishing self control. He could change his behavior on a dime and for long periods of time IF, and only IF it was in his best interest to do so. I wonder if these sociopaths have an uncommonly strong self will. For instance, he’s a weekend alcoholic. He can control that addiction during the week to save face and to keep his job. He hates people (asocial, possibly schizoid) but he forces himself to be social when necessary. He had even abandoned some of his abusive control tactics when I told him that I was on to him and that I’d walk out if he ever did it again. The man has amazing self control. Too bad he has no heart and no conscious.

    All I know is I am so very grateful to be off that pendulum for good!!!

  10. Heather2

    Megan, I know I must sound like a broken record, but once again, I could have said the same things. In fact, in often did! Jello….. Wish I had thought of that! πŸ™‚

    Hugs Megan.

    • Yes, Heather. As Marcie said above, they are all so much alike, it is uncanny!!

  11. Tee

    I LOVE the term JELLO…… I totally relate as you know Meg. thank you for this

    • Hugs, Tee!

  12. Megan, this is a very good article. We have talked to so many wives that have been married to this type of abuser.

  13. Very good article, Megan.

  14. Carmen S.

    If a woman walks into a church with four children, no job, borrowing a place of shelter, after having left another country…the first instinct of a godly pastor should have been to ask how the church could help you. The reaction of any human being should be to ask how to help you. This pastor’s first reaction was to get the man’s side of the story.

    Fiftyandfree: “He could change his behavior on a dime” It was difficult for me to understand that what appeared to be out-of-control behavior was for the purpose of controlling me.

    • Thank you, Carmen. Yes . . . I had not heard it put that way before. Isn’t that what you and I would do? Make sure the woman and her children have their needs met? 😦

      • Happy2bhere

        Your story and strength help keep me motivated to continue with my exit plan. I also really like your analogy! It’s amazing the time and energy they spend keeping their lies alive. I agree with Carmen, it’s sad that the pastor you reached out to was so focused on your marriage instead of you and your children’s immediate needs.

  15. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    I posted this on my FB and my mom read it. She thought it sounded so like the ex-idiot that she did not notice the “Germany”, “kids in stroller” so she was sure I had written it because the man you described as Jello is my ex-idiot. These abusers are too alike.

  16. I am so sorry it was so hard for you to find help! My heart breaks for all of the moments that you weren’t believed. My heart rejoices in the way you are helping so many now by sharing your story, and how many “believers” in YOU there are. Love from NE!

    • Oh, Niki. Thank you for all the sweetness you showed me back then and now. xo

  17. His beloved

    So grateful for this blog. It’s like stepping into a SANE world!!!! What a relief.

    Megan, if I didn’t know who my X’s first wife was, I ‘d think it was you! You are describing him perfectly. So uncanny that they all are so alike.

  18. Good analogy, Megan! This post reminds me of something I wrote a long time ago…while I was still in my first marriage and had just discovered yet another treacherous lie. I wrote of that marriage realtionship being like a sand castle with no foundation, ready to wash away in the next tide…of wondering if it was possible to start over…of wondering whether, if we dug deep enough, we might find a solid foundation or if the sand just covered more sand…

    Turned out there was no foundation…just sand…

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      Wow, another great analogy Joe.

  19. fiftyandfree

    I agree, another great analogy Joe.

    I used to refer to the relationship with Jelloman as an emotional wasteland.

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