Topic: How do I “minister” to my abusive spouse?

Good morning friends,

It’s morning here in Seattle where I write this before I catch my plane for the long journey back home. It’s been a mixed time here. The weather has been rainy most days which made sight seeing more challenging. However God did bless us with two afternoons of partial sun and for that I am thankful. My bones desperately needed some vitamin D and my spirits too. I hear there is more rain forecasted for next week in Pennsylvania.

I have so much I want to tell you all.

1. I want to share a few things about the PASCH (Peace and Safety in the Christian Home) conference I spoke at in Abbotsford, British Columbia. It was amazing to be with men and women from all around the globe committed to ending domestic violence in every home, especially those who call themselves Christian and yet still live with abuse and inflict abuse in their families.

2. I want to share with you a poem I’ve read that has resonated with that stuck place we all find ourselves in and invite your feedback.

3. I want to get back to answering some of your very important questions, one of which is rather lengthy. I’ll introduce it at the end of this blog and invite your thoughts on it and begin the answer next week.

The PASCH conference was a two day event, packed with speakers from every area, from victims, to perpetrators, to counselors and pastors, researchers in the area of DV as well as police, shelter workers, client advocates, attorneys, and college professors.

Today I want to highlight two of the main things that spoke to me during this event and would love your help to spread the word. Juan Carlos Arean spoke on the effects of love on children. We so often hear about the effects of violence on children (even if they aren’t the intended victims). Although those effects are real, Arean said that love can act as a potent antidote to the toxic effects of abuse on children. Research shows that resilience is fostered by loving support from people within the child’s network that can help them learn new ways of relating.

Ask yourself and ask God, where are their children in my circle that are vulnerable, that need some extra encouragement, attention, support, and help? You may not be able to change their families but you may be able to impact their future as you love a child who is living in a difficult, destructive and/or abusive home.

The second thing that spoke to my heart is the importance of men being advocates against the abuse of women. Rus Ervin Funk spoke on Preventing Violence Against Women. He quoted George Albee who said,

“No epidemic has ever been resolved by paying attention to the treatment of the affected individual.”

How do we end the cycle of Domestic Violence against women? He says, this problem will only be solved when men do the work and step up and see this as their problem, not only individually, but culturally.

Rus works with males: coaches, teachers, policemen, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, plumbers, contractors, doctors, businessmen, athletes, and others, to build a mindset that not only sees abuse against women as wrong, but are willing to stand up and speak against it to other men. He says, “We need men in that man’s life (the abuser) to hold them up to be the kind of man they want to be, the kind of man that they can be.”

What would be different in our churches if men would initiate discussions with other men when they observe disrespectful and/or abusive attitudes or actions by men toward women or children?

Rus described an incident in a men’s locker room at a health club when men were talking disrespectfully against women and he spoke up. His voice was the only one but when he left the locker room he got the thumbs up from a number of other men who were watching what was happening.

How would things have been different if instead of a silent thumbs up, those other men would have joined Rus and spoken up too? I believe a much more powerful message would have been sent by the group rather than the individual.

Men, what keeps you silent?

Last week I gave you some steps toward getting unstuck in your own life. It might be around a difficult/destructive relationship issue, or it might just be around some bad habits you’ve allowed to fester for far too long in your life. Here’s a poem by Mary Oliver that I read this week that resonated with that movement toward change. It’s called, The Journey.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life?”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
you knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

How does this poem resonate with you? What are those internal voices that keep shouting their bad advice to you? What gives you the strength to forge ahead and make that change?

This week’s question: I’ve writing after another abusive episode last night. Something you said in one of your previous posts was about how God shows unconditional love but does not offer unconditional relationship. I understand that you’re saying that healthy relationship is impossible when someone continues to be blind to his/her own sin against us and refuses to acknowledge It, take responsibility for it or repent of it.

My question is this: I’m pretty sure our marriage is emotionally destructive based on all I have read. And yet I also acknowledge that I am a sinner as much as my husband is a sinner. I am no more deserving of grace than he is. I do not earn God’s favor any more than my husband does. Neither of us do.

We are all utterly sinful and only by God’s sheer undeserving grace are we loved and saved and brought into God’s family. So if I think about that powerful gospel truth…I wonder…is it right of me to hold my husband’s sin/blindness to his own sin against him? Do I hold it against him that he cannot see his own sinfulness?

Answer: There are multiple parts to this person’s question which I will address in the next blog but I want to thank her for bringing this issue up. The short answer is No, you have no right to hold someone’s sin against him in a judgmental kind of way.

We are all sinners. One is not better than the other. That’s why Jesus says that we need to take the log out of our own eye before we try to take the speck out of someone else’s.

However, scripture is quite clear that our sin separates us from God and from one another and that without repentance, there is no fellowship with God. God says he is generous and gracious to both the good person and the evil person (as we should be when Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to them good). But God does not have intimate relationship with the person who will not “see” or repent.

The Old Testament books of Isaiah and Jeremiah are full of examples of God inviting people into repentance, of being gracious, but also of distancing himself from them when they refuse to repent. So you’re right, ministry to your unrepentant, blind spouse may be an important way you can invite him into a repentance, but what that “ministry” might look like is different depending upon the person. Jesus ministered to the woman caught in adultery differently than he did to the Pharisees who refused to see.

Sorry I can’t say more but if I don’t post this NOW I will miss my plane.
Next week I’ll write more.

Love you all?

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  1. Anonymous on May 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I really needed your post for this week and next week. Thanks.

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