by Ginny Hunt (Thank you Ginny for allowing us to share this!)
Springtime is heralded as a glorious season of new life, of freshness and of renewal. During this time most Christian families celebrate the atoning death and victorious resurrection of our blessed Savior. It is the resurrection season. Yet, for those who have endured a long winter of family abuse or are still living in homes marked by cruelty and violence the dream of new life sometimes remains elusive. Women who have left the violence behind often find themselves still wrestling with dead, cold winters of the soul long after the years of abuse have past. Searing, icy winds of depression and despair can force one to wonder if the resurrected life in Christ is true or real for them. They look behind them and in front of them and all they can see are the ravages of winter in the scarred landscape of their lives. The scars tell a story, wounded sisters, a resurrection story.
If a man came to you and told you that He was Jesus, you would probably, wisely, not believe him. That is, until He showed you the scars. Jesus would show anyone the marks just as He showed them to His disciple Thomas. I can picture Him lifting His garment to display stripes made by whips on his back. He would brush back His hair from his forehead so thorny scars reveal themselves. He would turn to one side so to display the gash mark made by the spear thrust into His side. He would lift up His robes to reveal feet that had been pierced through. Finally, He would stretch His arms out toward you and open His palms. Nails the size of railroad pegs once violated those healing hands and He is not ashamed to display His scars. Those scars tell us of His pain, yes, but they also tell us of His love.
There are undoubtedly inner scars from painful events He experienced that did not leave visible marks, yet because of the visible scars, we remember those events. Betrayed by a man He had lived with, had eaten with, and had shared intimately with, can you not hear the grief, the shock and the disbelief when He says, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" Is this not the same question that women who have suffered intimate betrayal ask of their betrayers? Physically violated, stripped of his clothing, He hung on a cross atop a hill, gawked at by spectators while soldiers tossed a coin for His undergarments. Beaten, mocked, and tortured He died an undeserved death. Do you know, dear reader, the pain of wounds such as these? Do you know what it is to be shamed and mocked and ridiculed? Do you know what it is to be crushed under cruel authority? Have you crouched cowering while the man who vowed to love and honor you stormed about breaking things and did your heart break when he shouted vile curses at you? Do you bear the scars of sexual violation in the inviolate marriage bed? See, physical scars only tell part of the story. To see the whole picture, we must look at the inner scars as well. For those are the ones that often lag behind in healing, the ones that maybe are still in the tomb. But listen! We have a hope and a promise. Romans 8:16-17 says, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." And 2 Timothy 1:12 "For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." We can trust and believe that our suffering does help us become closer to the Lord in that we can more readily identify with the sufferings He experienced on earth. We needn't be ashamed of our wounds. If we never experience betrayal we would never come to understand what Jesus must have felt that night in the Garden of Gethsamane. If we never knew injustice and cruel authority, we would not understand His fierce anger at the Pharisees. Those who have walked through deep pain and sorrow get a true glimpse of the sorrow that Christ carried throughout His earthly walk. It is through struggle and pain that we can say with Paul, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Did you know that scars could contain such promise?
Jesus' scars tell another story as well. The simple fact that they are scars and not gaping wounds is a miracle itself. The wounds that made those scars were enough to kill Him yet the pain and torture could not defeat Him. He arose on the third day victorious - and completely healed! Though the pierced marks remained as evidence, He was not bleeding anymore. His physical wounds were healed and He was unbelievably yet undeniably alive. When we see Jesus in all His glory He will still bear these same scars. We will see them on the hands that opens the Book of Life and the Apostle John's Revelation tells us that those very wounds are the very thing that makes Him worthy of opening the scroll spoken of in chapter 5:5-6 "But one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.' And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain..." These marks of death are, even now, still evident on the Lamb. Had God chosen so, all evidence of the crucifixion wounds could have been erased from Jesus' resurrected body. Why did God leave the scars? He left them for us. The scars testify to our atonement through Christ. Isaiah 53:5 says, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." The wounds fulfill prophetic Scripture that pointed to the Messiah. The scars are signs that He is truly The Anointed One. They are identifying marks. Many were the victims of crucifixion in those days but only One lives to show the scars. So what about your scars, dear sister? Are you still wounded? Healing does not come by our own stripes, but by identification with His. It wouldn't make the least bit of progress in your healing if all you did was suffer on your own. We must also identify with His resurrection. Yet first, we must die.
Have you heard this one before? Has another well-meaning sister or brother in the Lord told you that you must die to your self and serve your husband in all submission? Have you gone home convicted to do that very thing and found after doing so that his cruelty and violence only escalated? This is not quite the dying I am talking about. Wife, you have no power in yourself to stop your husband's abuse. There is nothing you can do or say that will change his heart. The dying I am talking about here involves death to your preconceived notions of what a "godly" wife looks like, what she says and what she does. Die to your own perceptions of what your church community expects of you. Die to your husband's and others' assessments of your worth. I am saying this not only to those caught in violence's snare in the present time, but also to those for whom the violence has left them bound in graveclothes. The trauma of abuse is real and painful and it kills the spirit. For many years the victim of abuse has had false notions drilled into her mind and into her heart. She does not easily forget them, even when she realizes them to be untrue. Often she will repeat the chiding and shaming and blaming to herself when she misses her high mark of perfection that her tormentor, and now she, insists upon. These preconceived false notions must also be put to death. Lay them all on the altar before the Lord and let Him burn them as an offering. Shall you separate from your husband? Shall you stay? Shall you seek counsel? Shall you call the police? Shall you seek help from a local battered women's shelter? The Lord will give you answers to questions such as these as you seek His direction through His Word and in intimate times of fellowship with Him. To set before Him a limitation such as "I'll never leave my husband" is not dying to self. Remember that He sees what you do not see. An action such as separation may be the very thing He might use to convict your husband of his sin, but that is not your concern. That is between your husband and God. Sometimes a wife may unwittingly enable her husband in abusing her by her own erroneous notions of what Biblical submission is. You must die, dear one, even to these previously held beliefs. If you let Him, He will separate the wheat from the chaff and help you to rightly divide the Word and will bring you into all Truth. If you become anxious with yourself and desire the instantaneous death of all these things, remember, too, that dying is a process. It is a painful process, but we do have this promise in Romans 6:5 "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection..."
Wait and you shall yet live, yet it is not you who will live, but Christ who lives in you. For you will have died -- died to your dreams that God would change your husband. You will have died to your imaginations that you could change or fix him if only you do or say just the right thing. Yet you will live, changed, you will live. How can this be? This is beyond our power and beyond our reasoning. It is only by His resurrection power that any of this will come to be. This resurrection power is what Christ has made available to each of us, through sending his Holy Spirit to dwell within us when we named Him as Lord of our lives. It is this power, His life in us, that transforms, heals, renews and restores us. If we watch how Jesus went about touching people with this power in their areas of greatest need, we'll notice that He never dealt with two people in exactly the same way. This is so very important to remember. Even if your situation is very similar to another sister's you know or have heard of, please know that He does not treat us in assembly-line fashion. He created each of us unique and our individual lives have contributed particular tools that have fashioned us into who we are today. He meets us in our weaknesses and in our strengths and He does so singly to each of us. Also notice in Scripture accounts how very gentle He was in his interaction with various women, how He sought to cover and protect them, not expose and humiliate them, even when He confronted them in their sin. Jesus is an advocate for women. Look at Him in the Scriptures:
He is compassionate toward the widow who lost her son. Without him she is alone, with no visible means of support; even her husband's family name is dead. Breaking Levitical Law, Jesus touches the bier and the son comes back to life. (Luke 7:11-17)
A town whore, a woman of "ill repute" embraced His feet before a room full of self-righteous religious dignitaries. She weeps over His feet and dries her tears from them with her hair. He does not embarrass her or rebuke her. Instead He proclaims her forgiveness and commends her on her love. (Luke 7:36-50)
A woman with an "issue of blood, " a woman's disease, followed Jesus until she worked up enough courage to reach out and touch the hem of His robe in order to heal herself. He turns to her when she touches Him and, rather than rebuking her for making Him ritually "unclean" calls her "Daughter" instead. (Matt 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48)
He passionately defended His display of compassion for healing a woman "bent over for eighteen years" on the Sabbath. (Luke 13:10-17)
The Bible shows Him as a gentle instructor of women. See how women sit at his feet and are taught and how he gently rather than harshly corrects. (Luke 10:38-42)
He invited women to travel with Him and be His disciples (Joanna, Susannah, and Mary Magdalene).
To the ones who reproached the woman who came to anoint His head in Mark 14:6 He said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her?" Or, as the Phillips' paraphrase states, "Why must you make her feel uncomfortable?" (John 12:2-7)
Jesus took up woman's cause by insisting that a man is not to divorce his wife and take another wife. I believe He was angry at men's capricious power and consequent female degradation. (Matt 5:31-32; Matt 19:9 Mark 10:10-12; Luke 16:18)
His gentleness and forthrightness are evident as He speaks with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. He tells her of her sin, but does not condemn her for it. (John 4:5-29)
His wisdom and gentle manner of authority are displayed to all in a courtyard with the woman caught in "very act" of adultery. (John 8:1-11)
The tears of His friend Mary, the sister of Lazarus, moved His soul to weep and to do something about her grief right away. (John 11:32-35)
These accounts paint a picture of a man who will never abuse, force, or twist a woman's will to devious purposes. He spiritually fills the roles of husband, friend, father and brother. His masculine qualities perfectly balance with His feminine nurturing attributes. He can be strong and gentle; He can nurture tenderly and embrace without sexuality. He is perfectly trustworthy. Allow the One called Faithful and True to show you the steps out of the grave that you will take. You must put away, also, any notions of what your own resurrected life will look like. Your life lived when it is Christ who lives in you, your resurrected life, may be very different than you may have heretofore imagined. Remain open to possibilities not previously considered before. Allow Him to take you by the hand and lead you into the fullness of Himself as can be had in the land of abundant living. We will still be met with tribulation and sorrow for Jesus guaranteed it. So even the spiritually resurrected life on this earth is expected to bear its thorns, and thorns do leave scars.
Your scars remain, dear ones, for testimony. Those for whom the violence is a past season you must tell others, tell them how the Lord brought you to life after those wounds killed your spirit. If you are still in the process of suffering with Him and dying with Him, know that the scars will remain. They may be pink and tender and still hurt when touched. Know too that the healing is no less miraculous when it's accomplished on the inside where the scars are hidden, just as some of Jesus' were so concealed that He had to disrobe to show them. We are called upon to be as transparent as He is. I truly think the Lord desires that we "disrobe" spiritually and emotionally with one another. Many Christians wear covers that not only deceive the brethren but also trap them behind self-imposed prison walls while they strive to keep their secrets secret. Healing is always best accomplished with plenty of fresh air circulating around the wound. Keeping the area clean is also important to aid in recovery. Likewise, in spiritual and emotional matters, we need to become more open with one another, allowing the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to breathe healing on our inner wounds. Keep the wounded spirit clean, free from further wounding. This is particularly difficult for women whose present husbands are consumed with rage that they must deal with on a daily basis. An obstacle to this kind of spiritual and emotional transparency is the isolation that goes hand in hand with abuse. A typical maneuver that an abusive husband does is to systematically isolate his wife from most outside contact. She may believe it to be dishonoring to her husband for her to reveal her struggles to anyone. Additionally, she may feel shame and embarrassment that her family is not as it appears to their neighbors, family and friends. She may also legitimately fear reprisal from her angry husband should she tell anyone of his sin. She may be addicted to the hope that one day soon he will change and she will realize her dream of a godly home and family. Telling others is a great risk, for what if she tells, and then he changes? Will they forgive him? Wounded wives typically protect their husbands and cover for them in their sin. This requires that she isolate herself further so as to not allow anyone close enough to see the truth of her life nor the truth of his sin.
It takes courage to speak of things hidden for so long. Hiding ones, seek out a friend and share your struggles with her. Be sure she respects you as a child of God and that she will not try to coerce or manipulate you to act upon anything but what the Lord has spoken to you. It is degrading for a woman in pain to hear that the answer is just so very simple if she would only take this action or that step. It violates the one in the struggle to be ordered to leave the relationship she has invested her very life into. It is equally degrading to be told that there is no Biblical way out, and that her lot in life is to suffer and possibly die at the hands of her husband. She must hear her direction from the voice of her Lord and no other. Wise counsel is welcome, but do not insist or coerce her to follow it. There are resources in communities that one should become familiar with. A next step may be to join a support group for women in just your situation. Seek out others who will listen and to whom you can listen and who will understand. For a woman who has been isolated in an environment where sin rules the roost, healthy, loving relationships are like rain to parched ground. In the isolated environment an abuser creates, the cruelty begins to appear normal to the abused and the sin becomes acceptable by virtue of many creative denials and rationalizations. Others who understand the effects of abuse on one's soul can offer an objectivity that the wounded woman often loses during her isolation.
The next step, if and when one feels ready to take it, is to speak privately to the pastor of your church. It may help to take along an advocate, a close friend or a support group leader. She may be able to speak the words that fail you and offer encouragement and courage to a faltering, fearful spirit. Tell your pastor what has been happening in your home. He may or may not choose to confront your husband in his sin. Welcome his support if he offers it. However, he may not understand how a man as "charming" and as "pious" as your husband could possibly be so cruel. He may minimize your hurt and anguish. I pray he does not do this, dear sister, but you must know that he may not meet you with open arms of acceptance and protection. If he does not, know that you have done the right thing in telling him anyway. You can leave his office knowing you have done that which you could do in order to bring the brother who has sinned against you before the church. It is not love to allow his sin to continue unabated and hidden. You are better off knowing who it is that you can rely on for support and who you cannot.
Even those for whom the abuse is a season past have tendencies to continue hiding, with shame and embarrassment, the scars of their ordeal. It is not a simple thing to walk, or run as the case may be, away from years of love and hope and disappointment. Even once that is accomplished, the trauma of those years can haunt the ones who suffered. Grief is a natural but strange process. It sometimes overtakes us when we expect it least, even years after the death of a relationship. Just when a woman's life has begun to take on a quality of peace and safety that heretofore she had never known, she may find herself spiraling down into the depths of despair. She may find herself strangely emotionally detached from her children and, if she has remarried, from her present husband. She wonders why she cannot enjoy her life now that the abuse is a thing of the past. Her cry is, "What's wrong with me?" You may be grieving and there is nothing wrong with it. Grief is a normal, natural, God-given response to loss. Sin steals so much away. Look at Job. Evil took his fortune and his family. Then God restored his fortunes and blessed him with more children, but does this mean that he would not grieve the loss of his children who died? God may restore the years the locusts have eaten, but this doesn't remove the fact of the loss to begin with. Grieving is natural and it is a process that must be allowed to take its course. Accept that grief has visited you and do not hinder the process by denying its existence in your soul. Walk slowly through this valley of death knowing that the Lord is with you.
Judgments may follow those who adhered to the Biblical mandate to flee evil when it also meant the dissolution of a marriage. There are many in the Body of Christ who do not believe divorce to be acceptable under any circumstance, not even to save one's life or the lives of one's children. Separation, they say, is allowable; divorce is not. Their convictions are to be respected, however they are not the convictions of all Christendom. Whatever your personal views, know that there is not anything that can separate you from the fellowship and the love of Christ. If your violent marriage ended in divorce, you must know beyond any shadow of doubt that you are accepted in the Beloved and that the Lord will not hold back His blessings from you. Unveil your face and heart, sister. Show your scars. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18) Not only will further healing occur in your own heart and soul, but you may open the door to healing for others. Your scars have a story to tell so that others who are struggling too may find hope and courage in your testimony of how God delivered you. Be encouraged by Psalm 37:6 "He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun."
Resurrection. It is our hope and our promise. There is a road that leads there, and it goes by way of Golgotha. Take a tentative first step today toward resurrected life in Christ. You'll find there with you One who has tread that path before. He knows each hill and valley, each stone that threatens to stumble you. He knows the pain you carry on your back, in your mind and in your heart. He experienced it all before you. He understands your desires, your hopes and your fears. He understands your questions. His answer to you is the same one He gave to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, when death confronted her. Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11: 25-26) We must believe and hold to this promise. In doing so we will be able to bear our scars gracefully, not shamefully nor proudly, but as a proclamation of His great love. As our lives bear witness to this miracle, therein lies the resurrection story.
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