I recently became aware of a tragic story that I want you to know about. Karen and Jordan Root were missionaries when she discovered that her husband was viewing child pornography. She was devastated, yet took the appropriate action, disclosed it to her mission board and church, where they promptly brought them home for an evaluation.
Jordan repented, and said he was never inappropriate with a child despite having a long-standing sexual attraction toward prepubescent females. Karen didn’t know if she could believe him, nor would ever be able to trust him or live with him since he’d lied to her for years. She filed for a legal annulment (and qualified for one) as she felt Jordan married her under fraudulent circumstances and lied to her even before their marriage.
Her mega church (Matt Chandler’s – The Village Church, in Dallas) embraced Jordan’s repentance, sought a path of healing and restoration for him with boundaries to his access to children in their church. Although they were seemingly sympathetic to Karen’s pain once they heard that Karen decided to seek an annulment of her marriage they began church discipline against Karen because she, as an adult Christian woman, made this decision without their knowledge, consent or approval.
(Karen was a member of The Village Church – which gives them the right to have some say in her life, however Karen respectfully withdrew her membership before she filed for annulment stating that she didn’t believe the church could effectively deal with both her and Jordan’s needs).
What happened from there reads like a bad movie.
I want to publically applaud Karen for her courage and bravery – for taking a stand for herself, for abused children, and against the misuse of church authority. She refused to pretend or cover up the sin of her husband for the sake of preserving her marriage or ministry. She refused to stay silent about Jordan’s problem when she worried that there might be children who he had molested, even though he denied it and her church preferred she wait until an actual child came forth with an allegation. And she refused to be bullied by the church leadership who believed they knew what she needed more than she did, even though she assured them she had godly counsel and believed God led her to move forward with an annulment.
This story is an example of the shortsightedness of church leadership, where they value the sanctity of marriage and their church “rules” over the safety and sanity of the individuals in it.
How could Karen ever trust her husband again? How would she ever feel safe with any children brought into their home or marriage? Would you?
The Village Church recently issued an apology which sounded more like a calculated PR move designed to curb the growing public outrage rather than a genuine apology toward Karen for their misuse of their authority and mishandling of her well-being.
You can read one bloggers response to their apology here.
Friends, it is time for women and men to speak up publicly about abuse of power, abuse of authority and abuse of people, whether they are children or adults, male or female.
Question: My husband became verbally abusive after I gave birth to my son 12 years ago. Is this common? I walked on eggshells. I believed I was as worthless as he told me. I believed I was lucky to have him and that he was so wonderful to even consider keeping me around. I believed I was stupid. I was a whore.I thought he was so smart and loved me, so why would he lie?Well, the day came that his rages were targeting our children.I put my foot down and told him I would file for divorce if he ever raged again. (Which he had done weekly for 12 years).This has been 4 months ago now and he has not raged since. In fact he is the passive one now. I prayed for God to give me the strength to leave him or to change him and I got both. Leslie, it seems I got exactly what I wanted but now I am filled with resentment.If it was this easy to change, why didn’t he do it long ago? Why would he have ever treated me or the kids this awful way? How can I ever forgive him? He was a downright monster.
Answer: First it is not uncommon for women to report that abuse begins during her first pregnancy or after the birth of their child. That’s when your attention is shared, it’s not only him but now you are also focused on your child and he feels insecure, ignored, jealous, or slighted.When he started verbally abusing you, what was going on in you that you would still tell yourself that he loved you and you were lucky to have him when he was so cruel and abusive towards you?
Obviously his awful words penetrated some of your own inner insecurities and lies you believed about yourself that you would have so easily surrendered to his bullying and rages.But as it happens, often when you start to see your little one’s being treated the same way, somewhere deep inside of you a well of courage erupts and you say ENOUGH! You know they don’t deserve to be treated this way (even if you believed the lie that you did). You spoke up, set boundaries and told him the consequences if he ever did that again.
And he stopped. Four months now.
You are shocked that you had more power than you thought you did.
You are shocked that you believed that you were helpless and voiceless but the truth was, you were not.
You are mad at yourself that you waited twelve long years before you found your voice and set boundaries and consequences in place.
You resent that you and your children suffered in fear with emotional abuse for twelve years before he stopped.
You are furious that he had a whole lot more control over himself than you believed he had. Now he’s quiet. He’s passive. He hasn’t raged. All because you said “if you do this again I will divorce you.” You didn’t have the strength to change him, but you did have the strength to tell him what would happen if he didn’t change and mean it. That’s why he changed.
Now you have a quieter man but not necessarily a better marriage. You are struggling with your own feelings – anger, resentment, lack of trust and unforgiveness. If you don’t address these emotions, they will tempt you to retaliate with some of your own emotional outbursts towards him. I’d encourage you not to take that path.
Instead it’s time for conversation #2 with your spouse. Make sure you do your own work before you have this conversation and decide what you want to say and how you want to say it.
For example, you might say something like this.
It’s been four months now where you have not raged or called anyone in our home a name. I’m grateful that you took my words seriously, but I’m also pretty dumbfounded that it was that easy for you to stop.
It makes me angry that you would willingly choose to hurt me and the kids for twelve years until I finally had enough. It makes me angry that you would think that’s okay and never once apologize or realize you needed help.
It also makes me very angry to realize you had control over your tongue and temper all this time. You could have chosen to stop anytime you decided to, but you did not until I threatened you with dire consequences if you did not.
Your rages have stopped and that is a good thing but it doesn’t repair all the hurt and damage that your rages did.
Let me give you an example; If you punched holes in the walls whenever you raged, after twelve years there would be a lot of holes. The structure of the walls would be weakened. If I said, “if you don’t stop punching at the walls, they are going to fall down” you stopped. But the holes are still in the walls and you have not made one effort to talk about the holes, to repair the holes, or to say you are sorry for ruining the walls of our home. Stopping is the first step but it’s not enough to repair our home.
In the same way, stopping your emotionally abusive rages was the first step but it’s not the only step that needs to be made if our marriage and family is going to survive.
Obviously you don’t want a divorce – that’s why you stopped. I don’t either. But I want a marriage where there we can talk about how we are going to repair the holes in our marriage and family that were made over these past twelve years. I want you to realize how much you’ve hurt us and I want you to genuinely feel sorry for the pain you’ve caused and never repeat it again.
I need you to understand how angry I am for what you put us through and care how deeply we hurt.
Then stop, see how he responds and see if he’s willing to take that next step of not only stopping abuse, but also repairing the damage he’s caused.
Meanwhile, do your work to continue to get stronger, to get those old lies out of your head that you deserved to be treated that way and help your children heal from the wounds their dad caused.
Don’t be surprised once it’s safe around the house that your children may get angry with you that you waited so long to protect them. Validate their anger. Try not to get defensive. Tell them they have a right to be angry that you weren’t stronger back then. But make sure you encourage them to express their anger in constructive ways rather than destructive ways or they will simply be repeating the same patterns their dad engaged in. Do not allow your children to be emotionally abusive with you in their own anger or pain.
Remember, you are working towards getting stronger and healthier for you, for your children, and hopefully your marriage. (tweet that)
Therefore it’s very important that you nurture your courage, deal with these negative emotions now in a constructive way, and invite your husband to make more changes.
Friends: How did you get over your anger at your own self when you realized that you should have done something sooner?