Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Much like a mirror, we view life through our eyes–looking out from the inside. Even when we think we’re looking in, we’re looking at ourselves through ourselves. For that reason, none of us is objective. That’s why the Word of God and the people of God are vital.

man in mirror

An abuser sees the victim as an object designed to meet his needs (not a person, not the image of God, not even a servant, but someone “less than”). The focus is himself. Pride skews the way he look at life. Every wrong is deflected onto his chosen target. Is everyone guilty? Sometimes. But more often, there is an individual who could, if she chose, put him in the center and make his life easier, better, more fitting. He is entitled; she is an interference, an obstacle. His reality is the only reality.

Victims often see themselves at fault. They should be able to right the world–his world–and bring about change. Her reality is subject to his. If only she could align with his wants, needs, and desires, life wouldn’t be so difficult or painful. Unfortunately, his reality changes constantly. She’s off balance, unable to stay grounded, at his service.

Both have a distorted view of God, themselves, and others. At home, abusers exhibit little to no dependence on God. Victims depend on their abuser. Failure results in punishment. This is not a case of “It takes 2 bears to make a bear fight.” This is domination and control.

Although abusers sin greatly against the victim, it’s a cat and mouse game few see. Those privy to the truth have no voice or are quickly discounted in light of the abuser’s influence, affluence, personality, charisma, persona.

Many in the church have no idea. They, too, see the situation through their own eyes, assuming that the husband is–of course–caring for his wife and children, representing his side of the story accurately, and, though frustrated, painting his wife in the best light possible. Many also assume that the wife is ungrateful for her husband’s care, exaggerates his faults, and fails to live up to her role.

Applying the Word of God to what is seen or reported is difficult. The examination must be private, comprehensive, and invasive. An abuser’s heart seeks his own, justifies sinful behavior, and is unwilling to sacrifice his agenda for the benefit of his spouse (for others, yes, but not for her). A victim seeks to please her spouse (remember the consequences? Imagine the weeks, months, years; the habits and thought processes that have led her here). She, too, minimizes her abuser’s words and behavior (it’s shameful and embarrassing for anyone else to hear or see the demoralizing treatment. They would cringe. She cringes just thinking about their pity or, worse, agreement with her abuser.). She has little to no agenda other than survival and avoiding punishment and reproach.

Can you say, “This is wrong”? “This is shameful”? “This is not the way Christ loves the Church”?  This is not Christian marriage. Take His name out of it. Whether those involved claim to be Christians or not, this is controlling, illegal behavior. Prayerfully look beyond your own mirror into the face of Christ. What do you see?

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16)

Two Sides to Every Story

Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.” Those who help individuals settle disputes and live at peace depend on this principle. In most people situations, this works. But a proverb is a proverb, not a promise–it’s true most of the time, given the right circumstances.

This verse does not say, “The first to plead her case seems right, until another disagrees,” or “proves her wrong.” It actually says nothing about the other person. It simply teaches that we need to be careful and examine a situation before reaching a conclusion. This is especially true in relation to domestic abuse. It’s important to seek and gain knowledge–not only from those involved–but also from God’s Word and people. Knowledge about domestic abuse, any abuse, is cause to stop and look differently.  

unhpapy couple

The underlying assumption of many, especially men, is that a husband and wife stand on equal footing. It’s true: people are people. But in a Christian marriages, a woman honors God by placing herself under her husband’s authority. This is her gift to him. Husbands are not responsible for a wife’s submission. Wives are not responsible for a husband’s love, that’s his responsibility. 1 Peter 3:7 says,

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

A wife who submits to her husband is weaker because she willingly forfeits her desires and autonomy to his headship, trusting God to use and direct him in meeting her needs. They’re a team with different roles. Each one has the equal value. Each is a person made in the image of God with the same attributes and essence. With practice, a husband and wife communicate and follow to God’s direction together as the husband leads and the wife assists. Because she does not call the shots or bear the weight of  decisions, she is in a weaker position both practically and experientially. She is not powerless to disagree, confront wrong, pray, and depend on others, but she trusts God to provide through her husband’s leadership.

To the degree that her husband considers her “a fellow heir of grace,” and loves her as Christ loves the church, Christian marriage is a beautiful, supernatural picture of goodness. But when a man views his wife as an object to meet his desires, she is doubly, sinfully disadvantaged. She must learn to rightly divide Scripture and please God in spite of her husband.  

It’s also important to recognize that the most prevalent predator of women is men. Statistics speak for themselves: sexual harassment, assault, abuse, stalking, trafficking, or murder. Men who refuse to submit to the gospel and work of Christ are deceived and deceiving; driven by desire. In fact, domestic violence causes more injuries to women than accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.* Women carry keys a certain way, examine their surroundings, plan where, when, and how they travel, anticipate and prepare for danger on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We train and educate our daughters differently than sons because of dangerous men. I do not avoid men in general. I am not embittered against them nor do I wish evil on anyone based on gender, but I am always aware. 

Those who address the concerns of a woman reporting (or disclosing) abuse often overlook this simple fact: in cases of abuse, men are dangerous and women are disadvantaged. This is not one-on-one conflict. It is a teeter-totter in which one individual sits at the bottom and makes demands of a captive held aloft and alone.

Investigate? Yes, by all means. Ask questions, take notes, collect documentation. Assume she is on even standing with her abuser? Absolutely not.

The way you apply this proverb could easily set her up for injury and punishment. This happens when you break her confidence as a means of getting his side of the story or question the two of them together. Instead, question them separately. Give her side additional weight and confidentiality. Involve individuals who understand abuse and have the ability to discern the situation without endangering or threatening her safety. This may mean using secular sources and/or older women in the church who can be trusted to love, care, pray with and for her.

This is not a simple disagreement. This is oppression, buried under layers of deception, peppered with coercive, covert tactics. You will not get 2 sides of the same story. You will get 2 altogether different stories because one is driven by power and the other is subject to it. God knows. Seek His help. Apply His understanding and reflect His heart: oppose the proud, give grace to the humble.

Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be,
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:1-4)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16)

*https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-domestic-and-dating-violence

When You’re Up Against Power and Control

I started my morning reading about King Saul and David in the book of 1 Samuel and ended up studying the power and control wheel.

PowerControlwheelNOSHADING

If you haven’t seen this before, it was developed by a group of individuals to describe the crippling effects of unseen abuse in relationships. Just because someone on the outside can’t see the puppet-strings doesn’t mean they’re not there. An individual may use intimidation, coercion, male privilege, economic pressure, children, possessions, minimizing or blaming to get what he wants. When, or if, that is threatened, he will resort to a different or stronger tack. He has many to choose from. Another word for this is bullying.

Biblically, this is referred to as pride, foolishness, loving self, unrighteousness, wickedness, and evil. These individuals are described as wolves, worthless shepherds, hidden reefs, clouds without water, autumn trees without fruit, wild waves of the sea casting up their own shame like foam (see the book of Jude). The list goes on. Although some of these labels are applied to false teachers in the church, these men, in their homes, mislead and destroy those in their care. They say one thing–appear to be upstanding, righteous, thoughtful in one setting–but are very different at home, depending on what best meets their desires. Some are pastors and leaders in their churches. When that is the case, this description applies in every context.

King Saul was this kind of man. Because of his pride, rebellion, and disobedience, God withdrew His Spirit and the promise of the kingdom. Saul knew David was his competition. Not only that, David had everything Saul wanted. In desperation and envy, Saul sought to destroy David. He threw a spear intending to kill him (numerous times), chastised, punished, and belittled those who helped David, withheld safety and support, hunted and threatened his life. For as many as 16 years David lived under the threat of Saul’s violent attacks.

But God had other plans. David respected Saul’s title and position. He was God’s anointed. God put him in power and God would remove him. For that reason, David refused to fight back. He trusted God no matter how difficult. He refused to harm Saul. He refused to listen to slander or threats on Saul’s life. He would take whatever came his way, trusting God to see him through–because there was more.

David also realized that he was God’s anointed. For that reason, David took precautions to protect himself. He, as the upcoming king and leader of Israel, kept himself out of harm’s way, escaping out of windows, hiding in caves, spying from meadows, and fleeing across mountains. He fled. Made alliances. Sought help. Received assistance. Pursued God’s best. Believing God would see him through, David did what it took to live according to God’s promise and purpose. That is where David found strength.

My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
2 He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3 How long will you assail a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
4 They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. Selah.

5 My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
8 Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.

9 Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up;
They are together lighter than breath.
10 Do not trust in oppression
And do not vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.

11 Once God has spoken;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God;
12 And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord,
For You recompense a man according to his work. (Psalm 62)