How God set a woman free from a lovely husband who became an ogre
One of our readers has kindly allowed us to publish this part of her testimony. Many thanks to her.
I loved having a home and my husband and I enjoyed a lot of happiness. Part of the reason we had so much fun together may have been that we were both still children in some ways. I remember going to Bible study and feeling sorry for the people who just had ordinary homes, when I had just come from a home filled with so much laughter and enjoyment, after watching my husband play with the puppies.
Unfortunately, something very ugly crept into my marriage, very early. I was married about six months, the first time my husband slapped me. I was shocked. No one had ever slapped me across the face before. It was humiliating. We had dated for four years and this had never happened. What was I going to do? If we were just dating, I could break up with him, but I was already married. I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know what to do to fix it, so I didn’t do anything. A few months later the memory faded.
Gradually, a pattern emerged in our marriage. My husband, who no longer had a brother at home to wrestle with, would wrestle with me. I was a lot lighter than him and I didn’t like to wrestle. I was starting to get hurt, more and more. These wrestling matches were intermingled with other times that he would slap me, during an argument or when he was upset.
The pattern continued and gradually escalated. Sometimes he would scream at me for what seemed like little or no reason. I remember one time him screaming at me just after getting up from the bed after we had been intimate. I hadn’t done anything to upset him. It was baffling. I was confused. I didn’t understand it.
When I was married for about five years, I was getting more distressed and was sustaining minor injuries. But as many women that are in these relationships will tell you, the true target of the inflicted pain and abuse is not the body. I decided during prayer one day, to stop fighting back. I reasoned that if I didn’t fight back, my husband would realize what he was doing to me, that he was hurting me and that he would stop.
Not fighting back physically did not stop the violence. In fact, it got a whole lot worse. However, not physically defending myself did help me to see things a lot more clearly. The violence was no longer shrouded in the polite façade of wrestling.
A clear pattern emerged. Tension would build and then there would be an explosion. The trigger for an explosion could be something so minor as not being able to find a tool he wanted, or dishing him up too much spaghetti. The cycle of tension build-up followed by explosion would happen again and again, until we reached a level of intensity and violence that scared us and that we had never reached before. Then tensions would dissipate and Mr. Hyde would turn back into Dr Jekyll.
I later found out that this pattern is called, “the cycle of violence”. It is a well-documented pattern experienced by women in abusive relationships. As much as we would like to think of everything as 50-50, this pattern is primarily an abuse of male power against females.
I was becoming panicked. Nowhere could I find in the scripture that it was ok to leave your husband because he hit you. Jesus said we could divorce for infidelity, but he didn’t mention violence! I had no children to protect and I didn’t think I was justified in leaving for myself.
Finally I asked God to remind me to pray during one of these episodes. Previously, I would remember to pray before, when tensions were building, or after when I was recovering, but I never remembered to pray during an episode.
The night my life changed and I started my journey out of that marriage, I remembered to pray in the midst of the violence. I had locked myself in the furnace room to take a temporarily safe reprieve. The furnace room had a pretty good lock on it. My husband was in the living room watching TV, waiting for me to come out. Finally, I remembered to pray. I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to pray when you are angry, but it was an act of force! My prayer cut through the heavy evil shroud that had encircled my home and was heard.
When I left the furnace room, the violence did not stop, but I no longer felt cut-off from God and I did not feel I was going through it alone. I was able to pray freely. That night God gifted me with two extraordinary miracles. They are particularly extroadinary for someone like me who has no charismatic background. He gifted me with a vision and He gifted me with an audible word.
My vision was of a large very beautiful blown glass house. That beautiful glass house was my home. It was being smashed and destroyed and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
My audible Word came during a confrontation from my husband. I silently prayed, “What am I going to do? I can’t leave him.” The Word came to me, “You might have to leave him, ___.” [ ___ was her personal name; we’ve omitted it for safety’s sake.] That Word opened the door for me. Maybe I could leave. Maybe it wasn’t all of my fault.
My Pastor talked about seeking the whole counsel of God. He spoke of how Scripture could be twisted to justify anything, even an erroneous non-Christian cult. Jesus told us the two great commandments were to love God with all our heart mind and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Somehow, by staying in this marriage and allowing this evil to continue and escalate, I was breaking both of those commandments. My husband was becoming less and less the man that I had married and was turning more and more into an ogre.
We are to serve God. He is our Master. I sometimes wonder what the Christian advice was to a soldier in Hitler’s army or to the wife of an SS officer. Was this the correct time to drag out the doctrine of submission, which Peter talks about in 1st Peter and which Paul talks about in Romans? Yet, I remembered, as Isaiah had prophesied, at the appointed time our Lord gave his back to the smiters and his cheeks to those who plucked out the beard. How do we walk with God in the face of evil? How do we follow our Lord’s example and do as both Peter and Paul admonish us and overcome evil with good? Isaiah tells us that Jesus was awakened by God’s word each morning to hear God’s instruction. If we can more closely mimic our Lord’s walk, perhaps we too can correctly discern God’s instruction and discern between good and evil.
During the time of searching and struggling within my marriage, I found several copies of the book The Total Woman, at the back one of the local churches. For those of you too young to remember, The Total Woman was one of Marabel Morgan’s books, written in opposition to the women’s movement. As near as I could tell, it gave helpful hints on how to use submission and feminine wiles to manipulate your way to power in your marriage.
I heard Christian women’s testimony on TV of how God had healed their marriage by changing them. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I heard very little teaching on the man’s role in providing Christ-like headship.
Evil grows in the dark. I think the first and best steps in confronting evil, is to expose it and to drag it into the light. One of the first steps in coming out of an abusive relationship is to tell someone what has been going on. Like many women, I hadn’t told anyone. I was ashamed and I didn’t want to make the problem bigger by turning it into a public circus with everyone giving me advice that I may not be prepared to take. I think I also still felt loyalty to my husband. In my mind, he just didn’t realize how much he was hurting me and if he did, it would stop. I was still in love with Dr Jekyll.
At the beginning of the next cycle of violence, for a relatively minor assault, I phoned the transition house. The woman on the phone pointed out that by living in this situation for years, I had become desensitized to the level of violence. What I would have considered a major incident, in the years of dating my husband and grounds for ending the relationship, had now become a “minor assault”. I was becoming less and less alarmed, by a higher and higher level of violence.
I also found out information on an anger management program, which I could force my husband to attend, by laying assault charges. My next phone call was to the police. I laid charges.
I left my husband on two occasions. On the first occasion, I was in relationship with God. I was hopeful that God would change my husband and heal my marriage. After all, it happened for those other women, who gave their testimonies on TV. I felt spiritually strong, I was decisive and I felt the comfort of the Holy Spirit and relationship with God.
On the second occasion, I was angry with God. My husband had not changed! Though he was no longer hitting me, he knew of other ways to torture me. I came to realize that he DID know he was hurting me, hat he WANTED to hurt me and I was truly “Sleeping with the Enemy.” I was furious with God. I thought if anyone deserved a miracle, it was me. After all, I had tried my very best.
How foolish of me! Why would I expect that God who had given me free choice in my relationship with Him, would remove free choice from my husband? My husband had it within his power to choose and he chose not to repent, not to accept responsibility and chose to continue not having a relationship with God. It was his choice, not my choice and not necessarily God’s choice. (In fact, studies have shown that most abuser do not choose to change.)
Because I had turned my back on God, in my anger, I became weak. The weakness was noticed and acknowledged by those closest to me. It shames me to admit that while I was coming out of the marriage, I started to date a man who had been a friend of my husband’s and mine since our college days. At the time, I remember telling my sister that this decision would make things easier in the short run and harder in the long run. That was true. It was sin. It marred my clarity of vision in determining correct choices. Worst of all, it thrust an emotional knife into the man that I claimed to love and had sacrificed so much for. Despite this sin and my anger, God did not abandon me.
I was being stalked, I was exhausted working three part-time jobs to pay the mortgage on the home that my parents had co-signed for. I was told by a facilitator in my support group, that once these men really know it’s over, the nice guy act is finished! In my case, that was true. I was being stalked and there were weapons involved.
On one occasion, I believe God sent me an angel. I was exhausted and had flopped down on the sofa, after returning home. My phone was ringing. In those days we had answering machines. I heard the start of the message with my husband’s voice and then the answering machine cut off. This happened again and again and again and again. The phone would ring and then before he could leave a message, he was cut off. It was if someone was in there pressing the buttons on the machine, but it wasn’t me, I was on the sofa, too exhausted to move.
With the encouragement of my Mother, I moved to another part of the country. My Father was unhappy about the idea of losing another daughter to a long distance move, but he loaded up the truck and u-haul and moved me. Another family member was waiting to receive me and to give me temporary dwelling, so I could restart my life.
Due to my marriage troubles, I lost my home, my dog, most of our married friends and all of my in-laws. My mother-in law had been particularly good to me, better than I deserved. I hope one day God will reward her for all of her goodness to me.
It takes a while to recognize the internal damage from abuse inflicted upon us. During my marriage, I couldn’t see the extent of the injury. I was never hospitalized, bruises heal and I could still walk.
I was told that most women find an abusive relationship devastating to their self-esteem. I couldn’t say this was true for me. Because my relationship with Christ was growing during my marriage, I actually found my self-esteem growing. If Christ can love us that much, to die for us, surely we can love ourselves.
I had developed a sensitivity to emotional tension and displays of anger. I am in danger of “over-reacting”. By this, I mean I ‘m in danger of reacting not solely to an existing threat but also to the groundswell of memories of similar threats that can be triggered and overwhelm me. I found I could “flash-back” and experience a flood of debilitating feelings from past explosions. I learned that to keep myself mentally healthy, I needed to protect myself from male displays of anger. I must use caution to correctly ascertain the level threat with emotional tension or anger in a professional setting or a meeting.
Despite these changes in me, I still wanted to marry. I did not feel I was fully able to express myself as a woman or give venue to the gifts that God had given me, without a husband, home and family. It seemed to me to be a waste of God’s gifts and life to be unable to marry. Repeatedly scripture compares His love for us, to a bridegroom rejoicing over a bride. When I finally understood the importance of the woman in typifying His bride, I started to feel very good about being born female.
I am sure when we get to be close to Him, we will have an eternity of time to understand the answers to our many questions. He or the angels will better explain to us the concept of Biblical marriage as a picture God’s love for his people. We’ll see, first hand, the importance of women to Christ.