Misunderstood

Upon separating from my abusive husband, a whole new realm of emotions surfaced:  a constant fear of what new tactics my abuser might employ to torment me now that I was no longer within easy reach, fears with regard to the kind of future my children and I might face, and on top of it all there was the heartbreaking realization that some people whom I considered friends clearly could not accept the reality of what was going on my life.

Unfortunately, what might have been deemed simple ignorance was insufficient to enable me to dismiss some people’s responses to me.  It went much deeper than that.  It felt more as though they simply refused to believe that something so penetratingly dark could have possibly invaded our lives.  Many came alongside to whisper, “There, there,” and pat me on the back and insist that things couldn’t be that bad.  Those ignorant or insensitive or foolish people only made things worse.

They misunderstood not merely the horror of our situation; they misunderstood me.  Their condescending manner left me feeling isolated and cold and lonely and a little crazy.  They spoke as though I was being silly or narrow-minded.  “Maybe,” they insinuated, “you should try to be more understanding of where your husband is coming from.  Maybe you should try to forgive and forget.”  Their comments and suggestions told me that they doubted more than the truth of my testimony, but rather my  very character, the integrity of my words, and the depth of my pain.

And something inside of me crumbled.

Whether they would admit it today or not, some of my closest family members and confidantes shamed me at a time when what I desperately needed was a listening, empathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on, even if there was nothing to be said.  In the starkest terms, they betrayed me.  As I tested the waters with one after another, I learned that there were some I could no longer rely on or confide in, some I could not trust with my heart and my hurt.

But there were some who “got it,” those who had either witnessed similar trauma in their own lives or who loved and trusted me enough to simply accept where I was, a blessed few who offered comfort and held me up when I was sure I was destined to fall.  In the midst of the emotional carnage and heartache, each of us really needs just a handful of people who are willing to walk with us through it all.

It’s hard to imagine that our Lord had some similar experiences.

Think about it.  Jesus asked a dozen men to accompany Him on His journeys all over the countryside for three years.  They witnessed five thousand being fed after a simple Nazarene prayed over a couple of fish and some barley loaves.  Life with Jesus meant long days of trail dust mixed with intransigent and unforeseen glories.  Light comes to blinded eyes, the decaying flesh of lepers is restored, and the dead are raised with a word.  Tumultuous seas are made blissful one day and suitable for strolling on another.

How many evenings had the band basked in the glow and crackle of a campfire while they recounted the miracles and wonders they had seen on a given day, coupled with so many words of wisdom capable of reaching into their very souls?

Yet at times even Jesus was misunderstood by those closest to Him.

Even as Jesus identifies Himself as God’s chosen one, Philip, having witnessed every irreplaceable minute up to this point has the audacity to petition for proof.

“Show us the Father, and that will be enough,” Philip demands.  Jesus must have hung His head and sighed.  “Philip…  Don’t you know Me?  “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14)

As for Peter, only minutes after professing publicly his belief that Jesus is Messiah, forbade Jesus from going to Jerusalem where He said He would be killed.  “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.””  Matthew 16:22

Jesus rebuked His friend, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23

Man, that seems harsh.  But the truth is that Jesus’ intentions were for the highest of purposes, and Peter’s words undermined our Lord’s stalwart determination.  Surely, Peter meant well.  “We love You, Lord.  Don’t do it.  Surely, we can find another way to make this work in a way that no one gets hurt.”

It was ignorance on Peter’s part, but a potentially crippling manifestation of it.

Some of my friends said similar things to me when I was considering divorce, when I knew it was the right thing, the path the Lord had laid out before me.  “Divorce is a little drastic, don’t you think?  I’m sure a good counselor can help you to hold your marriage together.  Don’t you think you should stay together for the children?  What about your Christian witness?”

Those voices essentially dismissed me as a fraud and churned up doubt and confusion.  They didn’t espouse as much about what was right or best or true but deferred to that which might seem less controversial, less confrontational and more “Christian.”  And they had no idea how those words stung.

We should also take a quick look at Thomas, the disciple who refused to receive what his eyes had not seen.  Doubting his friends’ stories of a resurrected Christ, Thomas finds himself on his face when the risen Lord suddenly appears and invites Thomas to touch the wounds in His hands, His feet, His side. You couldn’t trust the word of your friends, Thomas?  Okay then, see for yourself.  Jesus also offers sobering counsel saying,  “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:25-27

Maybe you have had some friends like that.  “I wasn’t there, so I have  no way of knowing if what you are saying is true,” they might say.  But just as surely, there will be some who will support you solely on the basis of your word.  God bless them.

Furthermore, it is important to see that while Jesus had 12 men with Him, there were three identified as His closest companions: Peter, James and John.  Count ’em:  three.  They were invited to witness the Transfiguration, and it was those three companions He begged to remain close and pray with Him in Gethsemane.

And then there was John, His very best friend, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  Yes, although Jesus had thousands of followers and fans, our Lord knew that many would not “get Him,” at least not until after other significant events unfolded.  Similarly, if only a handful of devoted friends are there to get you through to the other side, let it be enough.

Some will no doubt retort, “Yes, but they all abandoned Jesus when things got really tough.”  That’s true.  But, Jesus wasn’t surprised by the way things played out.  As Peter swore that He would never leave Him, Jesus prophesied of Peter’s heart-rending betrayal.  Personally, I don’t think it was spoken to shame Peter, but to remind him that the events that were upon them were beyond Peter’s control, and all of the disciples had to be scattered to preserve them for the calling that would be placed upon their lives in the days to come.  Jesus knew that.  That singular part of the journey was His to walk alone, just as there are aspects of our journey when we must do the same.

But looking back at Jesus’ experience once again, there, at the crucifixion, whom do we find?  John, Jesus’ beloved friend, at the very foot of the cross, holding our Lord’s mother, committing himself to her care.  Even as people sneered and mocked and spat on our suffering Savior, Jesus never asks where the other disciples are.  In those dark hours, John’s presence was enough.  Submitting in obedience to the Father was enough.  The shaking of the earth, the renting of the veil, the distant rumbling of a stone being unearthed, and the imminent demise of the death angel was enough.

Yes, I have painted a dramatic picture to lead you toward an often understated reality. Convinced by many of the stories of abuse victims that cross my desk, I have come to the conclusion that, even as we make our escape, as we consider accepting the shaming brand as a divorcee, as we climb and claw our way toward restoration, we may be shocked to learn that not everyone will be willing to believe our accounts.  Many will not understand.  Some may be openly critical.  Others may shun us.  And the hard truth is that, as you walk this rough and treacherous road, perhaps only a few will really be there for you.

Maybe only one.

Nevertheless, I pray you will not allow the ignorance or the silence or the whisperings of others to keep you from doing what you are certain is the right thing.  Today you may be misunderstood, but you need to know that it is not your job to convince anyone of anything.  The day will come when all things that are in the darkness will be plainly seen.

In the meantime, hold to the One who knows everything there is to know about where you are and what your life is like.  Listen to His leading and accept His comfort and assurance.  He knows the truth, and He too understands how you feel.  He too knows what it’s like to be misunderstood.

Cindy Burrell

Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved

6 thoughts on “Misunderstood”

  1. Thank you, Cindy. You covered a gamut of emotions in this post. Recently heard a sermon where the pastor also referred to the fact that Jesus had chosen ‘some’ to be closer to Him than others. For victims, the reality check comes when those you thought would be your friends are the very ones you can not trust and quite often are the ‘professing Christians’. 🙁

    1. Hello, “Healing.”

      It really seems so counter-intuitive, that those who acknowledge the miracles of Christ are the same legalists who are horrified that He might heal on the Sabbath. If our walk does not fit into to those little Christian boxes, then we must be outside of God’s will.

      I confess that, early in my Christian walk, I too harshly judged those who separated or divorced, believing that doing so could not align with a life of faith. Boy, did the Lord show me otherwise. But our learning so often comes in the form of experience, which in turn gives us a compassion for others. And we need more of that. 🙂 At least I do.

      Cindy

  2. I sent an email to my group of women friends explaining the about the abuse and why I separated from my husband. One of them betrayed my trust, printed it and left it on his car anonymously. I have since stopped communicating with them, except for one that I know didn’t do it.

    Compounding all the issues of leaving my husband and discussing where we go from here, is the fact that I was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after Christmas ….after I had put down a deposit on an apartment and was planning the escape. I had a lumpectomy and all went well. Pathology reports said it wasn’t in nodes, so I thought no chemo, “just” radiation (for six weeks, everyday M-F!). The medical and radiation oncologists have sent my tissue for an Oncotype test to rule out chemo and I won’t know the results for another two weeks.

    This is when most breast cancer patients have their friends rally around them, but because I took a stand against abuse I am being shunned.

    Anyway, I know I need to adapt an “attitude of gratitude” and most days I have it because I have so very much to be thankful for: I’m safe. For the most part, my kids know how their dad is (but I think my son is waivering on his support for me.) I have a good job. I’m able to pay my bills. The lumpectomy is healing well. I’ve begun healthy way of eating and exercising and lost 40 pounds.

    And I feel that God is with me and led me here…. Cindy’s book was part of my journey and what she went through and the scriptures she used helped me so much.

    Thanks so much for this post.

    1. Hello, Allicat.

      I’m glad you took the time to write and share your situation. I will be praying for you – for healing, both emotionally and spiritually. I was shocked to read about what one of your so-called friends did. Stunning and so incredibly disappointing.

      Nevertheless, I pray that you have a handful of friends who will love and support you during this period in your journey.

      I’m glad the post at least affirmed that you are not alone. And I’m also pleased to know that my book helped you to find the affirmation and clarity you need.

      I hope you will keep me informed.

      Cindy

  3. “Unfortunately, what might have been deemed simple ignorance was insufficient to enable me to dismiss some people’s responses to me. ”

    When my ex walked out over 6 years ago I was stunned by the response of so many in the church I attended at the time. Even the pastor tried to step aside and not address anything and actually approached me one Sunday after service about 3 months after my ex had left to let me know how my ex seemed to be changing…I remember just standing there staring at him, totally baffled that my own pastor would say that to me when all I was getting from my ex were hateful emails and telling lie after lie about me in our little community! I just walked away.

    I used to always tell myself that people were just ignorant but it never seemed to soothe my aching heart and soul. Many people around me just chose to look the other way because that was often easier than having to deal with the whole Christian and divorce issue. I often had people approach me to ask how I was doing and inquire about how to help me, but then add “I don’t know what happened and I don’t want to know, but if you need anything let me know.” Really??

    I’ve always hated when Christians say that to me, that they don’t really know what happened but don’t want to know…they may as well be saying, “please don’t tell me because I don’t really want to get involved.”

    You truly do find out who your true friends are when you separate and especially if you choose to divorce an abuser. I was actually surprised at a few people who walked away from me and perhaps more surprised at a couple people who stayed close by. It kind of weeded out those hypocrites! LOL

    Thank you for putting into words how what so many abuse victims to through.

    1. Hello, Amy.

      Thank you, as always, for sharing. Your testimony is so powerful.

      It is so important for us to get validation of our own experiences by reading or hearing others’. I have discovered that Solomon was right: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes) Those things we think no one else can possibly understand are understood deeply by others just like us. It isn’t just good to know, but important to know, that we are not alone.

      Your so-called friends’ and your pastor’s responses to you are so sad, and all too common. Avoidance hurts like heck, too. We are the lepers in the church, as so many of our fellow believers cry out as we pass by, “Unclean, unclean!”

      But, our Lord is ultimately the One who sustains and affirms us. And that truth is more than enough.

      Thank you for sharing your story on this painful subject. I just have to believe that one day the church’s eyes will one day be opened to the hypocrisy of it all.

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