Being a Christian is something that is quite new to me. As a firm non-believer up until recently, becoming Christian was actually not really related to my abusive relationship at all. However, it has been integral in my healing process.
Domestic violence is often a misunderstood, twisted perspective of the Bible and Christianity. Many people take and misquote things like Ephesians 5:22-24;
“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Which, along with other passages on submission is interpreted wrong. This can often lead to the abuser endorsing domestic violence with the Bible to back up their actions.
I’m not here to argue about the Bible, but what I do understand about these verses is that directly following that in Ephesians 5:25-28;
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
If you actually think about it, those verses completely contradict any sort of domestic violence endorsement. After all, love is based on mutual respect and how can someone claim to abuse another out of love?
Those two concepts are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. See resources for a helpful Christian guide.
Like I mentioned, I didn’t actually discover Christianity until a while after I was free. While the passages on submission make me cringe internally, what I’d actually like to talk about is the passages on forgiveness.
There are many passages on forgiveness;
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
“Get rid of all the bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
“Even if they sin against you seven times a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent’, you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:4)
Etc, etc. This is all fine and dandy if someone calls you a bad name, you get into an argument or whatnot.
Hang On, What?!
Years of abuse and I’m not entitled to anything?! I’m not even allowed to be angry? I was thoroughly confused. Surely, He has to understand what I just went through.
They just mean the less serious stuff right? There’s no way I can just snap my fingers and have all the negativity and hurt disappear (much as I’d like to) and forgive him.
No way, he doesn’t just get off that easy. If he said sorry, I’d have to forgive him? That’s not fair at all. He can’t just do all that and expect to get away with it while I limp away with open wounds.
Again, I don’t think that is quite the interpretation I was meant to get from that. The simple fact is, that my abuser feels no guilt, he doesn’t remember the abuse and is not plagued by the severity of his actions.
He has no accountability and no reason in his mind to believe that anything that happened is somehow wrong, or his fault.
These forgiveness verses are also misconstrued in Christian abusive relationships. The argument would be, I repented, so now you have to forgive me for hitting you.
Again refer to the previous argument. Additionally consider what it actually means to repent and be truly sorry.
Saying the words for dramatic effect, no matter how trustworthy they may seem at the time does not actually equal repentance.
I think that it is ultimately up to you to decide whether you think they have repented or not.
In saying that, it is much easier to point out what isn’t repentance than what is. You cannot be truly sorry for something if you do it again.
You cannot call someone a bitch, or hit them, say sorry then do it again. Sure, we all make mistakes and more often than not we make the same mistakes over and over.
However, you have free will and control over your own voice and body. No one can force you to abuse someone and those acts are not by accident.
In that same way, domestic violence is a reoccurring situation and there is not an ounce of true repentance involved at all. And in no way can a real Christian endorse their abusive acts through the Bible.
Where Does That Leave Us?
Well, the only one being hurt by your emotions is yourself. By no means am I endorsing to bottle up your feelings. No, exactly the opposite. I believe that after an experience like that, you are perfectly entitled to let it out. However, not for revenge.
Trust that He will either enact vengeance for you, or that your abuser will truly turn to God. Don’t focus on them. Focus on yourself. If you need to scream, scream. If you need to cry, cry.
Releasing those emotions is an important part of healing. Forgiveness is for you, it’s not about excusing them for their actions. Only once you have come to terms with it can you truly find it within yourself to forgive.
I know that I’ll get there eventually. It may take me years. I may be able to do it next month. Who knows.
What I do know is that I am on my journey to healing. And one step of that is to forgive myself, because true forgiveness is freedom.
I know already that I hope he is able to turn to God. Even if it has nothing to do with making it up to me, it means that he will never do it to anyone else and thus any further girls won’t be subject to that treatment.
For me, that’s all I want. I know I’m strong enough to heal on my own.
Footprints in the Sand
One story that really stuck with me, and has helped me is the poem about Footprints in the Sand. The writer is walking along the beach and the Lord walked beside them.
They looked back and saw that during the hard times, there was only one set of footprints.
They say, “Lord you promised me that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But when I needed you most, you leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then I carried you.”
It’s quite a famous, old poem, but nonetheless still applicable. For me, it’s comforting and sweet. No matter what stage you are at in your ordeal, He is always with you.