A Cry For Justice

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

Trapped! Parallels between domestic abuse and the true story of a warehouse fire

Six firefighters died in a warehouse fire in Massachusetts in 1999. An abandoned cold-storage facility was accidentally set alight by a homeless couple who were squatting there for shelter. The fire resulted in the first loss of six firefighters in a structure fire where neither building collapse nor an explosion was a contributing factor to the fatalities.” It was a very serious and pretty unusual event, and it therefore provoked a lot of soul-searching, so to speak, in the Fire Services.  

This post is written by our longstanding reader Charis. Many thanks to her!

I was a firefighter/paramedic working in Ohio at the time and I remember that night. In the days and months that followed we began to unpack what went wrong and the subsequent lessons learned. The US Fire Administration (USFA) wrote an analytical report about the disaster: Abandoned Cold Storage Warehouse Multi-Firefighter Fatality Fire, Worcester Massachusetts,

Now, 16 years later, I find myself reflecting upon the tragedy – this time learning lessons and seeing similarities through the lens of an abusive relationship. Here is what I have observed:

Minimization

The fire started when the homeless couple, a boyfriend & girlfriend, got into an argument and accidentally knocked over a lit candle. Not only did some of their belongings catch fire, the construction materials used to insulate the refrigeration units were found to be 18 inches thick — and highly flammable. The fire rapidly spread beyond control. The couple tried to smother the fire but were unsuccessful. They quickly left with some of their belongings and failed to report the fire to authorities. The fire was allowed to burn undetected for 90 minutes. Such a long unobstructed burn time was one of the major failure points in this tragedy. The cold storage fire had a tremendous head-start before the first crews ever arrived on scene.

The homeless couple was brought up on six charges of manslaughter – for not reporting the fire. The Superior Court Judge dropped the charges, indicating it is not illegal in the State of Massachusetts to fail to report a fire.

There are parallels here to domestic abuse. In an abusive relationship there is often a long unobstructed burn time — years during which the victim has not yet identified the mistreatment as Abuse. And the oppressor minimizes what he is doing, refusing to acknowledge the severity of his behavior. He looks out only for himself. He claims that what he has said or done isn’t really all that “bad.” He doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, nor does he take steps to correct his behavior. The homeless couple looked out only for themselves. They didn’t want to be fined for squatting. And they didn’t give a thought to the firefighters who would eventually come to fight the fire. They minimized the out-of-control fire by failing to alert the proper authorities. Lives could have been saved if they had taken responsibility for their actions.

The judge is also guilty. He minimized the couple’s negligence, the fire, inter-departmental use of resources, loss of property and loss of life. He failed to invoke consequences consistent with the severity of the tragedy. Too often, we victims experience similar treatment in family court during the divorce process as we interact with lawyers, custody evaluators, and judges who do not “get it” and who actively minimize the abuse and its lasting damage to us and our children.

Enmeshment

The six story warehouse had been abandoned for 10 years; it occupied a full city block. Each floor of A-Building provided 7,000 square feet of floor space. Each floor shared a party wall with B-Building made accessible by a narrow door. The buildings were soimage1 integrated into one another (and the fire/smoke so dense) that many firefighters couldn’t tell when they left one building and entered the other. Nor were many firefighters certain which building they were in at any given moment. The USFA report mentions firefighters that never recalled having walked through the door in the party wall and into the next building.

We see this same characteristic in an unhealthy relationship; it is called enmeshment. It is part of isolation and control. The abuser expects his wife to agree with him on everything. He works at systematically disassembling her personality. Constantly forced to walk on eggshells and trying to avoid trouble, she becomes unsure where she ends and her husband begins…and certainly, she has lost most if not all of her identity or many distinguishing characteristics of her former self. Who is she? Who was she? Who has she become? Just the Stepford wife that the abuser tries to mold her to be? It’s hard to tell anymore. 

Keeping Secrets

image2Approaching from the west, Engine One reported heavy smoke, but upon arrival saw no indication of fire in the warehouse from the street.  This was largely due to the lack of windows, and the smoke column was blocked by the 80 foot walls and the elevated interstate highway.  The warehouse revealed virtually no details about its interior.  (my emphasis)

There were no windows in either building above the 2nd floor, and the windows in the first two floors were covered with plywood. It wasn’t just dim inside, it was an impenetrable darkness. As a refrigeration & cold storage unit, the inside was a literal maze of room-sized refrigeration lockers with unconventional handles that sat flush to the door – different than a standard door knob – these handles would be impossible to find in the dark. Much of the structure was in disrepair with rotted floor joists and other integrity issues. It was a death trap waiting to be sprung.

One of the failure points listed in USFA’s report is that firefighters were unfamiliar with the interior of the building and, thus, were unprepared for its hazards. Although the department knew the building existed, where it was and that it was abandoned – no one had been in it, toured it, or knew the floorplan. This building had secrets. Scary ones.

Image Grooming or Impression Management is the process by which the abuser polishes the contrived exterior he shows to others while keeping the deadly secrets of his inner, true self far from being known — to anyone. He is largely an unknown entity, keeping outsiders at arm’s length. The impenetrable darkness of his mind is hard for the victim to grasp or believe, even though she’s been hurt by it many many times.

Once the truth of his real nature is revealed, the damage has been done and escape is difficult at best if not impossible, costly and sometimes dangerous. Others watch the disaster from the outside and simply cannot believe such a mess could exist inside. If they only knew….

Psychological Abuse (Gaslighting/Crazymaking)

The maze-like layout of the room-sized refrigeration lockers only existed in B-Building while A-Building was largely open space with minimal interior walls. Indeed, the USFA report says that while the cold storage facility was still under regular operation, even seasoned workers sometimes got lost in the lockers!image3

There were three stairwells. One stairwell in B-Building only serviced the first two floors and another serviced the first three floors. A-Building had one – and only one – stairwell that accessed all floors. This was the primary means of egress for the entire building. If a firefighter was on the fourth or fifth floor of B-Building he would have to find his way to A-Building’s stairwell to get out.

While it might seem logical to assume such a building would simply be razed to the ground when such dangerous hazards exist, unfortunately, it is not within the purview of the Fire Department to enforce nor seek demolition of property.

One can draw a similarity between the mind of the abuser and the dim, maze-like existence created in the relationship by psychological abuse (gaslighting & crazymaking). Listen to Lundy Bancroft as he explains this:

I came to realize, through my experience with thousands of abusers, that the abusive man wants to be a mystery. To get away with his behavior and to avoid having to face his problem, he needs to convince everyone around him — and himself — that his behavior makes no sense. He needs his partner to focus on everything except the real cause of his behavior. To see the abuser as he really is, it is necessary to strip away layer after layer of confusion, mixed messages and deception. Like anyone with a serious problem, abusers work hard to keep their true selves hidden. (Why Does He DO That? — Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men*, p. 18)

These tactics serve to cast doubt in the mind of the victim so as to make her think she is going crazy or that history has been re-written. It becomes easy to get ensnared and lost in the labyrinth and oh, so difficult to get out. There are few escape routes and illumination is lacking. Just when you think you have him figured out, he reveals another twist, a hidden hazard and *poof* what you thought was fact becomes fiction and you are now upside down and inside out…or are you?

Lack of Accountability

One of the failures listed in USFA’s report was the outstanding building violations. Built in 1906 with an addition in 1912, it was out of Code and had never been forced to comply. When compared to residential construction from the same time period, most buildings boasted two stairwells – this commercial warehouse lacked multiple means of egress. Additionally, in B-Building a partition was erected that spanned from wall to wall across each floor, cutting off access to one of the only two stairwells and/or the cargo elevators. A solitary door in the middle of the wall provided access. 

Many of us can attest to the fact that our oppressor was not held accountable for his behavior. Instead, his chosen Safe Men or pastor embraced him in love and grace, took him to lunch, accepted his tears and pleas of false repentance as real (without evidence of change) and allowed him to continue on in full fellowship. Who asked the hard questions? Who checked with the victim to find out her perspective and her level of fear? Who held the checks and balances and refused to be fooled when things didn’t quite add up? No one. The abuser skated. Every time. No reform in his behavior. No true change. His “code” was not up to date.

Also out of date — uneducated and naive to the dynamics of domestic abuse and risk assessment/safety planning for the victim  — was the “code” of the pastors, elders, Bible Study leaders, Women’s Group leaders,  and many marriage-book authors, counselors, health workers, legislators, court officials and police officers. And the result – an unsafe environment at home, at church and in the community.

Building Allies

The official USFA report says initially two firefighters became disoriented and trapped while searching for the homeless couple. The report indicates that they became separated from one another during their original sweep. This should never have happened. Firefighters are taught not to abandon one another upon entering a building; it’s simply too dangerous and the risk too high. After the demise of these two firefighters was discovered four more firefighters were sent in to rescue them – and eventually all six became lost and died.

We sometimes see this when our oppressor seeks to divide and conquer by seeking allies or simply by stirring up strife. They can do this overtly or in less obvious ways as the abuser begins to cast doubt in the mind of friends we thought understood our situation. Like the four firefighters who as well-meaning helpers went in to the building to rescue their brothers but were trapped, our friends and supporters are often disoriented and trapped by the abuser’s fiery smoky labryinth. 

As safety deteriorates, a choice must be made and boundaries set. Unfortunately, the oppressor usually gets to keep those he worked to gain as allies, and our once Safe Friends are “lost” to us as we seek safety, peace, healing and life outside his reach & influence.

Ignoring and Silencing the Victim

In the USFA report, it is noted that a key failure in this tragedy was the fact that there image5was too much radio chatter at the time when the first two men issued their distress call. In other words, their cries for help fell silent and they had “no voice.” They tried, several times, to be heard and failed. It was not until they demanded “radio silence” that crews were even aware that personnel were in danger. Even then, there was confusion about who was in trouble, where they were and how to effectively get help to them. By this time, there were two emergencies: one was to evacuate everyone off the 2nd floor and out of the building, the other was to try to locate who had issued the distress call and find them before time ran out.

As victims, we are often silenced by the “noise” around us. We are silenced by churches whose pastors think they know better, by poor theology, by church members who simply don’t understand and offer meaningless platitudes. We are silenced by the community: by those who minimize our distress or who don’t understand it, even worse, by those who support the abuser and his mindset. We are silenced by the culture – especially the media as it promotes a lifestyle that embraces entitlement, narcissism, deception, and control. As survivors, we pray it isn’t too late to raise awareness and get the attention of those who can truly offer help to those who need it – in a timely manner.

Rekindle

After all rescue attempts had failed, all units were evacuated from the building. The fire chief called for a Five Alarm, units from neighboring departments responded to the scene and over 20 hours was spent trying to put out the fire. The crews “dug in” for the long haul trying to save what they could of the property; to no avail. It took days with massive streams of water directed at the building to address flare-ups and hidden patches of smoldering fire.

Rekindle is a known phenomenon to fire departments everywhere. It is akin to relapse in the world of the addict/abuser. The crews have expended every available resource, made secure the scene, written up the report and left the premises. Thinking their jobMA Rescuing Firefighters done, they feel hopeful that the property is salvageable to some degree. Like abusive marriages where pastors and friends simplistically suggest couples counseling, more prayer, or for the wife to simply “try harder” – these misguided individuals offer a no-mess, drop in the bucket solution where deep investigation and heavy deluge are required. Then the dreaded rekindle. Hours or sometimes days later, a pocket of smoldering embers hidden in a wall restarts and fans into a flame. All it needed was a little fuel, some air and time. The second ignition and resulting burn is often worse than the first and the damage is complete: total loss. The same is true of the “newly reformed” addict/abuser claiming transformation of former ways. When relapse occurs, and it typically does, the damage wielded is significant. In any event, the resources expended in recovery work are enormous and exhaustive.

Prioritizing Safety

After the Worcester incident, fire departments acknowledged that we needed better training in how to save ourselves and ”Save Our Own.” Programs were revamped and revitalized because of lives lost. We had to learn self-rescue. When and how to enter on behalf of a brother – when it was safe to do so and when it was not. Most importantly, we learned how to break through walls, to create a means of egress where none previously existed, to share air tanks between partners so that both might live, to carry the wounded when they cannot take another step, to search through the twisted mazes and cavernous darkness to discover the lost – and find our way out together. It is much the same when we seek help in an abusive relationship, whether for ourselves or on behalf of another.

Not Your Fault

There is always an investigation into a line-of-duty death. The Cold Storage Fire was a multi-fatality incident. It wouldn’t have been unusual for USFA to discover failure on the part of the department, its procedures, the equipment, or the firefighters involved – although to do so would have been incredibly difficult to swallow on the heels of such loss. But USFA didn’t. The report is thorough in its investigation. Worcester Fire Department did nearly everything “according to the book.” There were very few failure points discussed that could have been improved upon by the fire department – and those lessons learned likely would not have changed the outcome. In short, the blame falls almost entirely on the building: its floor plan, state of deterioration, construction and the combustible material used in its interior, the lack of escape routes and the unobstructed burn time (90 minutes) that existed from failing to report the fire. In short, the men got lost in a hazardous building, fully ablaze with zero visibility, in a state of structural deterioration with almost no means of egress.

It is a small measure of comfort to know that abuse is not our fault. That we did our job, did the best we could – and still must grieve our losses, our trauma, our pain and wounding. We can learn from the past to be healthier in the future. To understand that so much pain was not because of anything we neglected to do but because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, lost in a maze of life, trapped too long in a relationship that unraveled before our eyes, smothered by false beliefs with limited escape routes – friends, hear me please, it was not your fault.

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

Sources

Photo #1, #2, #5: “Six Career Fire Fighters Killed in Cold-Storage and Warehouse Building Fire – Massachusetts” FF9-47 by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Access the report here.

Photo #3  USFA Report.

Photo #4: Paula Ferazzi Swift formerly of Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Photo #6: “15 years since tragic Worcester Cold Storage warehouse fire”, WWLP-22News in Chicopee, MA. Access the story here.

23 Comments

  1. Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

    This is such an amazing analogy! Wow! I am blow away by the truth.

  2. Moving Forward

    Excellent! There is nothing to add. I so appreciate comparisons like this, that help make sense of what I went through and am going through. Thanks for the words. I especially appreciated the Building Allies section. Helps me to let go of church members who refuse to see, and have done all they could to help the abuser.

    • Charis

      Yes…it is such a travesty to have to grieve the loss of church community. I’m so sad to hear you are in the same boat. I eventually left and found a new body of believers who has been the very hands and feet of Christ to me during my separation and divorce.
      Hang in there, sister-friend.

      • Still Reforming

        Charis,

        Like you and others here, I mourn the loss of those I thought were my family in Christ, yet… I know they treat their blood relatives better than they’ve treated me during the death on paper of my marriage this past year. It was dead from the beginning in reality, though I knew it not then. I wonder if they were (or are) my real family in Christ, but … not for me to say. I’m just sad they didn’t handle the information about the abuse, once known, as should have been handled according to God’s own Word. (But then, I truly believe they are being misled by an abuser at the helm, who, not unlike my now ex-husband, has a very shiny veneer that only exposes the duplicity on occasion and with great subtlety.)

        I haven’t found a local body of believers, but just this morning while walking through my home and lamenting to the Lord that I don’t have a church, it was impressed upon me that I do. They’re far and wide and (not unlike our faith) I know them not by sight. They include you, and Pastor Jeff, and Barbara, and the woman behind the curtain, and Ellie, and StillScared, StandsWithAFist, AProdigalDaughterReturns, and on and on…. They are on different Christian abuse-supporter websites, and they are my church family. I worship daily at home – not with prescribed times or hours. I learn on-line and via teaching download on mp3 player. I am kept by my Lord and His invisible church is no longer local to me, but I trust Him.

        And…. I am grateful to Him for your post, which was a remarkable read and had so many cogent points that hit the nail squarely on the head.

        Thank you.

  3. What an amazing, thoughtful piece! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Herjourney

    It’s a tragedy..
    When the abusers allies are your own kids.
    How deceptive is the enemy ?
    He walks amoung the sheep.
    To destroy our testimony in Christ.
    Be on guard then.
    The Serpant is not dead yet.
    He knows his time is short.

  5. Victoria de la Cruz

    So much truth in this analogy!!
    I indeed felt trapped, lost in the maze of life, until the fog (or smoke) cleared…and in the end, five years after my exodus, this rings true for me:

    “As safety deteriorates, a choice must be made and boundaries set. Unfortunately, the oppressor usually gets to keep those he worked to gain as allies, and our once Safe Friends are “lost” to us as we seek safety, peace, healing and life outside his reach & influence.”

    Yep, he was taken in under the wing of what used to be mutual friends; invited to dinner and even travel, while I was left alone to pick up the pieces for myself and my children. I’ve since left the state and completely started my life over (being close to family again helps immensely–I had given that up to relocate with him for his job).
    But he is still there, back in my former city, with as active a social and church life as ever. Even more so, since he is not encumbered by the burdens of family.

    All the connections I had over thirty years sided with him.
    But I have peace and contentment and I would never go back!!

    • Charis

      Grieving the loss of friends built over decades is like amputating body parts – painful with phantom pains that echo on and off during seasons of memories.

      I’ve had to make similar decisions as I’ve watched my exh make allies of mentors and friends I’ve lived with when single, worked with, learned & studied under – it’s heartbreaking.

      And yes, the peace and contentment is resounding.
      Through ashes…there is beauty…through death; new life.

  6. KayE

    This is a brilliant and thought-provoking analogy. If only it could be widely read.

  7. Savedbygrace

    Thankyou so much Charis for sharing these insights- thankyou for your thoughtful reflection – I find it so helpful to ‘see’ the dynamics of abuse in a clearer light through the retelling of this terrible tragedy and the lessons learned. “Truth is stranger than fiction” as this investigation reveals and all these points have come together to create such loss- I think this is also why abuse is sometimes so ‘unbelievable’ to many. Often we/others don’t take the care to have a hard look at what really has gone on and be brave and truthful enough to name it and learn from it for a safer future.
    I think this: It becomes easy to get ensnared and lost in the labyrinth and oh, so difficult to get out. There are few escape routes and illumination is lacking. Is a good illustration to help people who ask ‘Why did she stay so long?’

    • Charis

      “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Absolutely.

      Getting lost in the labyrinth is definitely repetitious. For myself, I kept getting lost in the “fog” over and over again even as I was working my way “out.” I would doubt myself. Then read & understand clearly. See more truth about my exh revealed. Get confused and lost. See the light. Doubt again. It was a two steps forward, one step back sort of crawl. Barb’s “back-stitching” article was a GREAT help as so many other posts here were, too.

      Eds note: Here is a link to the post that discusses the backstitch analogy that Charis is referring to. Scroll to the bottom of the post to read the analogy — though the entire post is worth reading 🙂
      Does the victim recognize the abusive patterns? Yes, and no. And then, by degrees, YES!

  8. Sarah

    brilliant! It echoed so much of my own experience

  9. healinginhim

    I remember when Charis first posted comments about this incident on another post. It had me researching for more info.
    Thank you for this post … what more can be said as it encompasses so much of what we are living? So sad that many don’t want to help us out of the maze. 😦

  10. standingfirm

    One day these abusers will stand before God almighty and face the “destruction” they have caused, and then it will be to late. They will have no where to run and hide. God is a great equalizer. Wonderful post!

  11. kind of anonymous

    Wow, this is indeed a real parallel, though a tragic one. I was thinking about the part that says

    As victims, we are often silenced by the “noise” around us. We are silenced by churches whose pastors think they know better, by poor theology, by church members who simply don’t understand and offer meaningless platitudes.

    We are too, often silenced and intimidated by those who are otherwise bibilically solid and regarded as godly men and bibilically excellent teachers as well; it often leaves one feeling that if we disagree with such a man, are we guilty of disagreeing with God too, since this respected theologian isn’t saying that emotional or phyiscal abuse is really destructive enough to warrant leaving.

    For me at least, I think being overwhelmed by the noise around me had to do with being like a city whose walls were fallen down; I had no inner boundaries and so everyone’s voice was in my head but I had no permission to hear my own let alone choose it over the others. Ironically while so much of the teaching was aimed at putting down self, as though the main problem was that people’s selves were a thousand feet above sidewalk level, I needed to be brought up from way below sidewalk level just to stand on the sidewalk above ground. I actually took two years off of attending church, because I was so overwhelmed with the all the opinions of others, a fact that horrified, threatened and alarmed any christian who found out; I was reminded that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Funny how people forget the purpose of fellowship, strengthening the weak, speaking truth, comforting, building up, bearing one another’s burdens. I could safely leave church for a decade and not miss much of THAT.

    The part about rekindling can be true in another way also: We hear very little instruction or teaching on how the evil of direct abuse affects how we think and relate, and on how to recognize things like trauma bonds and the spiritual stuff that can go with it. We may hear that it wasn’t our fault we were abused and that God loves us but that is not enough. Our reality construct needs major rebuilding and sadly those who are in charge of supplying materials are often supplying wrong or inadquate stuff.

    So the one who has experienced a destructive relationship is left sitting in the dark, asking agonizing questions like ” How did i get here? Why do I freeze and remain in emotional and spiritual paralysis for so long?Why do I seem to wind up with this kind of man? What needs to be fixed in my heart, my thinking and does the bible really say anything about my kind of situation? Does the bible even speak of things like trauma bonds, splitting and PTSD? How can I change and grow strong and whole so that I never have beliefs that lead to tolerating evil again? And so, the stage is set for a rekindle, to walk right into another situation armed with weapons that don’t fire, beliefs that cause a repeat of the past and armour that is full of holes. If you think getting help the first time is hard, try it if you’ve walked into another dysfunctional relationship.

    Re: Impression management, I experienced this one when my ex husband went to various churches and people we had known and attempted to sell his story of being an innocent abandoned husband treacherously divorced by his messed up wife. I WAS messed up from years of family violence and abuse, which is WHY I wound up entangled with someone like him and his controllling family, and why his tactics worked. He even attempted to sell me on the idea that my family liked him better than they liked me. How sick and deliberately cruel on his part. Thankfully there was a woman in leadership who knew that I’d commited another year to doing my part to working on a marriage I had felt entrapped into, by making some changes in an effort to please my husband and his family whose values were very different than mine, you know the old “When in Rome….” thing. It helped a bit, but their behaviours had to do with things in their lives not mine and so it wasn’t a complete solution by any means. The leader didn’t buy his strategy, thankfully but it shocked me that someone could be that deliberate to go around trying to get there first with their version of events. I didn’t do such a thing to him. We sure need help to see through things, dont’ we? Thanks for this article ,very eye opening.

  12. Charis

    So much of your story & journey resonates with me. I especially relate to these:

    We are too, often silenced and intimidated by those who are otherwise bibilically solid and regarded as godly men and bibilically excellent teachers as well; it often leaves one feeling that if we disagree with such a man, are we guilty of disagreeing with God too…

    and

    So the one who has experienced a destructive relationship is left sitting in the dark, asking agonizing questions like ” How did i get here? Why do I freeze and remain in emotional and spiritual paralysis for so long?Why do I seem to wind up with this kind of man? What needs to be fixed in my heart, my thinking and does the bible really say anything about my kind of situation? Does the bible even speak of things like trauma bonds, splitting and PTSD? How can I change and grow strong and whole so that I never have beliefs that lead to tolerating evil again?

    I still remember the shock and confusion I felt when the pastor-elder I sought guidance from accused me of false intentions: “I really don’t believe you are seeking answers to these Biblical questions. You already have the answers. You are just looking for someone to blame for all your pain.”

    I left that session reeling. I wondered if he was correct. Was I wrong? Was he right? Or vice versa? Here was someone I respected greatly. Who was I to disagree with him…”for the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things and beyond cure – who can understand it?” Perhaps I shouldn’t “trust” myself…or my heart. He was someone I thought I could trust.

    I’m so sad to hear of your pain. Hopefully, you are building anew and finding peace in that process.

  13. Charis

    Still Reforming~
    Your comment brought to mind the lyrics of an old church song I learned long ago:
    “The Church’s one foundation
    Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
    She is His new creation
    By water and the Word.
    From heaven He came and sought her
    To be His holy bride;
    With His own blood He bought her
    And for her life He died.

    She is from every nation,
    Yet one o’er all the earth;
    Her charter of salvation,
    One Lord, one faith, one birth;
    One holy Name she blesses,
    Partakes one Holy Food,
    And to one Hope she presses,
    With every grace endued.

    The Church shall never perish!
    Her dear Lord to defend,
    To guide, sustain, and cherish,
    Is with her to the end:
    Though there be those who hate her,
    And false sons in her pale,
    Against or foe or traitor
    She ever shall prevail.

    Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed:
    Yet saints their watch are keeping,
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song!

    ’Mid toil and tribulation,
    And tumult of her war,
    She waits the consummation
    Of peace forevermore;
    Till, with the vision glorious,
    Her longing eyes are blest,
    And the great Church victorious
    Shall be the Church at rest.”

    I join with you – as do the rest of our fellow worshipers both near and far – in trusting Christ, following Truth, doing justice, seeking mercy and walking humbly.
    Thank you for your encouragement.

    • I love that hymn, Charis!
      We are happy to publish the lyrics here as it is so old it must be in the public domain. (We can’t publish hymn or song lyrics if they are under copyright).

      There is an interesting snippet on Wikipedia about the reason that hymn was written:

      “The Church’s One Foundation” is a Christian hymn written in the 1860s by Samuel John Stone.

      The song was written as a direct response to some teaching, considered unorthodox at the time, by John William Colenso, first Bishop of Natal, which created schism within the Church of South Africa. This topic is alluded to within the fourth verse of the text “Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.” When Bishop Colenso was deposed for his teachings, he appealed to the higher ecclesiastical authorities in England.

      It was then that Samuel Stone became involved in the debate. It inspired him to write a set of hymns based on the Apostles’ Creed in 1866. He titled it, Lyra Fidelium; Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles’ Creed. “The Church’s One Foundation” is based on the ninth article, The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints.

      That intrigues me, because the verse I’ve always liked most is the fourth verse. I knew the person who wrote it must have been in battle against heresy.

    • healinginhim

      Amen.

    • Here is another link that discusses the history of this hymn. And also discusses the debate which surrounded the writing of this hymn.

      Thank you to a faithful reader who made us aware of this!

  14. kind of anonymous

    Thank you Charis for your kind and supportive words. Wow, what a dumb statement from your elder about looking for someone to blame for your pain. I’ve been rolling his words around in my mind, for a bit here. So he is suggesting that you don’t want real help, you just want a convenient scapegoat upon whom to heap the blame? Hmm. If you turn it around, the irony could be that this possibly describes what HE was doing; refusing to give real help and real bibilcal answers because he lacked the spiritual reality projected by his image, and making you a convenient scapegoat so he could avoid facing such realities. This is sadly all too common, lots of window dressing but nothing much in the store. I think it was AW Tozer who said ” The hungry sheep look up and are not fed”. Even if he thought that it was true that you wanted someone to blame for how you hurt, if motivated by love and by the Spirit, he no doubt could have asked ” If you knew who to blame for your pain, in what way do you feel it would help or alleviate the pain”? Instead he just judged you and impugned your motives. Good counselors draw out your heart, they don’t attack it. (((((((( ))))))))))

    Regarding building anew, i am working on identify what and how 🙂

  15. Grateful

    Bravely and beautifully written. Domestic and spiritual abuse paired with narcissism and abandonment is a wicked and potent cocktail for destruction. Grateful for your deep and abiding relationship with the Lord, even though there are no magic potions to make the pain evaporate or the wounds and scars to disappear. You are loved and valued. Thank you for sharing this insightfully vulnerable piece!

    [screen name changed to protect identity]

    • Welcome to the blog. You will notice I changed your screen name to ‘Grateful’, to protect your identity. Also, did you realise that your photo is showing as your gravatar? If that might jeopardise your safety, I suggest you change it. Email our twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she is our helper on the blog and she goes by the name The Woman Behind the Curtain :). She can give you guidance on how to remove your photo from your gravatar.

      And we always encourage new commenters to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

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