“Don’t forget your roots.” I used to get these reminders earlier in the year when I changed my writing focus.
Some parts of my audience used to “regular marriage teachings” felt like I had pulled the rug from under their feet when I began discussing abuse in marriage.
And over the last several months, I’ve come to the conclusion that many Christians can’t quite wrap their minds around the good news to the abused.
And so today, I want to invite those of us in overall healthy marriages to a moment of reflection.
Betrayal, porn use, abuse, abdication of marital and relational responsibility, perpetual immaturity, male entitlement, hard-heartedness, unrepentance – these topics might not feel like peppy, upbeat dialogues to many of us in healthy marriages.
They might not sit as well as “15 Thoughtful Gift Ideas For Your Husband,” or “How To Enjoy The Holiday Season When It’s Just You and Your Husband,”
But to those devastated, whose husbands are not good or decent men, raising awareness and discussing the hard and complex in marriage is a lifeline. It’s affirming and life-giving to their private hell being exposed and discussed in the open.
When “good news to the abused” is different
One person’s version of encouragement will look very different from another person’s version of the same.
If my heart stopped working, the treatment would be vastly different from if I just grazed my knee.
When we insist that marriage advice should look a certain way (for example, we should be equiping all marriages to weather the storms and for couples to stay together), we’re saying that all relationship injuries are the same.
That couples whose heart has stopped beating should get band-aids and keep going. That the woman with the knife lodged in her back from her husband’s destructive ways should keep it subtle and stop crowding everyone’s joy. That nobody should discuss the trauma to a child when their father is a controlling entitled abuser.
Here’s a question to reflect on: how many of us would rebuke a heart surgeon for her years of study and practice because not everyone will need her services? How many of us would demand more positive news from a hospital’s Emergency Room?
What type of care would benefit someone beaten, bruised, and abandoned by the roadside? If we offered care at all, wouldn’t it be bizarre for the community around that person to beat up on the caregivers because the endeavor wasn’t as “simple” or comfortable as taping up a grazed knee?
Here’s what I’m getting at: Isn’t all work God’s work? Shall we dare demand that all of God’s work look the same?
Scanning for majority voices
When Sheila Wray Gregoire, Rebecca Lindenbach and Joanna Sawatsky came out with their (aff link) The Great Sex book, which was based on their groundbreaking research on the effects of evangelical teachings on women’s sexual and marital outcomes, (research that had not been done before) some people said the results were skewed, the sample size wasn’t wide enough.
And I thought “Mhhh, even if the women were all wrestling with same type of issues – and they were not, majority of the respondents were not even Sheila’s readers – shouldn’t 20,000 women be a number that causes all of us to stop and listen?”
What does it say about our ability to value the minority among us, if 20,000 thousand women can speak and we start to find reasons not to listen to their concerns?
It’s time we accepted that just because a topic doesn’t touch us experientially doesn’t mean it’s not essential or that actual harm isn’t being done.
Just because we don’t know someone who’s gone through it doesn’t mean there aren’t millions affected within the body.
And please lets remember that most abuse happens in secret. It’s not visible to outsiders. It’s emotional and psychological, and spiritual, and it occurs behind closed doors, away from the public eye. You might never see the veneer breaking. (Also see, Is this Abuse?)
Discussing abuse, betrayal, hardcore neglect of marriage and relational responsibility and the horror of it all is bringing to the open what is done behind closed doors.
And no, discussing the dark side of relationships doesn’t mean the good and decent side doesn’t exist. It just means we’re no longer living in silos.
“Abuse is not “worse than it used to be.” It’s just no longer the secret it always was.” Sarah McDugal
Defense of the Christian faith will look different, depending on where you are standing. So brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s not distract people doing God’s work because they are not speaking directly to our circumstances.
- How Pastors Enable Domestic Violence From the Pulpit
- 18 Reasons Churches Struggle To Support Abuse Victims
- Why the Church Won’t Condemn The Wickedness that Leads to Divorce (Plus an Abuser’s Chain of Reaction)
- Why “Forgive and Reconcile” is a Terrible Message To Betrayed Spouses
Unholy Fruit: Guide to Discerning Toxic Character Workshop
Are you in a chronically problematic marriage? Or perhaps you know someone who is and you desire to support them. In the following workshop and checklist (affiliate link), Coach Sarah McDugal empowers your ability to discern the Fruit of an UNholy spirit. If you have felt confused by the dissonance between someone’s pious words and their exploitative actions, this workshop offers clarity and some possible next steps in your healing journey. Check it out here.