This week we continue in our PeaceWorks University member submission series. Many in our membership are already actively engaging the topic of domestic abuse through their own writing and we would like to give them the opportunity for additional exposure as well as thoughtful feedback from our readership. Please be aware that the views presented in this series do not represent the views of Chris Moles or PeaceWorks University.
This week’s post was submitted by a PeaceWorks University member who would like to remain anonymous.
Tunnel vision is real. In a culture that encourages its people to prioritize the pleasure and progress of self, it is no surprise people are unlikely to care deeply about injustice unless they must. Until injustice affects them directly, marking them with a personal experience of pain or loss, most individuals tend to focus exclusively on their own lives and have little capacity to be concerned with the difficulties of others.
Growing up, I had been aware of domestic abuse in a very narrow yet nebulous sense. I knew it existed, but assumed it was rare. As a teenager I remember seeing various TV programs in which a series regular would happen upon a bruised and battered woman or child and rescue them through some selfless good deed, all within the span of a thirty-minute episode. These stories, while successfully pulling at my heartstrings, portrayed abuse simplistically: perpetrators were ugly, raging monsters quickly brought to justice and victims were people helplessly broken but easily healed. Watching these scenarios play out on my TV screen, I often thought, "How sad. I'm so glad my home is not like that."
Years later, as a recent Christian university graduate, I married my husband, who at the time was freshly entering vocational ministry. In the early days of our marriage, as my life naturally separated from my parents’, I began to recognize tactics of abuse in my upbringing. As I started living married life with a man who loved and served me, imitating the Christ he worshipped, I became cognizant of how warped my view of marital love and care actually was. Often noting the differences between my husband’s responses to conflicts, inconveniences, or mistakes I would make and the responses I had been accustomed to, I finally saw that much of my distorted thinking was a result of the abuse I had experienced. Realizing this, we sought out counsel and support from individuals well-equipped to address domestic abuse and its effects with the hope and help of the gospel. It took time as we slowly untangled my deeply ingrained ways of thinking and feeling. In Scripture I learned to see God's good plan for love and marriage. By his grace, I began to better understand the abuse I had experienced and began to heal. After two or three years of this much needed but tedious process, my husband and I were healthier and more whole. Through the care of God’s people and the truth of His Word, I had found healing for my wounds. As a couple we were that much stronger having worked through my painful experiences together. I will forever be thankful for my husband's patience, grace, care, and understanding during that time. Having gone through such an emotionally exhausting season of life, it seemed that we could now focus on living our happily ever as pastor and wife, ready to move on to a life of ministry with my pain and the ugliness of abuse behind us.
Unsurprisingly, this was not God's intention for our life or ministry. As I healed, though at first timid and hesitant, I began to share my story. Over time, as I became more comfortable and confident speaking about my experience of abuse and healing in everyday conversation, women responded by sharing stories of their own. As a pastor's wife, still relatively new to marriage and ministry, I began to hear story
after story of abusive husbands and fathers who had used their power and position to hurt, humiliate, and harass these women. It seemed the more I talked, the more I was talked to. The more I was willing to be vulnerable, the more vulnerable women would become. It quickly became apparent I could not avoid the topic of abuse. It was part of me and because it was part of me, it was now a part of my ministry.
For many pastors and pastors’ wives though, abuse is not a part of your story, so you struggle to see why it should be a part of your ministry. The reality is, more than likely, you have already been directly affected by this issue. Statistically*, you already know [not a few, but many] women or children in your church community who have endured some form of abuse in their lifetime. Personally, you have many reasons to be concerned.
What is more, as a Christian, you have every reason to be concerned. Scripture is littered with themes of God’s active justice, care, and concern for the oppressed. These [primarily] women and children are image bearers of their Creator and as such they deserve the compassionate care and protection of their Shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4).
While tunnel vision may be the norm in our culture, it should never be a phrase used to describe God’s people, especially those in church leadership. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, as those who intimately know the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort” we are “able to comfort those who are in any affliction” regardless of whether we have been marked by that particular affliction. In the case of abuse, you don’t have to have experienced this injustice to care deeply about it. Care deeply because these are your people. Care deeply because this is your God.