Dear friend, I have no idea how long you might listen before you decide to shut me out. But what I have to say is important, and I hope you will give me just a few precious minutes to share what is on my heart.
What I need to say may change how you see yourself and even, perhaps, the course of your life. Please consider my words. My prayer in this moment is that you might give yourself permission to be completely honest with yourself. Listen to what your heart says. You will know if what I am saying is true.
You see, I know a lot more about you than you might imagine. I know you think no one knows what is going on in your little corner of the world.
But I know.
I can see you shaking your head even as the tears form in your eyes. You doubt me. But please hear me out.
Dear one, I know that you are hurting, that you are unhappy and that you feel guilty for feeling unhappy. I know you believe that your situation is unique, that no one could possibly understand what your home life is like. I know that you have been told and have come to believe that your unhappiness is the result of your own failings and flaws. You have bought into the notion that you deserve to be unhappy at this point in your life. You have clung to the conviction that if you can just get this thing right, then your life would change. I know that you struggle with depression and anxiety, and you feel guilty that you are imperfect. You accept the blame and responsibility for anything and everything that goes wrong and commit to trying harder next time.
But it’s not your fault.
I know that words have been spoken that have pierced and wounded your heart. Those words have left deep and terrible scars. They haunt you. You have heard them so often and in so many different ways that you have come to believe that you are truly stupid and foolish and inadequate and unworthy and pitiful and selfish.
But you’re not.
I also know your husband uses your faith to bludgeon you into submission. I know all about the crazy-making conversations, his impossible expectations and double standards. I have seen that hateful look in his eyes and know all about that sick feeling you get when he turns to you with that icy stare – warning you not to mess with him. I know that you do everything in your power to try to manage it, to shield your children, to create a happy home, to override your emotions, to assume the best.
But your home is a toxic, terrifying place because, as hard as you try, your entire life revolves around his ever-changing moods and demands.
I know that you cry in secret – an ocean of broken, lonely tears. There are times your body aches with untold sorrow and grief even when you find a way to quell your anguish and convince yourself that you are being overly sensitive, that it’s not that big of a deal.
But your pain is real, and it is a very big deal.
I know that your knees ache from the hours you have spent praying. You have asked God to help you to be more gentle and selfless and forgiving. You pray for your husband, that he would find peace and contentment and see how hard you are trying to earn his love. I know that you pray that he might one day truly see you – your tender heart and your loyalty and your unwavering faith in him. You pray that he might be wholly pleased with you, that in a singular, life-changing moment, tender words of adoration and affirmation might flow from his lips.
But that has not happened. And it’s sad to say, it is unlikely you will ever hear those words, because that would diminish his power.
You might even have come to believe that your suffering is somehow in accordance with God’s divine will, that it is an honorable thing, your pain; that your willingness to share in His suffering somehow honors Him. But you don’t deserve it, and your suffering in an ungodly marriage does not honor Him, but grieves Him.
I know that you believe with all your heart that one magical day all of this will turn itself around, that you will find the key that holds the power to put an end to this terrible misunderstanding and unlocks your man’s ratcheted-down heart. You believe that your faithfulness, humility, patience, selflessness and forgiveness will yield an eventual reward of genuine, loving relationship.
But that’s not what he wants.
I know you have convinced yourself that this insane life you live is somehow normal. Others have told you that every marriage has its ups and downs, and that this phase will pass, and your marriage will become stronger as a result.
But it’s not normal. And it won’t pass.
I know you imagine a different life, a life free from the dark clouds of fear and confusion that overshadow your every step, every word, every dollar spent, every household endeavor and every dream and desire you have been compelled to push aside.
I know you imagine your children free to be children rather than little robots –innocent yet terrorized aliens in a home where they must tread lightly to avoid their father’s wrath. I know you picture a home where laughter and affection reign, where confidence is sown and dreams are encouraged, where there is freedom to be imperfect, safe in the knowledge that our blemishes and limitations are simply what make us real and human. And I know you trust that one day those all-too-human frailties will be met with grace and acceptance and comfort rather than criticism and cold, harsh words of condemnation and rejection.
But I cannot encourage you to put any stock in those cruel fantasies.
Dear friend, those things you struggle with, those emotions and doubts and fears that surround the world you live in are almost universally consistent with those of us who have been (or are) victims of abuse.
I know that such a realization may seem too much to bear, to consider the possibility that the man you say you love (and who claims to love you) is intentionally causing you harm.
I know that all this time you have believed that your pain and anxiety are a result of your insufficiencies and that you may even deserve the treatment you have received.
But you have never been inadequate or unlovable, and you have never deserved to be treated that way.
I pray that you can open your eyes to the truth about the world you live in, to acknowledge the pain you have so long denied. I beg you to find a way to crack open that little shell in which you have learned to survive and let someone in – someone who will help you. I pray that you can draw upon the last ounce of strength you possess to tell your secrets, to reach out to those who have always loved you and long to see you whole and happy.
How do I know these things?
I have been where you are. You see, for 20 years I believed all of the same deceptions, bought into all of the same lies, suffered the same kinds of depression and fear and confusion and anxiety under which you now suffer.
Now I can see clearly the terrible web of deception my abuser wove. But in one shining moment, someone helped me to see through the lies. With the help of people who care, I escaped and fought my way to a new life grounded in truth and love and restoration and newfound confidence.
You don’t have to believe the lies anymore. You don’t have to live that way for one more day. And you shouldn’t.
Please hear me, dear one. Please, please hear me.
I pray that you will allow the words I have shared to reach deep, that these few minutes will be the beginning of a new understanding. Let them be the precious moments that set the stage for the next phase of your life – a life that no longer includes abuse.
Thank you for taking these few minutes to consider what I have offered and know that I want only God’s best for you.
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