This just might be my favorite poem in the history of forever. Love the insight into the intimate heart of the Almighty toward his broken children.
So much truthing– a post written by April over on Cry for Justice.
Love this except it hurts a bit overmuch.
I am a deeply flawed man looking for the ideal woman to fix my life. She must be willing to give all of her energy, time, and talent to meeting my needs. She will be my rescuer, savior, and strength. This position is only for a very unique woman . . . is it you? Or maybe you are like all the other needy, vindictive, overly independent, unfeminine ladies I see on the street.
I will either hate you or idealize you. Often both at the same time.
I have been called moody and difficult by some. But this is my nature and I refuse to change it. As soon as you change, gain weight, become tired, sad, or angry, I will attack you or leave. This position will remain open until filled or until you read this job offering by mistake.
Do know that I will deny having written…
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Today was one of those days you’d like to hit the delete key.
I’m a school nurse. You can imagine, I hear some sad stories. Some are heartbreaking, some are a shame, some are just so much foolishness.
Today involved CPS, a criminal investigation and one of the most vulnerable little girls on our campus. While caseworkers and cops paraded about interviewing everyone in sight, I wept in the clinic. The afternoon was devoted to thinking of all the various ways to inflict damage via bandage scissors ensuring a certain perpetrator would never hurt another innocent child again.
Sometimes, it just hurts to breathe–
There’s just no way to let something like this go. The man who harmed this child harmed everyone who knew and loved her. Collectively we grieved today, separately we gnashed our teeth and blamed ourselves for not being omniscient demi-gods with the power to rewind the clock. We pointed fingers, assigned blame, looked backwards with perfect 20/20 clarity and thought of a thousand ways any one of us might have prevented this if we’d just been a wee bit more suspicious.
This evening, I had myself a nice little rant-fest directed at the Almighty.
Why? Why didn’t someone protect her? How on earth did they get away with this without anyone noticing? Oh and, by the way—why are the wicked free to roam around, picking off the vulnerable like prey in the first place? Why don’t You come on back already and put a stop to this, we’re getting slaughtered down here!
Dear God above, please make this stop–
Right in the big middle of my righteous indignation, I saw Jesus during His thirty-three years walking about our fallen planet. With a clarity that bespoke divine intervention, I saw the crowd around him, liberally sprinkled with murderers, pedophiles, thieves, and adulterers cleverly disguised as upstanding citizens.
Solomon wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. And while surely wickedness has increased as we approach His second coming, none of the sins around us are anything new. Which leads logically to the conclusion that, in His oneness with the Almighty, Jesus had to know that murderers and rapists and child abusers were lurking about, carrying on their evil and yet, never once did he threaten to castrate anyone with bandage scissors.
In my semi-hysterical frame of mind, this seemed a bit odd.
And then I remembered—He came the first time around as the sacrifice for sin. He saw each and every one He met as a candidate for forgiveness, no matter how wicked.
He did not come to condemn the world. He came to save the world. He called them all to repentance. The rapists and the murderers and the pedophiles and the thieves and whores and gossips and gluttons. He came to save them. He did not come for the righteous, He came for the wicked because they were the ones who needed a physician.
Someday, He will come again as the Lion and all this evil and the suffering that rides shotgun will end. But in the meantime, Jesus died—on purpose—to save sinners. All the pitchforks in the world will not save our society—it will not fix one damn thing. Only rebirth and repentance can transform evil. In the meantime, we are all given the space and time to repent.
So am I saying we just need to forgive the criminals and move on? Not hardly.
I’m saying that my desire to inflict harm on one shameful sinner would not change a thing. But what would this world look like if those who did their evil in darkness repented and brought forth works of repentance? What if we stopped pretending that everything is a-okay, that all the nice looking folks are just exactly what they look like on the surface and start calling sinners to repent?
True Story (with possible omission in detail because it’s been awhile)—
A young man from my hometown robbed a convenience store. He shot and killed the clerk and did not get caught. Not long after, this murderer accepted Christ and experienced a radical rebirth. Old things passed away. He spent every moment of his life trying to make up for his crime. He preached to the young people in town, warning them against alcohol and drugs. He became a youth pastor. He married and became a father and loving husband. He preached Jesus and repentance and salvation through Christ alone. And he kept his secret for years.
Then one day, he did something totally unexpected, something that made headlines all over the place. This upstanding citizen walked into the police station and turned himself in. He left his church, his wife and his sons to go to prison for the foreseeable future. He told his stunned friends and family who clearly thought he’d lost his last marbles that he could no longer live with himself.
You see, words alone were not enough. Works alone are not enough. This young man knew a secret and bravely worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling.
Following repentance, those who harm others must make restitution in kind. When John said to bring forth works of repentance, this is what he meant. When Zachias said he would pay back everything he stole, this is why. He didn’t offer to clean the temple, teach Bible Study or go to counseling. He gave back what he took and compensated his victims for their loss by giving extra.
This young man brought forth works of repentance. The very real change inside his heart eventually burst forth in fruits of righteousness. He did the right thing. He gave peace to the family of his victim, he admitted his guilt, he accepted the judgment of the society in which he lived and paid the price because it was the right thing to do.
What must I do to be saved?
Ever wonder why Jesus told folks to go do things when they asked this question? Sell all you have and give it to the poor seems to conflict with salvation by grace alone. And yet, how can anyone who’s heart has truly been reborn into the Kingdom of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness sit all comfortable, year after blessed year, right there in the hog wallow of their former existence filled with adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like? It absolutely makes no sense.
Furthermore, is it even possible for those dead in trespasses and sin to do anything so contrary to their nature as going to prison for a crime they got away with years ago?
So what if we stopped pretending that evil does not exist and start calling the wicked to repentance? What if the power of God to save the lost broke forth mightily and those who commit atrocities in darkness came to the light and experienced the life-changing power of regeneration?
Ida Mae spends some time repenting—Again
I was wrong. I would’ve called fire down out of heaven and turned the man who harmed my little friend into a pile of rubble. You see, while I was sharpening my scissors, I forgot that whoever hurt my sweet little student is someone’s son. Someone’s brother, someone’s father, someone’s husband. Someone, somewhere loves that man despite what he’s done.
God loves that man.
So now, I’m praying he will be exposed so he will not harm another child. I pray that he will repent and the power of God will transform his life, taking him out of the realm of darkness and into the light of the Kingdom of Heaven. I pray he will one day call others to repentance.
I repent of my hard-heartedness but, dadgumit, I will also stop pretending that evil cannot possibly lurk about in perfectly respectable looking packages and tell anyone who’ll listen that Jesus died to save the worst of these.
This was written awhile back but the emotions ran too high at the time to post. I’ve edited out the multiple exclamation marks and such but if it seems a bit raw, my apologies. Furthermore, it’s not meant as a theological exposition–just a moment of epiphany after a very long day.
Needed to hear this today. The need for justice simmers inside, some days more than others.
Thank you, Jeff.
I have a problem in keeping up with my reading. I open a good book, start in with good intentions of covering a lot of ground, and then smack! I get stopped in my tracks by some really, really good piece of insightful wisdom – a blog post enters my brain, and I have to stop everything, go in to my study, and write the post. That’s what just happened, so here we go.
Forgiveness is much easier when there is justice. In fact, we might even be justified in saying that forgiveness requires justice. Here is the paragraph that sprung this gem on me. It is by Herman Bavinck and it comes from volume four of his Reformed Dogmatics:
Forgiveness is not natural….Pagans pictured the gods as human, endowing them with such passions as jealously, spite, and vengeance, and therefore could not grasp the sublime idea of a…
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*Note: I found this written and discarded on my computer. It’s not a stellar bit of writing which may explain things, however, I owe someone who commented here an apology. She wrote in good faith, I said I would reply, then turned into a tiny lump of denial.
Candy Crush marathons—
Pinterest until way past bedtime—
Avoiding email, text and voice mail. Since November.
I hate, hate, hate to post this. Much rather wait until there’s something upbeat and lovely but then again, I don’t usually pull a nutty of this magnitude, so here you go.
Don’t know if you noticed but I haven’t posted much. Couldn’t quite figure out the reason. I’ve wanted to post. I’ve tried to post.
This is hard to write and harder to post for a bunch of reasons. Like most survivors, I do not like sympathy. Sympathy brings on feelings and I’m not so good with those. This is probably a bit nutz but there you have it.
Unfortunately, I promised honesty.
After leaving three years ago, I was so happy to get away from the beast, so relieved to have the constant barrage of crazy-making, the roller coaster of verbal/emotional and spiritual abuse finally end, that I had no idea whatsoever that I was still having a difficult time. Fact is, in some ways, the last three years have been *more* difficult, something I did not suspect.
Not to say it’s not worth every single drop of blood I’ve spilled over this (metaphorically speaking), it dadgum is. But–
- Leaving after thirty years was hard.
- Finding a job after 30 years off the job market was hard and, in fact, took most of three years of constant attention.
- Finding housing we can afford is hard. Finding a way to help a teen launch from high school to Real World is expensive. And hard.
- Watching my son decompress mentally, emotionally and every other way imaginable, cycling through emotions he never had the freedom to express before, day after day after day after day is more than hard. It’s heartbreaking.
- Talking to a counselor who insisted on telling me the truth was hard.
- Supporting the kids when all I want to do is sit on the floor and lick my wounds is hard. Repenting to my children for my part in the pain they received as children is hard.
- Fighting depression is hard.
- Reclaiming my identity is near to impossible. I just do not know who I am anymore.
- Losing my place, my position, my home is hard.
- Learning to live as a single, divorced, unclaimed and unloved woman is so very hard.
- Learning to replace that identity with the one my Savior freely gives is essential, but so not easy. Just learning what that might be takes incredible effort. Seeing myself as a courageous woman, as a survivor, as brave, as loved and valued and cherished is a task I’ll be working through for however many decades I’ve got left.
- Finding out that the man you loved is an enemy and—God forbid—always was an enemy is devastating. Living through that realization day by day just sucks. Remembering all the crap you discounted, ignored and explained away because ‘he couldn’t possibly mean that!’ is nauseating.
- Having the estranged call our friends, weeping and crying, asking for prayer and watching him manipulate their emotions in exactly the same way he manipulated mine for decades is hard.
- Admitting that you ever loved the bastard is way harder than it sounds.
- Watching the man you prayed for, nurtured, supported and upheld while he lived like the devil lie and buy his way into a position of church leadership only three months after we left was hard. Finding out he’s now the associate pastor when he has never shown even one sign of genuine repentance is laughable. Hearing that he and his church now consider him a modern day Job— righteous man, without sin, afflicted for no reason whatsoever—is way hard.
Right up until one year before leaving I was emotionally numb. Now, I’m awake and aware. Things hurt, I feel them. I’m getting bucketloads of memories, boatloads of deferred pain and way too much drama—memories, regrets, and brand new hurts now that the walls have dropped and the kids are telling their stories.
Was it worth leaving?
Oh, honey! Let me tell you. . . every second, of every minute of every day, I thank the Almighty who delivered us from evil. This job of getting well may be hard but the alternative is unthinkable.
For years, I showed all the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. Pull up the list, check them off twice. Over time, I came to believe I must have been abused as a child and just couldn’t remember. It never, ever occurred to me that a man could sexually abuse his wife. In fact, I would’ve said it wasn’t possible. After all– two adults, man and woman, way beyond the age of consent.
This morning, a new comment came in over on the post, Sex in an Abusive Marriage, Part 1. Not surprising, that series gets plenty of traffic. The nice lady who left a comment used the one key word that set the wheels to grinding. Below is a portion of her comment and my response:
“Oh my word! I’m reading my life, at least part of it. To know I’m not the only one is immense! This needs to be discussed in the church.”
I’ve got a few thoughts on the subject–Abuse occurs when there’s an imbalance of power. For instance, an adult cannot have sex with an underage child because the child cannot really say no. The adult holds all the authority and power. Professor and student. Preacher and church member. Boss and employee. The one in the subservient position feels coerced. Its why we have laws on the books and the reason people are fired even when the victim is an adult.
In marriage, people say you cannot be sexually abused. Why? Because you have two adults who can both say no, right?
The *church* is saying that the wife cannot refuse and invoking the authority of scripture and using God’s name to back them up. The church is causing the imbalance of power by teaching a false doctrine of submission. The church creates an atmosphere where sexual abuse can occur and thrive where none should exist in the first place. All that to say, I doubt they’ll be discussing this in churches anytime soon. Instead, they simply deny the reality that women are being sexually abused by their husbands.
The Floor is Open
Goes without saying that this does not apply to every church on the planet. It does, however, apply to many if not most conservative, fundamentalist, and patriarchal variations thereof. Many of us here swallowed these teachings and doctrines whole and suffered accordingly.
So let’s discuss.
Today, Jessica is cleaning my house. I pay her fifty dollars, twice a month. Extravagant, I know. But with a torn rotator cuff on the mend and a few OCD cleaning tendencies, it wasn’t much of a stretch.
Then again. . .
Actually it was. I’ve been close to broke for quite a while now. A hundred a month adds up and the son is going to community college. The Pharisee of an Ex refuses to help unless the son comes and asks personally. Read that as ‘beg and grovel, submitting to the beast’s authority as father.’ As hell hasn’t frozen over, that won’t be happening.
I’ve got a pretty good job working as a school nurse. My pay equals a teacher on a beginning salary. There’s enough to pay rent and utilities, buy groceries, pay for two el cheapo cell phones and put gas in our only vehicle. What I don’t have is extra. Trying to set up housekeeping from scratch equals crazy expensive. Anyone gets sick, anything breaks down, anyone hits the gas instead of the brake and drives through the shed, we’re screwed.
Yes, that happened. No, I’m not admitting to anything.
Broad Generalization: Survivors Know Each Other by the Scars Left Behind
Out in the big, wide universe of band aids and saltine crackers, away from Church World full of folks pretending to have all their crap together, a funny thing happened. Survivors of domestic abuse gravitated to my little clinic like iron filings to a magnet.
Excuse me? It’s not like I sit around pontificating on the topic. There’s no secret code marking my door, no Underground Railroad marker on the lawn. Then I start to see—good gravy, these ladies are everywhere. Step outside the door, open your eyes just a wee little bit and Bammo! Great flocks of them, all hurting, many desperate. Add to that, working in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Houston (statistically proven, trumpeted in the paper no less) and I’m guessing it’s not such a stretch.
Because let’s face it—overall, divorced women are broke and those of us who left with whatever we could cram in a laundry basket take that down a notch. Likewise, a woman who doesn’t speak the language, supporting three children, sleeping on cots in a church fellowship hall, infested with scabies and wearing the same filthy clothes every day is so far below the poverty line, she’s looking up to find tomorrow’s breakfast.
That is my neighborhood. By comparison, Ida Mae is one wealthy woman.
Which also explains what happens next.
One day, the school receptionist shows up in my clinic. She stands in my doorway all stubborned-up with arms crossed and foot tapping. She says, there’s this lady in my church who cleans houses, which might sound innocent, but baby, that sentence was loaded. I stare at her, she stares at me. I say, Brenda—I am broke and you are nuts. I cannot justify hiring someone else to clean my house when I still have one working appendage. I wave the dangling arm at her some to make my point.
Now when Brenda said, ‘in my church,’ she probably meant those cots mentioned previous, not a member of the congregation arriving all pressed and clean on Sunday morning. At that point however, such an understanding occupied no space in my working vocabulary. Brenda stares at me with the Look of Doom. She does not argue. She does not preach or give one of those, look-you-middle-class-white-woman speeches. She says, all reasonable, but Ms. B, she cleans the whole church for forty dollars. Anything you could pay, she would be so thankful.
At which point, I launch into a rant about how the church ought to pay the poor woman more money, still speaking from my old point of reference where churches fleece the sheep so preachers can live in a ten thousand square foot mansion and fly helicopters back and forth to preach to a congregation that’s as greedy as he is. After all, this is Houston and Joel Osteen clogs up the airwaves, not to mention the spiritual atmosphere. I have yet to discover that my little neighborhood is filled with tiny congregations sprinkled here and there into the back fabric of a poverty-stricken region, led by small pastors who barely speak English. These men work hard to preach the gospel to the least of these and still manage to scrape together enough to make beans and rice in the church kitchen for people who will live under a bridge otherwise.
I go back to passing out ice packs and employ Ignoring Maneuvers. Brenda stares at the arm I can barely lift and heads back to the front desk.
Did I mention Brenda is stubborn?
She comes back the next afternoon. And the next. She repeats the same message. She looks at me with those arms crossed and taps the same foot. And while I know she is a little bit nuts, she is also kind hearted and generous and–thick headed woman that I am–I finally catch on.
You see, Brenda is a survivor. By this time, she knows a little of my story as we’ve talked about things like, what is a honeymoon phase and will these men ever change and, if they did, what true repentance might look like. She makes less than half what I make and supports two Littles. And *she* is hiring Jessica to come clean her house because Jessica is also One of Us. Brenda will not spell things out and beg for charity, even for someone else, because she knows, this woman wants to work just exactly the same way that *I* want to work and take care of my own. Jessica does not want another handout. Jessica wants a job.
The divorce settlement did not go the way I wanted. The ex makes three times my salary and we had thirty years of accumulated assets. By any standard, we were rolling in gravy. Three years away meant he had plenty of time to manipulate the finances in his favor and he did because that’s what abusers do. The beast swore he would destroy me financially, one of his parting threats spit out right before I left. He came pretty dadgum close.
Only he didn’t. Because I was never the one who cared about living in a luxury home or driving the latest gas-hog. I wanted peace. I wanted my children safe. Those are the only things I ever really wanted. Now the kids are healing and I am learning to breathe again. I have enough to pay off the debts with some left over to put in the bank in case I take out another enemy shed. I have my health back because I no longer live with an abusive beast who sent my body into cortisol overdrive, destroying my immune system and causing chronic pain. I have a job I love working with people like Brenda who become more like family every day. And on Thanksgiving, I sat around the table with all four of my grown children, one amazing son-in-law and a boneless turkey, watching as these very silly kidlets colored on the tablecloth with sparkly crayons.
Every day, I stand amazed at the goodness of God. It’s been a long time coming and, at times, I seriously thought this was going to kill me. Funny how I’m still standing.
The Part Where Ida Gets a Bit Weepy
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, one other thing transpired. Per court order, I went back to the old house to retrieve my belongings. An armed security guard stood on the driveway while all those artists helped load boxes and go through closets. Baby pictures, albums, sewing machines, craft supplies—all came home to the little rental in the hood.
Along with the mementos, we brought back the last of my mother’s belongings. You see, my seventy-seven year old mother died in a confrontation with the beast two months after I left, defending my good name. The doctor who never actually examined her body said she died of a heart attack but—that is a story for another day.
Tucked into one of the boxes in a storage room upstairs, I found a beautiful green quilt she kept on her guest bed, two cream colored blankets and an LL Bean washable wool blanket in like-new condition. I loved mom dearly but these were not family heirlooms by a long shot. Nevertheless, these beauties were high quality warmness and my dormant packrat instincts sprang into action. Maybe I didn’t need them, but no matter. I’d give them a nice home.
Last night while sorting through baby photos and cast iron skillets, I found those blankets and started a load of laundry in their honor. Three years in storage hadn’t done them any favors smell-wise. As the rinse cycle wore out, I plotted ways of cramming them in closets or into storage tubs or under mattresses to await the day that I might or might not actually have use for a wool blanket in a city that rarely gets below sixty degrees.
Then I remembered Brenda’s tapping. I remembered where Jessica lives and the fact that it’s getting down to freezing tonight and the very real possibility she may not have heat in her subsidized housing. I remembered the faces of those four children she brings over who wait so quiet while mom cleans the house. And by the time the dryer sang, sanity was fully restored. I folded the blankets and sat them on the dining table.
When she arrived this morning, I asked if she’d like them. In her baby-steps English she said—“Do you know? I was going to the store today to get some.” And, bless me, I knew what she meant.
And Jessica smiled.
There’s a first time for everything.
The “store” is the charity thrift stop that passes out vouchers to the poorest in our neighborhood and today is the big day to pass out blankets. I know this, not because I have nothing to keep warm, but because Brenda and her crew told me.
Jessica and her babies would not have gone cold if I’d hoarded the blankets. This isn’t that sort of story. Nice people all over this section of Houston have worked long hours collecting blankets, coats and food items and they’ve worked even harder to develop a system to get things into the hands of people in need as seamlessly as possible. This story is about a woman who thought she was poor, who thought she had needs, who thought she had so little when she has everything and more. A woman who lives like a queen with someone else cleaning her house on a biweekly basis.
But more than anything, this story is about the God who blessed her good by letting her help, just a little.
A very blessed woman indeed.
Some days, I seriously feel like I’ve lived blind all my life.