Why I Wrote “Sanctuary….”

A woman noticed my nametag as we stood in line. “Did you write that book in the bookstore?” she asked. When I told her I had, she shared her own story of domestic abuse, then she wanted to know mine. I fumbled for an answer. In the year since the book was published, she was the first and many others have asked. “Why did I write Sanctuary?”

Sanctuary-cover-397x595 (2019_07_29 12_08_33 UTC)

I could tell you that in a group of women close to me, 3 of 5 have experienced domestic abuse. Or I could tell you that when it was time to write my master’s thesis, my husband wisely asked, “What counseling situation is most difficult?” Or I could say that the department chair suggested researching physical domestic violence when I wanted to write on how to respond biblically to a sinning husband.

Here is the truth. One morning, instead of meeting in my office, I met a woman in her home because her husband made her choose between money for groceries or money for gas. They had fought most of the night. We sat at her kitchen table and when she brought up the topic of divorce I asked where he was. She calmly replied that he was sleeping in a nearby bedroom. That didn’t feel particularly safe or smart, so we took our conversation outside.

We had met many times and discussed different facets of life. As I desperately prayed for words and direction, we turned to Matthew 22:37-40 and I asked, “If you continue the way things are now, is it possible to love God with your mind, soul, and strength? Are you free to have a personal relationship with God? (Read your Bible, pray, and attend church?)” Yes, she said, that was not an issue. “And if you continue as you are now, are you loving your husband and children well? Can you do what is best for them?” No, she answered. She could not continue living this way without giving in to sinful lifestyle choices, constant chaos and fear. Loving her husband meant making changes, dangerous ones. If she chose to love God and her neighbor, those changes could lead to removing herself and their children for their safety and his overall well-being. He needed help and they a) couldn’t fight against his sin and b) didn’t have the resources to fight their own under his influence, c) would continue to be in danger and d) were harboring a criminal by not reporting him (physical assault/domestic violence is a crime).

I offered to go with her to the courthouse and file a protective order. She said she couldn’t. She wasn’t ready. We talked about safety plans, contacting extended family, daily schedules and opportunities, but I quickly realized this was not about surface issues. There were struggles deep in her soul and mind that had to be overcome for her to step out of the cycle of violence to safety from the man who controlled and undermined her every move and resource.

As we walked through the weeks and months that followed, God more than provided for her needs financially, spiritually, and practically. He also gave her miraculous courage and insight into herself, her husband and children. With help from family, friends, the local church, law enforcement and social service agencies, she and her husband received counseling and multiple opportunities for change. She chose change, Jesus Christ, and freedom. He chose himself.

I continue to meet with women whose husbands sin against them, armed with the truth that only Jesus works change and is worthy of worship. Through Christ, God’s Word, His Spirit, and His people are vital tools that empower and enable victims to become victors. The odds against victims of abuse are overwhelming. Coercion, confusion, belittling, demeaning, violent behavior traps them against their will. Even after building up gumption to leave temporarily, women return to abusive relationships an average of 7 times before leaving permanently. But God has a better solution.

Only God can make the local church aware that some men prey on and use their wives as objects instead of equals. God can put it in women’s hearts to search out, pray for, and come alongside the suffering. God can provide His Spirit though salvation in Christ, newness of life, courage and a desire to do things differently. God can change hearts and lives of not just victims, but abusers, and the entire local church. God can provide secular resources and legal intervention to provide for their practical needs.

Sanctuary: Help and Hope for Victims of Domestic Abuse is not about changing the dynamics or circumstances of domestic abuse. It’s a look into the heart of our God who comes alongside the suffering soul, providing comfort, healing, and help. Sanctuary empowers victims of domestic abuse to use Scripture as a means of change and loving others–not according to their own understanding–but in a courageous, biblical way that calls others to respond to God as the Judge, the Avenger, and, potentially, personal Savior from sin and God’s deserved wrath.

I wrote Sanctuary because the gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. God’s Word is living and active. God’s Word is a healing balm of grace and mercy.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 119:7-11)

Submit in Everything?

One biblical reason women fail to cry out–and churches fail to help–is a misunderstanding of the word, “everything” in Ephesians 5:24. “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

Watch this video to understand the context and heart of God behind this controversial verse:

Click on this link to view video.

(PS–this is a trial run–folks on Sanctuary’s Facebook page, sorry for the repetition. This may or may not work… Stay tuned.)

Repentance

Those who use power and control as weapons use them well. Think of hand-to-hand combatants in the movies: Matt Damon, Keanu Reeves, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee. That’s an abuser in a nutshell. It’s what you’re up against–what victims of abuse experience–only it isn’t one scene and it’s not a movie. It’s real life. Over. And over. And over.

In an abusive relationship, the oppressed individual just can’t win. Sometimes life feels  normal. Then pressure builds. The rug gets pulled out from under her unexpectedly. Hard. If only she’d seen it coming. If only… If only….

hqdefault

If you’re a church leader and this isn’t your personal bent, you need to be mentally and spiritually prepared. Sure, there’s trouble in the relationship. Who doesn’t have trouble now and then? But in the case of an abusive relationship, it’s not a boxing match, it’s a street fight. You think you know. You want to think you know. But you don’t. There are no rules. When an abusive individual doesn’t get what he wants, he keeps pressing (or taking. There’s no time to strategize, take a break, regroup, or size up your opponent.

After hearing her side, you may expect opposition. Instead, you often find false humility; a walk to the altar; a promise to tow the line. You think the problem’s solved and you’ve successfully intervened. In some cases, perhaps. But in the case of an oppressive marriage, you’ve been played.

While you were giving him the benefit of the doubt, quick to listen, slow to speak, loving, and playing nice, he manipulated you into giving him more rope and leeway. You told his wife she needs to change, give it another go, hang on a little longer, do what it takes to preserve the marriage. What you don’t know is that He hasn’t changed; He simply flipped the coin and used the other side to get the same outcome: power and control. Now that his sin has been revealed to people who matter, people who could call him to change and surrender, people who have the ability to limit his power, desires, and control–he will make every effort to look the part, convincing them he’s doing his part; she’s not doing hers.

Tears do not equal repentance. “I’m sorry” is not repentance. “I won’t do it again,” is not repentance. “How can I fix this?” is not repentance. “Help me, please,” is not repentance.

Sound familiar?  If you’re still trying to figure out what just happened, please, please check out Chris Mole’s resources at http://www.chrismoles.org/ . Chris helps pastors and church leaders see behind the masquerade of power and control to repentance and true heart change, all while protecting and defending women and children–especially those in our churches.

Repentance equals change. And, as Kevin Carson says, “Change does not take place until change takes place.” Repentance begins with identifying sin. There is no way to begin the put off, put on process of sanctification if you refuse or fail to identify the specifics of what to take off. Where is the sin? No minimizing, justifying, excusing, blame-shifting. True repentance is broken over one’s own sin against God and others, not sorrowful over consequences.

Determine how you, as church leaders, or his wife, know he has put off a behavior. What will stop? How often? To what degree? How will you measure effort and sincerity? Paul wrote this in 2 Corinthians 7:11:

..see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”

Is he making efforts to keep up appearances, to get what he wants (his life and wife)?This is not true repentance. True repentance means submitting (yes, you read that right–“submitting”) himself to the power and control of others, even when he doesn’t agree. He will tow the line longer than required. He will be harder on himself than you are–and you should expect him to be.

His wife is the one who knows. Listen. to. her. Let her be raw and real. Allow her to share his infractions, outbursts, and demands. This is one of the few true barometers of change in an abusive relationship.

And that’s just a start.

Don’t be the fool. Identify him, love him well, draw him to the Savior. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

Love your women and children. Protect and defend them. Go to the mat. Be filled with the Spirit, doing the Lord’s work, with His Word, as His Body:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:1-2)

 

Get Outta the Way!

Years ago while visiting a friend, the phone rang. From the far end of the house I heard a small, shrill voice rise and continue. “Aren’t you going to answer the phone?” I asked. “Not yet,” she said.  The sound got louder and clearer, “Get outta the way! Move! Move! Move!” The young tornado ran at full speed, dodging obstacles and people, desperately repeating, “Get outta the way! I’m coming!” Reaching for the phone, she cleared her throat and answered  sweetly, “Anderson residence. This is Cassie speaking. How may I help you?”

girl on phone
Find original photo here

As I travel the pages of Proverbs and observe what God has to say about wicked men, the word to the wise is, “Get out of the way!” Maybe you’re a wife–a good wife. He says you’re a lousy one, but you really want to do your best. Whether you’re married to a wicked, foolish man or not, we women have a tendency to fix things. We know and believe God created us to be helpers–and we’re really trying.

The problem is that we step into the nunya zone as helpers (see The Nunya Zone). In the case of the wicked, this is especially dangerous. Why? Because this lies in store for the wicked. According to Proverbs, the wicked man:

  • Sets himself up for destruction (1:17-18)
  • Will lose his life (1:19)
  • Will be caught by his own iniquity (5:22)
  • Will be held with the cords of his sin (2:23)
  • Will be broken with no hope for healing (6:15)
  • Is hated by God (6:16-19, 8:13)
  • Will be overtaken by that which he fears (10:24)
  • Will live a short life (10:27)
  • Will be destroyed by his wickedness (11:5)
  • Will be caught by his own greed (11:6)
  • Will not go unpunished (11:21)
  • Can expect wrath (11:23)
  • Will receive evil (11:27)
  • Is condemned by the Lord (12:2)
  • Is ensnared by the transgression of his lips (12:13)

Wife, if you stand in the way by trying to “fix” the consequences of your husband’s choices and decisions, you will suffer as a result. Let me say a word here–God knows your heart . He sees your present suffering, confusion, pain, and each incident of abuse. This is not your fault. It is not the result of your sin. You are not the problem. This is not due to your failure and flaws. Your husband alone is responsible for the way he speaks to you, treats you and your children. God will hold him accountable–and others should as well.

Give them the opportunity and by  getting “outta the way.” When your husband tells a lie and gets caught, don’t provide an excuse or step in to smooth the waters. Let him stew in it. It’s his lie. It was his choice. Leave it alone. When he “slips” and says something incredibly rude or derogatory to or about you in public, don’t worry what others think. Let them see him for who he his. Allow the shock and consequences of being marginalized to fall where they may. Don’t cover his sin.

When the Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sin” it’s referring to sin that has been confessed and repented of, not sin that remains unacknowledged, unconfessed, unhindered, blatant, and repeated. Even God does not cover that kind of sin. Psalm 32:5 says, I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” This is the sin God covers according to verse 1: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!”

True love reveals sin so it can be confessed and forgiven. Ephesians 5:8, 10-12 says, “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” In loving others, we expose their wickedness and allow them to carry the full weight of their decisions, not because we want vengeance, but because we understand the importance of pleasing God and loving others.

The author of Proverbs agrees. “Stay away,” he warns. “Don’t get drawn into their wickedness and deceit. Hate evil; fear the Lord.” And in doing so, “the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:26).

You may be the one to execute consequences by saying, “When you threaten violence with your words and/or actions, I’m out of here.” Plan ahead–prepare an extra set of keys, clothing, overnight gear, place to stay, etc. Or, “I will not stand by while call me demeaning names/treat me like a slave/ talk with a raised voice/ get in my face.” When it is safe, leave the room or go to a friends’ house. Let him feel the problem; the consequence; the weight of sinning against you and creating a barrier that has not been restored.  If he doesn’t see the problem, he will continue to excuse his behavior. “It wasn’t that bad.”  “I just _______.” “What’s her problem anyway?”

Say it in your head. Practice it out loud. Repeat it over and over. Then, prayerfully, when the time is right, use it. Involve friends, your pastor, local church leadership, law enforcement, and social services as needed. There is nothing (!) biblical about harboring a sinner and “protecting” him from consequences.

Although it is impossible in human terms, with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). God gives you permission–in fact, He warns you–to “Get Outta the Way!”

 

 

Unjust Suffering

We are all familiar with suffering the consequences of making a poor decision. Children refuse to wear the clothing their parents tell them to and suffer as a result. We like to think that those who cheat, lie, steal, and hurt others will suffer the consequences of their behavior, but we don’t always see it. Is it really true? On the other hand, when women experience domestic violence, abusers tell them, “If only you’d _________, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s your own fault!” What a twisted reality!

That’s why the Bible is so vital to sorting out domestic abuse. It is the only source of absolute truth and God lays it out clearly:

The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)

Violence is wrong. Manipulation, deceit, coercion, justification, and posturing are wrong. Using someone to get what you want–power, influence, control–is wrong. The person who lives this way will be held eternally accountable.

The key word is, “eternally.” We may or may not see the consequences now. Asaph saw the injustice of evil men: they were rich, sleek and fat, boasting in themselves and committing acts of violence. Life seemed easy and, somehow, they got away with it. But, Asaph, lamented, his life was uncertain, hard, and he struggled to do what was right. “Why?” he asks. “Why am I trying so hard? What’s the point?”

Then Asaph looked to God and gained a different perspective. This is not the final chapter. From where God sits, unquenchable, eternal judgement is on its way. We may or may not see it in this life, but it will come. In a moment the violent and arrogant will be cast down, tormented by fear and terror. Judgment will come swiftly, inescapably. It is an absolute certainty.

What does God have to say to those who suffer injustice? Asaph wrote these words of encouragement and hope for himself–and for us:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:23-28)

You can belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ,. When you cry out, He hears you. He sees your need and will see you through. Continue to cry out, trust and obey: tell others, ask for help from friends, the local church,  law enforcement and social services. Keep doing what is right, with your eyes on the long-term goal and your faith in the only One who is with you, in you, and empowering you to press on. Run to your Refuge and Sanctuary. He is steadfast, sure, and able.

Want to know more? Order your copy of Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse. It’s here to help women and their churches see beyond the immediate and obvious to what’s behind and beyond.

Getting Started

The adventure has begun. The topic of domestic abuse–especially in our Christian churches–is often misunderstood and mismanaged. Women are confused, hurting, isolated, even angry–and are often told they are the problem.

The purpose of the website is to provide resources for women experiencing abuse in any form. It is also an opportunity for you to get to know me for ministry opportunities. Proverbs says, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (16:9). In that way, the Lord has directed my steps here–to writing a book and being available to speak at women’s events.

Use the contact page on the site for more information.