January 13, 2015

Give Her Wings

Guest Author — 

Bald eagles gather at the Conowingo Dam.  Need multiple shots for a Darkroom post.  If there are people there watching them that cou

Guest post by: Megan D. Cox

Abuse is rampant these days, and more, and more teachers, churches, and counselors are realizing that it is a deep problem, right now in the Body of Christ. How do we deal with it? How do we help women who are going through it? How do we manage our own emotions, if we are the victim?

I wrote “Give Her Wings” for others, because it was the book I would have liked to have read and when I was in the midst of suffocating pain and loss after I took my children and left my abusive husband. There is currently a great void in Christendom of Christ-centered-counseling works that can help a victim of abuse through crises of faith, post-separation abuse, anxiety, and bitterness after leaving an abusive situation. This book has been a journey. It is my love-offering to Christ.

This week, a woman sent me an email, regarding “Give Her Wings”, saying this:

I just finished your book! I couldn’t put it down. It was my story. Every thought and feeling was all there in black and white. Someone who understood. Who knows. The tears stream down my face as I type this because for the first time in five years, I feel like someone gets what I went through. I was not and am not alone. And most of all, I was not and am not crazy!

If victims of abuse can say this about my book, then I rejoice! My hopes are fulfilled! It is a different kind of writing, tackling the tough stuff Christians do not generally like to discuss. I share my story openly, and yet give clinical, practical, and spiritual advice as well. One of the areas discussed is that God does not approve of the wrongs done to us. I remember believing that God was pleased with me when I allowed bad things to happen to me. Every time I did something that made me utterly uncomfortable, I imagined God was nodding in affirmation. Every time I was “quiet”, every time I covered for my ex-husband, every time I allowed things to happen that just killed me on the inside; I thought God was happy. Every time I let my husband hurt me, I believed God was standing there, looking at me and placing His stamp of approval on what was being done to me. In fact, I often allowed it, thinking I was being godly; thinking I was being a good Christian; thinking I was somehow earning points for suffering so much. How sick is that? How messed up is that? I was dying on the inside . . .

In chapter 6, I refute these lies by explaining how Jesus understood abuse and slaps-in-the-face (literally and figuratively) better than anyone I know. It seemed like every time I read about Jesus’ life on earth, He touched the deepest wounds in my spirit . . . “See that, Megan? That’s when even my family didn’t believe me . . . Remember this? That really stung when he betrayed me . . . and that day that the people praised me . . . well, it didn’t last long . . . I know how you feel. I understand rejection from men.”

He cares.

“And the people trusted and listened believingly that God was concerned with what was going on with the Israelites and knew all about their affliction. They bowed low and they worshiped.” Exodus 4:31 (The Message)

The truth is God is highly concerned about what is happening to you and me in our lives. He never stood next to your abuser with an approving nod. You are His precious one, Child of God! He is not looking the other way. He is involved; He is concerned.

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

 (Isaiah 40:27-31 MSG)

Friend, do not confuse the voice of your abuser(s) with the voice of Christ. He is deeply conscious of the lack of justice in the world yesteryear, yesterday, today and in the future. He is just. What did your abuser(s) do?

Did he rape you? . . . God was not pleased by that. You are His daughter.

Did he disparage you? . . . God was not pleased by that. You matter to Him.

Did he dismiss you and your opinions? . . . God was not pleased by that. Your words are important to God.

Did he gaslight you? . . . God was not pleased by that. He has given you a sound mind.

Did he hurt you? . . . God was not pleased by that. He is protective of you.

Did he mock you? . . . God was not pleased by that. You are of value to God.

Did he belittle you? . . . God was not pleased by that. You are worth dying for.

Did he scream at you? . . . God was not pleased by that. You have dignity in Christ, created by Him and loved by Him.

Did he shame you? . . . God was not pleased by that. You are forgiven.

Did he sabotage you? . . . God was not pleased by that. Your efforts are treasured by God.

You can purchase “Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse” here http://www.lulu.com/shop/megan-d-cox/give-her-wings-help-healing-after-abuse/paperback/product-21886493.html. Read, find healing, and be edified.

Meg'sBook for posting

When you subscribe to Gary’s blog, you will receive blog posts directly to your e-mail inbox. You will be one of the first to learn about the latest in Gary’s writing.

18 responses to Give Her Wings

  1. It’s said that the only way to get the worms back in the can is to get a bigger can. Gonna need a really big one for this post. Beware, we can all “find” what we’re looking for in Scripture. Suffice it to say for now, this post raised more questions and concerns than answers and comfort (not necessarily a bad thing). Planning to think, pray, study and respond later.

  2. Gary and Megan,
    You are so right – the verses I previously mentioned were ones that spoke to me in my situation. I’m sorry if my comment made the implication that everyone should apply those verses to their own situation . Those are verses and chapters that spoke to me and gave me strength to press on in love. I was actually given those verses by a mentor – a pastor’s wife – and I drew strength and encouragement from them at times when I wanted to retaliate and trade evil for evil instead of giving a gentle answer and/or overcoming evil with good. Each person’s situation is different and we all must ask the LORD for wisdom, discernment and guidance. I see myself as a slave to Christ because as my Master, I know He will not lead me or any of His children astray.

    • You came across a loving, faithful servant of Christ, Jill, with a noble commitment to walking out God’s best for your life.. Applying the same Scriptures to different situations is a challenge for all of us. I truly admire people who accept the “hard way” when the hard way is God’s preferred path.

      • And, Gary . . . I would like to add that it is also the “hard way” to leave an abusive spouse, if I may (with utter respect, please). There was nothing “easy” about my decision, by any means. Indeed, it was agonizing . . . especially to this girl who was brought up to believe that “divorce was not an option”. And then it was hard to not know where money would come from, how I would support my children and how I would raise them alone. It was hard to stay . . . and it was hard to go. I honestly thought I would be alone for the rest of my life. I, too, consider myself a slave to Christ. But, I was not a slave to an abusive man . . . or, at least, I should not have been. We are told that we are slaves and heirs of the Holy Spirit (Galatians) but we are not to be slaves to man (unless we cannot help it). It was not the easy way out. In fact, it was clear that staying in an abusive marriage for reasons of desiring “security” would ensure that my children would grow up to be like him . . . or become forever damaged. It might not seem so to many, but my decision (and so many others) was out of obedience . . . . ensuring the health of my children and doing my best to find health, myself. I’m not sure if that is kind of what you meant. But, I felt as though I actually did take the hard way. I could have stayed, had money, had “security, had respect and honor and dignity from the Church . . . and watch my children be destroyed — or simply look the other way. It was hard to face what was happening to us and then take action. It seemed to go against everything I believed. And I was so incredibly afraid. I faced hardship, near-poverty and shame. But, in the end, the children are healthy and I am a newly-wed to a wonderful man of God. Not all stories end so sweetly. But, I felt I gave my children a chance to be healthier than I was . . . and healthier than they would have become. I hope I am not coming across as defensive (I do not mean it to be). I just wanted to share a little bit of my heart.

        Jill — this message/blog was about abuse . . . Perhaps what you speak of is a different journey. Like Gary said, it is hard to speak to a situation via internet or blog. And I don’t know your situation. But, I can tell that it has many challenges and I admire the fact that you are doing all you can. May God’s Word be a comfort to you as you travel your path. I will pray for you today.

        • Megan I appreciate your reminder, this was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.

          I remember praying within weeks after I was married that above all else, I would be able to stand before God and say that I did everything you asked me to do. For decades it was easier to go along, to keep the peace, to pacify, to “submit” to the craziness. But when my daughter turned 12, God broke me. I could not allow her to grow up and walk right into the same kind of marriage thinking this was normal, this was love, this was God’s will. And a counselor said to me: Why is this ok for you but not ok for her?

          Because I thought it was my role, it was my job, and that God cared more about my “marriage” than he cared about me. And that above all else was the worst pain, believing the lie that God watched every day and didn’t weep with me. Until finally he spoke into the midst of the fear and confusion and pain and said: I love you so much more than this.

          Some people will always think that I was wrong. I remind myself that they did not have the privilege of living in my home and experiencing my life. And I know that God answered the prayer of a 20 year old girl, that I would stand before him and say I did all you asked me to do. Not perfectly, not immediately, but by your grace, I obeyed you. And you rescued me and you are healing me and my children, some more quickly and some more slowly, and some days it is still so so hard.

          Because now comes the part where God tries to undo the worthlessness that comes from 22 years of living with someone who was supposed to love you more than anyone else, and instead despised you.

          And still the Spirit whispers: I love you so much more than this. I can almost hear it most days.

          • Melanie — Thank you so much for sharing your heart-breaking yet beautiful story of obedience. I am so encouraged by your words, “I love you so much more than this”. Thank you.

  3. Dave and Mary,

    I read your post and felt compelled to respond. With all due respect, I have to disagree with your comment about there is a “horribly misguided truth that godly wives must submit to ungodly husbands”. Actually, I read in 1 Peter 3 that godly wives ARE to be submissive to their husbands, even if they do not believe, meaning the husbands would be ungodly. The hope is that the ungodly husbands would be won over to Christ by seeing and being recipients of the godly love and behavior in their wives. I know we are NOT to submit to our husbands if they want us to do something illegal and/or immoral; however, the fact that our husbands may be ungodly does not release us from God’s command of submitting to them. In my own life, I have seen the fruit God produced in me by persevering in this manner…fruit that otherwise, would not have been produced. 1 Peter 2:8 also states,”slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” Actually, the whole chapters of 1 Peter 2 and 3 (not just a few verses) were very helpful in reminding me to keep my focus, to press on toward the Prize when I would become discouraged. I had to realize that even if I didn’t see a change in my husband,even if he didn’t repent, I wanted to be obedient to God’s commands, knowing my reward would come from Him. Sometimes God puts difficult spouses and difficult situations in our lives so that He can work in US….to prune and shape us to be more like Him. If we give up before the pruning and shaping can occur, then we are the ones who lose the blessing.

    • Thanks for writing Jill, and for your faithful testimony. That’s the difficulty in addressing this issue. Every husband is, in some ways, an “ungodly” husband. We all fall short. So your point is duly noted. And it’s true, some may define “abuse” so broadly that they could defend leaving a “normally imperfect” husband. That’s why we carried Sandy’s post last week talking about how an unhealthy marriage was redeemed (in her case, fasting played a helpful role).

      But I do think that for many years the church has gone the other way–being too silent regarding clearly abusive marriages. It’s tough for a blog to differentiate the two, but I want us to aspire after my friend Dr. Steve Wilke’s definition: “Abuse is any non-nurturing behavior.” That’s a high bar, so slipping a little under it doesn’t justify separation and certainly not divorce, but I also want men (and some abusive women) to understand that the high call of the Gospel is that every act in marriage should be a nurturing one. We have to have as little tolerance for abuse as we have for divorce.

      I’d be careful, though, about applying Peter’s words to slaves submitting to harsh masters to modern day marriage. Slaves had no way out; what Peter said was, realistically speaking, the safest course for them to take. Seriously abused women (and some men) do have recourse, and I don’t think we should make them feel guilty if they’re forced into seeking it.

      Of course, I realize that some may use these blog posts and my recent appendix in A Lifelong Love to justify an ill-considered divorce–but many also used the message of Sacred Marriage to justify a woman staying in a clearly abusive marriage. In some ways, I feel like I can’t win. I’ll keep calling people back to both sides, hoping we can get this right.

      • Thank you for saying that, Gary. That passage is one that others quoted to me, often, in my first marriage. And I clung to it . . . hoping that I was doing the right thing. Then, one day, I just kind of realized, “hey! I’m not a slave! Why am I applying this to myself?” But, I’ll tell you . . . I *felt* like a slave. I think that was why I was relating to it. 🙁

  4. Thank you Gary for having Megan share her wisdom here. Targets of abuse need to hear, read, see this message. I am so grateful that you are encouraging the church to have a great understanding of abuse and how to help targets of abuse.

    • Thanks, Ellie. I am trying to confront a misunderstanding that somehow the message of “Sacred Marriage” is that the call to holiness is a call for women to allow themselves to stay in abusive situations. I am appalled by that application and am trying (through subsequent books and this blog) to let that be clear.

      • We have SO much respect for you because you are addressing this! Will email you a longer response but just want you to know we are grateful that you have the courage to confront the horribly misguided “truth” that godly wives must “submit” to ungodly husbands. Thank you!

        • Thank you for commenting, Dave & Mary. There is definitely a difference between an “ungodly” husband or, even, an “unbelieving” husband, as mentioned in Scripture and an abusive husband. There is a difference between being pruned by the Lord and being chopped down by an abusive spouse. If a wife and her children are being destroyed, submitting more to him will not lead him to Christ . . . . it will only allow the wife and her children to be destroyed. Much like God took His people out of Egypt when their cries reached His ears . . . the same God (yesterday, today and tomorrow) will rescue His beloved Bride from those who would like to destroy her. The Lord did not leave His people in slavery forever. He said to Moses, “I have seen the plight of my people . . . ” He was speaking of the abuse of the taskmasters. And He set Him free. He did not just leave them there to be a Light to the world. They could no longer be a Light. They were too oppressed.

      • I just finished Sacred Marriage and loved and hated it all at the same time. The call is high and hard, but I am confused about the limits. I don’t remember you addressing when to stop turning the other cheek. I remember mostly the challenge to let it change “you”. If you have written more to explain this, please let me know of it. This post did not clear it up for me. It told me that God sees and cares and that it matters, but it did not give me any direction of when and where it ends or continues. It’s all too confusing.

        • Hi, Eydie! Thanks for commenting. I cannot speak for Gary but I do believe that he has re-published “Sacred Marriage” with some amendments, clearing up any confusion. I would love to tell all women who are being abused to RUN. But, I cannot because I am not inside another woman’s marriage and I do not understand the dynamics. When I left, God gave me a release, after years of trying, reading, counseling, etc. Where it ends or if it continues is strictly between you and God. But, you could certainly seek help from a counselor who specializes in abuse. I will say this . . . God does not wish for you to be abused. And, God will not condemn nor leave a woman who had no recourse except to escape and move forward. I hope that this helps. I will be whispering prayers for you tonight. Also, please feel free to check out our website, which deals primarily with abuse . . . http://www.giveherwings.com. Hugs, friend.

  5. Thank you for asking Megan to write this, Gary. There is a great need for the Body of Christ to gain understanding of what abused spouses go through and the need to protect them.

    An abusive marriage cannot be changed into a non-abusive marriage by the behaviour of the abused spouse alone. Abuse comes from distorted thinking in the abuser, and unless they repent and change their thinking, it is likely to continue no matter how much the other spouse does the 5 Love Languages! It is cruel to ask people to continue in a situation like Megan’s, as some church leaders do, if there is no genuine repentance by their abuser.

    • True words, Grace. Very true.

    • Thank you for your words, Grace. I think that that cruelty (in telling me I had to stay) further compounded the idea that I was worth so little to God . . . that staying in a marriage was more important to Him then my safety. I know, now, just how untrue that is.