Despair welled up from deep inside her soul and spilled down her cheeks. She was used to crying in church for it happened often. She wondered what people thought, that perhaps she was repenting, and in a way she was. She glanced at her husband beside her, singing the hymn with gusto, for he knew the words by heart. His eyes were closed in a carefully crafted rapture that he saved for church. The glittering facade of his “church” personality contributed to her despair. How could she reveal the truth behind his smiling kindness? People often commented to her what a lucky woman she was to be married to such a charming, wonderful man, so generous, supportive and giving. She would smile her frozen smile that never touched her eyes and murmur thanks. She would never be able to reveal the truth because, after all, who would believe her? She wondered again, what was wrong with her that he could be so kind and generous to others, and behave with love in public, but the story would change in private. How could she reveal the secret life she lived with this man that everyone admired so?
It had started soon after their wedding, which had been idyllic and lovely, so carefully planned, with every detail perfected. Oh, he didn’t beat her, but he began to use his words to strike like whips and flay her soul. If he left bruises, she could possibly convince others of the darkness of her life, but there were no bruises, only the scars on her heart. Sometimes she wished he would break her bones, for they would heal, but he broke her heart with his words, which had become more and more cruel over the years. His snarling accusations and blame shocked her at first, and she worked so hard to be better. His words hit like stones, “you’re so stupid, you can’t do anything right, why can’t you figure this out for yourself, you would be nothing without me.”
With his cruel words and devastating accusations came threats and control. He told her if she ever considered divorce, he would take her children, and she would never see them again. She knew he meant what he said for he was that cruel. He controlled everything, including all their resources. She thought that they made plenty of money, but very little of it trickled down to her. He could purchase anything he wanted including expensive clothes and toys, but he examined every receipt of hers and demanded to know where every penny went. He would look at the time stamp on her receipts and calculate the time it should take her to get home until GPS was invented, and now he just tracked her by her phone, demanding to know why she stopped here or there. He was always present, always watching, and always demanding. She felt trapped, crowded, enslaved and stupid for staying.
She had tried marriage counseling, but that seemed to give him more fuel for his cruelty. He was charming to the counselor and skillfully turned the spotlight on her, so that even the counselor began to pity the nice man who had such a stupid wife. Then on the way home, he smirked at her, and told her she would never be free, she would never get away from him. She knew he was right because she had no strength left.
So, she sat in church full of despair and anger, not knowing who to be angry with. God seemed the logical choice because she had prayed so often for help, but none came. Besides, divorce was a sin, and her pastor preached that women who prayed changed things. She prayed, and God did nothing, so maybe her husband was right, that there was something wrong with her. Maybe the answer was medications. Her husband had suggested she take medications because she was crazy. What was the use? There was only despair.
Is This Your Story Too?
If any of this sounds familiar to you, please know that you are not alone, and there is help for you.
- Find a counselor who has been trained to identify and work with women for whom domestic abuse is a reality.
- Contact an organization like Abuse Recovery Ministry and Services at http://armsonline.org/; The Gateway Center for Domestic Abuse or https://www.portlandoregon.gov/gatewaycenter/; or the YWCA Center for Domestic Abuse at http://ywcaclarkcounty.org/what-we-do/our-programs/safechoice-domestic-violence-program/.
The resources at these organizations will help with direction, hope and possibilities for a safe and peaceful future.
Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18 (ESV)
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