A Cry For Justice

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

Sixteen years of abuse, and then more from the church (Part 2)

Continuing Lisa Williams-Harris’s story…

We were now renting from missionaries whose father pastored the little community church near our home.  The missionaries’ father stopped in constantly and pressured Richard into attending.  And, so we did for about a year.  When the old pastor told me that he didn’t know what the secret sin was in my husband’s life but that he knew there was something or my children wouldn’t be hungry, my husband pulled us from there.  He said the “old man was evil, a wolf in sheep’s clothes.”  We visited the only other church in our little community, but the children were frightened by the “spirit filled” worship, so we didn’t revisit.  We visited a couple of churches a handful of times, but we were predominantly out of fellowship for 11 years.  I purchased teaching tapes from pastors outside our area, but my husband always hated listening to them and would be so disruptive that the kids couldn’t pay attention.  He would want the kids to rub his feet or write on him with a pen, or he would play with their toys on the floor, or he would just interrupt to share why he thought the pastor was wrong.  We finally stopped, and the kids and I listened during the day when he was gone.  During this time the abuse was unimaginable.  Constant choking, shoving, hitting, breaking things over the kids, name calling, running us off the road, yanking the wheel while I was driving, throwing things at us, even choking me while I was birthing our last child.

On July 2, 2007, he hit my arms and pushed me several times in the house.  As I was getting in the van to take my older two boys to work, he shoved me into the van door.  At that point, our 18 year old son put his hand on his dad’s shoulder and calmly said, “Dad, don’t shove her.”  My husband immediately punched Sam in the nose.  Sam stood there bewildered, and my husband drew back to hit Sam again.  Our 15 year old son came flying out of the van and jumped on his dad’s back at the very same time I grabbed my husband’s right arm, both of us trying to stop him from hitting Sam a second time.  Sam reached and grabbed my husband’s left arm.  Richard spun circles wildly with all three of us holding on for dear life.  I screamed at our 9 year old to call 911.  This time scared me more than other incidents where the abuse was more violent because I could see that my two teenage sons were not going to stand for it anymore, but I could also see that my husband wasn’t going to back down from them either.  I knew someone was going to get hurt really, really bad.  The 9 year old sat there, frozen in fear, so my 15 year old grabbed the cell phone he was wearing and called 911 and reported his dad.  My husband was arrested for harassment and assault constituting DV and spent one night in jail.  He then attended Men’s Alternative to Violence classes where he learned how to be a better abuser and manipulator.  There he learned exactly what he could and could not get away with by law.

In 2011 I fell gravely ill.  It appeared that I’d had a TIA (trans-ischaemic attack, a short episode of insufficient oxygen to the brain).  Several doctors felt that I had Multiple Sclerosis.  I was bedridden much of the time, and I was scared.  I was afraid I would die in that state and leave my children alone with this horrible man.  In the midst of this he allowed us to attend church with a friend to pray for my healing.  There was no membership, no pastoral meetings required; it was easy believism at its best for him.  No one questioned him about anything.  We began attending in February.  He attended, too, but was growing more hateful all of the time.

He was telling the kids that he was excited about moving out of state if I died.  He let me know that he admired a man who killed his wife and her divorce attorney.  He discussed torturing and killing men who held to the same theology I do.  I went to the associate pastor in late May and told him that I was creating a safety plan, he seemed horrified and said that he would be praying that I didn’t do that.

In July, one morning before church, my husband violated the federal Brady law by target practicing with silent ammunition (he wasn’t supposed to use a gun after having been convicted of domestic violence). After church he started in on us.  When the children and I all stood together against him he left.  He’d been hiding money in a private account for years, though I was going without medical care and we often went without food or other necessities, so he had the means to move completely out of the area.  I had not worked in ten years but had given up my career, at his insistence, to put more of my energy into homeschooling.  We had no provision, and he left me ill, with four kids and all of the debt.  He also proceeded to rack up a large cell phone bill in my name.  This easy believism church still didn’t notice and still didn’t ask any questions.

My husband quickly began the legal process to have his 2007 record expunged.  I knew he was putting his ducks in a row to file for divorce and seek custody.  Before he left he had frequently talked to the kids about living with him, leaving the state with him, and going to public school.  Our oldest son was home from college, and he and I submitted statements to the court requesting that my husband’s motion for expungement be denied.  I also obtained a restraining order and filed for divorce, seeking full custody myself.  He was furious and fought me in court for almost a year, wanting the restraining order removed and seeking full custody.  He never once called the kids and rarely visited, missing Christmas and all of their birthdays, but he still sought full custody.

As I struggled legally against him I also tried desperately to heal and help my wounded children.  I put them in counseling and requested mentoring and counseling from the church.  However, the church was too busy for us.  The youth pastor even went so far as to make rude, mocking comments to my teenage son.  I was devastated.   I thought I might just be hypersensitive, but several other families also left at that same time for similar reasons.  I knew it was time to find a “real church.”

A friend offered for us to visit her church, assuring me we’d be welcome there.  Ironically, it was the church both of the men my husband wanted tortured and killed attended.  I knew many of the members.  It was a church my husband had allowed us to visit a handful of times several years before.  My friend and her husband, a deacon, visited my house to find out “what it’s like in my life right now.”  I was so hopeful this would be our new church for our new life.  We were finally going to have a church home and a church family!  And, it was wonderful!  Everyone was warm and loving.  The elders had their annual BBQ and gave us all of the leftovers to take home.  The former pastor (he recently stepped down to take a position with a youth ministry) talked to me about the church being there for us and understanding that we need help.  He discussed my sons’ need for mentoring.  I was thrilled that we would finally have a normal involvement with the body.

Then, after several weeks, the elders asked to speak to me briefly after church.  I stressed about it all week, assuming they were going to ask me and the kids to stop taking communion until we became members.

When the fateful Sunday arrived, however, communion wasn’t the only issue they had with me.  As I stood chatting with another woman after the service, one of the elders approached me and asked if I was ready.  I followed him, but the former pastor and the deacon joined the two elders, so it was me and four men who walked into the narrow, box-filled room with the long table lined with chairs that seemed too small for adults.  The deacon sat immediately to my right, the former pastor sat at the end of the table to my left, and the two elders sat across from me.

The one elder discussed the communion issue with me, as I expected, but then asked me what my current relationship was with my husband.  He asked who actually filed for divorce.  When I answered that I did, I could see that was a problem as far as they were concerned.  This one elder began his monologue and stated that there are biblically only two reasons for divorce, adultery and abandonment.  He then asked me which one I felt justified my filing for divorce.  I began to cry and shamefully share with these men who sat in judgment of me how my husband had committed adultery and how it certainly felt like abandonment when he left me, sick, with four children, no income, and all of the debt.  The elder said, “Okay, okay,” as though he’d heard enough, so I tearfully explained that those were not the reasons I filed.  I filed to legally protect my children.  I filed, asking for full custody, to put my husband on the defensive, rather than having to fight to get my children back from him after he executed his well laid out plan.  He asked if a pastor had been involved with my husband and me in this process.  I tried to explain to him that we weren’t in fellowship much during the marriage, that we had to leave churches whenever the pastors got too close.

This elder then asked if I was paying my bills.  I was so ashamed at that point that I lied and said yes.  I could feel myself panicking and then dissociating.  It was like being in court all over again and being questioned by my husband’s attorney.  There was no warmth, no sensitivity, just probing, accusatory questions that followed a statement that already let me know what the “right” answer was.  I felt set up.  My breathing was shallow, and the elder smiled a sideways kind of smile directed at the other elder.  The deacon rubbed my shoulder in an attempt to comfort me, and the former pastor tried to soften what the elder had said.  I could see that those two men felt sorry for me, but neither obviously felt they had the authority to go against the elder.

This elder asked how I was supporting myself and gave me unsolicited advice on how to secure a better job, though I am certain he knows that I am struggling with my health (turns out that my “MS” is actually seizures due to the multiple traumatic injuries to my neck that were incurred at the hands of my husband).  He then asked how the church could help me.  I began to sob—loud, body shaking sob—as I shared that my boys need godly men to mentor them, desperately, because not only have they lost their father, who wasn’t much of a father anyway, but my dad, who A was very close to the kids, died recently.  My children have no one, no man in their lives at all to guide them.  The elder then smugly stated that I am not a widow and my children are not orphans, though because my husband left that does make us ones of sort and that makes us eligible for specific care from the church.  At that point I was asked if I had any questions and then the meeting was over.

I haven’t been back to that church. I felt shamed, humiliated, and judged for divorcing my husband after he’d left me with obvious malicious intent.  Despair washed over me and robbed me of the hope I had in finding a church home and robbed me of the joy I’d felt at gaining custody a few days earlier.  Spiraling downward emotionally and spiritually I wondered to myself what other let-downs I might face.  This new free life was beginning to look like the same old accusation filled loneliness I’ve always known.

The deacon and his wife are aware of how hurt I was, and he tried to call me several times.  I was working a lot and unable to return his calls last week.  I might tomorrow.  And, then again, part of me feels like it is the elder who should call me because he owes me an apology.  Until I get one from him I can’t return.  Even then, I’m not sure I want to place myself and my children under that kind of leadership.  I spent 16 years under the authority of a man who had no compassion for me and no sense of obligation to me.  Why would I return to that in a church when the Lord has released me from it in my marriage?

51 Comments

  1. Martin Dwyer

    Thanks so much for sharing this story, and thanks to Barbara Roberts for her accurate, faithful and literal view of God’s unending love and kindness in Scripture. I pray there is a better end to report for this woman as soon as possible. We worship a God of miracles that loves unconditionally and forgives repentant sinners without limits. God wants His love, peace and joy in her heart through genuine Christian fellowship. There are churches out there desperately wanting to share with her God’s unconditional love. I pray this woman finds one of those churches today.

  2. speakingtruthinlove
  3. no name please

    So very very sorry for you! If I had gone to my ex’s church or listened seriously to his pastor, it would have been the same. It is hard! So very sorry for you and your kids.

  4. Pippa

    I experienced something similar with the church. When I found evidence of adultery and homosexual pornography, we were in counseling with the church counselor and he sent us to the pastor. The pastor listened to my short story of the current problems and then to the ex’s while we both sat with him. The pastor turned to the ex and said “___, I don’t believe a word you say.” Well, I didn’t really expect that to come out of his mouth. It really was a great comfort. But then nothing happened. I was still sucked into the relationship from hell. Of course we didn’t go back to counseling and we went to a new church. The ex knew from the beginning that he was going to have to work a little harder on the Presbytery to brainwash them and did from the start, so that by the time that another 12 years rolled by and we went in to see that pastor, he said “____(ex), I believe you.” These are exact quotes from the pastors. One does need all the possible support that one can get from the church in order to leave. I’ve looked back to the first pastor’s statement many times for validation, comfort and courage. This one sentence from the first pastor has been a solace. Imagine if a group from the first church had gathered around and prayed and provided for physical needs and emotional reassurance. Imagine if they had offered a spiritual strength greater and more lasting than the evil stuck in my life.

    • anewfreelife

      I’m so sorry, Pippa. I hope that you’ve found support and validation now.

  5. Barnabasintraining

    I see in this account how the church itself is embroiled in evil. This is absolutely not the way Christ would have executed this matter.

    The way things went with that last church were particularly disturbing. Perhaps it was not so much this way, but just the way it read, but it sounded a lot like they lured her in to sort of trap her and did so from the beginning. All the kindness and food giving and all…Then they lead her off to a star chamber of sorts. Very creepy. And the smirking and sideways glances. And this after leaving her to stress about it all week.

    Then they have to ask who actually did the filing, and then get on whether she is technically a widow, but decide she could fit that description after making sure to say she doesn’t really? These guys are all lawed out. No grace at all. I mean, if someone shows up bleeding on your door step do you really sit there and figure out if they are worthy of having 911 called before you do it? I don’t think the Good Samaritan took that approach.

    And then they wait until after they made her ashamed before they asked her how the church could help her. What’s the right word for that? Mockery? They wait till she feels the full weight of being under their judgment before they bring up helping her? Why didn’t they start there? Anti-ministry at its finest, if you ask me. Well, first guys, you could learn the meaning of the word “help”….

    • A very good analysis, Barnabas. It was virtually entrapment by that last church. Perhaps the deacon and the former pastor didn’t fully realise what they were being roped into in that tribunal-of-condemnation. But they should have realised: they’ve been working with those elders for some time, and they know the guys well. The power and control tactics of those two cold-hearted elders ought to have been confronted years ago. But as so often happens, the power mongers win the day, and the people of greater integrity are intimidated and sidelined and maybe even squeezed out of the church. (It’s possible that one of the reasons for that pastor’s recent resignation was that he could not win against the Pharisee elders…)

      That’s why a church like Jeff Crippen’s is so extraordinary, though it should not be extraordinary: it would be the norm, if people were following the Bible. When there was a case of serious abuse within the church, Ps Jeff and his elders-with-integrity stood up against the Pharisees in their midst and effected a good clean-out. … purge the evil one from among you. (see Jeff’s Open Letter to Pastors)

      • Barnabasintraining

        That’s why a church like Jeff Crippen’s is so extraordinary, though it should not be extraordinary:

        I know. We need more pastors and churches like Jeff’s. I am praying God will raise up pastors in particular to say “enough!” on this thing.

        Part of the problem is, they have been taught that what they are doing is following the Bible. I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate this so I may come across a bit garbled or incomplete here, but I have been thinking of the “follow the Bible” idea. There seems to be basically 2 ways to “follow the Bible.” One is the way God meant for it to be done, in accord with His character and nature and benevolent lovingkindness. In other words, the spirit of the law, which is what you mean. The other is the way fallen man tends to think it should be done which ends up being either licentious or else Pharisaical. In other words, letter of the law. (Which interestingly simultaneously serves both ends of that spectrum as we see in the Sabbath restrictions that Jesus condemns in that they prevented people from doing good on the Sabbath on one end with the corban excuse for neglecting to meet family obligations on the other end).

        When I was researching the Jewish divorce laws I found that through the ages it seemed that whether a rabbi saw abuse as grounds for divorce or not tended to follow his view of women. If he had a high view of women, he saw divorce for abuse as an obvious choice. If he saw women as more of an extension of a man, or a sort of property, abuse was not only not grounds for divorce but it was even accepted that men could “discipline ” their wives. (However, this is expressly condemned by Paul when said no one hates his own flesh but loves and nourishes it.) So following the Bible (or the law) and how that was perceived would say more about the heart of the man interpreting it than anything else.

        Christ said the whole of the law could be summed up in 2 commands, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

        So how does expecting a woman (or a man) to endure a clearly unendurable situation and blaming her for it not working, or worse for causing it in the first place a la Bruce Ware, demonstrate love of your neighbor?

        And how can we help these people to shift paradigms?

      • Barnabasintraining

        This is the Bruce Ware quote I’m thinking of. He says these are a man’s only 2 choices when his wife becomes unsubmissive.

        He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive–and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that–but here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to be the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,’ ‘Whatever you say dear,’ ‘Fine dear’ and become a passive husband, because of sin.

        So if she’s abused, it’s her fault because she got all uppity and stuff.

    • anewfreelife

      Wow, Barbaasintraining, that is very perceptive! That is exactly how I felt! Thank you for validating me!

      • anewfreelife

        Oops! I am so sorry I slaughtered your name, Barnabasintraining! I really should not post on three hours sleep!

      • Barnabasintraining

        You’re welcome. 🙂

      • Barnabasintraining

        Hehe. Barabbas. Hehe. 🙂

        Barabbas, Barnabas. Tomayto, tomahto… 🙂

      • Anonymous

        LOL – looks like you called her Barabbasintraining!

      • anewfreelife

        LOL

    • mlieder

      Barnabas . .. . . I know what you mean about “following the Bible” . I also hear the phrase tossed around “coming under the authority of the church”. But, what does THAT mean? And who decides what that entails? It is a catch-phrase that is used to manipulate. “Following the Bible” “Authority of the Church”. I am sure there are others we could come up with . . . .

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yeah. It all comes down to what is meant by it. When Barbara or Jeff use it, we know they are using it correctly because they mean it the way God clearly meant it — to affect justice for the oppressed and to condemn actual sin. Their reasoning is sound and you can tell it’s sound, especially if you’re a victim.

        But when it’s used to justify abuse, or blame the victim, etc. that is a whole other ball of wax.

      • Jodi

        Speaking kind of off topic about the “Authority of the Church/Pastor” one ex pastor of mine was all upset because my teenage son wouldn’t drink the wine for communion because he felt drinking alcohol was wrong for him. The pastor tried to convince me that my son was rebelling against him because he refused to submit to the choice of the church in serving wine and no grape juice! This was just the tip of the iceberg with this man.

      • Jeff S

        Wow, Jodi, that is bizarre. The church I’m about to join has three different “stations” for communion- one wine, one grape juice, and one glutton free. I never even thought until this moment how that signifies servant leadership, but I think it does. What an inversion of servant leadership your pastor was!

      • Barnabasintraining

        Jodi,

        What do they do with alcoholics? How do they justify serving them the very thing that will keep them enslaved to sin, and that in the very ordinance we are commanded to use to honor Christ’s death in remembrance of Him (who died to free us from sin’s enslavement as well as penalty) til He come?

        (I’m not a t-totaler, BTW. But you know, common sense….)

        Worse, this puts the alcoholic in the position of being unable to obey the command to “do this in remembrance of Me.” They have effectively barred him from the table and hindered his obedience to observe communion as is commanded of believers everywhere. They have made Christ’s table a stumbling block.

        This is just getting worse. I better stop here. 😦

        I like what Jeff S’ church is doing. That is servant leadership!

      • Jodi

        I thought it was outrageous as well and there was at least one former alcoholic in the church. This pastor kept tabs on everything I did and made it his job to reprimand me for every imagined shortcoming possible- he actually said that he thought my son would be a better witness to his unsaved friends if he showed them the right way to drink, rather than to not drink at all!. I told him that was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. I believe this “pastor” was perversely obsessed with me. Like there is another kind. It was a terrible experience being in his church compounded by the abuse from my husband.

      • anewfreelife

        Wow, I am so sorry, Jodi! That pastor just sounds plain strange. How horrible, not just to be neglected by your church but to be so verbally and spiritually abused by them as well The last church I spoke about served real wine, too. I often wondered how they would have dealt with an alcoholic. They probably would not have allowed them to even take communion. They asked me not to take communion anymore and told me that my children could not take it either. They said that, even though we’ve all made professions of faith and been baptized, we would need to answer their questions to their satisfaction and become members of the church before we could partake.

      • Jodi

        It is a terrible thing to see churches trying to shut people out of the kingdom of heaven. Thankfully they don’t have the last word.

  6. Lynette D

    I am sorry for this woman’s ordeal but it seems that the first couple of churches were willing to help and support her leaving, and I don’t see where she wrote why she didn’t follow through. I understand how hard it is to leave an abuser, but like I said, she had churches that did want to help.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lynette: Your question is a good one primarily because it shows how we all, without instruction about the nature of abuse, don’t understand the dilemma of the victim. She had to leave those churches. Why? Because like so many abusers, her husband desired to isolate her. He withdrew her from church after church, especially when he saw that he was in danger of being exposed. On top of that, most all of those churches never truly dealt with the man himself. They didn’t unite as one and come up against him and protect her. Yes, some urged her to leave. But leaving abuse is not easy. The victim is confused, fearful and if she is a Christian she has been brain-washed so often with the mantra that separating and divorcing would be a grievous sin. “Why doesn’t she just leave the bum?” is the naive question we all ask at first. Why? Because it isn’t so simple as we think, especially when there are children involved and all kinds of other pressuring dynamics at work. Thanks for coming here Lynette and reading. Keep reading and keep learning and you will come to understand why things played out as they did in Lisa’s life.

      • Lynette D

        I understand how hard it is. I have a friend who was in a similar situation. I think what I missed was how the churches didn’t come against the husband. Yes, you are right, I think that would have made a huge difference.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yes, for sure. The fact is that these situations can be dangerous and all are messy. Most people don’t want to get involved in a mess so they step away and often that means sending the victim off with a “may the Lord bless you” but nothing else. “Good luck, but don’t count on us to back you up.”

        It is noteworthy that her most recent church whose leaders cornered her have said nothing to her even though she hasn’t been back. Call them the sons of Pilate – “hey bring us a towel and some water.”

  7. jritterbrunson

    That breaks my heart. I am a counselor in a church where I hope that would never happen, although I know we are not perfect. A church without mercy and grace is no church at all. I hope writing this gave you some healing. You can give up on man, but please don’t give up on God.

  8. anewfreelife

    I’m Lisa; I’m logged in under my own blog account which is why I’m coming up as anewfreelife. I would like to thank Pastor Crippen and Barb for giving me the opportunity to speak my truth. It has been healing, sort of cleansing. And, thank you all for the kind and supportive words. I think Pastor Crippen did a fine job explaining to Lynette some of the larger dynamics. I’d just like to add though that the second church actually did not offer support in my leaving. They told me to submit. They just said that what I was doing wasn’t submission. I received nothing from them that indicated I would be supported if I’d left. You are right, Lynette, the first church did. The pastor and his wife did offer for me to stay with them, and they called it abuse. However, I had a newborn with this man. He had taken a 2 year old away from his 3rd wife. His brother had taken his own 2 year old away from his wife. That family’s world view is that wives and children are the man’s possession. There is rampant abuse in my husband’s family. I was scared to death because I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt they would take my baby from me and subject him to their physical and sexual abuse. I did not have family support on my side, and, in addition to my own weird belief system I’d received from my family of origin, I also believed it was better for me to stay and protect my child the best I could than to let them have him. I absolutely did not have the resources to fight a custody battle and neither did my pastor or the little tiny home church. My fears all those years ago were legitimized this past year as he pursued me through the courts seeking custody of our children. He only backed off after a counselor submitted a report to both attorneys that stated our son was damaged by DV his dad had metered out on him and DV he had witnessed his dad committing against other family members (the other children and me). It did take one man finally saying to my husband, albeit by a letter, that his actions were damaging and violent and the children are better off with me. That is something, unfortunately, I never got from any church.

    • Jeff S

      Lisa, I just want to encourage you that you should never feel you have to justify not leaving. Leaving is a hard thing to do even WITH church support, and every situation is different. People looking in see simple solutions to complex problems, and in the end NO action you took at ANY point makes anything that happened to you reasonable, justified, to be expected, or in any way your fault.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Lisa for fleshing that all out. You make our point very well. “Simply” leaving an abuser turns out to not be so simple after all.

  9. anewfreelife

    Thank you so very, very much for the tremendous support. I deeply appreciate it. I hope that my being transparent helps those looking in to see the picture more clearly.

  10. anewfreelife

    Oh, ya know, I think it’s important to note here, too, that my experience at this last church, where they were so blunt in their judgment, is also a huge factor in why Christian women often don’t leave. We all know that we will be ostracized by the larger Christian community. There is a real stigma attached to divorce in a lot of churches. I didn’t even leave him, but, no matter what, I still get to wear the scarlet letter because I merely filed after he abandoned me.
    It is such a complex problem. Children, church, family, finances, brainwashing, crippling fear. The fear takes on a life of its own after awhile. I’m undergoing therapy for my neck injuries, and my therapist has voiced his discomfort in continuing with treatment aggressively because he said my body literally vibrates when he touches my neck. I don’t even sense an emotion of fear, but I viscerally respond in fear when touched. So very, very complex……

    • “There is a real stigma attached to divorce in a lot of churches. I didn’t even leave him, but, no matter what, I still get to wear the scarlet letter because I merely filed after he abandoned me.”
      Yes indeed. And you had both ‘legit’ grounds for divorce that conservative churches usually permit – you’d suffered adultery AND you’d suffered desertion. But you were still judged for filing for divorce! How ridiculous is that.

      And when you ‘confessed’ to having suffered abuse as well and told them that was your major ground for divorce, the prejudice of the gunners showed its ugliness unrestrained and they felt justified in letting go their full barrage of bombardment.

    • DaisyFlower

      Terribly sorry for all you’ve been through, anewfreelife.

      As a side note, most conservative churches, Christian television personalities, and Christian professional blogs and magazines, are also bad with Christians who are over the age of 30 and never married.

      The tendency for many conservative denominations (or Christian hosts / writers) is to either completely ignore older, never-married believers, or shame them (if they admit to wanting marriage), or to insultingly assume there is something wrong with them (because everyone gets married by the age of 30, supposedly), or it’s their fault they’re still single.

      So it’s not just divorced people who are treated poorly by churches, it’s the never-married believers over the age of 30, too. (I do notice the prejudices against divorced Christians by other Christians, and it makes me angry.)

      But if it cheers you up to know older, never married Christians have to deal with their own type of insensitivity from American Christian culture and churches as well – it’s not just the divorced who get treated shabbily by Christians.

      When you’re single and in your twenties (and with the expectation marriage will happen to you by the time you’re 30 years old, or at least by 35 years old), you don’t notice the terrible, painful bias churches have against older singles, not until you are one yourself.

      • anewfreelife

        I’m sorry if you have experienced that yourself. Yes, I have noticed that in local churches, and it is heartbreaking. It shouldn’t matter–never married, divorced, married, remarried–we are brothers and sisters in Christ, sinners saved by grace. This whole attitude so many exhibit just is not of Christ.

      • Laurie

        I agree, Anewfreelife, with what you expressed here. We are all brothers and sisters. That is why I really like the term, adelphos. That is what “brother” is in the Greek and it means “first born from the same womb.” Let that soak in, Jesus is the firstborn of many brethren, who are adelphos. Its an “in Him” kinda thing. We can’t be adelphos unless we are in Him, because He is adelphos.

      • Very good point, DaisyFlower. The subtle deprecation or ignoring of never-married Christians is something divorced Christians can relate to. People mouth platitudes about how singleness is just as valid as marriage, and how the single life is a gift from God. But the very fact they feel they have to chant that mantra just points to the fact that few Christians really believe it.
        The other thing I’ve noticed as a divorced Christian, and I guess it’s the same for the never-married, is people saying “You should find all your desires satisfied in God.” Well, yes, but no . . . it was ‘not good’ for Adam to be alone without Eve. As soon as an older single person mentions their desire to be married, smug unthinking Christians tend to come down on them with shoulding…. ” You should be satisfied in Christ.” And they think they are ‘helping’ us by reminding us how we ought to feel. Groan.

  11. mlieder

    Don’t go back, beautiful Lisa. Take time to heal and start afresh. You have been abused and held down for so so long . . . . . find your bearings . . . . rest in Him. God is not demanding . . . . He knows what you need and will meet those needs. Be at peace as you find out who God REALLY is . . . . . Love to you and hugs to you.

  12. MAM

    I am so sorry for your experience. I can relate on so many levels. Not the extent of the abuse but the interactions with the churches. No one can understand what it’s like to be sabotaged by the church. It’s like the church is the picture of Christ and so Christ himself is the one hurting us. It takes a whole lot of God speaking truth to us to change that. I am so sorry for your experience.

    • anewfreelife

      Exactly! That’s where I’ve been the last few weeks. I’ve had great difficulty in my relationship with the Lord. I know that wasn’t of Him, but it was devastating to come from His church. Thank you very much.

      • MAM

        I read this awesome book called Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. He articulates so well God’s intense never failing love for us. I struggled so long barely hanging on to believing God existed. I read this book and He used it so much to really speak to my heart. If you can get your hands on it I would highly recommend it. God loves us so much. Him letting these things happen to us is not failure on His part but failure on the part of the believers for not doing what they were called to do. We are not meant to be lions without our manes and no roar. We stand up for justice and for the weak and the wounded and we bind them up. God bless, may He speak directly to your heart in the way it needs to restore your faith in Him.

  13. Just FYI, Lisa’s new blog is A New Free Life.

  14. anewfreelife

    Yet one more experience today…….my husband’s brother called me stating that we only have until the end of the month for my husband to collect everything he “won” in the divorce, and the brother wanted to come this Thursday. I called my attorney because I haven’t ever received a copy of the divorce papers signed by the judge. My attorney called today and said that they haven’t been sent to the judge yet, my husband’s attorney hasn’t ever signed and returned them. So, I posted on Facebook how frustrated I am and asked for prayer that it would all just be over soon. A local pastor’s wife whom I’ve known for years posted, “This is why God hates divorce,” on my wall! I promptly deleted her post and messaged her, letting her know there are a lot of things God hates and that was a judgmental thing to post. We went back and forth a couple of times until she refused to respond anymore.

    • Lynette D

      Wow…I would have wrote back…What do you think He hates more? Divorce or a man beating one of His precious daughters?

    • Yeah… sigh. The pastor’s wife needs to read my book which explains how that verse in Malachi has often been mistranslated, and it doesn’t say “God Hates Divorce”. But that woman’s got mud in her ears. Not worth wasting your energy on any further, as it’s only likely to lead to you getting more hurt.
      Hope the paperwork gets finalised soon and property and chattels stuff takes place without mishap.

      • anewfreelife

        Actually, I was like a pit bull with her. Lynette, I wish I’d thought of that at the time! She and I had gone back to back years and years ago, against some other folks who were in left field on another issue, so perhaps I felt a little “safer” to get in the mud with her. But, anyhow, she ended up apologizing completely tonight and turning around her entire viewpoint, stating that I had every right to have left him years ago and that she wishes I could have felt able to share with her back then and received the support I needed. Too bad they aren’t all that easy!

      • Good one! (that’s an Aussie expression – don’t know if you Yankees use it)
        .. means bravo, fabulous, far out, way to go man!

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yay! I’m glad she got it! You have won your brother! (Er, sister.)

      • anewfreelife

        Thank you, Barbara and Barnabas! It is so empowering to have a victory. The worst of the two elders called me today while I was at work to see why I hadn’t been to church for a couple of weeks. So glad that I have the high of winning my sister to embolden me for this one!

  15. nettymcc

    Thank you for sharing!

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