You probably guessed by the ending of the last post that after all the years and stupidity, we still hadn’t learned the ultimate lesson – we cannot do this ourselves! You are correct; we had not learned this lesson yet. A sad commentary on our mental capacity, it would seem.
We started off well; very well, in fact. There was every reason to believe that this time we could do it. We would be the ones to make it, to disprove the statistics. We were foolish.
Having not done so much as even paint a room before, we arranged for the purchase of a very old, very derelect house which we were going to renovate. In two months. This was two years ago and we’re approximately half done if I had to give you an estimate. Also, when I say we moved to an old house, I don’t mean old like you might be thinking; I’m talking about the house that Noah built after the flood wherein is located a wood-burning furnace which I am sure Noah bought at Adam’s yard sale for the purpose of heating the ark. Are you starting to get the picture? What could possibly go wrong when we threw a train-wreck of a marriage together with a train-wreck of a house with a surprise temporary layoff to top it all off? Much, as it turns out.
I have no recollection of how it happened but it happened. The usual, the norm, life as always – it peeked into our days here, there; poked one or the other of us on the shoulder. Soon the words were cross, the tone haughty and the hurts compounding. A slow fade – to quote a tidbit from a wonderful song by the same name by Casting Crowns.
This time, the violence was almost immediate. And very frightening. Only this time I didn’t know what to do. I knew for a near certainty that if I were to involve the law once more that our marriage would be dead and gone forever. This idea held a great deal of appeal for me. But the year that I had spent being a single mother had taught me that there are very serious consequences to going that route and it should probably be my only option before I ventured there. Why didn’t I go to the church? Is this getting as old for you as it is for me? I was terribly afraid of their judgement blah, blah, blah.
Failure to make a choice is making a choice, but I didn’t see it that way when the bits of my heart that had come to life were dying off again. So, failing to make a decision; failing to take action were tantamount to making the decision to perpetuate this madness. I sat there, stood there, laid there – tried to keep up appearances when I had to. Sometimes I cried but mostly I felt dead and crying was just too much of an effort to revive myself enough to do justice to the task.
I listened to the same old thing, I did/said the same old thing. Everything was the same old thing. Just worse. Husband violently assaulted me in a sexual manner twice. I could not eat for a week afterward and I tried my best to escape him as much as possible. I might have committed suicide if it weren’t for our daughter. She was always spared seeing all these things and mostly from hearing as well but I’m not now, nor was I then, fool enough to think that she wasn’t feeling all that was going on and hurting as well.
I timidly ventured to tell the pastor’s wife of these shameful, godless acts because the sexual violence pushed me so far that I had to act and I thought that if I involved the law I would be rid of him for good (sounded better every day) so it didn’t matter after that what the church thought of me.
Pastor and his wife spoke with both of us immediately and a very interesting thing happened. Husband seemed to be helped. Hallelujah, right? Not so fast. I could not get over it. They tried counselling us for a while and Ponder Man was so receptive and responsive that it left me in shock, but I became increasingly disgusted with him no matter how much I knew that I needed to forgive him (for my sake, if not for anyone else’s), the pain that he had caused me was so deep and raw and brought back a lifetime of such incredible hurt that had been my identity since early childhood that knowing what I must do for freedom didn’t matter nearly so much as my right to hang on to the anger and hatred that this caused in me. Revisiting this now in writing makes the pain run liquid down my cheeks again because a violation of this nature is not just a more intimate form of violence than punches to the body – it is an assault on the soul of the victim. It is unconscionable, vile beyond any adjective I can think to attribute it with in any language – it is the playing field of the devil. How could I just let this go? I could not; I would not!
The pain festered, grew, expanded and it took up all of me. I could hardly bear to look at him, much less touch him or allow him to touch me. He, not having a blessed clue as to the actual damage he had done, grew frustrated after a surprisingly lengthy period of understanding.
Pastor’s wife kept in touch, more or less, and I led her to believe that all was alright, more or less. What a shocker – the violence escalated and culminated with an attack and death threat in front of both our children (our son was an infant at this time). I was able to run out the door and reach our vehicle. He pursued me and caught up to me before I was able to close the door and wrested the keys from me. He went back in and I didn’t know if I should ask the neighbours to help/call the police or what. I went back to the door and saw that he was trying to calm our son who had become terribly upset by the noise. I spotted the keys and judged that I could reach them and run and probably get out if he did not notice me. This is what happened and I drove to town shaking uncontrollably, bought a pen and notebook at the dollar store and whiled the day away at a coffee shop. What to do, what to do?
The children had never been in any kind of danger; only I had lived with being in danger. At this point, it was about three years that I literally feared for my life at the hands of my husband on a very regular basis. But the children were always safe, that had never been a doubt. Now I wasn’t so sure anymore. He had not done anything to the children at all but he had violently lunged at their mother in their presence and said terrible things in their range of hearing. I had to face the fact that their days of safety were limited if life continued like this.
This is the exact day that the path of our marriage and our family was decided, though I did not know it at the time. After sitting there and scribbling all day, trying to force meaning onto a blank canvas, slaving to mark down all that must be taken into consideration, I made a choice.
I texted my husband and said simply: “Is there a reason that I should not call the police?”
He replied: “Call the police. I’ll be dead by the time they get here.”
This is about what I expected him to say. Even now there was a police officer paying homage to this establishment I was sitting in and I could simply walk over to him, tap him on the shoulder and ask him to help me. He would have immediately sprung into action had I done this. Instead I turned from him and walked out the door and drove home. I forgave my husband. I forgave him for every harmful word and act he had committed against me. I forgave him because I saw so clearly that if I did not do so now – right now – I would become increasingly bitter and I would leave a legacy to my children of anger, strife, malice and bitterness and they would likely suffer the same traumas I had and continue the generational onslaught. For the sake of my children I came home and purposed that whatever else happened, I would pay the price of forgiving my most hated enemy – my husband.
He had calmed down. I did not speak to him – did not verbalize my forgiveness – and he did not speak to me. I began to sink into a deep depression. I had forgiven, although this was a daily price I paid, not a one-time paid in full transaction, and now I was entirely empty. I had been filled with anger and bitterness and a desire for vengeance before and choosing forgiveness emptied me of that and left me with nothing at all.
Sunday came and I took Princess to church, mostly just to get away from Husband. I chanced a meeting with an incredible woman that revolutionized our family and marriage. I didn’t really want to but it just kind of came out: “I need help, or else I don’t think I’ll make it.”
The next morning I went to her house and told her everything I could think of that was dark and secret and a source of torture all these years. Hours later she had heard it all and she went to work on my behalf. I hadn’t really eaten anything in that week (again) and she sent me home with a salad and put things into action. She involved the pastor’s wife who involved the pastor and he called upon Ponder Man who was livid with my shameless confession of private matters. The same Ponder Man later thanked me for confessing all these dark and terrible things. Soon after that it was decided that we would be personally and closely mentored and monitored by the pastor couple.
When did I know that a real change was happening? I had no illusions at all any more. If Ponder Man said something, I assumed that it was a lie and if he made a promise, I just assumed it would be broken because every promise he had made me over the years proved a lie. Yep. Every last one. But I knew that there was something very incredible happening when one day shortly after the dirty laundry was all cleaned out he said this to me: “I know that I can never understand what I have done to you but I can understand that you are hurting more than you can tell anyone and I know that it is almost all because of me. It hurts so much to know that I did this to you. I don’t know why God hasn’t killed me for doing the things that I’ve done to you but since He hasn’t I want to thank Him for giving me another chance and I want to do things God’s way from now on. I want to follow Him and let Him control my life.” This was about six months ago now. In that time the worst he has done is raise his voice very slightly higher in a frustrated tone a handful of times and one time when the whole family was having a cranky kind of day on the same day he sped up the car more aggressively after a stop than usual.
This is the mighty God we serve, people. We had nothing good left in us; neither one of us. We were at the end of ourselves and God only knows what would have happened if I had not been able to overcome my fear of judgement and rejection the day the opportunity to speak was given me.
I forgave and found that simply the act of revealing has such a great power of freedom because sin thrives on secrecy. Forgiveness is cleansing. It is more costly than I can tell you and the only way you can know the great price that you must pay to forgive someone that has done the most horrendous thing you can think of is to experience it for yourself. But it is worth the price a thousand times over. It washes your putrid, bitter, angry soul out with the pureness that is the Living Water.
I’ve been crying the last four or five paragraphs because the pain is still there, the memories still raw. There are days that I expend nearly all of my energy trying to keep the demons of my past at bay as they whisper lies into my ear: “He will never change, wait and see! He’s a failure, he’ll hurt you again. He’s a liar! Run! Take the kids and run; don’t tell him where; you need to hide so no one will ever hurt you again!” On and on it goes until I’m ready to pull my hair out.
And then I remember: ‘Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.’ Why does it always take me so long to remember? I’m so used to my default setting; so used to marriage the way it’s always been; so used to Ponder Man of days gone by. When he takes my hand and prays over me; when he sits at the head of the table and blesses the food; when he praises me to our children and requires that they honour and respect their mama; when he takes pains to be a civil gentleman in his manners; when he sits down at the end of a long day and reads the Bible; when he is the first one up on Sunday morning preparing the family to go to church; when he comes to me broken-hearted and asks forgiveness for acting or speaking without sensitivity; when he is the one that is taking the initiative to really clean our money situation up completely and go to the Word of God for guidance in proper money management (yes, that’s in there too); when he does all of this and so much more – I can do nothing but look upon it all in awe and praise the God who delights in confounding the wisdom of man.
This is a marriage that was doomed. Each of our lives was doomed. Yet God came and we are not surviving, we are thriving. The Living Water and the Atonement Sacrifice; redemption fully and completely; the love of God.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.
When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky
Linking to: A Pause on the Path, Gratituesday, Time-Warp Wife, Thankful Homemaker, The Alabaster Jar, Changed By The Maker