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Leah's Story

Dear David,

 

I am on a journey that I did not choose. There is no doubt that I have a story to tell and it isn’t a nice story. However, if my journey can give other wives who struggle with what is a truly Godly marriage, I can offer both comfort and insight because of my experiences.

 

I look at the Cross and I hear Christ cry out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I know He feels the physical, mental and emotional pain I have felt in the ripping of my insides.

 

You are a nice guy in public. It’s that “nice guy” that I fell in love with and gave my heart to. It was that “nice guy” I pursued. I wanted so much to please you. I loved you and needed you so much that I was willing to overlook and forgive your belittling spirit toward me, not realizing that I was giving you entitlement to treat me disrespectfully. I ached for your love. I was never going to have your love. I stayed too long.

 

One counselor asked you: “Why did you marry your wife when you obviously did not love her?” Your response: “I don’t know.” The counselor replied: “I know why. You were 27 years old and back then if you were not married by the time you were 30, you were considered gay; then came along this 21-year-old who was not only interested, but practically worshipped you. You thought this might be your last chance. You entered into this relationship willing to defraud her in order to save your image”.

 

Another counselor asked you: “Why couldn’t you at least demonstrate love by your actions?” You shrugged again that you did not know. He said: “I know why. Two reasons—one was that you were an only child and at 27 years of age, all your friends were married and their wives wouldn’t let your friends come out and play with you any more. That’s why you wouldn’t come home for dinner. You were mad at your friends’ wives and you took it out on your wife. The second reason was that your mother was very dominant over your father. Your father was a sweet, gentle man, but he wasn’t a leader and couldn’t make decisions so your mom had to step in and make them. Other people knew this and you were embarrassed. This was your mindset: “I do not want anyone thinking that I am not in charge!”

 

A couple of Christian counselors have asked me, “What took you so long to leave?” The answer? I was blind to the fact that I allowed you to be “God” for me. I broke the first Commandment: I have repented. I am reconciled to God.

 

It never occurred to me when I married you at 21 years of age that a man professing to be a Christian would not want to be a responsible, self- disciplined man of his word. I forgave and forgave and forgave. I was wrong! I forgave irresponsibly! I submitted to your right or wrong authority, thinking that you would realize my sacrifices and therefore respect me for that. By submitting to you, I allowed you to use God-words as a weapon to control me. And you used that weapon frequently! I gave up self-respect thinking you would recognize my sacrifices and thus you would love me. Funny thing, I ended up losing both.

 

You wanted to be head of the home, but you didn’t want to be responsible. You told me I shouldn’t have any expectations. That was the reason you gave me for not coming home for dinner or not paying the bills or for running off to church activities when I needed you at home, using my expectations as an excuse for your irresponsible behaviour. Yes, I did have an expectation in our marriage: I expected you to keep your marriage vows—“to love, honor and cherish”.

 

Have you ever thought about what your expectations were of me? Your expectations were that I be a compliant and approving wife. I was expected to smile and always be happy and approving of you. You required that I look good at church and make you look good, too. I was not allowed to expect repentance or a change of heart on your part. I was always to submit to your decisions without discussion.

 

I look at the Cross and see myself. I allowed myself to be treated with contempt, for I believed that was pleasing to God. I do not like the woman that I was. I hit my knees to ask for forgiveness, and plead for it. And mercifully, with the grace I do not deserve, He gives it and I accept it.

 

Because I kept my pain to myself for so long, few people would have guessed how miserable our marriage was. We participated in perpetuating a lie to the watching world. I allowed myself to be deceived into thinking that if everyone else seemed to be approving, then God must be approving of us, as well. We cannot, however, “fool” God.

 

I thought submitting to you, overlooking character flaws, and forgiving and reconciling with you would generate from you more love for me. Instead it gave you entitlement to treat me with contempt and allowed a controlling and dominating spirit to grow in you. I had become a victim of spiritual abuse and I didn’t know it. Your arrogance grew and totally dominated you. I allowed this behavior from you for twenty years, thinking that I was honoring you and God.

 

I have learned this about the “submission” subject: Submission does not bring love, particularly when the husband demands submission from the wife. If the husband must demand submission, the issue is not about love, but is about control. Anytime a husband tells his wife that she must submit, he has forsaken God’s command to love her. He has set himself up to be equal with God. He has committed original sin and is abusing her. I want to give wives encouragement to stand up to their husbands and be able to say, “You will not treat my children or me this way!” Do you see how my allowing you to be “God” for me set me up to be deceived by Satan’s lies?

 

The Lord used my children to wake me up. I had three teenage children who thought it was OK to emulate this disrespectful behavior toward me and that realization prompted my understanding of how weak I had become. You did nothing to stop my childrens’ disrespect of me. Each time you overruled me on discipline issues, you promoted dishonoring behavior to increase in our children. I allowed you to rob me of my parental authority and thus allowed you to steal my children from me.

 

Why weren’t you there to teach and model discipline? Why did you leave me alone so frequently when I needed help? If you were serious about establishing a right relationship with me, you would have gone to each child individually confessing that rather than building character in them, you preferred to crush their mother in front of them so she would never forget that you were the boss. Even now, occasionally our children will throw a contemptuous dart at me. “I know I promised to spend the weekend with you, but God led me to this other activity. Just forgive me and get over it!” I see my children but I hear their father’s voice. Yes, I have pointed these attitudes and behaviors out to our children and they seem to get it, but they do need an occasional reminder. It’s a habit that needs unlearning.

 

You seemed antagonized if I made personal worship suggestions for you or our family. I wanted you to have a close relationship with God. Somehow I knew that the Lord would not treat me abusively as you were doing, and that if you were spending time with Him, you would figure that out. But when did you ever get by yourself with your Bible just to pray and commune with God?

 

I have come to realize now that I should have left you the first year we were married when you took money I had earned to pay your credit card debts. I had never used a credit card in my whole life! You brought those credit card debts into the marriage. Any time I had money saved up, you always had a “Godly reason” to take it. As our marriage progressed and our children grew, my income went toward piano lessons, tennis lessons, ballet lessons and vacations. Later, during the years when I was paying the bills, my income supplemented yours so that our bills and obligations were always met. I even opened savings accounts for the children to save for college. I put money every month into their accounts. You never contributed anything to those accounts, but I would periodically find money missing from those accounts. Now you were no longer coming to me with a “Godly reason” to take their money—you just took it! Since I naturally like to save money, spending money frivolously was not my nature. Yet I wasn’t to question your motives for wanting the money.

 

You were neither disciplined nor organized and bills were frequently paid late; yet I had to take the phone calls for delinquent bills. After years of marriage during which you had been in charge of paying the bills, our finances were in total chaos. You finally asked me to begin paying the bills. I spent three years working very diligently at digging us out of credit card debt. Three years later, I shared with you how we were out of debt and were contributing 10% of our gross income to church and charities.

 

Then a “friend” of yours told you that to be the head of the home you must be in charge of the finances. Shortly after you took over the bill paying duties again, the phone calls relating to unpaid bills began. Less than three years later we were close to $12,000 in credit card debt. Those were your debts and yet later after I left, you insisted that I pay you half of those credit card debts

 

You forced me to sign refinance papers on our home even though I tried to talk to you about how close we were to having both our homes paid off. You shoved the papers in my face, grabbed a pen and put it in my hand and said that I had better submit to your authority and sign those papers! I was never allowed to even discuss it with you. Oh how I wish I had been strong enough to put that pen down and walk out! By letting you be “God” for me, I became weaker and weaker.

 

About this time, you stopped making love to me. You would wake me up at 1 or 2 A.M., already into your sex-making. I was just your wet dream. You would, however, sit in church with me a few minutes on Sunday morning and put your arm around me, but since you wouldn’t touch me the rest of the week, that hypocrisy was nauseating!

 

You were eager to give strangers the shirt off your back, but we had no shirts at home figuratively (and almost literally) speaking. I knew I had become an albatross around your neck. Our family and I had gotten in the way of your “calling”.

 

I continued to take the smacks on the cheek which allowed the contempt in our relationship to turn into your abuse of me. I cringed at having to ask you for anything. I felt like a little girl coming to Daddy to ask for something and you always had a “Godly reason” for saying “No!” Whether it was clothes, furniture, time or a dream, you would make me pry your fingers open to get anything from you then subtly remind me that I had better be grateful for your benevolence.

 

When I asked you about the church ministry and how it was taking so much of your time away from our family and was robbing us of our time together, your comment was, “These people have real needs. You don’t have any real needs! I can’t meet your needs—only God can meet your needs!” I guess that’s true, but does that not nullify any reason for there to be an institution of marriage? God does want us to meet each other’s needs. By meeting each other’s needs, we become “one”.

 

I have learned that God requires repentance with His forgiveness. Matthew 3:8 says, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” And finally James 2:17 says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

 

What you wanted was reconciliation without repentance. Check Isaiah 26:10. I forgive you. You are not repentant. We are not reconciled.

 

By my continuing to forgive you and then jumping to reconciliation without repentance on your part just because you demanded it did not help your relationship with God or with me. Instead of your admitting your guilt and asking for forgiveness, you arrogantly insisted that I needed to “accept you the way you are”.

 

I have learned this about forgiveness: It only takes one to forgive, but it takes two to reconcile. God forgave the world but yet most of the world is not reconciled with God because the world does not recognize their need for His forgiveness. Only when we do recognize our depravities do we hit our knees to plead for His mercy, and give thanks for His forgiveness and for paying our debt on the cross. When our heart is focused on pleasing God, our outward actions will reflect that heart. That is the beginning of repentance. Then Christ says:“Go and sin no more.” That is only possible because of our desire to please God and no longer from our desire to please others in order to earn their love or approval.

 

Often times we think that we have reconciled with God, but we deceive ourselves into thinking that because He has unconditional love for us and has forgiven us, we can have “freebie” behaviors because God will always forgive us. He will not allow us to abuse His grace.

 

I told you over and over that if your attitude toward me did not change I was going to be forced to leave. Your response was “You’re a Christian woman. You won’t leave!” You used your typical “God-words” to control me. I had become such a “nothing” to you; I had begun feeling like yesterday’s trash. My daily chant to myself was, “I am nothing, I am nothing, I don’t count, I don’t count.” I counted enough to my Lord that He opted to go all the way through the agony of the Cross, in my behalf. I missed the pure essence of the Gospel. In so doing, I had turned into someone I did not like. Suicidal thoughts were beginning to creep into my mind. I didn’t care if I never woke up.

 

I prayed, “God, what am I supposed to do?” I couldn’t be a wife to you, nor a mother to my children so why was I supposed to be there? Instead of divorcing you, I filed for legal separation. No longer would I listen to your words, for I had to see permanent behaviour changes, and not hear empty words and promises.

 

Did you want me badly enough to make those changes and fight for me? Did you want me badly enough to climb the highest hill and swim the deepest sea for me? Could you empty your pockets for me as I had for you? Or were you going to revert to just the shallow, short-lived image of doing all that? During that time, I paid you child support and alimony for nearly four years. Why would I do that? Because you told me to. I was still allowing you to be “God” for me. I have repented. I am forgiven. I am reconciled to God.

 

From the book: “Boundaries”: “…Sometimes in abusive marriages the abused spouse needs to keep emotional distance until the abusive partner begins to face his or her problems and become trustworthy. Forgive, but guard your heart until you see sustained change.”

 

If you truly were serious in wanting me back, you would have come to me and said, “I remember you had a dream that I promised you before we were married. What does that dream look like now?” Or you could have said, “I now have a dream. Let me share with you my dream or vision and how together we can accomplish it.” Or you could have said, “I remember always promising you a trip to the beach for the weekend and I never took you once. I’m going to start fulfilling my promises.” Or you could have said, “I remember your favorite day of the year. Let’s go have a day like that one.”

 

Instead, your spiritual arrogance and contempt for me increased. Your communication with me was continually demanding, “God wants you to forgive me and come home.” You were mad at me for hurting your image so your only weapon to get me to come home was to keep using “God-words” and to play the guilt card. But what did any of that have to do with building a new relationship? It was very obvious that you cared nothing for me—the person. The man who had vowed to protect me, honor me and cherish me was still running over me. I filed for divorce.

 

God enveloped me in His arms and told me, “I will take care of you.” I asked, “What about my children?” His Spirit whispered to me: “I will keep them close. They have their journey just as you have yours.” I trusted God to take care of me and protect me. And He has.

 

What pleases our Father? Hebrews 11:6 is very clear: “Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

 

Divorcing you has taken more trust of God than I ever thought possible when I was living under your domineering authoritarian dictatorship. I know He loves me and as the poem “Footprints” ends, “My precious child, I never left you during your time of trial. When you see only one set of footprints, I was carrying you.” That is how I picture myself in His arms.

 

You see, God wanted us to begin living responsible Godly private lives just as we were hypocritically portraying publicly. I am not yet completely healed, but I am closer now than I was a year ago. I still picture you as a hot stove burner. I was required to keep my hand on that burner and if I pulled my hand away, I was chided for not forgiving that burner and not accepting that burner the way it was. I had to keep my hand on that burner. Taking it away somehow meant I had no faith in God. Taking it away somehow meant I wasn’t obedient to your authority. Taking it away meant I was unforgiving and bitter. Now the skin on my hand has melted. It has no feeling. It does not perform the way it was designed to perform. Well, I forgive that burner. I accept that burner the way it is. But I can no longer continue to allow that burner to burn me. Other times I am numb. That is still my journey.

 

My reason for allowing my story to be published? I want to help other women who are suffering with misinformation about the Character of God and their value to Him, as co-equal partners of the grace of life.

 

—Leah