Delivered from Shame
When we accept Christ into our lives and we are made new creations, some changes we notice immediately. Other changes come in time. God made us with free will and he made us each uniquely different. Those characteristics that we all share are why so many stories of faith and healing unfold differently.
I was married before. My former husband and I met in church, but he became familiar with Christ much later in life than I did. He comes from a background without the benefit of God centered family. When we began dating he was 23 and I was 16. He proposed when I was 17 and we were married after I graduated high school.
My first husband received an extraordinary amount of bad counsel from leaders within our church. Perhaps bad is not the correct word, haphazard counsel might be more explanatory. I eventually learned that the proposal of marriage was largely based on I Corinthians 7:9 “But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.” Yes, he was essentially told to marry me since he could not control his lust. Had I realized that was the case, I probably would not have accepted the proposal.
There were warning signs that his spiritual walk was shallow, but mine was shallow back then and I could not see. After we were married, our relationship was difficult. We were unequally yoked on many levels. At 18, I had more knowledge of insurance, basic banking, basic life skills and a drive to better myself. My parents had instilled those things in me from a young age. In his case, his mother paid his bills and managed his money. He was perfectly content with his job at the church, which was fine, except that it was unreliable. Looking back that was a huge indicator of the lack of health in our church at the time. Frequently, it was a borrow from Peter to pay Paul situation on payday. More than once staff members had delays in getting their paychecks.
The Pastor insisted to my first husband that he would be raising a wife, due to my being so much younger. In addition, many conversations centered around the idea of a wife being submissive. The concept and idea of the submissive wife is perhaps one of the most abused concepts presented in the bible. In Ephesians 5:21-33 we read the Biblical presentation of submission. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything…” The point in this passage that sticks out to me is that we are to submit to our husbands as the church submits to Christ. Christ is not forceful with us. He does not harm us to complete his will. When we, male or female, submit to the Lord it is out of love, honor and respect. We are not being forced…it is a willing act of worship to submit to God. In my first marriage, I was frequently treated like an errant, rebellious child…not a wife.
I am uncomfortable using the idea of worshipping one’s spouse. But the broad concept remains, to submit to your spouse is an act of love, honor and respect. I have not found any passages where God is okay with abuse of any kind.
So, how did misuse of scripture fuel abuse in a marriage? Passages were cherry-picked to achieve desired impact. Instead of digging in and understanding what is there in plain English, the phrase, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands” was all that was conveyed. There is a reason that in Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32 and again in Revelation 22:18 that we are warned by God not to be tampering with His word. There are plenty of scriptures that can be dangerous if taken out of context.
My first husband was not raised in faith. He accepted the council of a Pastor he respected and had the scriptures to support his actions. I lived with shame for many years, even long after we divorced, because of emotional and sexual abuse. Abuse fueled by his addiction to pornography and amplified by bad counsel. I do not believe for a moment that our Pastor from that time would have been okay with how submission had been understood by my ex. By God’s grace, I can also state that I do not think my ex-husband realized his actions were wrong.
Letting It Go
How can I say that? I was abused. Yes, I survived abuses I will never discuss. God has given me the ability to forgive those abuses, acknowledge my hurt and to be made new. I do not have to revisit that pain and rehashing the details would be giving the devil glory and I ain’t about that. My ex-husband was a hard-working man. He helped others when they were in need. He was not a 24 hour monster. Something in his spirit was broken and he had never submitted to God in such a way that the brokenness was made new. The Pastor that counseled him, never took the time to make sure the message was received properly. He quoted a scripture and sent the man on his way.
We, as Christians, as Pastors and leaders cannot go around slapping a piece of scripture on a subject and thinking that takes care of that. When we disciple another, we need to dig deep, ask questions and make sure the message we are conveying is clear and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Having been delivered from the shame wrapped up in my first marriage, I can see that very little of what I experienced was ill-intentioned. Yes, these things were heart issues, but it was not a person actively seeking to be evil. They allowed evil to set in…because they did not know how to guard against it. Not knowing better does not make my experiences any better, but it has gone a long way in the healing process for me to acknowledge that I never deserved the abuses and the counsel given to my ex was given poorly, so it amplified the negative situation. The Pastor was not trying to create a toxic environment in my first marriage. My ex being controlling and abusive was a reflection of the condition of his soul and a lack of understanding of the scripture.
Reminder and Thanks
If you have been abused, in any way, God DID NOT intend for you to suffer. Only good things come from God. Ladies, scripture does state for us to submit to our husbands, as the church submits to Christ. In other words, love, honor, respect and communicate with your husband. Work as a team, you came from his rib, not his foot – you are not a door mat. Husbands, love, honor and respect is a two-way street. Don’t use scripture to force your will. Marriage is meant to be a good thing for both people involved.
In closing, I want to say thank you to those who deliver the word and Godly counsel in full. Those Pastors, teachers, family and friends who dig deeper into the meaning of the scriptures and present the message in context. I am thankful to be married to my husband of 14 years, as of April 26 of this year. Even before God’s grace entered our marriage last year – making us both new, he has supported me, loved me and treasured me. He is my protector, my personal knight in shining armor. He loved me when I felt unlovable. Now, we are stronger because our heavenly Father is in the midst of our home and relationship. He has never caused me to feel shame. Even before he knew God, before I was reconciled back to God…God gave this man to me.
Reserve Your Judgement
I believe there is a reason judgement remains with God. We, in our humanity, cannot know everything going on in a heart, relationship or situation. One of my husband’s favorite sayings are there are three sides to every story; yours, mine and the truth. It is an over simplification to be sure, but you get the point. We see things through the lens of our perspective and some people out right lie. Our challenge is to love one another. It does not matter what skeletons are lurking in your closet, I am supposed to love you. Sometimes that means asking for God’s grace to give me the capacity to love you. It is hard to love people who hurt you or others. Initially, praying for them may feel false; however, as you pray for them you will find that something shifts deep inside of you. You start to despise less. You find yourself actually meaning the words you pray over them. I know how hard it can be…but it is the ticket to freedom. Praying for our enemies, those who wound us the most, is the most healing experience you can encounter. Bitterness disappears and peace sets in. Christ prayed on the cross for God to “forgive them for they know now what they do”. (Luke 23:34) There is a simple truth in this…those in sin are unaware of the what they are doing. God’s grace and mercy can heal ANYTHING, you just have to trust it.