Why is it so dangerous for me to say that I believe that a Christian woman who is abused in her Christian marriage by her Christian husband should be able to leave her Christian marriage for a therapeutic separation, and then divorce if repentance and change don’t take place? Isn’t it more dangerous for us to say that we believe that a Christian woman who is abused in her Christian marriage by her Christian husband must stay in her Christian marriage? Think about the implications of this.

Woman: “He calls me names, he lies to me, I must ask him for money, he tells me I’m stupid.”

Clergy: “I’m sorry. That sounds difficult. Unless he is unfaithful or leaves you first though, you cannot leave him. What can you do to work on yourself and your marriage?”

What are we saying when we say those words?

We are saying that the institution of marriage is held higher than this woman.
We are saying that we do not care about the emotional health of this woman.
We are saying that the letter of the law is more important than the spirit of the law. |
We are saying that we are fine with leaving this husband to stay in his sin; we are practically rewarding him for not looking inward and making changes.  (Forget wives for just a moment…for the sake of husbands everywhere, we need to not be fine with this!)
We are saying in essence – and ironically – that we must not actually believe what the Bible says about marriage – that it’s representative of the relationship between Christ and the Church – because if we actually believed that, we wouldn’t in a million years stand by and condone – and I’ll go so far as to say force – a marriage to continue that basically shows the world that Christ treats his Bride with controlling, lying contempt.

What do you fear will happen if we started listening, hearing, understanding and supporting fully the abused Christ-following woman?

Do you think marriages would implode left and right?

Do you think women would start leaving their totally-fine marriages?

Do you think these women are lying to you?  Do you not believe them?

Because I pretty much believe the opposite. I think that marriages would heal and we would be able to turn the tide for upcoming generations.

I no longer believe what I used to believe.  Or I should say, I no longer believe as narrow a view as I used to believe.  I used to believe a marriage could only biblically end – meaning with God’s disapproving allowance – if a spouse had sex with another person or if a spouse who did not believe in Jesus physically moved away, which the Bible calls abandonment by an unbeliever*.  I no longer believe what I used to believe.

Taking off my wedding ring symbolized the largest sadness of my entire lifetime.  I was saying in that moment that my marriage was dead.  But there had been thousands – and I literally mean thousands – of moments up until that time when I was being killed emotionally.

Could I have just stuck it out, just stayed married?

Um-hmm.  Yes. Absolutely.  But at any of those forks in the road – and there were a handful during a two- or three-year time period – where I could have said, “Okay, changed my mind, I’ll just stay, never mind all that I said,” what I would have been really saying was this, “I’ll let myself die all the way.  I’ll never find out who I was supposed to be.  I’ll live my life showing that I must believe that it’s okay for huge, egregious, insidious sin to just continue on unchecked, killing me and taking my children down with it. I’ll have to lie for the rest of my life because I cannot let the world, I cannot let my children, look at the two of us and think that I believe what our marriage is is what God meant marriage to be.  Yes, I’ll stay.  But that means I’m choosing death.”**

All marriages take work.  All marriages require sacrifice and compromise and laying ourselves aside. I completely get this.  But marriages that are supposed to represent the love between Jesus and the Church should not bring such pain to its inhabitants on a continual basis, one overpowering the other.  Something is very, very wrong.  And we must do something about it.

I am pro-marriage and always will be.  But I am not pro-any-kind-of-marriage-at-the-peril-of-the-individuals-living-within-it.

So it might be more accurate for me to state that I am pro-marriage but maybe a notch above that I am pro-human-being, I am pro-wholeness, and I am pro-Jesus.

And in Jesus, there is grace and truth and life.

(*I now believe that abandonment by an unbeliever envelops the concept that abuse is an abandoning of the vows to love, honor and cherish, and that if a believer is defined by his fruit, and if his fruit is primarily abusive in nature {lying, verbally scathing, controlling, manipulating, etc.} then he is showing himself to be an unbeliever.)

(**I was not the initiator of the ending of my marriage.)

 


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