The following story depicts domestic abuse, so please be cautious reading this story if this is a triggering topic for you.
“But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning. They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”Psalm 18:16-19 MSG, Eugene H. Peterson
I’ve always been drawn to stories of the heroine of quiet strength who loves the lost, broken man back to wholeness: the fallen woman with a heart of gold redeems the criminal to God, the beauty gets her prince from the beast, the princess gets her prince from the frog—hearts of stone turned to hearts of flesh by the long-suffering, sacrificial love of the woman.
When I got married to the sweet, handsome, adventurous man, loved and admired by all, who I had met at a Christian summer camp and planned a life of ministry with, I— nor anybody else—had any idea of what was to come.
There is no arrangement of words to communicate or make sense of the darkness and the chaos that entered into my life shortly after we were married. My mind was so meticulously manipulated, my sense of reality so deranged, my body so sick with anxiety. I was suffocating in this anxiety and fear, with no understanding as to why my life was falling to pieces, why horrible things kept knocking on the door or ringing the phone or boding behind closed doors.
With no understanding of what I was afraid of, I was afraid of everything. And unable to trust the man I just vowed my life to, I was so very alone. I was too ashamed to cry out for rescue; I desperately wanted rescue. I told what I knew: the sickness, the panic attacks, the no money. But I did not know the reason for any of these things.
It was an awful, impossible nightmare.
When we lost it all and his addiction was revealed, I called my heart to courage and my mind to action to help him get the help he needed, to piece our life back together, and to stand by my man, to forgive him, and take him back, again—and again.
Addiction is a beast. All the warning signs came back, and the abuse worsened. I begged, I pleaded, I promised that if only he would be honest with me, if he would just tell me the truth, he would have nothing to fear: I was here to help him, to love him. But he lied, and I caught him in his lie, and I had to ask him, again, to leave.
Still, I clung to the hope that with more time, with more help, with more distance, he could change and our marriage could be renewed. But then I disclosed the abuse to my friends, and they helped me name it for what it was. And then, one month before our one-year anniversary, I learned of his affair.
Addiction. Abuse. Adultery. Every vow broken. Symbols of our love cheaply pawned. My love was not saving him; he was unchanging, and I, continuously at risk. I could not support myself, for my money would vanish. I could not safely sleep beside him. I could not think; I could not breathe. I could not trust a word he said: there was no distinction between truth and lies with him.
My love could not save him. My love was his opportunity, but his refusal to respond with a repentant heart was not my responsibility. And so, broken, beaten, I left.
It was not by a lack of grace that I left, but by grace, I was able to leave.
I loved this man more than life. And it broke every part of me. But this was not the end God had for me. God delivered me out of the darkness and is day-by-day redeeming me. He met me in my mess and has met my every need. He has lost not one of my broken pieces.
Though I have been met with judgment by some well-meaning persons who did not know me or the details of my story, God has held off the stones and has written my name in the sand and on His heart of grace.
He has given me a precious peace. In the words of the lovely Lisa Terkheurst, He gave me the grace to “surrender my spouse to Christ,” and to free myself: “He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”
I do not take the marriage vows lightly. I do not consider it OK to give up simply because life is tough and relationships are difficult. But in situations of adultery, abuse, abandonment, etc., there are Biblical protections and provisions for women. It is not the heart of God to leave His daughter vulnerable and in danger.
If you are in such a situation—be it with a boyfriend or spouse—please know that you are not alone, and please know you are not without hope. You are not doomed to this darkness forever. Tell someone. Reach out for help; seek guidance; walk away when you must. Fear and shame kept me silent too long.
Be reminded of this: no matter what happens, God will walk with you; you will never be alone. There is Light and Life in the arms of Christ, our perfect bridegroom, the one who can—and will—save us with His love and love our lost, broken hearts back to wholeness.
And there in this love, you will stand—saved—and be met with overwhelming grace.