Narnian Abuse

Although fiction may not always be a reliable source on which to base major decisions, sometimes fiction can help us see things more clearly. Good fiction imitates real life. The simplified versions of real-life relationships depicted in fiction sometimes make it easier to recognize interactions of the various relational roles.

In his children’s fiction series, The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis illustrates several examples of highly toxic relationships.

The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for example, was very abusive toward Edmund as well as all the Narnians, including her most loyal subjects.  In fact, she was very manipulative and deceitful toward Digory and Polly much earlier, in The Magicians Nephew, where it was revealed she had annihilated every living creature in her own world of Charn… one couldn’t get much more abusive than intentional worldwide annihilation of all life…just to satisfy one’s own pride.  Viewing her interactions with others from the perspective of abuser tactics can be somewhat revealing.

The relationship between Shift (the ape) and Puzzle (the donkey) in The Last Battle also illustrates some classic abuser tactics.  It is quite clear that Shift is in the relationship solely for what he can manipulate Puzzle into doing for him, while Puzzle remains out of a misguided sense of loyalty driven by low self-esteem.  Ironically, Shift continually reinforces Puzzle’s low self-esteem, telling him how stupid he is and that he should leave difficult things like thinking to Shift.  Puzzle’s low self-esteem prevents him from finding the strength and courage to leave the relationship, yet the relationship continually lowers his self-esteem.  For Shift, the constant put-downs to Puzzle not only inflate his own already over-sized ego, but also keep Puzzle enslaved to do his bidding through manipulative tactics of guilt and belittlement.

In my latest read through the series, the relationship that most stood out to me as a study of classic abuse was the story of Prince Rilian and the Queen of Underland (aka The Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Green Witch, or the Green Lady) who turned out to be the same green serpent who had killed his mother. Of course we have the obvious maliciousness (obvious to the reader, not obvious to Rilian) of having killed his mother, of holding Rilian captive, and of scheming to use Rilian as a tool to destroy his own home and kill his own family and friends.  But let’s take a closer look at some of the interpersonal tactics she used to accomplish these goals.

When the two children from our world, Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb, together with their Marshwiggle guide, Puddleglum, first met Prince Rilian in Underland, he recognized having met them by the bridge on the border of Ettinsmoor where he was riding with the Queen of Underland. Eustace truthfully said the Green Lady was very mean to have intentionally sent them into a trap intended to kill them.  Rilian quickly jumped to the Green Lady’s defense:

“If you were not so young a warrior, Boy, you and I must have fought to the death on this quarrel. I can hear no words against my Lady’s honor.  But of this you may be assured, that whatever she said to you, she said of good intent.  You do not know her.  She is a nosegay of all virtues, as truth, mercy, constancy, gentleness, courage, and the rest.  I say what I know.  Her kindness to me alone, who can in no way reward her, would make an admirable history.”

See how quickly Rilian jumped to loyally defend his abuser? When a truthful specific charge of attempted murder is brought against his abuser, Rilian defends her intent. He then recites a whole list of virtues she supposedly possesses…yet falls short of providing any specific examples…because she doesn’t actually display any of them.

Later in the conversation, Rilian continues:

“You must understand, friends, that I know nothing of who I was and whence I came into this Dark World. I remember no time when I was not dwelling, as now, at the court of this all but heavenly Queen; but my thought is that she saved me from some evil enchantment and brought me hither of her exceeding bounty…and this seems to me the likelier because even now I am bound by a spell, from which my Lady alone can free me.  Every night there comes an hour when my mind is most horribly changed and, after my mind, my body.  For first I become furious and wild and would rush upon my dearest friends to kill them, if I were not bound.  And soon after that, I turn into the likeness of a great serpent, hungry, fierce, and deadly.”

Do you see how the Green Lady has used a manipulative fog of deceit to enslave Rilian? Underland is a dark and dreary world completely devoid of joy or happiness.  Yet the Queen has manipulated Rilian into forgetting how bright and joyful his life was before meeting her.  Notice how vague he is on any details.  She has convinced him that she has saved him from an evil enchantment and graciously adopted him into her kingdom.  Yet he cannot provide any specifics of exactly what was so horrible about his life before Underland…nor of any good in Underland besides the presence of the Green Lady…a questionable ‘blessing’ to say the least.

And notice how the Queen has manipulatively turned the truth upside-down for Rilian. She has convinced him he is in his right mind when he is under her spell (believing all her lies) and that he is not in his right mind when he see things clearly (recognizes her lies as lies).

She has convinced him that when he is in his right mind (recognizing her lies) he is a danger to his friends…when, in fact, she is making very specific plans to manipulate him into leading a charge against his true friends, the Narnians. In fact, his true friends…those friends from his former life…the life he led before meeting the witch…are his ONLY friends.  One must wonder what friends she was even talking about him being a danger to, as she has so isolated him from all associates other than herself that he no longer has any friends.

Then she delivered the manipulative capstone of deceit:

“And soon after that, I turn into the likeness of a great serpent, hungry, fierce, and deadly.”

What? Wait a minute!  Who turns into a serpent?  Certainly not Prince Rilian!  No, it is the Queen herself who turns into a deadly serpent…the same serpent who killed his mother.  Yet she has convinced Rilian he is the one who transforms into a monster.

This fog of manipulative deception is so typical of abuse! Some of you who have experienced abuse will recognize it.  The bitter clinging to vague imagined slights of friends from life before the abuser…the imagined virtues of the abuser based solely on their statements of intent that never actually come through in reality…the upside-down world of confusing one’s true identity with the abuser’s character and the abuser’s character as one’s true identity…it is a fog of deception much as Lewis has portrayed here.

This common abusive tactic, called gas-lighting, uses manipulative deceit to lead the abuse target to doubt their own senses, suspect their own memories, and question even their own sanity.  The goal is to make the target completely dependent on the abuser for their perception of reality.

Have you ever wondered why an abuse victim stays? This is often part of the reason.  The fog of deception is not easily penetrated.

Later, with the help of his new friends, Prince Rilian is able to pierce the fog of deceit and clearly see the witch’s enslavement for what it was. However, the witch manages to once again draw him into her web of lies, along with his new friends.  Through the use of illogical arguments, she soon has all four accepting her lies and falling under her fog of deception.  She asks questions as though she is interested in understanding…yet all she really wants is to convince them to abandon truth for her lies.  The more they try to convince her of the truth, the more deeply they succumb to her web of deceit.  Before long, she has them believing there is no such thing as a sun, moon, stars, trees, or green grass…that nothing exists outside the dark dismal world she rules in Underland.

Finally, at the last moment, Puddleglum gathered his strength and took a bold stand:

“All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it.  So I won’t deny any of what you said.  But there’s one thing more to be said, even so.  Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.  Suppose we have.  Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.  Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.  Well it strikes me as a pretty poor one.  And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it.  We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right.  But four babies playing a game can make a play world which licks your real world hollow.  That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world.  I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.  I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.  So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland.  Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

To quote Eustace and Jill, “Oh, hurrah! Good old Puddleglum!”

Puddleglum wisely stopped trying to convince the witch. He stopped debating with her.  Debating was playing right into her game plan.  She had no interest in understanding their perspective, nor of seeing the truth, nor even of using logical arguments in debate.  In fact, she already knew what they said was true and what she said was a lie…she was not in need of convincing nor open to being convinced.  But as long as she could draw them into a debate, she could continue to spin her web of lies, making them question their own sanity, their own memories, and the testimony of their own eyes.

Puddleglum chose to stop debating and to simply cling to what truth he could see. He took a stand and stated the truth he could see at the moment…in a manner that shut off all argument or debate.  Trying to convince the witch was futile and completely unnecessary.

It is important to confront lies with the truth. It is futile to try to convince a liar they are lying.  They already know they’re lying…and have already chosen to continue lying.  Debating just gives them more opportunity to spin their lies.

It is important to confront lies with the truth. It is futile to try to convince a liar they are lying. Click To Tweet

So stop debating. Stand firm in the truth and refuse to debate.  This is the best escape from the manipulative fog of deceit.

BUT…if you are in an abusive relationship…make sure you have a safety plan…ask for help from trusted friends…or make new friends who can be trusted.

When Puddleglum exposed the witch’s lies, she finally dropped all pretense and transformed into a deadly serpent, trying to kill them all. The same often happens when an abuser is confronted by a victim escaping their control…they become more dangerous than ever.

Cling to the truth. Take a stand.  Have a safety plan.  Ask for help.  Trust God…because He is trustworthy.

In the story of Prince Rilian, Aslan sent friends to help him in his hour of need. The friends helped free him from the Green Lady’s deceptive enslavement, and defended him when she tried to kill him.

If you are trapped in an abusive relationship, ask God to help you seek out friends who can help. One place to start may be by contacting a shelter near you.

Any abused woman located in central Arkansas can contact The Dorcas House at (501) 374-4022 for help and shelter for herself and her children.

Here is a web page with a list of resources to find help in other regions: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/resources/domestic-violence-agencies-us-and-canada/

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]

 

Submit?

Submit…what emotions and images does this word evoke for you?

Such a simple word…with such complex relational and emotional overtones…

Listening to an authoritarian or patriarchal pastor teaching on the topic, one gets the impression that submission is the very means to salvation…as though the salvation of a wife and the salvation of her husband are both dependent on the level of her willingness to cheerfully and unquestioningly obey her husband in all things, no matter what.

For a Christian abused wife raised under such teaching, submission may be hell on earth…an impossible, unachievable task designed to make life increasingly more unbearable. Both her husband and her pastor may have beat her down with Ephesians 5:22 so many times she is in danger of losing herself in a bottomless pit of submissiveness.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22 KJV)

Ephesians 5:22-33 is the foundational text for those who hold a view that in all biblically based marriages the husband’s role is to make all the decisions and the wife’s role is to unquestioningly acquiesce to all of his decisions. But they are staking their entire doctrine on the word submit meaning what they believe it means.

What if submit doesn’t mean obey unquestioningly?  What if submit simply means to honor and respect?  The contextual evidence strongly supports such a position.

Verse 25 of this passage says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it,” and verse 33 says, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself…”

There is nothing about these verses to suggest the husband is to be anything other than sacrificially loving toward his wife. There is nothing about this passage to suggest it is okay for a husband to lord over his wife in disregard for her feelings or opinions, nor that the wife should meekly submit to such authoritarian misbehavior.

So, what about this word submit in verse 22?  It is important to note that this same exact word also appears in verse 21:

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Clearly, the word submit as used in verse 21 cannot mean to unquestioningly obey no matter what.  So why would anyone assign such a meaning in the following verse?

Many people view the end of verse 21 as being the end of a topical section…a chapter divider, of sorts. In the first twenty-one verses of the chapter, Paul is exhorting the church to walk in love and purity.  Verse 22 is seen by some as the beginning of a new topic discussing marital relations.

Viewed from this perspective, one could argue that the same word can have a different meaning when used in a different context. By this argument, the word submit in verse 21 could mean all Christians are to honor and respect each other, and the same word used in verse 22 could mean the wife is to unquestioningly obey her husband no matter what.  While I don’t find this to be a compelling argument, on the surface it does appear to be a potentially arguable point.

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation of verse 22 recently caught my attention:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

The italicization of be subject is what caught my attention. In NASB, italicized text is used to denote words added by the translators, for clarity or easier reading.

I dug a little deeper, and discovered Ephesians 5:22 is one of the few verses with a substantive difference between Textus Receptus and the Morphological GNT, as shown in the BlueLetterBible.

The Textus Receptus used for King James Version (KJV) translation includes the word “hypotasso” (G5293 Strongs) which KJV translates as “submit.”

However, the Morphological GNT used in NASB translation (which is considered more reliable) does not include this word in verse 22.

Ephesians 5:22 entry in Blue Letter Bible

Blue Letter Bible entry for Ephesians 5:22 with Morphological GNT shown at top and Textus Receptus at bottom. ‘Hypatosso’ is not included in the Morphological GNT text.

Essentially, this means the first century Greek texts considered to be the oldest and most reliable do not include the word hypotasso in verse 22. These texts include no primary verb for verse 22, relying on the reader to understand that the verb hypotasso (submit) is carried over from the previous sentence (verse 21).  Presumably, some scribe added the verb hypotasso to verse 22, for clarity…to make sure the reader understands the verb hypotasso applies to both verse 21 and verse 22.

So, based on the oldest and most reliable texts, verses 21 and 22 would have read something like this:

…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ; wives, to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (verses 21-22 NASB with italicized text removed)

From the perspective of translation, this is a seemingly unimportant detail. Whether or not the word hypotasso is specifically included in verse 22, it is clearly intended to be used as the primary verb in both 21 and 22.  In the end, NASB arrives at the same basic meaning as is conveyed in the KJV.

However, in trying to understand the intended usage of the word submit in the English translation, it is very important.  Verses 21 and 22 cannot have two differently nuanced meanings of the same word, because they actually share the exact same instance of the word.

…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ; wives, to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Not only is verse 22 not starting a new topic, it is not even starting a new sentence. It is an extrapolation of the same thought, sharing the same verb.  Whatever meaning Paul intended to convey with the word hypotasso (submit), he intended the exact same meaning for husbands as for wives, both toward each other and toward other believers.

So, submit, as used in this passage, cannot possibly mean to unquestioningly obey no matter what.

I believe submit, in this passage, is intended to mean love, honor and respect.

What do you think?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]

 

Unapologetic Apology

donald-trump-megyn-kellyI generally steer clear of political discussions on this blog. And it is not my intent to wade into political discussions in this post. However, as a blogger who frequently posts on the topic of abuse, I find Donald Trump’s recent interview with Megyn Kelly to be very troubling.

For the past several months, we’ve seen Donald Trump’s response to anyone who challenges him as typically being a personal derogatory attack, often of a vulgar demeaning nature. This is a troubling behavior pattern for anyone in a position of authority and especially for the apparent Republican Party presidential nominee. Trump’s supporters (and Trump himself) seem to brush such concerns aside as simple strategy for the rough-and-tumble party nomination politics. They say Trump’s behavior will become more conciliatory and less abrasive as he moves toward the general election.

Maybe so…or maybe not…

Even more troubling to me, than the demeaning attacks of the early campaign stages, is Trump’s supposed attempts at reconciliation. Here is a recent excerpt from an interview with Megyn Kelly, intended as a reconciliation after Trump’s very derogatory remarks about Kelly, across several months (USA Today, May 18, 2016):

During the FOX Broadcasting special Megyn Kelly Presents, Trump told Kelly that he expected she had gotten some pretty nasty tweets from his supporters when the two of them were in the middle of their spat. But he chalked it up to fans just showing their loyalty.

Kelly responded that it wasn’t just supporters who Trump retweeted. Over the past nine months the Fox reporter has been attacked repeatedly by Trump himself, as well as his followers via Twitter.

“You would be amazed at the ones I don’t retweet,” Trump said.

“Bimbo?” Kelly asked, referring to tweets that had appeared on Trump’s Twitter timeline calling her a bimbo.

“Well that was a retweet, yeah. Did I say that?” Trump asked.

“Many times,” Kelly said.

“Oh, okay excuse me,” Trump said. “Not the most horrible thing … Over your life Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you say?”

For myself, and likely for others who have dealt with abusers, Trump’s language here is full of red flags. In fact, his tactics clearly illustrate classic abuser default behavior patterns. Let’s break it down:

Trump told Kelly that he expected she had gotten some pretty nasty tweets from his supporters when the two of them were in the middle of their spat. But he chalked it up to fans just showing their loyalty.

Trump knows the primary purpose of the interview is to publicly reconcile issues between the two of them and demonstrate his ability to build interrelational bridges. As such, he understands he is expected to produce conciliatory language. But look at how he broaches the topic. He takes no personal responsibility for any of the verbal attacks on Kelly. Rather, he sloughs it off as overzealous supporters being a bit too defensive.

Kelly responded that it wasn’t just supporters who Trump retweeted. Over the past nine months the Fox reporter has been attacked repeatedly by Trump himself, as well as his followers via Twitter.

Good for Kelly! She calls Trump on his blame shifting, holding him accountable for his own repeatedly derogatory language across an extended time frame.

“You would be amazed at the ones I don’t retweet,” Trump said.

Classic minimizing tactic! Trump is attempting to make his offensive behavior seem less bad by comparing it to potentially worse behavior. Classic deflection…minimizing offensive behavior while shifting the topic away from the real issue of unacceptable behavior.

“Bimbo?” Kelly asked, referring to tweets that had appeared on Trump’s Twitter timeline calling her a bimbo.

Bravo to Kelly for keeping the conversation on topic! She did not fall for Trump’s redirection. Rather she pulled him back to the topic of personal accountability for his own abusive words.

“Well that was a retweet, yeah. Did I say that?” Trump asked.

Again, Trump plays the deflection and blame-shifting tactic. First he says it was a retweet, as though that somehow makes it okay. [Those weren’t my words. Somebody else said that. All I did was publicly repeat them numerous times.] Then he calls into question whether he actually said that, while knowing full well he did say it. In fact, his having said these things is exactly why this interview is taking place and why he broached the topic to begin with. Yet, when it comes time to apologize for his atrocious behavior and hurtful demeaning verbal attacks, instead he acts like it never even happened, “Did I say that?”

“Many times,” Kelly said.

Yay, Kelly! Way to go! She continues to calmly state the truth without letting herself react negatively to Trump’s denials, deflection, and blame-shifting.

“Oh, okay excuse me,” Trump said. “Not the most horrible thing … Over your life Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you say?”

And there you have it! After repeated attempts to shift the blame to someone else…to redirect…to minimize…to outright deny he even said it…as Kelly continues to hold him accountable for his own abusive language…this is the closest Trump comes to even admitting he did anything, much less apologizing for his behavior. A half-hearted sarcastic “Oh, okay, excuse me,” followed by yet another minimization.

Anything anyone else may or may not have said to Kelly across the course of her life is totally irrelevant! The relevant topic is what Trump said about Kelly.

And note how he follows the minimization with a question designed to elicit a positive response, “Over your life Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you say?” A positive response requires a change of body language, resulting in a change of posture. Again, it is a classic strategy designed to close the subject…to get Kelly to agree…so they can move to another topic while leaving the appearance that everything is resolved. Yet it resolved nothing. The only thing they agreed on is that Kelly has been called worse. That has absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s atrocious demeaning behavior toward Kelly!

This was not an apology. Rather it was both a continuation and an escalation of the abusive behavior Trump has exhibited toward Kelly for months. Except this was even worse…because this abusive behavior masqueraded as an apology and reconciliation.

Not once during the entire conversation did Trump ever take responsibility for his own words. Not once did he ever acknowledge his words were offensive, hurtful, or unacceptable. Not once did he acknowledge the lack of respect he exhibited toward Kelly, nor the false accusations he leveled against her. Not once did he recognize the hurt and harm his words and actions inflicted on Kelly. Not once did he apologize.

Folks, this is classic abuser behavior.

I don’t know much about Trump’s personal life. I’m not accusing him of anything beyond his exchange of words with Kelly. I am simply saying, this is an excellent example of classic abuser behavior. Trump is very fluent in abusereese.

I find that very troubling.

Your thoughts?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]

Cynical?

This morning I was listening to K-Love Radio while driving.  They had a caller giving a testimony of God miraculously reconciling him with his estranged wife.  He stated they had been moving toward divorce, each side had attorneys involved, and he had already purchased another residence.  Then, the morning of Sunday, February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, he and his wife happened to arrive at the church doors at the same moment.  They were both overcome with emotion.  They both said they needed to find a way to make their marriage work, and his wife sat beside him, in the seat he had been reserving for her each week.

Further interview questions revealed that neither party has yet apologized for anything, but they have both committed to seek counseling in their church for healing of their marriage and working past their issues.

The interview ended with cheerful congratulations and encouragement, “You’re doing the right thing,” followed by an exhortation, “We have to remember our spouse is not our enemy.  Even though it may sometimes seem like it, our spouse is never our enemy.”

Great praise story, right?  Classic example of a couple struggling with commitments until God unexpectedly intervened, right?  Every reason for congratulations and best wishes…no cause for cynicism or doubting, right?

And yet…doubt I do. Not just this story, but so many similar stories with fairy-tale-like endings... Click To Tweet

…whether I say anything or not, in my heart I wonder and pray.

I know how easy it is to get swept up in emotions, especially on Valentine’s Day, and how difficult it is to complete the hard work of reconciliation.  More than that, I know how little control either individual has over the outcome of relational issues.  It takes two committed hearts working toward a common goal to build a marriage, but it only takes one hard heart to destroy a marriage.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I firmly believe in God’s desire and ability to heal broken hearts and broken relationships.  And I firmly believe in God’s ability to perform mighty miracles.  I’ve seen His miraculous power first-hand.

Yet, in listening to this account, there were little tells that left me wondering… Click To Tweet

The fact that it was such an emotional instantaneous decision on St. Valentine’s Day…a day when emotions are likely to run high for divorcing couples.  The fact that they ‘just happened’ to both arrive at the church doors simultaneously…coincidence or contrivance?  The fact that neither party has yet apologized for anything…how serious can the reconciliation be with no discussion of issues and no repentance of wrongs?

Perhaps the brightest flag was his reference to saving a seat for his wife each Sunday…while actively pursuing divorce and purchasing another residence.  That’s not normal behavior.  One doesn’t come to church each week with sincere expectation of reconciliation while actively pursuing divorce every other day of the week.  So, why the behavior discontinuity?  One possibility (the one he seems to want us to believe) is that he was simply overcommitted in a relationship to a spouse who had no interest in reconciling.  BUT, the reserved seat seems a bit too showy for that level of sincerity…especially given how he slid that into the conversation to make sure we, the listening audience, all knew how gratuitous he was in his weekly seat saving.

No, to me, the saved seat comes across as being done largely for appearances…as a manipulation tool to influence the opinions of others.  In fact, it would be a classic abuser move, designed to jab guilt toward his victim while simultaneously eliciting compassion from the rest of the church (poor guy must be heart-broken…just look how he saves her a seat every week).

If we assume the saved seat was manipulation, we can also see how easily he could arrange to ‘coincidentally’ arrive at the church doors the exact same time as his wife on St. Valentine’s Sunday…knowing she would be particularly vulnerable on that day.

Then, for the ‘coupe de grace,’ call K-Love Radio first thing Monday morning, announcing the recommitment to the world while simultaneously giving God the ‘glory’ for the success of his manipulative scheme.  That publicly commits his wife whether she was ready or not, and by giving credit to God he projects the perception that to back out would be to act directly against God’s will.

Do you see how slickly that could be pulled off?

Now, you may be thinking I’m reading an awful lot into a few words…and you would be right.  The truth could be much more innocently naïve and much less malicious in nature.

Some would say I’m being cynical…that I’ve allowed my life experiences to make me too negative…too unbelieving.  I would say through my life experiences I have gained wisdom and discernment.

While I don’t know the truth of this specific situation, I do know the more sinister version is too often the reality.  And I do know Christians, in general, are often all too gullible and all too blind to evil.  Too often, we naively assume every marriage is worth saving, despite clear evidence to the contrary.  And that simple false assumption plays directly into the abuser’s manipulative schemes…duping good Christian people into believing the abuser is a saint while his victim is in need of repentance.

I’m not sure how I would have handled the caller if I had been with the K-Love team.  But I can tell you for sure I would not have affirmed to him he was ‘doing the right thing’ when there is a distinct possibility he may be doing great evil.  And I absolutely would not have said “Our spouse is never our enemy,” because I know sometimes a spouse is a great enemy indeed.

Your thoughts?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Wellspring, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]

 

Why I Speak Out

wedding band on open bible[This is a repost, with minor edits, of my guest blog on Dan Erickson’s site December, 2012.]

I am a Christian.  I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God.  I prescribe to a literal, conservative interpretation of God’s word.  I love studying biblical covenants and find a deep richness of covenant references throughout the Bible.  I view covenant as a common thread woven through both testaments, tying promises in Genesis to prophecies in Revelation.  I often describe our God as a covenant God for Whom all interactions with mankind are based on covenant.  Covenant relationships and the keeping of covenant vows are a very big deal to me.

So why does someone, with my background and convictions, write posts titled “Divorce is Sin…Says Who?”  “Free to Remarry,” “God of Divorce” and “The It-Takes-Two Lie”?

I have been accused, by people who don’t know my story, of trying to justify the divorce of my first marriage.

I have been asked, by people who do know my story, why I’ve felt compelled to change my perspective on biblical divorce.  “Joe,” they say, “you clearly had biblical grounds for divorce.  Your situation met the criteria of every exception clause as being permissible.  Why do you continue to search scriptures regarding marriage and divorce?”

And that’s just it.  My situation did meet the criteria of every “exception clause.”  I lived seventeen years in an abusive marriage to someone who intentionally and repeatedly inflicted deep emotional wounds, who seemed drawn to the intrigue of lies when the truth would have served her better, and for whom every word and action seemed designed to manipulate…even though I would have done anything for her without the need of manipulation.

Yet, I wasn’t seeking a divorce.  I wasn’t asking whether divorce was “permissible” or if my situation met the criteria of “exception clauses.”  My heart was not pursuing divorce.  My heart was pursuing a healthy marriage based on love and mutual trust.  My heart was pursuing a stable, loving environment for our family of four precious children.  My heart was pursuing what I understood to be God’s will for our family.

I wasn’t concerned with what was “permissible.”  I was only concerned with the relentless pursuit of God’s will and God’s best for our family.

My heart was broken…over and over again.  I was wounded and hurting, crying out to God for help and healing.

I saw many answers to prayer in that marriage….many miraculous softenings of her heart…many steps appearing to lead toward healing.

I also learned a lot about myself and improving communication.  The many counseling sessions were, in general, a healthy thing for me…and seemed a step in the right direction at the time.

And yet…each positive step turned out to be so temporary…

As the years passed, new lies surfaced, exposing deeper and more recent betrayals.  The lessons learned in counseling became tools used for the purpose of deceiving me further, while continuing to deeply wound me with betrayal of covenant vows.  New communication tools were used, not for strengthening relationship, but rather for giving the appearance of deepening intimacy while actually concealing deeper betrayals.

I prayed fervently and continuously.  Yet, as the passing of time continued to reveal ever deeper deceptions and betrayals, there was also a need to face the facts…to realize that no matter how much I wanted to see healing of the relationship, that might not be the end result.

One person in the relationship seeking God’s will is not enough for relational healing. Click To Tweet

The summer of 2000 was, for me, a time of intense prayer and fasting.  I was doing a lot of running, and as my feet wound out the miles, I continually begged God for healing.

“How long, Lord, must I wander in this wilderness of pain and trauma?  Please, Lord, I need your healing touch.  My heart is broken.  My marriage is broken.  My soul is crushed.  Lord, I don’t know what to do.  Please, Lord, lead me out of this wilderness into a place of healing!”

And I began to hear God’s answer…softly at first…then stronger and more persistent, “Go in and possess the land” (Joshua 1:11).

“Lord, you can’t mean that!  You know how many times I’ve been deceived and how deeply I’ve been wounded!  You want me to put aside all my legitimate fears and act as though my marriage and heart are healed?  That’s crazy!  It makes no sense!”

And yet, I felt His consistent prompting, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be discouraged or dismayed.  Go in and possess the land.”

I recalled the many stories of God’s miraculous work.  I was heartened that perhaps this is what God was going to do in my marriage.  Perhaps, this was my Jordan River to cross before seeing God’s miraculous victories!

So, I asked Him, “Lord, are you saying you’re going to heal my marriage?  That her heart will be changed toward me and our relationship will be restored?”

“Go in and possess the land.”

“Lord, what does that mean?  You want me to make myself vulnerable with no promise from you?  You never did that in the Bible!  You always gave a promise when asking for obedience in difficult circumstances.  Lord, what is your promise to me, today?”

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be discouraged or dismayed, and the Lord, Your God, will be with you, wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

So I began, once again, to change my attitude and behavior toward her.  I began to draw in my boundaries and lower my defenses.  I dropped the wait-and-see attitude I’d held since the last major betrayal, and began, yet again, to actively pursue her heart.

And she responded by withdrawing further.

Over the course of that next year, as I attempted to open up toward her, she drew further back from me.  I still faced each new issue head-on, refusing to sweep anything under the rug, wanting true healing of our relationship.  I was actively engaging in the relationship while refusing to side-step or ignore any known issues.  Finally, one evening while discussing a recent issue, she asked for a divorce, saying, “I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

There were still a lot of steps toward healing.  God was faithful through the divorce and later custody battles.  Not every battle was victorious from my perspective, but He continued to lead me and guide me…and to comfort and heal me.

A counselor asked me once, “You do realize, don’t you, that there is absolutely nothing you could have done differently to prevent this divorce?”

“Yes, I can see that.”

“And you do understand,” he continued, “that the divorce had nothing to do with you, personally?  That no matter who she married, it would have ended in divorce?”

“Yes, I can see that, too.  Thank you!”

And that’s the thing…the thing that so few Christians really understand…that I did not understand, myself, before experiencing it.

The health and longevity of a relationship cannot be determined by one individual.  Yes, we must each do our own part and be willing to love sacrificially.  Yet, no amount of sacrificial love, by one party, can ensure a healthy or lasting relationship.

In a marriage, we are each responsible for wholeheartedly living out our covenant vows in faithfulness, for the duration of that covenant.  However, neither partner is responsible for the longevity of the covenant.

I entered that marriage as an idealistic young man, believing if I loved deeply enough, believed strongly enough, prayed fervently enough, somehow God would always intervene to heal and restore the marriage relationship.

I learned, although God is always faithful to His promises, He does not violate human free will.  If one marriage partner refuses to surrender their will to Him, He will not force them to…and the marriage will not be healed.

I learned divorce is not always outside God’s will.  Rather, in many situations, divorce is God’s direct and perfect will.

In my case, God asked me to follow a difficult path of obedience.  That path did not lead to the marital restoration I hoped for.  Rather, it led toward further hardening of her heart, resulting in divorce.

God redeemed me from that marriage of abusive bondage in much the same way He redeemed Israel from their covenant with Pharaoh.  That divorce was a part of God’s perfect plan for my life, just as surely as deliverance from Egypt was part of His perfect plan for the nation of Israel.

God has used these experiences to drastically change my view of His heart toward His children who are enslaved in covenants of abusive bondage, or who have experienced divorce.  In recent years, I have become more outspoken about my views on these topics.

I’m speaking out, not to justify my own actions, nor because of emotional pain or bitterness in regard to that marriage.

My actions in that marriage and divorce don’t require justification, and I am now happily married to a godly woman, with whom I enjoy raising and loving children and grandchildren.

I’m speaking out against a system of biblically unsubstantiated myths regarding divorce believed by many Christians, today.

These myths lead to legalistic judgmental attitudes toward God’s children who have experienced divorce or who are currently enslaved in an abusive marriage.  They hold Christians in bondage and do not reflect God’s heart of love and redemption.

I speak out in an attempt to shine the light of God’s truth and hope in an area of blindness within the church.

I speak out in the hope someone in an abusive marriage will understand, in some situations, divorce is God’s perfect will and the godliest course of action.

In some situations, divorce is God’s perfect will and the godliest course of action. Click To Tweet

I speak out in the hope someone who has experienced divorce will better understand God’s heart of redemption and will draw closer to His heart of love.

Who do you know in need of encouragement through divorce?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Wellspring, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]

 

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