Here is Abigail’s story, the first grant winner who is not in the U.S. You will read about how abuse in the name of God creates devastating and long-lasting the effects.
My ex, a “good Christian”, used the command to submit to inflict pain and justify anything he wanted to do without any accountability. Whenever I disagreed with what he said, or if he was making a foolish choice that would affect me or my family, he used that verse. I was told other Christian woman I knew were submitting and that other Christian husbands in the church we were involved in would be “shocked” if they knew I wasn’t. This was used to shame and control me.
I was not allowed a voice, especially one that questioned his adultery or lies. Some verses he used were “none is righteous, no not one,” “God’s mercies are new every morning,” “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If I tried to hold him accountable, he would shame me this way or accuse me of not forgiving. I had no choices.
If I raised my voice in frustration at his abuse, he would shame me and make me feel like a bad Christian. I had told a lie a decade ago, which he used to excuse his chronic lying.
I did things I was uncomfortable with under his pressure to submit. He would yell at me, “you have to submit to me”. I heard this over and over again. Once I drove an unregistered car, a potential $1,000 fine and loss of my license, because of his pressure. Behaving against my conscience made me feel like not submitting was the worst sin of all.
I constantly make me feel like a failure as a Christian and mocked my beliefs. But I always knew he didn’t love me. I reminded him that love was actions like in I Cor 13. He countered this with demanding I write a list of all the things he did for me and read it to him if I felt unloved. He shamed me for not feeling loved but I knew his actions of abuse, adultery and lies were not loving. A few kindnesses in between abuse is not love.
I wish someone had warned me that there are many abusive pastors out there. I told one who pretended to be counseling me at home and on the phone about my deepest hurts and private pain. He recorded me without my knowledge. When counseling, he pretended to give me choices, then insist I do what he wanted.
When I tried to get away, he lashed out and tried to destroy me. It is very hard to leave a dangerous pastor.
Controlling pastors and abusive church cultures put down women, especially single divorced women. They would even shame me from the pulpit. This doubled the abuse. Churches I was in emphasized being controlled and put down. He and others who preached high expectations never placed them on themselves. I would warn women to be very careful about disclosing too much in so-called “private counseling” with this type of pastor. They want someone to lord it over and control.
The workbook helped me see that the enforced dedication is what kept me trapped. If my vows included suffering, that’s just what I had to do in obedience to God.
One key question from the workbook was “Are you dedicating yourself to a partner who mistreats you because you want to be faithful to God.” I knew my answer was YES!
This is what kept me stuck. Abusers calculate using fear and shame for power and control. We have no idea at the time how planned and deliberate it is on the part of the abuser.
I like how the workbook labels tactics of abusive behaviors. The ‘no win’ tactic was an “eye opener” for me. I spent countless hours of discussion trying to resolve things and get him to understand how he was mistreating me with no resolution at all. This was his intent. I just could never get anywhere. Like Margery in the book, if I questioned any behavior, I would be punished, usually cut off from our bank account with no access to money.
The book suggests keeping a record of the tactics used and seeing how unfair and unreasonable they are. This can help you see you do not deserve the abuse.
I am still working through a lot of abuse I was put through. I’m not going to lie: sometimes it feels like it will take years. But I am much further along that before. The first year after leaving were just trying to stay alive, due to poverty, periods of homelessness, and serious illness. I am still in survival mode, but try to do some recovery work each day. I have had so many “aha” moments as I look back. It is not a linear process. Sometimes it may take me a day or three to recover from grief at how my husband treated me so horribly on purpose for so long crops up.
I will never again allow a mere man to be an intermediary between me and God. I do not need a man pretending to be spiritually superior to look down on me. I am becoming stronger and believing more and more that I don’t deserve abuse. Jesus has never forsaken me, has loved me with an everlasting love without cruel judgment and putdowns.
I see the grant helping me meet the costs of staying financially independent from my husband. He used to send me money at the cost of still controlling me by requiring updates on my life. I took the step of cutting all contact a few months ago. That means things are financially harder because my health problems do not allow me to work yet.”