My mother grew up in a household with domestic violence. Her parents were active in the Southern Baptist church, and were also very community minded people. I remember as an adult after my grandfather passed away, and we had to get their home ready to be sold - cleaning out that house was a HUGE job! My grandfather had Alzheimer’s towards the end, and the state that they lived in at the time was very individualistic. Everyone knew he was a danger to himself and to society’s at large at that point, but no one would remove him. I remember my mother pleading for help from the church to work with her to get the state to remove both of them at the time. They refused until it finally got to the point of loss of life did the church finally stepped up, and coerced the state into removing him. They were powerful in that area, and why didn’t step up earlier is a story for another day.
My Aunt Hannah I get the impression was what we may coin today as her ‘secular’ friend. I don’t know if she had a church of her own, but you don’t find her in the pictures of the activities at church that my mother grew up in. You don’t see her listed as the names of the community outreach they participated in. WELL, at least none that I have ever seen when looking over the family history. She was a single lady, and a source of a huge amount of grace towards others.
I remember my mother speaking about the days she was sick as a child, and Aunt Hannah would come over to make her giggle. She would play cards with mother, and make sure she won every time. Mother would comment that she KNEW that was happening, but it was nice because she didn’t win any other time. I think she made my mother feel special as a child, and she was a safe person to talk to away from the rhetoric of the church politics and the danger at home.
I believe she was a similar source of Grace towards my grandmother. The source of shame, and stunning that would have taken place if my grandmother had separated or divorced at the time? It would have been a huge scandal, and the fact she and her child got beat didn’t make a difference. I have to wonder if the church at times thinks about the lie they ask others to keep while they pretend that everything is fine at home when they know its not. How you are encouraged to give uplifting comments, and ones of honor towards a person they know are hurting the members of their own family. Is it that they feel it would be a tool of brainwashing that is NOT that bad? I don't have an issue with showing honor towards the person okay?! Its the point they never addressed the violence within their home. They used the covenant of marriage, and how the woman serves her husband to combat it.
Most people can admit there is a great amount of emotional abuse, and verbal abuse within home that physical abuse happens. I will never forget the fact that once my grandfather died, and we moved my grandmother closer to us? The burden of those dynamics were removed, and her transformation was shocking. She had Alzheimer at that point as well, and the rhetoric of what the church wanted her to say in the face of the ugliness didn't happen anymore. My mother was always emotionally distant from others, and even thought I know she and Dad had a good marriage I also know how that root was placed there. Aunt Hannah was there for her as a child to fill the voids for mom, and she held my grandmother's hand while the church was pretending things were not as they were at home. I doubt anyone else would have verbalize the reality, because that is just not done in the presence of proper company.
My grandfather was a powerful leader within the church and community, and you just didn’t talk about the ill of domestic violence in proper company. I believe my Aunt Hannah was that source for my grandmother as she struggled with life, and learned how to cope with her one flesh covenant with a man that hurt them all. I also know that my Aunt Hannah treated my grandfather with respect as well.
The story of Aunt Hannah, and the fact that she was ‘outside the fold’ of the church as we say today? The fact she knew what was going on in that house, and she was there each and every time she was needed? It amazes to this day that people could just ignore the family dynamics, and tell my grandmother that she was showing grace with forgiveness every time something truly awful would happen.
I remember cleaning out my grandparents attic, and finding all the ‘I’m sorry’ notes from my grandfather after a fallout. The love letters reminding her of his feelings toward their relationship. My grandmother was a pack rack and kept EVERYTHING! Aunt Hannah was the only one that would truly acknowledge the domestic violence within that home in her own way. How? Her help, her presence, and her grace towards the environment that no one would talk about. The safe sanctuary of the church didn’t offer, and even towards the end of my grandfather’s life they just couldn’t bring themselves to acknowledge. I was adult at that point with two small children.
I think that ‘conditional’ atmosphere of the church, and YES I realize they would never admit it is there - didn’t help my family and to me bit my Aunt Hannah towards the end of her life. My grandparents were good pretenders, and they talked the talk and walked the walk within the eyes of those around them. My grandmother was brainwashed enough to feel that her safety didn’t count for anything, and the authority of her husband meant everything. The church at times with their attitudes towards unbelievers – or secular – it seems allows them to forget the Grace that God would wish us to show to others.
I was in high school, and my mother announced one day that Aunt Hannah and my grandmother had a falling out. My grandmother no longer speaks to her, or has nothing to do with her. At this point in my Aunt Hannah’s life she needed people to take care of her in ways. My grandmother did help her, but I guess she felt something that had happened in the past was enough to cut her out of her life forever. Her help was non existent at that point on.
The issue didn’t have anything to do with my grandmother, but it showed to her some flaw that happened and she felt a good Christian woman wouldn’t have anything to do with such a person. If I were guessing I’m sure that was the reason Aunt Hannah never mentioned it prior. My mother was upset, and I guess the thought of a possible scandal around my grandmother’s friends after all these years just wasn’t something my grandmother was willing to put up with. When I look back? Scandals to them didn’t even have to amount to much, but everyone knew that if you stepped one toe out of line of their ‘vision’ that is what indeed happened.
Lets look at this picture again shall we? We have a secular lady that helps a family deal with domestic violence. The families church doesn't deal with it, and the child within that marriage is also being beat. This lady is respectful towards the view of their faith, but tries to help despite the barriers placed before her. She comes into the child's life to give her a sense of safety that the family and the church don't allow her. She gives the wife a safe person to speak with about things that aren't allow to be spoken about within her church. She also shows a sense of honor towards the abuser, and can anyone admit that in itself MUST have been hard? We aren't talking about stating that needs to happen after you read some newspaper story of an awful event. We are talking a person IN the midst of this happening, and those people that are getting hurt are up close and personal! SHE is the only outlet of reality they have!
My mother told me that she wouldn’t tell us what happened with Aunt Hannah until my grandmother died. I knew that point it wasn’t worth the fallout, and she didn’t wish us to deal with the reality of situation. I remember sending Aunt Hannah notes anyway, but never got a response. I still have a pair of earrings she gave me after I turned 13, and was allowed to get my ears pierced. They are the antique earrings I pictured above, and they hurt to put in or take out. I kept them to remind me of the grace that Aunt Hannah showed to others, and also just good memories I have of this jolly woman.
It also reminds me of how at times we speak of the Grace of God, but forget that he asks us to show grace towards others. The scandal wasn’t something she needed to be removed for, but like other things it may have been to ugly for the church ladies to deal with. It’s telling to me that this ‘secular’ woman would show such grace even towards my grandfather, and yet we at times as Christians are so conditional with our grace towards them.
To this day the church to me doesn't show to much grace towards the families dealing with domestic violence. They may talk about a little more, but how they handle things is pretty much the same. The grace they show? I see their lips moving, but I see nothing to back up the words. I see no action to stop domestic violence within the church. I see no one truly acknowledging emotional abuse and verbal abuse that happens way to often within families. I guess they seem to think my mother's emotional distance was caused by the beatings only.
They tell you to GO to the church, but truly the church has nothing to hand them. They say avoid the domestic violence shelters, because of rumors that all of them are run by feminist's that hate MEN! They want to break up the families, etc. Could there be such a thing? Sure I suppose there could, but I also know the denial of how damaging the violence within the home is seen from the eyes of the church. When you are beaten and broken by abuse? Which would you see as showing more grace towards the danger? The ones that say they will pray for you, or the ones that offers you shelter away from the abuse? I guess common sense and the sense of human nature doesn't come into the picture at all.
Aunt Hannah showed the grace towards our family more than the church, and even society at large around them! When they found that Aunt Hannah had done something humans do? That conditional grace came into place once again - she was abandoned. She didn't abandon the family the church had, but the church's pressure to abandon her when the time the sin was revealed happened out of some wried vision of who your true friends should be. Who was the true friend I ask you?
I guess I will never understand the conditional grace you find in the church. I don't see the condition of withdrawing this in the bible. The fact our family needed to show grace towards a man that beat his family with a show forgiveness versus abandoning a secular lady that held their hands during their lifetime when they saw sin in her makes no sense. Its strange how the church makes excuses for themselves, and just says the world doesn't understand. You have to wonder if they are not the ones that don't get it.
I will never forget you Aunt Hannah. You are the picture of grace I wish the church could have acknowledged. YOU a secular person they could have learned a lesson of grace from. I love you! Today a day of Thanksgiving - I will give my thanks to the Lord for you! You were such a present of hope and grace in times which you were needed, and when no one else would step up to the plate.
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