Thursday, October 20, 2005

Taking Control

      “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred with it.”  ~ Proverbs 15:17

As most of you know, I have a passion for abused women.  I desperately want them to know that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’d like to take the opportunity to address this topic once again.

After witnessing the devastating effects of abuse on my sister throughout her twenty-five year marriage, I decided to form a non-profit organization called “Sisters Are We, Inc.”  The idea was born out of a desire to help Mary and others like her who needed emotional and financial support during the divorce process.  Statistically, the primary obstacle to women desiring to leave an abusive relationship is their concern about finances and how they will make ends meet.  When my sister went through her divorce, I took a temporary office job for three months to earn the money to help her out.  Our son, Keen II, my sister, Peggy, and our friends, Greg and Karen Barron, also made contributions to “Sisters Are We.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t done much with the organization since then, but one day I hope to develop a clearinghouse for abused women.  I’d like to be able to match them up with a volunteer “sister” who could provide a shoulder to cry on, an ear for listening, and a little help with the daily stresses of life. In the meantime, if there is anyone who needs encouragement in this area, please feel free to email me at

“…you shall receive your sisters, both your elder and your younger….”  ~ Ezekiel 16:61

Abuse comes in many forms – verbal, physical, emotional and mental – and each one leaves lifelong scars on the victim.  According to a report from the Department of Justice, there were almost 700,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2001, and nearly 1,200 women were murdered by their current or former spouse or partner during that same year.

"I understand that marriage is a life commitment. I understand that people think it’s a covenant with God. [But] there are deal-breakers in my opinion, and physical abuse is one of those deal-breakers."   ~ Dr. Phil McGraw

Although the Bible does say that God hates divorce, I don’t believe He wants or expects women to stay with men who abuse them or their children.  In her book titled: Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse, Marie Fortune points out that bringing violence into a marriage is another form of unfaithfulness. Like adultery, violence destroys trust. Marie goes on to explain that when God says He hates divorce, He is “acknowledging the pain that we all feel when a situation reaches the point where a divorce is necessary, when the brokenness is so great that it cannot be repaired between two people.  God does not say, ‘Thou shalt not divorce.’  But God grieves that unfaithfulness of any kind results in divorce.”

The operative word in any abusive relationship is CONTROL. The abuser generally attempts to exert control over your money, your time, your friends, and even your thoughts. A recent guest on the Dr. Phil Show was so controlling that he told his wife when it was “her day” to take a shower.  

If you are in an abusive, controlling relationship, I urge you to reach out for help.  Life is short, and ignoring the problem will not make it go away. (A good book on that subject is: I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman by Michele Weldon.) You can’t keep it all in and expect your relationship to magically improve. You have to confront the issue and take control. Now I realize that’s a whole lot easier said than done, but if you've already wasted precious years in a dead-end marriage with a spouse who shows no signs of being willing to change, then maybe you need to see the situation for what it really is, and not for what you want it to be. If it's sick, take it to the doctor; if it's dead – bury it.

In closing, I would like to share a letter I wrote several years ago to a friend of mine who divorced her husband after learning that he had an affair and his mistress was pregnant. Even after the divorce, she steadfastly held on to the hope that they would be reunited.

Dear Friend,

You are always in my heart and never far from my thoughts – but especially lately.  The other day I was watching the 700 Club and there was a woman by the name of Bonnie Keen on the show talking about her book: Blessed are the Desperate, for they will find Hope. Bonnie was a Christian singer with two small children when she found out that her husband was having an affair.  When they got divorced, she felt like it invalidated everything she’d ever done.  She also felt like she had a scarlet D on her forehead.

I have one other thing that is on my heart to say. Since we haven’t talked in a long time, I’m not exactly sure where you stand with your feelings about the divorce.  But the last time we visited you expressed deep regrets. You also said that you were praying for your marriage to be restored one day. All I want to say is this:  You didn’t divorce him – he divorced you the moment he violated your marriage vows with another woman. All you did was accept the reality of his choices. Yes, God hates divorce, but he also hates it when men mistreat the wife of their youth.

“And this you do with double guilt; you cover the alter of the Lord with tears [shed by your unoffending wives, divorced by you that you might take heathen wives]…. Therefore take heed to yourselves, and let no one deal treacherously and be faithless to the wife of his youth.”  ~ Malachi 2:13, 15b

I remember when Keen used to stop by to talk to [your former husband] whenever he brought the trash truck to the landfill.  He would always say, “Man, Keen. This is such wisdom. Where are you getting this stuff?”  After weeks of talking without any change in behavior, Keen concluded that he was like a man who took food offered to him and said, “Mmmmm.  This is really good!”  Although he pretended to chew it, he never actually digested it.  And the minute Keen walked away, he just spit it out.

I also remember how he tried to justify his adultery. One time he asked Keen: “Where is the judgment of God for my sin? I don’t see it.”  It’s like Malachi 3:17 that says:

“You have wearied the Lord with your words.  Yet you say, In what way have we wearied Him? You do it when by your actions you say, Every one who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them. Or by asking, Where is the God of justice?”

This next verse comes from I Corinthians 7:15, the Living Bible translation:

“But if the husband or wife who isn’t a Christian is eager to leave, it is permitted.  In such cases the Christian husband or wife should not insist that the other stay, for God wants His children to live in peace and harmony.  For, after all, there is no assurance to you wives that your husbands will be converted if they stay; and the same may be said to your husbands concerning your wives.”

There is one thing that neither God nor man can control – that is, the free will of another person.  A marriage is between two people.  It involves their commitment to each other and to God. When one party chooses to break the bond of love and seek the affections of someone outside of their union, then the other person has to face that sad reality and move on. And that’s what you did.  He made the decision to leave you for another woman.  That was his choice, not yours.  But once he made it, your only option was to accept the facts and trust God to lead your life in a new direction.

“See, this is the man who made not God his strength – his stronghold and high tower; but trusted and confidently relied on the abundance of his riches, seeking refuge and security for himself through his wickedness.

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust and confidently rely on the loving kindness and the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will thank You and confide in You forever, because You have done it [delivered me and kept me safe].  I will wait, hope and expect in Your Name, for it is good….”  ~ Psalm 52:7-9  

You are that green olive tree, my friend.  You have walked with God and revered His laws.  Therefore, you will be richly blessed.  Godliness is profitable (I Timothy 4:8). You are blessed with the peace that comes from obeying God and listening to His voice.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”  ~ Psalm 1:1-3