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!”

 

 

The Face of Evil

Two men were having a conversation and one was recounting an abusive relationship. “You mean he actually thinks about it?” one asked. “I know,” said the other. “And it gets worse.”

In writing the book, Sanctuary, I was aware of the fact that many pastors, leaders, and churched men struggle to address abuse in marriage because of their own frailty. They understand what it is to be impatient, unloving, to speak an unkind word and act unbecomingly to their own wives. Much like King David who failed to address his son’s sexual assault on Tamar after he himself committed adultery, all of us struggle to address others’ sin when it’s an area we struggle with ourselves.

The marriage dynamic of abuse, however, goes far beyond arguments and strained interactions. There is one type of abuser, the fool. According to the book of Proverbs, the fools is arrogant, refuses counsel and mocks any who reprove him. He is defiant, stubborn, boisterous. There is yet another type of man, or combination with foolishness, found in abusers: the wicked. The wicked man is crafty, sly, and evil. He not only sins against his wife, he schemes, plans, and fails to sleep until he gets it done.

faces-of-evil-exhibition

In researching domestic abuse, I discovered an incredible number of forums, books, blogs, and organizations that resist, warn against abusers and provide support for victim/survivors. Many have been founded and sourced by abuse survivors. There is a fire, a passion and drive to protect women and children from the horror of their experience.

From the outside, it’s easy to misread the passion as a livid desire for vengeance or extreme justice. In some cases, that may be true. But those of us who have never lived with evil incarnate cannot know the intense fear, panic, or underlying anxiety of the unknown and what’s coming next. We have not screamed and begged for mercy that never came, nursed deep bruises for days, walked on broken bones, tried to erase profane violations and acidic names from our memory. Those wounds never go away. Some refuse to heal. They are the work of the wicked.

Listen to these descriptors of the wicked from the book of Proverbs. The wicked:

  • Seek opportunities for violence (1:11)
  • Ambush the innocent for no reason (1:11)
  • Intend great damage (1:12)
  • Focus on personal gain (1:13)
  • Run to evil (1:16)
  • Are quick to shed blood (1:16)
  • Cannot sleep unless they do evil (4:16)
  • Are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble (4:16)
  • Live and thrive off wickedness and violence (4:17)
  • Walk with a perverse mouth (6:12)
  • Let you know trouble’s coming (6:13)
  • Signal with feet, point with his fingers (6:13)
  • Continually devise evil (6:14)
  • Spread strife (6:14)
  • Conceal violence with actions and words (10:6, 11)
  • Use perverted speech (10:32)

And that’s just the first ten chapters of Proverbs. A woman who is married to this man can expect nothing less than hell on earth–and that’s what you’ll hear if you ask. This is a terrifying way to live. It has nothing to do with anger, losing his temper or self-control. It has everything to do with dominance, sport, winning, power, and control. It includes verbal tirades, coercion, physical threats, financially twisting of her arm, and using  children. To clinch the deal, he will seal his threats and control with physical and sexual assault. If you think he doesn’t have sexual perversions, inclinations, and fantasies with which to prey on her, think again.

The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, in their training manual for law enforcement officers, says this,

“Men who batter are usually not violent towards anyone but their wives/partner or
their children. They can control themselves sufficiently enough to pick a safe
target. Men often beat women on parts of their bodies where bruises will not show.
Sixty percent of battered women are beaten while they are pregnant, often in the
stomach. Many assaults last for hours. Many are planned.”*

You can’t trust this man. You can’t “take him at his word.” His wife/girlfriend will be hesitant to give you information because of past repercussions and future threats. You will not get helpful or useful information counseling them together; she will simply be in greater danger.

Perhaps someday Jesus will hear, “We never knew.”  And perhaps He’ll answer, “Because you didn’t want to know. You didn’t see, you didn’t hear. You were too preoccupied with programs,  numbers, media, your facility and reputation. Instead of caring for the sick you fed the prosperous and provided spa treatments for the healthy.”  Jesus did say, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” (Luke 5:31) Having experienced life under Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.”

The world is very aware of the evil that exists in the heart of man. Wake up, Church of Christ! Rather than shelter in place, we should be on the front lines, pulling the oppressed to safety, ready to defend, protect, provide for, and love those who need it most. In Christ, we can offer life, hope, help, peace, joy, and purpose. It’s what Jesus would do. It’s what Jesus did.

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

*https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/njpdresources/dom-violence/dv-dynamics-instr.pdf, p. 1-3

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)