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Posts Tagged ‘abuse’

provisioned


In the 1650’s,  John Bunyan wrote a book.  It was an allegorical novel, said to describe a dream.  He titled it “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  If you haven’t read it, it’s a great read – although the original version is a little harder to get through; old English and all.  When I was about ten or eleven, I had an easy-read version that I read over and over again until the cover wore thin.  I loved the symbolism, even as a child.  If you haven’t heard of him, John Bunyan was a Reformation preacher who lived in England.  During the difficult years of religious upheaval, when for a time it was illegal to even own a page from a Bible,  this part-time tinker (repairman/handyman) gathered many together with his teachings about the love of God.  He was a man who understood the compassionate side of Abba Father. His daughter, Mary, was blind.  I have wondered many times if he wrote his allegory for her.  In the years since it’s initial publication,  “Pilgrim’s Progress” has sold more copies than any other book ever printed, except for the Bible.  So, take my word for it; it’s a good read.

Which brings me to my story. This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an  experience I had when I was child, reading this old classic story.  As I said, the book is an account of a dream. It describes the story of a man named Christian, who is making a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.  Along the way, he meets many who help him, and many more who hinder him.  He gains companions; he experiences pain; he loses loved ones; and he finally makes it to his destination.  All along the way, he learns and grows, becoming the person he was created to become.

In the middle of his journey, Christian has travelled a long way.  Everywhere he goes, he looks for indicators to show him the next step in his journey.  He has a map, but sometimes he can’t decipher it well. Continually, he needs others to help him figure it out.  But he keeps moving.  He comes to a steep hill, and looks upward.  Sadly, overwhelmingly, it appears that the road continues up this small mountain;  so he sighs and moves forward.  He is tired; he is forlorn; he is weary; he is hungry and thirsty; he doesn’t know if he can do it.  As he climbs, the mountain becomes steeper than he anticipated.  Finally, he has to clamber on his hands and knees just to make headway. It takes all the energies he has in his possession.  But now he is committed. He can’t go back. He can’t stop.  He must finish this part of the journey.

Soon, he comes to a clearing.  He is close to the peak of the mountain.  He sees a large house, nestled close to the summit.  He thinks “I could get some refreshment there, if they will take me in.”  So, he moves on towards the house.  But then, as he draws closer, his heart sinks.  The pathway to the house is guarded by two large lions, who, although shackled to rock posts with neck irons, look at him with menacing eyes.  Fear rises in his heart.  He stops in his tracks. 

Now what?

Suddenly, a voice speaks from the front door of the house. The Caretaker shouts to him, “Don’t be afraid!  They are chained to the posts!  Keep to the middle of the path and they won’t be able to reach you!”

With a flash of hope, Christian slowly and carefully moves past the lions, who growl as he passes.  He arrives at the front door untouched. He is safe.  He breathes a sigh of relief. 

“Welcome!” says the Caretaker. “We have been waiting for you.” 

Surprised, Christian discovers a Place of Refreshment.  He is bathed, and receives medical treatment for his injuries.  He is given clean clothing.  He eats at a banquet table.  He laughs and relaxes in an atmosphere of safety.  For several days, he stays.  He finds his heart again.  He gains direction.  He asks questions.  He listens.  He learns.

Then, on the third morning, the King’s daughters; Faith, Hope and Charity, help him get ready to complete his journey.  They clothe him in armor, hand-fit to his person.  He is given a sword and a shield.  He is provisioned, and given a scroll of promises.  For you see, the House on the mountaintop was the King’s House.  It was a place of refuge.

In the next chapter of the book, Christian faces the dragon Appollyon, his nemesis; the image of Satan in his own weaknesses.  Because of his provisioning, he prevails victorious. He emerges from the battle battered, but wiser; stronger somehow.  He would have died in the battle had he not been to the King’s House.

It’s my favorite place in the book.  The House of Refreshing.

This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an experience I had during one of my many readings of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  I was ten years old. I had just finished the King’s House chapter, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of the Presence of God. “When I grow up, Jesus, I want my house to be like that.  I want people to go away from my house stronger than they came in.  I want to help people.”

That hope has remained a center in me for the past forty-three years.  When I met Bill, in our many conversations, building relationship, his heart resonated with that focus as well.  (It’s wonderful when you marry someone who carries some of your same pages in their own instruction manual for living.)  As as result, that same hope has filtered into the way we approach pastoring and leading people.  “Let them leave stronger than they came in.” 

It has become a personal mission statement for my counseling ministry as well.

All that being said, dear reader, I bring you a request for prayer.  My Doll-House Toehead (see blog by the same title), and her mother (see blog titled “Peaches”), move away this weekend.  They are on to the next step of rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of abuse, court systems and custody battles.  I miss them already…

I sent my toehead away with a jar of Play-Doh… one we played with together…. small offerings.  Someday, at journey’s end, we won’t have to go in different directions.

Pray for these two precious souls.  Pray for their armor to remain strong; that they lose nothing — and gain everything.

The world is a learning environment.  Some life-lessons come harder than others. 

We all need safe places of refreshing. 

Someday, I want to build a House of Safety for women in such stages of life….. God knows.  Pray for our ministry as well.

Blessings.

(c)2010 atg/dcg.  No duplication without permission.

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He sat across from me in my office, silent.  His hands were fidgeting as he continued to look down and shifted in his chair.  Was he contemplating the non-existent pattern in the carpet?  Had he heard me, I wondered?

Almost a complete minute of silence had passed since I had asked him the question. Apparently, it had provoked a deep introspection.  We had been discussing the value of communicating thoughts and emotions in his relationships.  As his griefs had surfaced over the past season, so had a deep confusion over his identity.  For this man, it had always been easier to logically assess a situation, plan a practical task, and move forward, ignoring the effects of his words and actions on those around him. 

Relationally, he was oblivious.  Until lately.

Now, in the midst of the cost of his marriage, his Inner Life was waking up.  My question had been a simple one:  “If you were your wife, what would you think or feel about you?”

I have learned over the years, to allow my clients time to think through their answers, and wait for responses.  But, as the silence wore on in this particular session, I began to realize we were on unknown ground for this particular gentleman. 

I broke into his reverie. “Are you having trouble?” I asked.

“She told me before she left,” he replied. “I just didn’t want to listen, I guess.”

“What did she say?”

“She told me that I didn’t want her.” He stopped. “Why would she say that? We never talked about this stuff.  Where would she get that idea?”

And there it was. After years of ignoring his wife; expecting her to take care of him without verbal or relational connection; leaving the care of the children and the home completely in her hands; acknowledging her only in public… this client was surprised at his wife’s apparently inconceivable decision to leave.  Hadn’t he been a provider, he reasoned?  That should be enough. After all, he was the man, he said.

“What do you think you would think or feel?” I repeated the question.

“I guess I would feel lonely,” he sighed a response. “I just didn’t know I was supposed to care about those things. It never occurred to me how she might feel.  I mean, she took care of everything.  I really thought she was happy. In control, you know…..”

“Did she ever tell you she was unhappy?”

He shifted in his chair again. “Well, a couple of times when we had fights. I would bring something to her attention, and she would burst into tears and ‘go off.’  You know, hormonal.”

“What does that mean: ‘you would bring something to her attention?'”

“Like something she needed to change — about herself; or about the house, or how she was handling something with the kids.”

“Did you help her?”

“I didn’t have time to do that.  I was working.”

“Were you critical of her?”

“Probably, but only to help her.” He looked at me. “Isn’t the wife supposed to take care of the husband? Isn’t that her Biblical reponsibility?”

At that point, I called him by name. “Do you realize that when you try to change your wife in that way, you are telling her that you don’t really want her as your companion? What she hears is that you want someone else who will act and respond in a different way, and be a different person than she is. You are telling her that you don’t want her. Not only that, but when that is the only communication she is receiving, it is doubly damaging.”

He looked at me, dumbfounded; his mouth and eyes wide open, like a deer in the middle of a road facing bright headlights.

“Not only that,” I continued. “But as to Biblical responsibilities, the Word has much more to say about the man’s responsibility to care and nurture his wife than it does about the woman’s role.”

“For real?” he asked.

Being female, it amazed me that he hadn’t known this.  This man, although he loved his wife dearly, had been content to live and function on a facts level only, ignoring his family, making demands. In contrast, his wife had been living in emotional starvation since their days of courtship.  Then, through the years of marriage, this husband had mistakenly assumed that because he could explain away her complaints and emotions as “not being logical,” they didn’t matter.  If he could discount them, and find an alternate perception, it became his habit to expect her to consistently adjust and make personal changes.  

This man had expected his viewpoint to determine Acceptable Truth.  Apparently, there had been no alternatives; no team; no unity.  He felt it was his God-given privilege.

Since that meeting several years ago, I have encountered many in our culture with the same issues; many marriages with the same struggle.  Sadly, in my own experience, situations like this one are even more prevalent within the mindset of the Christian church, than in the secular environment. 

God’s original design for marriage is that each partner seek to outserve the other one; not one-sided or demanding.  The husband submits his life to Jesus, and loves his wife without condition, laying his life down for her.  The wife responds by submitting her life to Jesus, and honoring his intentional choice to serve.  Together they are a team, seeking to build each other up — without asserting rights, choosing to learn how to grow together, living their growth honestly and vulnerably in front of their children and the rest of humanity.  This is the way of the Kingdom.

When we come to Christ, he calls us to forsake the desire to put ourselves first.  We become disciples — learners. We choose to serve.  A marriage doesn’t work when one partner does more serving than the other — because it isn’t God’s plan.  Such a relationship becomes selfish.  The non-communicative partner becomes the center of the orbit; with everyone seeking to gain their approval…… this is narcissism.  Sadly, it lives in the American Church as well; in marriages that would like the label “Christian.”  But Christianity is about what Jesus would do — not about our rights, our feelings, or our comfort.

We are not called to rule each other — we are called to serve each other. We are called to empathy.

I have had the exhausting joy of helping many broken and abused women over the years in rebuilding some semblance of their lives. I still find myself getting angry when legalistic dogmatics contend for some sort of “scriptural” selfishness and entrapment when it comes to abuse in Christian marriages.  In a day when our American culture has become increasingly self-focused, self-centered, and self-absorbed, there is a desperate need for more than surface answers in our homes and families. 

It is time for a house-cleaning  from the attributes of Denial, Entitlement and Religiosity. 

It is time for Honesty, Healing and Growth.

If you are in a relationship like the one described here, let me encourage you to seek help.  Find a good, solid, Christian counselor who won’t offer platitudes; but will speak real solution.  God’s plan for marriage is that it reflect the relationship Jesus has with His Bride — Honest, Safe, Secure, Loving and filled with Grace.  Within the context of Reality; it means growing, learning and communicating; allowing your spouse to know your entire life, with nothing held back — ever. 

I’m glad to say that in that particular appointment years ago the husband began a process in working, hard, I might add, to win his wife’s heart back.  What took many years to destroy, God rebuilt in a season of months — in fact, I spoke with him not long ago, and he said, “Thanks. We’re still learning– every day!”  

Aren’t we all?  (Thank God!) 

Welcome to Discipleship 101.

(c)2010 DG Awakened to Grow.  Duplication without permission prohibited.

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She’s only five.  Just. She has short blond hair, and dancing eyes that look right through me, especially when we are drawing pictures together; especially when she plays with the knights and ladies and horses… but most of all when she is standing next to my desk, asking for yet another heart-shaped lollipop. 

Yesterday, she came in with her mother. 

Yesterday.  It was snowing in our city — in the month of March– much too late for icy weather in the south.  Drive slowly on black ice, folks.  You don’t see it coming. Yesterday. The child couldn’t stay inside during our session.  So, she and her mother created a ten inch snowman ornament for the hood of my little car.  Wish I had taken a picture — he was formidable. He endured the drive home, and was still frozen to my car’s hood, pointing forward, this morning at 6am. She makes me giggle.

Yesterday.

It wasn’t long ago this little one first came in to see me.  We had to get to know each other, you see. She was having trouble letting go in the morning. No one knew why. She wouldn’t talk —  In my own humble opinion, the child holds too gracious of a spirit to burden the adults around her.

So we played together — drawing pictures, punching play-doh, jousting knights and ladies, with puppets, …and with the dollhouse.  When the focus of her fear finally surfaced, she crawled into a fetal position; she substituted grunts for words; she quietly pulled away and wept; she tried to climb into the five-inch opening between my desk and wall cabinet.  It was her attempt to find a safe place to hide; a cave; a womb.   It was time for a rescue.

Did you know that a child will show their trust by speaking to you? Such a feat requires time and safety….

Her abuser denies any wrongdoing. 

We are slowly working through her perceptions about herself, and about men in general. Much too soon she will be confronted with the much larger outside world.  Can we help her steady her feet before it appears?  Dear Jesus, I pray so. 

How does this happen to a five year old? I have seen many such children over the years, and yet it still confounds me —

The pervasiveness of evil in the world around us? On a small level, perhaps — but in reality that entity is nothing, but a loud bully on the playground.  What confounds my heart and mind is this — The infiniteness of the love of Father God; deeper than any evil, any fear, any abandonment, any pain; wider than any blockage, any accusation, any broken place.  He reaches into our humanity, and restores identity; greater than any loss, any abuse, any difficulty — and it is eternal. Eternally mine, because I belong to Him

Do you belong to Him?  Then, it is yours as well. And He will move heaven and earth to redeem, to rebuild, to restore, to repair and to re-create what the false gods and philosophies of this world have stolen from you. 

He  is God.  No substitutions, no additives. Just God.

It’s been several months now, since my dollhouse tow-head came to visit for the first time.  Her mother can’t pay, so my cheeks receive my fee in sticky kisses (lollipop derived); as her mother is trying to rebuild her life.  We came up with a business name and made flyers and business cards last week — we can’t wait to see what Jesus will do for her.

I have long said — “People who need help and counsel can’t afford it; when people have money for help and counsel they don’t want it. They become distracted with all the things they think will heal their pain.”

My husband suggested that I invite those who are taking this newest adventure of blogging with me, into my own journey. He said you should know what it is I do these days…..

Many of my clients are just like these two precious souls — like butterflies emerging from a long and hard winter; getting ready to unfold their wings and become.

Pray for us.  Pray for me.  And, if it occurs to you, and you would like to support our ministry at Awakened to Grow, you can do so through my website; awakenedtogrow.com. And I promise, any gift you give will be used to provide care for those who cannot afford to pay for themselves.

(C) 2010 DG — awakenedtogrow.com

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