#ChurchToo Wake-Up Call

We must apologize,

PROTECT, DEFEND AND SUPPORT

women who have been re-victimized by the very churches they counted on for help and support.

Jesus calls us to put our love in ACTION. Let’s end rape culture in the church by admitting our sins and purposefully ACTING like Christ – lets join, celebrate, uplift and love our marginalized siblings. 💙💜💚💛 Get to know by spending time with them like Christ did. #ChuchToo

My Hubby’s post from his blog on the Unexpected Pastor

Nassar Survivor’s Wake-up Call to the Church

A couple of days ago I read a Huffington Post article about the first woman who had the courage to step forward and publicly accuse US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of abuse.

Rachel Denhollander, one of 150 survivors who testified at Dr. Nassar’s trial, is quoted in the article saying, “Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse . . . It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help.”

Denhollander describes the shame-provoking assumption among congregants and leaders in her church that she had done something to open herself to abuse, as well as the implication that she should have forgiven her abuser more quickly.

Ashley Easter, an advocate for abuse survivors is also quoted in the article:

Many churches hold poor interpretations of Scripture that imply the victim is somehow at fault for dressing or acting a certain way ‘immodestly,’ that speaking up about abuse is ‘gossip’ or ‘slander,’ and that forgiveness is moving on without demanding justice for the victims. These stances are a stark contrast from Jesus’ ministry to the marginalized.

We have to do better.

First, we who are the church must confess that we have often missed the mark in the past. Not only have we held women complicit in their own victimization, we have been too focused on reconciliation and rushing survivors to forgiveness that will make us more comfortable, rather than acknowledging and sitting with the pain of women who have been victimized.

We must apologize to women who have been re-victimized by the very churches they have counted on for help and support.

It is essential that we acknowledge the ways patriarchal systems of “male headship” within churches and families have given men license to mistreat women.

Finally, we must care for survivors of abuse the way Jesus responded to marginalized individuals he encountered (see especially the Samaritan woman at the well) – with empathy and unconditional love.

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Healthy Relationships 101: TOXIC Love

Healthy Relationships 101: TOXIC Love

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Toxic LoveI hadn’t anticipated discussing toxic relationships on Mother’s Day but I guess God had a plan and a sense of humor. Many like me have a toxic mother. So this post is dedicated to everyone who struggles with a healthy relationship with their mom.

Toxic relationships are by definition NOT healthy. They are harmful, destructive and dangerous.  They don’t work. The participants hurt each other and should be kept apart.

The good news about creating a bible study about toxic relationships is that the bible is full of toxic relationships. The hard part is choosing which ones to include in a one hour study.

The bible is the first tabloid. The bible spares no one. It reports everyone’s dirty laundry.  Mental illness, sex scandals, murder, rape, incest, addictions, betrayal, rags to riches, riches to rags, lies and all other criminal activity is described in great detail. Here are a few that hit the tabloids:

  • Adam Humiliates Eve: The first marital spat leads to the downfall of humankind. Eve despises Adam for humiliating her in front of God. She never forced him to eat the fruit, she didn’t trick him and he lied to her about the rules of Eden. She wants a divorce. But he’s the only guy. Genesis 3
  • Brother Charged with MURDER: Sibling rivalry goes wrong. An unthinkable homicide, Cain kills Abel in cold blood.  Why couldn’t they get along? Genesis 4:8
  • Bye Bye Joe: Another family feud. Hostility high, brothers sell favorite child for twenty pieces of silver but he was worth so much more. Genesis 37
  • NO Justice for Rape Victims: More rape than on a college campus. Dinah, Tamar, Bathsheba and nameless victims. Genesis 34, 2 Samuel 11, 2 Samuel 13, Judges 19
  • Bad Dads: Abraham blames God for attempted murder of Isaac. Isaac plays favorites. Lot offers daughters to be raped by angry mob. David worse biblical father ever. Solomon missing in action. Genesis 19, Genesis 22, Genesis 25, 1 Kings 11

Aside from Jesus’ relationships with his disciples and family, every relationship in the bible is dysfunctional. Our relationships seem healthy compared to our biblical family.

However before we start throwing mud, it is really important to get grounded in truth.  All relationships are occasionally dysfunctional.

We live in a sinful fallen world. Everyone has flaws. We all sin. We all fall short (Romans 3:23). Therefore our relationships fall short.

While the Good Samaritan is a great story to teach us how to love a stranger, it provides little help in getting along with your mother, brother, spouse, friend, in-laws or boss. Some people are mean. Sometimes we are mean, grumpy and difficult.

If you surfed the internet for quizzes to determine if your relationship or someone else’s is toxic, chances are it is dysfunctional if not toxic.

  1. How do we know if our relationship is healthy?

 

A relationship is healthy when both individuals feel loved and supported.  They know they are loved.  They respect each other.  They appreciate one another’s gifts and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. They communicate.  They spend time together. They are able to resolve their differences or agree to disagree. The relationship works.  It is functional.

  1. Describe a dysfunctional relationship. What makes it dysfunctional?

 

A relationship is dysfunctional when it is not working.  The participants don’t feel loved or supported. They fail to communicate, spend time together and treat each other with kindness. They can’t express their differences or come to an agreement. They may bicker, fight or ignore each other.

A relationship can start dysfunctional, become dysfunctional or have periods of dysfunction during stress or change. Dysfunction is usually related to differences in personalities, cultures, expectations and the way we adapt. Typically, a dysfunctional relationship can be improved with intervention. The relationship may not need to be ended.  It needs an adjustment.

  1. Describe a toxic relationship. What makes it toxic? Have you ever been in a toxic relationship?

Toxic relationships are poisonous and may be fatal. They will not get better on their own, get worse when challenged, they require professional intervention and separation. A toxic relationship may be physically, sexually, emotionally or psychologically abusive.

Toxic people should come with the warning labels:

CODEPENDENT: I am constantly seeking someone to complete me.  I can’t be alone.  I am either the savior or victim.  We hold each other hostage. As the savior, I enable addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. I’m always helping, making excuses for my partner and don’t see myself as part of the problem. As the victim, I am stuck in my past, lack self-sufficiency and suicidal.  I turn to relationships or other addictions to show my brokenness. Both need professional help.

BullyAbusive: I am controlling and jealous.  I am a bully at home, school, work and on the highway. I have no boundaries. It isn’t personal. I feel responsible for controlling everyone in my environment.  I treat everyone like a servant or child.  You will have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone. I will find your weakness and humiliate, blackmail and shame you. My threats are real.  I will hurt you, the people or things you love. You don’t control me.  It’s not cheating if I sleep with someone else. It is your fault I lose my temper. I will do whatever I have to do to control you; including rape or murder. Don’t tell me you’re leaving. I won’t take it well. You will need help, a safety plan and protection to get away.  I need to be incarcerated with at least three years of treatment and a lifetime of monitoring.

Passive Aggressive:  I am an unreliable liar.  I always agree with you.  Why don’t you believe me?  Just because I agreed the cat was obese and kept feeding her after you went to bed doesn’t mean I didn’t agree with you.  I always say I’ll be there but something always gets in the way. When you accuse me of being passive aggressive or simply frustrating I am extremely apologetic, confused and hurt. Obviously I didn’t understand your instructions. You wonder if you are going crazy.  You are. You wonder if I love you.  I don’t.  I find you as annoying and difficult as you find me. I am the most challenging personality to help. If the professionals can’t help me, you can’t help me. Leave. Seek help.

DISSOCIATIVE: I am cold, frosty, dismissive and distant.  I don’t show affection because I don’t know how and you can’t teach me. I dissociate.  I don’t remember the past.  I am frozen in the present and I can’t anticipate a future. It doesn’t seem like I’m here because I’m not. I will not warm up after we get married, have children or spend time together. A stone baking in the sun will give you more warmth. I need professional help.

Narcissist: I am arrogant because I am always right because I am a narcissist. I am perfect.  I give advice to everyone else. I know exactly why I am better than everyone else.  I generously share my opinions. You can’t love me more than I love myself. Please don’t remove my mirrors.  I keep myself company by talking to myself. I am snobbish because I am a snob.  I am always the smartest, most attractive, important person.  I am special. I am unique. I know you admire me. It is okay to tell me how much you like me.  Don’t expect me to love you. I’m too busy loving myself. I’m not taking advantage of other people. I am giving them the advantage of loving me. I have no boundaries. I deserve everything I have and everything you have. I don’t need help.  You do.

Toxic people have personality disorders that were either developed in a toxic environment, inherited or both. Toxic people make toxic relationships.  Both the victim and the abuser are toxic and need professional intervention.

Healthy people know when they come into contact with a toxic person because the eerie music comes on like in the movies and their gut tells them to get away before something bad happens.

CAUTION: If you are often caught off guard by toxic people or frequently find yourself in toxic relationships, you are probably a toxic person. Get help!

ATTENTION: If you are a perfectionist, controlling, rude, critical, negative, judgmental, frequently complain, angry, interrupt others, difficult to please, hold grudges, blame others, withhold appreciation, enjoy punishing others and think you are better than everyone else. You are toxic.  Get Help!

Toxic people do not know how to resolve conflict.

  1. Who taught you how to resolve conflict? What did they teach you?  Does it work?

God gave us the Commandments to teach us how to love each other (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). We first prepare ourselves for relationships by constantly developing our skills to love. Jesus taught us how to resolve conflict when we harm others. Read Luke 6:42

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Jesus further advised us in Matthew 5:23-48 (paraphrased):

When we realize our brother or sister has something against us, we should immediately go, ask for forgiveness and be reconciled to them.  We should settle our disagreements quickly.  If they are not satisfied, we seek counsel.

We should seek professional help if we find we are unable to love our family, friends, neighbors or self. `

We don’t need to swear or make oaths.  We should be honest.

We should be generous with our forgiveness, our apologies and restitution. Apologize when we are wrong and restore what we have harmed.

We should love like God.  Love the people who hate us.  Greet everyone with kindness. Pray for everyone. Love.

In this way we love others the way we want to be loved.

Love is the key ingredient to a healthy relationship. A relationship without love is not healthy.  Relationships fall short when we don’t know how to love. And the most beautiful expressions of love is grace, mercy and forgiveness. Resolving conflict is the gateway to a deeper long lasting love.

Our love letter from God doesn’t advise us to pretend we aren’t hurt. God’s Word repeatedly tells us how much sin hurts.  We were born equipped with the ability to scream out for help. We weren’t taught to say Ouch!  We just did. It was a normal natural sound to tell those who cared about us that we needed help.

  1. Why is it so difficult to ask for help? Why do we avoid conflict? Why is it so difficult to express pain?

 

“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up…” Proverbs 23:29-35

Proverbs asks “when will we wake up”. It implies that if we are hit and claim it doesn’t hurt, we must be drunk, something must be numbing the pain. When we deny being hurt those who wish to harm us will hit harder.

During our journey for the greatest truth, LOVE, we are called to make an honest assessment of unhealthy attitudes, beliefs and habits (sin) blocking our path. The Holy Spirit is trying to lovingly shake us; to wake us up.

We are called to resolve conflict, not create or ignore conflict. Conflict resolution must be rooted in love. Remember and read Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

The first step to resolving conflict is to prepare our hearts. Read Luke 6:37

Judging Others ] “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

We must forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean conflict is resolved or that the relationship is completely restored.  It also doesn’t mean we allow them to continue to hurt us.

Forgiveness frees us from the anger and resentment.  It stops the hurt. Forgiveness restores our health and makes conflict resolution possible.  But it isn’t automatic.  The other person has a choice.

We must forgive them when they repent, no matter how many times they hurt us (Luke 17:4).  But we don’t have to let them keep hurting us.  Nor do we have to maintain a relationship with a toxic person. Sometimes the healthiest way to resolve conflict is to let go.

Jesus gave us the biblical steps to resolve conflict at home, work, school and at church. Read Matthew 18:15

“If your brother or sister hurts you or someone else, go and talk to them, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

We must be in constant prayer before, during and after our conversation. We must be ready to forgive, be open, listen, apologize for our sins and restore health to the relationship. How to respond if you have hurt them, “I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

We also must be fair and realize they may not be ready to restore the relationship. Read Matthew 18:16

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

Once again, be in constant prayer before, during and after your conversation. Be ready to forgive, listen, apologize and restore health to the relationship.

Be fair and realize they may not be ready. They may have other issues blinding them from the truth.

Don’t speak for God! Things often get worse before they get better. Telling someone in quick sand to trust you and that everything will be OK doesn’t help.  Stay in the moment, leave their future to God.

Keep them in prayer. Pray that God speaks directly to them, that they will feel the Holy Spirit comforting them. If they are toxic and a risk to themselves or others. Read Matthew 18:17

If they still refuse to listen, don’t meet with them again without professional help; and if they refuse to listen leave them to the mercies of God and the world.

Remember we have a choice.  God doesn’t force us to resolve our conflicts so we shouldn’t force anyone to resolve their conflicts.  Sometimes the most peaceful and loving resolution is a healthy farewell.

peaceGod’s formula for conflict resolution comes with a promise. Read Matthew 19-20

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Amen!

Homework: Make a list of the people you have hurt or have hurt you.  Talk to God for these people.  Keep praying every time they enter your mind. Matthew 7:7

[Effective Prayer ] “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. 

Not sure what to say:

“God be with my _____, hold him/her, love him/her and give _______ your grace. Help me restore our relationship. Amen”

Stay Focused: You may not know what wall is preventing them from resolving conflict. Your experiences may or may not be relevant. God promises to use your experiences when the time is right.  Don’t waste time and energy sharing something personal and precious with someone who isn’t capable of listening. The rule is simple: Share your story if/when they ask for it. Or start a blog so they can read it if/when they want. Amen.

Resources

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

 

Healthy Relationships 101: God’s Perfect LOVE

Luke 10_27“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love (Name or Relationship) as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

What do you give a God who has everything?

Since we’re learning about healthy relationships, it is important to point out that God doesn’t play games, we don’t have to guess what to get God for Christmas, Easter or just because.  We don’t have to worry about getting the wrong size or whether it’s returnable because we have a list of what our Lord wants:

The First Commandments

Read Exodus 20:1-11 (NIV)

And God spoke:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.

1. What does God want?

Jesus came to earth to show us how to keep the commandments. In summary:

Read Matthew 22:37-38

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

In one word, God wants LOVE (Romans 13:10). Love never wears out, it always fits and God appreciates it.  Love is priceless so we can afford it.

2. Describe someone or something you love with all your heart, soul and mind.

I love my husband. I have one husband. I have no other husbands. I look forward to seeing him.  Saying his name brings me joy. I love spending time with him and set aside time to spend with him.  I am in love with my husband and can safely say I love him all the time but…

I also misuse his name.

I want to love him with all my heart, soul and mind all the time.  He deserves to be loved that way and I’m thankful he is loved that way …by our dogs. I can’t compete with our dogs.

Our dogs love us with all their heart, soul and mind.  It is obvious.  No matter how many times anyone in the family leaves and comes back; the dogs are sad when they leave and thrilled when they return.  It doesn’t matter if it is ten minutes, ten seconds or ten days, the dogs greet us full of joy.  It doesn’t matter if they are sick or old, they still lift their head and wag their tail.  They love with all their heart, soul, mind and body.  They put love in action.

praise_1740c3_web 3. Imagined if we arrived for church excited to see God, wagging our tails and lifting our voices. Have you ever showed that kind of love for God?

Describe what church would be like.

We want the same love and support God asks for in the first commandments. We want to hear our name said in kindness.  We want someone who sets aside time for us. We love people who are nice to us.

And we are hurt when someone misuses our name, we get jealous and we want anyone who hates us to be punished.

4. Has anyone misused your name? If so, describe what it felt like.

In a healthy relationship both people feel they are loved and supported all the time.

Read Exodus 34:6-7

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

We have half of a healthy relationship.

Read Together:

God loves me.  God never misuses my name and is with me at all times and in all places. God is NEVER too busy; my problems are never too small.

 God treats me with respect.  God supports the things I like, listens to me, celebrates my accomplishments, doesn’t criticize me and respects my decisions.

God has healthy boundaries. I have the freedom to voice my concerns and I can walk away. I am not forced to love God. God respects my choice.

 God loves me so much that Jesus came to die for me on the cross.

And read John 3:16

God so loved the world that HE gave HIS one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

5. Do you believe God loves you and that Jesus died on that cross just for you?

6. Why is it hard to believe?

Many don’t believe Jesus died on the cross for them.  They see God through the distorted mirrors of their childhood. If they grew up in a dysfunctional environment and the people around them were angry, mean, cold, distant and unloving than God must be angry, mean, cold, distant and unloving. They use a faulty reflection of God, themselves and others to evaluate their worth. They feel cursed, abandoned, unattractive, unimportant and unloved.

They see the commandments as a list of failures.

They see Jesus with the “chosen” people; blessing them with beauty, health, wealth, popularity, love and everything else they feel denied. And when the “chosen” bully them, it further confirms that they are and will always be the last, least, lost and left out.

Satan is a master at separating us from God. He tells his victims that God made them infertile; God took their children, parents, spouse, siblings or friends away.  God made them poor, hungry, broken and hurt. Satan wants us to be angry at God.  He wants us to believe that our anger separates us from God and we are alone.

Because Satan knows grief is a very difficult and painful journey to walk alone. And when loss seeps in, it chases joy and hope away so Satan can surround us in his cold, dark hopeless hands. And there Satan leaves us.

But we’re not alone.

Anger does not separate us from God.  Anger can be healthy. It is not always a sign of weakness or immaturity. God gets angry. God gave us anger to express our disappointment and vulnerability. Anger is our most passionate acknowledgement of God and our helplessness.  Our anger and disappointment is a confession of the power God to save us. Anger shows we care enough to want something different. Anger is scary because it is raw and lacks control.  Anger can be dysfunctional if it is harmful, abusive or repressed into resentment. Anger can become a scary mask to hide our tears and pain.

But we are never alone. God hides in our weakness.  God meets us during our darkest moments. God finds us when we are most vulnerable and in need of a savior. God stays with us as we wrestle together through the stages of loss. God embraces us and wipes our tears. (Beatitudes, Matthew 5)

Jesus is our Savior. Jesus was born poor, out-of-wedlock in a barn. He hung out with the wrong crowd. He wasn’t attractive, popular or wealthy. He suffered.

Wooden-Cross-weatheredJesus was bullied, beaten and crucified. He lost friends and loved ones to death.  Jesus understands our pain. Jesus weeps for us. Jesus says we are blessed when we suffer, mourn, thirst or any other way we meet him at the cross.

He feeds people, heals people, and raises people from the dead. He conquered death on the cross.

When Christ was crucified, God forgave our sins, rescued us from death and gave us eternal salvation.

And His tomb is empty.

Jesus showed us how to love God by first loving us.  Jesus prayed, spent time with and communicated with God.  He never misused God’s name.  Jesus taught us how to call upon our Lord.

Healthy relationships aren’t about how accomplished, popular, wealthy or beautiful we are.  They are about how well we love or more importantly who loves us – God’s perfect love.

In the waters of baptism grace is poured out upon us (Mark 16:16, Romans 6:3, 5). And God says to each of us

“(Name)_ you are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

Homework: This week pray to build healthy, not hurtful relationships. Talk with God. Tell God about your hurts and listen for God. Read the statement we read together. Matthew 7:7 [Effective Prayer ] “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. Not sure what to say: “God be with me, hold me, love me and give me your grace. Help me to hear you call my name.  Let me know you are with me. Amen”

“‘“The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’  Amen
                                     Numbers 6:24-26

Our relationship with God is the cornerstone to a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. Brothers and sisters struggling with abuse, anger or their relationship with God are strongly encouraged to seek counseling for hope and healing. Christ peace.

Rejoice and Pray

Praying

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Lord, I love talking with you!  Thank you for letting me know you are always there, for always listening day and night, and for answering all my prayers.

Thank you for freeing me from my sins.  Thank you for freeing me of shame, grief and fear.

Forgive my enemies. Give them a taste of your love,  wrap them in your forgiveness and rejoice with them.

Thank you for your comfort, removing my pain and bringing joy. I love hearing your laughter.

Dance with me. Shout with me.  Thank you for always being part of the conversation. Let’s celebrate! Amen.

Silent No More! Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month (October),  I pray my story inspires others to run for safety!

My family had lots of dirty secrets. We didn’t air our dirty laundry. We didn’t get help. And the neighbors minded their own business.

My baptism was my parents greatest blessing to me.  God became my constant companion. I prayed for God to wave His magic wand or sprinkle fairy dust or whatever it took to fix my family. I believed if I prayed hard enough, participated in the church; knew the Bible; obeyed God’s commandments and was “perfect”- God would answer my prayers.

I lost hope when my brother committed suicide and another died a year later.

I was angry!  I didn’t want God to hold me or wipe my tears. I wanted God to raise my brothers from the dead; not later-NOW!

I thought-God must not love me. God allowed all these horrible things to happen to me. God abandoned me or God didn’t exist. No one was ever going to rescue me.

I wanted God to stop the flood of abuse but allow me to keep my family and all of our secrets. This was my plan; not God’s plan.

I realize now that God led me to a therapist who labeled the abuse, told me to get self-sufficient, run and never look back! But I answered, “No thanks God will save me.”

God didn’t give up on me. God led other people into my life to save me.

My first husband tried to kill me. I’m here today because God sent the police. God led us to a pastor who refused to marry us, but my parents said, “Marry him because the invitations have already been sent!” But God tried to again by getting the limo driver lost but my mother drove me to the church. I married the man who tried to kill me!

God kept trying. A compassionate doctor tried to save me from my abusive husband and family, but I assured him, ‘I’ll be ok’.

God sent the police to save my son and me but I had too much pride to go to a shelter.

Finally, I left my abusive husband, running back to my equally abusive family.  I wasn’t safe.  My son wasn’t safe.  I couldn’t protect him.

God led me back to church and bible study. God’s word made me strong. The Holy Spirit gave me courage.  I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes. I insisted my future husband had to attend church to date me.

During our wedding vows God told me to leave my abusive family but I wasn’t listening. God inspired my new husband to adopt my son to keep him safe.

However, the flood of dysfunction continued to climb. Hurtful people were still in our life. I was still keeping secrets. I had my own children and by denying the abuse, they weren’t safe.

Easter Sunday (2003) was a day of awakening for me. The pastor asked the congregation to raise their hands if they wanted to live forever. My husband raised his hand. I didn’t. I didn’t want to live forever. I accepted I would live forever but I didn’t want to live forever. I wouldn’t ask for another hour, minute or moment to serve my painful sentence.

I struggled with defining a “scripturally” correct relationship with my family. Honor your father and mother – but my mother hurt me, she hurt my children.

Turn the other cheek, but what if the other cheek belongs to my son or daughter? How do I protect my children and remain faithful?

I prayed earnestly for a savior and with each prayer I heard a voice telling me to run; screaming over the waves threatening to drown us that we needed help – we needed to escape.

I listened that Easter Sunday. I promised during my wedding vows, “Where you go, I go; where you live, I’ll live…so help me God!” (Ruth 1:17) Verse 16 actually says “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home.”

God called Abraham, Joseph, Moses, many prophets, his disciples and so many others to leave their families and follow Him…so why cling to mine???

Finally I said good-bye to abusive relationships. I committed to keep my children safe.  Thankful for God.  Thankful, my children and I could be safe.

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord
make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

God enabled me to follow His path, forgive and love my abusers from a safe distance, and gave me a new church family. I never imagined God would give me the courage and the honor of sharing my story.

My children and I are safe. We live a happily and safely ever after in Christ’s peace. I pray for all my fellow sisters, brothers and their children living in fear.  Lord, bring them to safety and drive fast! Amen

LIAR! Pants on Fire

Pinoccio LiarA preacher’s wife confession:

I am a liar!  I have always been a liar and deserve to be thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur for my sins.

What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. Proverbs 19:22

I don’t know when I told my last lie, nor do I recall what it was about.  I assume it was to my husband but really don’t know. My last lie may have been to myself when I promised to stop lying. Or more likely it is when I pretend to know what it is like to have a happy childhood, loving family or be a preacher’s wife.

I lied for too long and about too much to recognize the truth. The truth and I have an anxious love affair. I fear I will always wrestle with truth.

I confess my love for my many lies.  I miss the salve of laughter and joy they brought. I really wanted to believe my parents were good.  I really wanted to believe they loved me.  I wished with all my heart and soul that my sister would become the beautiful, kind, loving and protective big sister I held in my heart. I wanted these to be truths.

Lies kept me alive. Believing them made them believable. It is so hard to put so many of them to rest.  They became my companions. I owe them a great deal.  And I have no idea the proper way to repay them.  I feel like a murderer every time I put one down.  I stand before their graves and pay homage to the ways they kept me safe.

I learned to lie to survive.  It isn’t an excuse just a reality of an abuse victim. It is the truth to how I survived.  It is the truth to how I turned out so well. Lies provided hope to me when I lived in a very dark world. They inspired me to live the life I wanted.

Lies promised God would magically make my dreams come true if I just prayed hard enough, my faith was deep enough and if I just let the bad stuff go and pretend to live the fairy tale.

Happiness is a state of mind!  And lies helped me achieve it. Although it may only have been the mask of fear and grief, lies helped me to laugh harder and louder, hoping the truth would be scared away.

I do recall the times I pulled the curtain of lies aside to step into the light.  I realize it is shameful to admit the lies far outweigh the times of truth.  Yet the truth must start somewhere.

Truth always lags last, limping along on the arm of Time. Baltasar Gracian

I’m not sure why I pulled the curtain aside the first time because there was no one to save. I guess the pain got so intense after my brother died and the rape I sought a therapist to abandon these truths from the vault hoping to return to the safety of my lies.

Perhaps revealing these truths would bring my brother back to life, give him the will to live and restore my relationship with the other brother whose friends raped me.  Magical thinking provided a beautiful briar patch of new lies.

But therapy didn’t work the way I expected.  The truth really hurt and I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint of heart. I wasn’t sure I would survive but I did. Dissociation, a close relative of the lies stepped in to help numb the pain as the truth poured out.

The therapist refused to adopt my half-truths and made me take them home to cultivate into truths. While they took up less room than the lies, they weren’t easy to live with. And the truth made it very difficult to return to the den of my perpetrators.

The next time I pulled the curtain aside the truth tore such a huge hole that it couldn’t be mended.  My son had gotten caught in the briar patch of dysfunction and needed the truth to set him free.  So I peeked out with both children under my arms and began to run.

I’m not sure where I am.  I no longer live in darkness.  The truth has kept me much safer than any tale I’ve spun but I definitely haven’t been fully reconciled with truth.   I’m thankful Truth has never abandoned me and never will. Amen!

If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:10

Blogging for Freedom

Palm cross

Daily Prompt: Million-Dollar Question

Why do you blog?

To tell the world what Jesus has done for me!  He brought me out of the darkness of abuse and into the light so that I may be a light for others. Amen

Acts 26:17-19 (NIV)

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God