An Abusive Marriage, Well-Meaning Christians, and God’s Word

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I ran across a post on Facebook that a friend wrote. Flo Fromer-Wedding posted about the spiritual tug-of-war process she went through while she was in an abusive marriage.  Unfortunately, the church is often a volatile place for abused women to get help, especially when there is greater emphasis on the “covenant of marriage,” than the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of individuals in the marriage.

I think Flo’s words might resonate with many, and for others, might help as they navigate these difficult waters, while still trying honor God and do the right thing. ~Julie Anne

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By Flo Fromer-Wedding

I love God’s Word.. I love it so much, in fact, that I resolved many years ago to obey it… even the parts I “didn’t like” or understand. My resolution came with a great price to me personally. It led to a breakdown of my mental and emotional health… It led to a willingness to let go of all control in my life, and even more tragically, it led to me stand back and keep quiet when I should have intervened on behalf of my children. In God’s Name I unknowingly allowed their emotional health to be compromised! All this, because of the written Word of God, devoid of the Spirit of God!

I will never forget the words someone spoke to me or how I felt when they said them… and the light that turned on inside of my head ….. “you not only have a right to protect yourself from abuse, you also have a right AND a RESPONSIBILITY to protect your children.”

THIS shed a whole new light on the situation I had so firmly resolved to stay committed to “til death do us part”. Those words opened my eyes to a bigger picture, one which gave me, not only the freedom, but the responsibility to GIVE IN to the still small voice of the Spirit that had been whispering truth to my heart for so many years….(the voice that seemed to contradict the written word that had been pounded in to my head for so many years!)

I finally gave in to the truth… I gave in and saw JESUS in a way I had never seen Him before, and He opened the floodgates of truth, bringing freedom, and leaving in it’s path, the damaged remains of a life built on some other person’s (many other’s) interpretation of God’s “clear” Word.

How my heart aches to go back and follow the voice of the Spirit, Who is the ONLY one who can bring us to an understanding of God’s written Word. How much damage could I have prevented for myself and my loved ones had I not been so submissive to the “authorities” in my life?

In the hand of satan (and whoever chooses to follow his ways, knowingly or unknowingly) the written Word of God becomes a weapon of destruction…not a breath of Life! I have tasted the Word from both sources now and I can never go back! One brings bondage of the worst kind, in which you believe, while begging God to give you strength to endure and stay committed “to His Word”, that somehow God will be glorified through it.  😞

No, the written Word of God is only alive and powerful (in a good way) through the Spirit of Christ. Without the breath of God, it is a handbook for dead religion.

When I tuned my ears to hear, and freed my heart to acknowledge truth…. When I fixed my eyes directly on Jesus and my heart fell head over heels in love with Him… THIS is when I felt the Spirit correcting my understanding of Scripture… the understanding that had held me and my children captive to abuse. It was at this time that Scripture came alive to me and I began to see the healing power of Jesus in my own life. It was at this time that God’s Spirit began to write songs through me… 12 in one year… because I had so much bubbling up inside of me. I was coming alive, even through the pain and the fears of a very unknown future. I could not contain it so it came out in songs…. songs that would become a testimony to myself and others of what God had done and was doing for me.

All this came when I rejected my “clear” understanding of the written words and I reclaimed those same written words with new understanding through the Spirit. One brought death, the other Life. How can that be… they were the same words I had read all my life? The difference is the teacher,and there are MANY teachers!

Yes, I have suffered condemnation from some of my brothers and sisters in Jesus because they have an understanding of “God’s written Word” and clearly I am in sin. I have learned to live with this condemnation but I reject it… I know it is not from God.

I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back and no matter the cost… and while there may be condemnation from other Christians , there is NO condemnation in Christ. For that I am grateful. I desire, more than anything, to hear and walk according to the Spirit of Truth… I pray for wisdom and understanding of God’s Word through the power of His Spirit, but if I do not speak the Word in accordance with the Spirit of God, with His heart and with His truth, then I hope I do not speak it at all.

If you have never experienced the suffocating, life-sucking religious bondage that comes from submitting to the idols others have made in the Name of God’s Word… then you may never understand what I am saying here today. I know this is not the kind of testimony that is welcome in many churches… Still it is MY testimony. I am thankful for the ministry of the Spirit as He breathed Life into the written Words on a page and made them come alive to me, for only then, did they become the power that has set me free.

 

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22 comments on “An Abusive Marriage, Well-Meaning Christians, and God’s Word

  1. Don’t want to take this too off-topic, but as a former comp, I’ve really struggled to read Paul and not get completely angry/turned off due to the interpretations I heard for years from the pulpit. I think both you and JA have had somewhat of a coming to terms with Paul, and I’m wondering what changed in your perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark – I have been reading a lot from Biblical scholars who used to defend Complementarianism and can no longer do so based on their digging deeper in the original languages/cultures of the time.

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  3. Mark, I had someone at church talk about how Paul built his letters and how they followed a pattern (greeting, discussion of issues, reasoning around to make points). I find reading them as a whole far more interesting and helpful than these pick and choose ways that many comps read them, but I don’t if that would be helpful to you in the same way. I think people misunderstand Paul, and at the same time Paul himself knew he didn’t know everything and that helps me too.

    Pertaining to the post, Paul was confronted with specific situation and he spoke to them. He was not presented with a situation where a husband was terrorizing a wife or children and responding with ‘oh well, you gotta stay regardless’ nor do I think he would have, from his other comments. People are putting round pegs into square holes and calling it gospel.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was a complementarian for many years myself.

    The comp interpretation of Paul makes the Bible appear to contradict itself.

    In some passages, Paul commends women for leading / teaching men, and for speaking up in church contexts, and in another, he says he doesn’t permit “a woman” to speak – so, which is it?

    Does Paul prohibit all women, every where for all time, from speaking (and teaching men), but how can that be, if in another letter, that same Paul is saying “great job” to some woman teacher / leader?
    Or is Paul telling women to speak up in church services?
    Either Paul is contradicting himself, or complementarians are misunderstanding and misapplying such passages.

    Where Paul mentions Eve in some passage about women not being in authority over a man, if you go back and actually read about Eve in Genesis, there is nothing in the Creation account about God ordaining a male hierarchy – Genesis actually says that God expects men AND women to rule over the creation.

    So… Paul was obviously trying to make some kind of point to his readers of that particular church because they were struggling with a false doctrine or behavior (that emphasizes pagan religious teachings that said women were to be in authority over all men).

    But Genesis itself does not support a God-created male hierarchy (as comps argue).

    If you take the cultural context into account, and consider what Paul was dealing with in the letters he wrote, it gets more difficult to interpret Paul the way comps do (which is eisegesis, in the case of the Creation story).

    (continued in part 2)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. (part 2)

    Also… the comp interpretation of Paul’s writings or any part of the NT (and the comp view of women is similar to how Pharisees viewed women 2,000 years ago) is at horrible odds with how Jesus actually treated women.

    Complementarians refuse to interpret Paul through Jesus Christ.
    They refuse to interpret Paul through the examples that Jesus set.

    Jesus commended women for sitting at his feet and learning theology.

    Jesus did not practice the Billy Graham Rule, not even with women who were thought to have shaky sexual histories.

    Jesus treated women like equals in theological debates. He did not tell them to shut up, go home, and be a housewife and let their husbands do all the thinking for them.

    Who treats women better: Jesus of Nazareth or Complementarians?
    Which view is more respectful of women: Jesus’s treatment of women, or the comp interpretation of Paul?

    You have some Christians (almost always complementarians) using the Bible to convince women to stay stuck in abusive marriages.
    They place the institution, or a religious rule, above the person, something Jesus did the opposite of. (see _Luke 13_)

    All of that stuff (among other considerations) is why I finally rejected comp and the comp interpretation of Paul. Paul is not conveying what complementarians think he’s conveying.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The Original Post said,

    I will never forget the words someone spoke to me or how I felt when they said them… and the light that turned on inside of my head ….. “you not only have a right to protect yourself from abuse, you also have a right AND a RESPONSIBILITY to protect your children.”

    THIS shed a whole new light on the situation I had so firmly resolved to stay committed to “til death do us part”.

    Those words opened my eyes to a bigger picture, one which gave me, not only the freedom, but the responsibility to GIVE IN to the still small voice of the Spirit that had been whispering truth to my heart for so many years….(the voice that seemed to contradict the written word that had been pounded in to my head for so many years!)

    This reminds me of a book I was reading by Christian co-authors (one works as a psychiatrist) who discuss how Christians (I’d say complementarians specifically) discourage women from being pro–active, assertive, and having boundaries.

    There was a part early in the book where one of the authors told women readers of the book something like,
    “So many women wait around – waiting for their preacher, Christian friends, someone – to give them permission to be assertive and defend themselves. Consider this your permission.”

    I remember growing up, I kept waiting for my mother to give me permission to defend myself but she never would.

    Anytime I came to her for help or advice on how to deal with bullies, I was always instructed to be a codependent, complementarian, passive wimpy, sweet little thing and just sit there and suffer in silence. I was dying for her to give me permission to stand up for myself, but it never came.

    (It wasn’t until the last few years I finally realized, I didn’t need her permission. I could’ve been making choices for myself the whole time.)

    It sounds as though the writer of the OP was eventually struck with the same realization.

    (continued in part 2)

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  7. (part 2)
    (responding to this part of the OP):

    The Original Post said,

    I will never forget the words someone spoke to me or how I felt when they said them… and the light that turned on inside of my head ….. “you not only have a right to protect yourself from abuse, you also have a right AND a RESPONSIBILITY to protect your children.”

    THIS shed a whole new light on the situation I had so firmly resolved to stay committed to “til death do us part”. …

    But growing up complementarian, as a girl, so thoroughly brain-washes you into thinking you have to be a door-mat, that you have to put yourself last, that it you have to hear, you have to receive, tacit approval and permission from someone else that yes, it’s okay for you to defend yourself, no, you don’t have to stick it out in abusive relationships.

    (Until you learn later in life it’s okay for you to make choices for yourself, that is, but life would be ten times easier if comps would tell girls when they are young, “be assertive, don’t tolerate abuse.”)

    This OP is an example of what I’ve said before, that complementarians don’t recognize or care about the impact that their doctrine has in real-life, on real life people (it’s usually comps that teach women to stay in abusive relationships, that it’ their duty to stay and endure abuse).

    This is not just an abstract discussion for us, it’s real life. These teachings have consequences (usually negative ones).

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  8. Daisy, “I remember growing up, I kept waiting for my mother to give me permission to defend myself but she never would.”

    I tried defending myself at home and it was a painful experience.

    re: Paul – any pointers to authors?

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  9. Mark, below is a list of books I would recommend on Paul’s writings. Ben Witherington’s books are engaging and readable (the first 5). The next 5 are very readable. The last ones are more challenging but I found them worth the effort.

    Anything by Ben Witherington III: Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (SRC); Paul’s Letter to the Romans: (SRC); Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy, and 1-3 John; Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: (SRC); 1&2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary

    What Paul Really Said About Women: The Apostle’s Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love by John Temple Bristow

    What’s with Paul and Women? By Jon H. Zens

    Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?: A Narrative Approach to the Problem of Pauline Christianity by J.R. Daniel Kirk

    Unveiling Paul’s Women: Making Sense of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 by Lucy Peppiatt

    1 Corinthians: IVP New Testament Commentary by Alan F. Johnson

    Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians by Lucy Peppiatt

    Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul by Craig S. Keener

    Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letter by Philip B. Payne

    Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ by Cynthia Long Westfall

    1 Timothy, and 2 Timothy and Titus by Aida Besancon Spencer

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  10. @ Mark.
    Looks like Liz gave you a great list of resources! Thank you Liz.

    I’ve only encountered web pages about Paul here and there. I do believe that Scot McKnight of “Jesus Creed” blog has done posts about it, and had some guest writers on his blog who’ve addressed it.

    You can try checking out the ‘Paul’ tag on the Jesus Creed blog to see if any of these posts sound like what you’re looking for:
    _Topic: “Paul” on Jesus Creed blog_

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  11. I just found this article a few moments ago, it addresses a point I made above about how I kept waiting or hoping for my Mom or church or someone to give me permission to defend myself from abuse at the hands of kids at school or from adults at jobs I had, but it never came:

    Breaking Down ‘Think Manager, Think Male’ Gender Norms Still Holding Women Back by Margie Warrell

    Women must not wait to be given permission or to be asked before they find the courage to step up, speak up, challenge their own views, those of others and be the change they wish to see.

    Since all true leadership extends from the inside out, women must see themselves as leaders – change makers in their own right and in their own way.

    If you’re in a violently abusive marriage, the experts I’ve read say it may be a good idea to not confront your abuser, so defending yourself (confronting the abuser) would depend on the particular abuser and type of marriage, if we’re talking about domestic violence.

    But in other contexts, I usually see experts advising people to defend themselves.

    Another thing some of these books and articles explain is that you don’t need someone else’s permission to defend yourself. I wish I had known that when I was younger.

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  12. This is exactly what happened to me. Not in a domestic violence situation but a chronic history of childhood abuse.

    The inner whisperings of the Lord are always there but we have been directed by faulty teaching to believe it is something else.
    It doesn’t take much to respond to it. Much like a mustard seed. And God is waiting to pour out himself to us.
    And I believe he does this in a very intimate way to each individual according to their needs.
    He is not truly found in church doctrine, creeds, or even the wild and crazy you see in some places.
    It’s usually in those small, genuine responses that nobody else sees, except him.

    I am thankful Flo articulated it so well. It is so hard to explain because it isn’t (at least in my case remotely close to how church conveyed meeting Christ)
    It was a constant, ongoing, revelation of Jesus through everyday things that were insignificant to anyone else but me.
    Sometimes, I just wanna throw up my hands in frustration because in my experience Jesus doesn’t fit in the conventional mold I was taught growing up. And it was certainly not in the other end if the spectrum with the showy, wild and crazy spiritual stuff. And I rode that end of the spectrum for 10 years. I gave that a 100% effort.

    It wasnt till I dropped church alltogether and all the noise of religion stopped that i heard and responded to his spirit. And at that point life started to change as the chains of bondage began to break off. I wish I had better words.

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  13. Ken, thanks, that sounds just like those who want to change society – they co opt the same language we use, but with different definitions. So, intriguing that “complementarity” and “role” were redefined subtly to impose a permanent hierarchy that had not been part of the definition previously.

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  14. One of the most intriguing definition changes happened in the 50’s. Scientifically, the definition of conception had been when the egg was fertilized and created a new human being. However, “the pill” had just been invented and it was strongly suspected that while the pill primarily worked by preventing ovulation, that if ovulation did occur and the egg was fertilized that there was a secondary operation that made the uterine lining uninhabitable by the embryo.

    Because female control of fertility was such a critical political issue at that point, the ACOG was lobbied pretty hard to redefine conception (and pregnancy, etc.) the ACOG capitulated, and now conception is defined as the point of implantation. So a woman with a fertilized egg is not pregnant until that fertilized egg has been implanted in the uterus. This allowed “The Pill” and subsequently “Plan B” to be redefined as contraceptives even though they were believed to be abortifacients.

    Keep in mind that subsequent studies of hormone-based contraception have shown that there is no “secondary effect”. If a woman ovulates on the pill or plan b, she is just as statistically likely to get pregnant as a woman who is not on either, but the fear is that the public would reject these otherwise.

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  15. @Mark:

    I’ve really struggled to read Paul and not get completely angry/turned off due to the interpretations I heard for years from the pulpit.

    I’ve got the same reaction to the Book of Revelation, courtesy of Late Great Planet Earth and Christians For Nuclear War in the Seventies.

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  16. @Mark:

    Ken, thanks, that sounds just like those who want to change society – they co opt the same language we use, but with different definitions.

    My Dear Wormwood,

    I refer you to my previous epistle on Semantics, specifically the redefinition of The Enemy’s words into their “diabolic meanings”.

    Your Ravenously Affectionate Uncle,
    Screwtape

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  17. (I just google searched “toxic submissive wife teaching” and was rather shocked at how many p*rn related sites popped up (!) )

    My heart goes out to the woman who posted this. I too let myself be brainwashed by the submission teachings that were constantly coming from the pulpit (and the women) of my former church.

    My husband is in no way abusive. However, I was so convinced of these “literal” submissive wife messages that I could have easily stayed within an abusive relationship if that would have been my situation.What sweet freedom to finally have shaken free of all of that garbage! (And by the way– I think my husband is relieved, too!)

    Since leaving this particular church, I feel like I’ve been born again– as a real-life human being.

    God bless you! I am so glad you’ve found the real freedom that is in Jesus.

    ~Lise

    Liked by 1 person

  18. A husband who loves his wife isn’t going to abuse, degrade or make her beneath him. There is only so much bad interpretation of theology where both husband and wife know that the teachings are a reckless interpretation of the bible.

    As I stated before, judging by the amount of divorce occurring in churches, I question if young couples even loved each other in the first place and got married anyway.

    We know the right thing is to not abuse, regardless is the couple love each other or not.

    To me, real core to abuse or embracing bad doctrine, does he truly love his wife? Does she truly love her husband? Did they mutually love each other when they got married?

    A well meaning Christian man must’ve read at a certain time Eph. 21:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”

    My interpretation from that verse, is Christ served us, so does that mean husbands serve their wives? Yes.

    My interpretation of scripture is husband and wife should submit to each other, which isn’t being taught enough.

    Though I think even when abuse doesn’t exist in a marriage, the idea of both the husband and wife who proclaim to be Christians and submitting to each other, isn’t in the cards, possibly because they may not love each other.

    I would think being in a loveless marriage is mentally numb and a form of abuse.

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  19. The church absolutely makes you quell your emotions. I’ve been to my church for help with an abusive marriage, and got told that I just needed to pray more and stop being so fearful. Or else the leaders just ignored my plea for help because they didn’t want to deal with my so-called complaining and negativity. One leader would tell me it was okay to cry and to let go, and even “prophesied” over me that I should “stop striving”, but then was mysteriously never available to meet pastorally.

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