Continuing with step 3. Choose to Tell Your Story… beginning with God.
Advantage 1 – God Is A Safe Place to Vent
Advantage 2 – God Will Patiently Listen
Advantage 3 – God is Love, Close, Listening, Able!
Here is another advantage of beginning with God. You do not need sentences! If all you can reach inside yourself is the pain and anger and hurt, and all you can muster are groans and tears, he knows your heart, sentences or no sentences. Your weeping and confusion and loneliness and hopelessness and fear are your sentences.
God loves you, is close by, and is able to interpret any communication you direct his way, unintelligible by human standards or not! He is never confused and never misjudges or misunderstand or draws a blank or struggles to know what we think or feel when he hears our prayer.
Whether a fearful whisper, angry shout, mumbled complaint, silent pain, desperate need, or unspoken dream, God is so close, cares so much, and is so powerful that anything said, when nothing is said, and what is only felt, is known by him. We cannot fool or lie to him, but we also cannot ever be out of his sight or mind. He may wait till you talk to him to answer your needs, but he never forgets, fumbles, or fails to get your needs right. Begin with God, is that not the best and safest place to start anyway?
God is so close, cares so much, and is so powerful that anything said, when nothing is said, and what is only felt, is known by him.
Tell the Whole Story
You have to tell your story. In order to tell your story you have to know your story and be willing to speak it even when it sounds crazy, unbelievable, petty, or if you have no idea how it sounds. Inherent in telling your story, is telling it, all of it, truthfully.
If half told or couched in half truth, it is half a story, a made up story, and not your story. No more spin, excuses, justifications, half-truth, partially told or totally fabricate to “protect the innocent,” or the guilty. It is time to stop the denial and step into what is, whatever it is. It is the only path to change.
If half told or couched in half truth, it is half a story, a made up story, and not your story.
Own the Whole Story
Brené Brown, a researcher and writer on shame, vulnerability, and wholeness says,**
“When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending…. I’ve learned that writing a brave new ending in our personal lives means:
- • We can’t smooth over hurt feelings in our families. It’s too easy for stockpiled hurt to turn into rage, resentment, and isolation. We must talk about it. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we’re tired.
- • We can’t pretend our family histories of addiction and mental health issues don’t exist if our hope is to write a new story and pass that legacy of emotional honesty and health down to our children.
- • We must own our failures and mistakes so that we can learn and grow. It’s hard but I’ve seen how it becomes part of a family and organizational cultures and unleashes innovation and creativity. It doesn’t feel comfortable, but courage rarely does… Owning our stories is standing in our truth.” **(https://brenebrown.com/blog/2015/06/18/own-our-history-change-the-story)
I think she is exactly right. Telling the whole story is a critical step, but it has to be followed by owning it. No more pretending or avoidance or self-pity or denial. Own what is. Deceiving yourself and others about it does not change it, nor will it allow the future to change.
Once you get a little comfortable having told and retold it to God, the same story and all the worst parts over and over again, or finally the whole story, begin to write. Committing it to hard copy helps make it more real. It helps further the process of self-discovery and finally putting it behind us. It also provides a place to recount ongoing abuse as new instances occur, either for yourself and your ongoing chats with God, with a counselor eventually, or even, God forbid, with authorities. It will help when the day comes that you decide to open up your story to another human being or are somehow forced to do so in desperation, calculated tactic, or self-defense.
Deceiving yourself and others about it does not change it, nor will it allow the future to change.
4. Choose God’s Help & Healing
It is my belief that healing from the wounds of abuse is something only God can provide. Yet another reason to begin to talk about your story with God. As the Designer and Creator of your invisible self, he knows how it works, how to keep it healthy, and how to heal it. Healing from abuse is swapping open wounds for scars. There will always be reminders and memories. But you can live a healthy life with a scar, but open wounds that need protection and tons a watchful care hamper and limit your mobility and adventures. If you have tried to move beyond the abuse but healing has never come, is sensitivity that sabotages new relationships persists, if fear that keeps you from even trying to connect closely with another human is a nagging and perpetual problem, you may want to consider God. Which is why I will give you this final step.
But you can live a healthy life with a scar, but open wounds… hamper and limit your mobility and adventures.
5. Choose Helpful Help
Listen carefully here. You need to choose someone who has experience with abuse cases. Someone who can be trusted both with the information you share and to give Biblical advice. But Biblical advice that is not removed from its context. Or not blurred and distorted by the standard approach (which is nigh unto abusive itself) that the church has been guilty of offering for decades. (See previous articles/podcasts.)
I suggest you choose a Christian counselor with this caveat. Make sure they are a Christian before they are a “secular” clinician. Some professed Christian counselors are Christians who give the same counsel as a non-Christ-follower would (which is good but incomplete from a Spiritual perspective). They may sprinkle in a few verses or the name of God. But I am talking about someone who holds to a Biblical standard of holiness, who uses the Bible to interpret secular culture and convictions, not the other way around. It may take some work, and that may prolong your situation, but finding the right counselor is critical.
This is not to say that a non-Christian counselor is of no use, not by a long shot. But there are things that must be dealt with that a secular counselor may not touch—sin and forgiveness being two—leaving you on your way but still less than well. There are wounds, heart wounds, soul piercing pain, that only God can heal and set you free from. You do not want to settle for understanding, managing, controlling, and minimizing the impact of your pain. You want real and full healing, which leaves scars but emancipates you from its manipulation and limitation and need for management.
6. Don’t Trust Your Own Judgement Alone
Allow me to tell you a quick story to make my point. I began this article a couple weeks ago right after a particularly difficult counseling session, as I mentioned above. Well, it happened again! Two days ago. Here is what I heard—and have heard many times over—again as this distraught woman wept into her hands. “I’ve been in abusive relationships before. I thought I knew how to recognize it. I told myself I’d never put myself in that situation again. I was sure I would be able to prevent the reoccurrence myself. How, how have I ended up here again?” It was hard for her to admit, it was hard to hear due to the pain and frustration and hopelessness she emoted, and it very typical and (psychologically) understandable.
I could take some time to explain the psychology behind her question and assure you that she is neither stupid or crazy. That it is quite normal and that ending up back in abuse is predictable and logical. I will however refrain from doing that by saying that a wounded heart will not be able to protect itself from the same wound happening again. From within our own story we are blind and biased. Wellness gives must better vision. And wellness usually connects you with someone outside your story who has the perspective and experience needed to stop a reputation of the mistake.
Please get some help and healing before you attempt another relationship because if you do not, there is a good chance that this woman’s story will become your own.
7. Choose Where to Stand
Assuming you come to the conclusion that your treatment is wrong and something needs to be done, where is your line-in-the-sand? Is getting out and getting safe already necessary? Do you need to begin to warn your spouse or partner that things are going to need to change? Do you need to begin to have a conversation to see if they will engage with you, listen to you, grant you your point of view, validate your feelings, and genuinely show some care for you? Or are you already there?
If this is the third or fourth time you have had to get up your courage to stand up for yourself, do not ask any of those questions. It is time to do something. Having a voice other than your own to confirm and support your desire for a better relationship and life, as long as those voices are not simply commiserating with you and aggravating things, will be invaluable.
So, number six comes back into play. Not only will good counsel help you make an accurate determination about your situation, but it offers invaluable guidance in the fight to extricate yourself from abuse, walk through recovery, wisely consider reconciliation, and either follow God into the best life you could ever dream of, or out of your current situation and into a alternative path to that overflowing life.
Know where you stand, where your line-in-the-sand is. Know where being kind, patient, gracious, supportive, sacrificial, and true to your vows is, and where those things no longer apply and no longer trump standing up for the quality of your life.
As a counselor, I have almost never had a wife who was trapped in an abusive marriage come to me with her questions and confusion about real abuse before she is at least 5-10 years into the marriage. Usually it is more like 15 or 20 years in, if not more.
Strangely, for Christian wives, it is on the long end before they speak. The way some describe how a godly wife should act, and the Scriptures they use to support their view, they exacerbate the confusion and prolong the agony instead of bringing clarity, hope and real help. They use misleading and unbiblical ideas about divorce, submission, purity, and faith. (For classic verses that are used this way read 1Peter 3:1-6, which is often used without any reference to verses 7-12, applied to both spouses.)
The guilt this creates, the shame it elicits, the fear, the hiding, the confusion, the bitterness, toward their husband and God, all that allows abuse under the guise of godliness is horrible counsel that creates a deplorable and unbiblical situation. Yes, there is a difference between submission and respect, and abuse and domestic violence. No, the former two do not include or condemn a godly women to endure (happily, willingly, sacrificially…) the later two.
If reading this before the previous three articles on divorce, domestic violence, God, and the Bible, and have more questions than you have (satisfying) answers, go back and read or listen to clarify what I am and am not saying. If you have read much Christian literature on these and related subjects, these articles should help you ask the right questions to discover if you have asked the right questions!
If you ended up reading this because you are the one who is doing all the wondering, you already manifest the courage and bravery you need to move forward. You can find life-giving healing, and escape your abusive prison, and do it Biblically, in godliness and wisdom, with God’s help and approval!
On the next blog… We will begin to tackle a theology of pain, including the necessity of pain, the 3 kinds of pain that make up the 3 gauges on the dashboard of life, coping mechanisms used to avoid pain, the problems that those coping mechanism eventually create, and Jesus’ prescription for facing pain. We will move from there into the connected subject of self-awareness and a new-old tool for becoming more tuned in to the inner workers of our own soul.