A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Lessons From Bilbo Baggins in the Dragon’s Mountain

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

***

“A sound began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring.  This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.  It was at this point that Bilbo stopped.  Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did.  The tremendous things that happened afterwards were nothing compared to it.   He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”  (The Hobbit, by J.R. Tolkien)

As I have read the first hand accounts of abuse victims — probably scores of them now — there are several common elements that leap out at me.  One of these is courage.  Women, in particular, evidence remarkable courage in terrifying, traumatic, and ongoing suffering.  They persevere.  Though they are so often accused of destroying their “marriage” when they finally leave, we know better.  If anything, their tendency is to hang in there for the long haul, and they stay for two common reasons:  1)  Their love for their children, desperately desiring to make the family work for the children’s benefit (this love will later be a chief reason they decide they must leave), and 2) their love for Christ and intense desire to be obedient to Him.  They are courageous, though they usually don’t realize it.  They view themselves as weak and guilty and rather pathetic, all of which is fed by their abuser’s actions and words.  But they are brave.  Very brave.

Which brings us to Bilbo in the mountain.  Smaug the dragon was terrifying.  It was the “burglar’s” job to scout out his lair for the dwarves, and so down, down, down he descended in the dark, all alone.  The red glow and the sounds told him he was getting closer and closer to Smaug, and that is what eventually caused him to stop in the tunnel.  He considered.   He thought of home.  But then he made a decision.  He pressed on.  As Tolkien puts it, that was the bravest thing Bilbo ever did.

Talk to women who have endured years and years of abuse.  Minds clouded and confused by all the lying deceptions.  Their very personhood being slowly and steadily eroded so that they increasingly lose confidence in themselves in most every area of their lives.  Talk to them, and then ask them to tell you about how they came to leave their dragon.  What you will find is – they had this “Bilbo moment.”  Some light came on and they knew that if they did not leave, they would perish, and so might their children.  So they decided.  And that decision, just like the hobbit’s in that dragon lair, was the bravest thing they ever did.  The turning point.  All else that followed was as nothing compared to that moment of courage.  They won the battle for their mind, and so often we hear from these women that they knew that in that moment their courage came because the Lord Jesus visited them in it.

So, we see how foolish we have been in our ignorance of the thing.  Have you ever thought to yourself, “why doesn’t she just quit complaining and leave the jerk!”  Or worse, maybe we have even said that to a victim?  Stupid. Stupid.  Stupid.  And cruel.  I’ve done it, and I bet numbers of you have too.  Further, many pastors and churches and “counselors” lay it on her that staying in her marriage is the really brave and noble thing to do.  Deep down inside of her, that idea may reign for a time, but eventually it turns sour.  If staying is so right, then why does it make her feel so wrong?  Doesn’t doing the Lord’s will work to set the Christian’s mind and soul free, even if it means suffering for Him?  But this suffering in staying is bondage, not freedom.  It turns sour in her inner being because the truth is, these deceptions are not from Christ.

If you are still with your abuser, please do not interpret the things we are saying here as criticism.  No way!!  In fact, we are identifying with you in the struggle you are in.  Leaving is not always possible at any given moment.  It isn’t that easy.  No money, no place to go — and a dragon in some cases who has more than once breathed his fire on you — “if you ever leave me I will kill you.”  “I will take the kids away from you.”  Leaving the tormentor is a very courageous act indeed.

Sadly, as we are all coming to realize more and more clearly – the Christian church is calling it cowardice and sin.  Never mind.  We know better.  We have met the dragon.

9 Comments

  1. Takes courage to stay and takes courage to leave. And so many times, it takes Divine Intervention to get free–

    Thank you, Jeff. Good post. I’ve always identified a little with those Hobbits.

  2. Love this post, Jeff. Bilbo was such a brave wee soul, and so are our sisters who are, possibly even in this very moment, praying, planning, hoping, packing, reaching out to grab hold of the hands of friends offering a way out of the darkness of the cave into the sunshine of freedom.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Morven. You are right about it happening right now. I have been talking with just such a sister today who is right this moment in fear, and her “pastor” has joined with the abuser, putting incredible pressure on her to stay, to admit her fault, to obey or be disciplined by her church. The woman is in fear of her very life and with mountains of valid, objective reason to be. “Oh no,” says her pastor. “He loves you. He wants your marriage to work. He is really repentant this time.” This is the kind of spiritual malpractice that gets these women killed.

      Has anyone ever sued their church for this kind of thing? People run to 1 Cor 6 and say God prohibits a brother from taking a brother to court. Indeed He does. But someone please explain to me why I should consider such a person a brother in Christ when they side with evil?

  3. Pippa

    This is a really great post. I keep rereading it. For me it is a bit sad and poignant because of what I lost in the tunnel and how weakened I am having almost slain the dragon, and how I believe I missed His still small voice earlier. For anyone just entering the tunnel, I would urge you to listen carefully to what is being said. For those further along, it isn’t a push to leave but an encouragement to know, to listen for when the Lord visits you, to hear His voice and allow HIm to carry you through it. No one knows, but you and Him. how and when are the place and time.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Pippa – Yep, Bilbo has lessons for us all! And absolutely – in helping abuse victims we must give them the freedom to know when and how. I have to suppress my “fix-it-for-the-now” tendency and cease from “shoulding” them.

    • Yes Pippa I identify with this. A long time ago now, I went to a shelter on three occasions. Each of those occasions was a window of opportunity to leave the abuser for good. I missed each window: I went back to the abuser. Maybe if the workers at the shelter had been able to spend more time talking to me, asking me gentle questions to help me figure out what had been happening in my crazy life, and giving me appropriate information about the mentality and tactics of abusers, I might have taken one of those windows and flown out to freedom. But they didn’t, and I didn’t, so I stayed lost in the labyrinth for a more few years. God can use all things and make them work together for good, but I often have thought about those wasted opportunities.

      I hope this blog and others like it will help victims see and utilise their windows of opportunity more quickly than I did.

  4. Anonymous

    I think of the Proverbs 31 wife. I always feel like she’s flying, soaring on wings of love by fulfilling the many gifts that the Lord has given her. The narrator is so proud of her, appears blessed to know her and to be able to be writing about her. Her love for God, her husband and family and those in her care, all help to lift her up, and the author seems to be blessed to be able to soar with her! How many women married to “godly” men do you know like this? Their husband so proud, standing alongside them, grateful to the Lord that they know her let alone get to be married to her? I know not one. I’ve only seen women beaten down, following the rules of men, trying to squeeze themselves into the shape that the church has deemed appropriate for them. Or men married to selfish women who are trying to be the Godly husband by being long suffering and patient with his wayward wife. Why does it seem that the two don’t meet each other? The men with the true heart and spirit of God and the women with noble character? Is it because we are in the last days and there are so few of each or because we have never been taught to truly discern between the two? There are doubtless many reasons but it does seem like every “godly” marriage is just an act.

    Like you point out in this post Jeff. The bravery required to get up and leave is often supernatural–it comes from the Lord. To take even a small step, for those of us abused by the conscienceless from birth, is something equivalent to thinking we are stepping off a cliff but having no other options except to go back into the dragons lair or trust that the Lord will catch us.

    One of my first acts of bravery was getting my own bed in another room. My husband was out of town for a few months and I’d been pricing mattresses for over a year. We were so far in debt that the cost of a mattress set that I didn’t technically “need” was very “selfish” on my part and the guilt often overwhelmed me. But God kept pushing me to do this. To get a mattress. So eventually I found an incredibly cheap set and borrowed a friends truck to pick it up. I set it up in an empty room we had with no bedframe or headboard. I used the extra blankets we had and no sheets. This room became a haven for my daughter and me, with our cat and dog as reassurances that I’d made the right choice. When my husband came home and saw the set up, I assured him that it was so that we could both get a good nights sleep due to him getting up so early and his snoring etc. This was the beginning of God showing me that he was taking care of me and that he would be my strength.

    I have never forgotten how hard this was for me, and so many things after this as well. The absolute incredibleness of God being with me as I fearfully move forward, tiny and slow step after step after step, has given me a wonderful history with Him and I know that I can trust him to care for me. He so loves his children. Thank you for a place to write about the incredible things God does in our lives. I always pray it reaches any of God’s little ones who need to be reassured that He is real and that He can and does take care of his own.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Great courage, Anonymous! Well done. You faced Smaug.

  5. Finding Answers

    Sometimes the hanging-on-by-your-fingertips courage comes from dealing with the aftermath…

    I was not the one who chose to leave.

    I had no children to consider.

    I was not “visited” in that moment.

    I did not stay in or leave the “marriage” out of obedience to Christ.

    Sometimes, the courage is in facing the past.

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