[September 21, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
You have heard that a woman in your church left her husband. You have also heard that she is claiming he abused her. While you have never seen signs of this (he was such a great guy at church!), it is her claim. You are baffled because she never told you while she was with him (you wonder why? Kind of hurts a bit, even, that she didn’t mention it.). You observe her in person….or on her blog or on Facebook. What makes things worse is that she seems to vacillate between this “hyper-freedom cheer” and fear. She seems free….yet afraid….yet free….yet afraid. At times, she even seems angry. Angry at the church, at friends, at family, at the world. It seems she is going through a trauma. There are two paths you can take. You want to help. What will you do?
First, you could get on her blog and start posting about how Christians should not be angry, should not be disrespectful to their husband or should not (NOT) speak ill of the church. You could even contact her abuser and ask him whether or not he “really did it”. You could shake your head about the pain divorce causes. You could kind of stay away for a while because it is hard to know what is going on with her — she seems erratic! You could send her an email, maybe demand an explanation from her (surely, she has time for that, trauma or no trauma). Maybe she needs correction. It sounds like she is bitter….she needs a “sister” or “brother” to come alongside of her and point this out.
Sadly, friend, this is what I have seen in my life and in the lives of many abuse survivors I know. Don’t go this route. It will break her spirit. I promise. There is a better way….
Love her. I know it is challenging but, get your hands dirty. And I’m not talking about the “I will love her regardless of what she has done” kind of love. (We’re all in this boat together, aren’t we?)
What does she need right now? Do her children need clothes? Or Christmas gifts? Do they have food? Are they paying the bills? Does she need someone to watch the kids so she can heal? Or just go to the grocery store? Do you know a good counselor? Can she cry with you? Is she free to do that? Oh, friend….please do not assume you know or understand her story. She, most likely, has so much unraveling to do. Her body might even be going through shock. She might be gaining new illnesses due to trauma. Does she need protection? Is she afraid? Is there a way to make her feel safe? These are all questions that will help you to think through the process of loving her.
She cannot handle inquisitiveness. She is trying to survive. Uphold her for a time. Find ways to support her. But, by all means….love her. Please.
[September 21, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to September 21, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 21, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 21, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 21, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
20 thoughts on “Love Her”
Beautiful…. Just having someone there to listen without judgment….to validate her experiences….to love her throughout all of this turbulence….it can make a world of difference to her healing — both psychologically and spiritually.
Beautiful….just to have someone there to listen without judgment as she tries to process everything….to validate her experiences and her feelings….to love her throughout all of the turbulence….it can make a world of difference to her healing, both psychological and spiritual. What a wonderful post!
Ahh! If only!!! Thinking back, I remember a new church, a new chance but always the same response. I remember feeling so alone, like the uphill battle was designated solely to me. I would fill out the little prayer cards next to the Bibles in front of me. I would ask for prayer and would leave my number for a call back, or anyone that could maybe bring any kind of sense of knowing the troubles I faced. I never received one phone call, every Sunday leaving my requests, my pleas for help….he was not there with me, therefore I was not worthy of the acknowledgment. Whatever the truth was behind no response to my pleas for help, I cry when I think of how many right now are going through the same. Maybe someday I can be that person I so desperately needed for somebody else. What a change it would make in the lives of so many families right now IF the church kept a look out for the people within their own walls that are in trouble.
I also remember being at the end of myself, but looking for God in the places I thought He would be….I had no place else to turn. I did find Him, sadly it was not within those walls but rather He came in other unexpected places, for that I am so grateful.
The secondary abuse of the church, devastated my children and myself. Most people in my position would not even tell, or be too ashamed to speak of. Then when every ounce of your being finds courage to speak….to actually ask for help….then the experience is just ignored….simply awful stuff.
Not even waiting to see, or hear, if you really look there are people like me everywhere, and within the church they are waiting for some comfort. A look of recognition, a warm smile of acknowledgement, the look of “I SEE YOU”.
How terribly sad.
When will we learn that when one member of the body of Christ is broken, we all suffer; and when one member of the body of Christ is amputated, we all suffer loss. We are commanded to “bear each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). We are called to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). I long for the day that the Evangelical church puts some long-overdue emphasis on mercy and justice and love instead of fixating on laws and institutions and roles. Sometimes we really do come across as if the hands and feet of Jesus have been amputated, and all we seem to be now is a big mouth.
I am so sorry you felt abandoned by the church. So sad.
Desley, that’s brilliant!
My heart is broken a little here.
I would just request we do not wait to hear her cry, that may never come. Rather we seek her out because she IS there, usually right next to us.
That is true. She may not cry. She may not cry for years and years. Or she may only cry in private. Don’t wait ’til you see or hear her cry, if you sense she is in pain and fear, come along side her and invite her to talk. Or even just sit with her silently, if that feels right, or squeeze her hand (if you’re both the same sex!). Do whatever it takes to show you are interested in her and care about her and want to find out whether you can help her, without being pushy or intrusive.
Unfortunately I can’t take credit for it, Barbara. It was a quote from the documentary Lord, Save Us from Your Followers [Internet Archive link]1.
1[December 18, 2022: We added the link to a page for the documentary Lord, Save Us from Your Followers. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]
You were and ARE so worthy of acknowledgment and so much more, dear Memphis. What they did to you was unconscionable. And God was not pleased by that. He will usher in the mercy and beauty in the most unexpected places, as you said. You are His beautiful girl. Big hugs.
I am reblogging this on my site in the hopes it will help people understand.
Your last paragraph is so well-written it made me cry.
Just being there is enough, allowing someone the space to cry. I know this. Bless you for writing something so eloquently yet simply.
Amen! I really dislike the hurtful distasteful although meant-in-a-good-way questions. I am so thankful for my true friends. So thankful for an understanding church with support. So thankful for support from here on this site. So thankful for support from a domestic abuse survivors group — although I have to wait to go back ’til my daughter’s done with classes she’s enrolled in. So thankful for a safe place to have shelter and food. So thankful for God providing my needs in so many ways. So thankful for my daughter — if it were not for her I may not be here today. Yes there is another lesson for me to learn. More wisdom for me to gain. Next year in Nov I will be a keynote speaker in a woman’s boasting in the Lord. I was feeling very very down this morning. Crying out. God responded with an abundance of support for me today. Tonight I just need to rejoice and be thankful for all He has done for me and is continuing to do for me. The right touch, concerns and questions are such a blessing. Love, listening ears with very little interruption, the right loving caring questions, hugs. Lots of hugs!
Oh, your thankfulness is so BEAUTIFUL, Tee! Thank you! You have blessed me with these words!
I love my mother and she loves me VERY, VERY much but her answer is to not dwell on the past and [to] just move on….I have other friends who will let me cry on their shoulder I don’t need that from her. She is there for me. She has opened up her home to me and my children and never pressures me. She provides love and support for my children and encourages them every day.
My point is that no matter what kind of love you give. Give love, without judgment! If you can’t be a shoulder then be a support beam, if you can’t be a support beam, then be a guardian angel. But please no matter what you do, don’t condemn her in any way. She is very broken and it is NOT HER FAULT!
Thank you for your wisdom and your truthfulness. Your voice was silenced for awhile, but now you are free and instead of hiding, you are speaking out. Helping others. You are a testament as to what God can do. You inspire me and amaze me. As being a recipient of your pure love, I can testify as to how healing it can be! Keep speaking the truth, sister, and never ever stop loving. So proud of you!
A beautiful post, Megan! Very well put.
Excellent post! When I was going through my divorce in my church I learned one more thing that was like food to a starving person: invitations. I remained heavily involved in the church but many of my social invitations dried up. There were 3 very kind couples who continued to invite me over even though I was this awkward single mom instead of a couple. One couple in particular would invite me and the kids over for dinner to watch a show we all liked, and their kids too. It was life giving! I was very grateful.
Megan, I am so amazed as to how our stories relate. I fully agree with the post you wrote. Each time you write something on this blog it is as if you know my story. Having someone to talk to and count on helps so much. I would not have been able to be where I am today if it was not for my friends I have. They have stuck with me through it all and are encouraging me whenever I need it. My friends saw first-hand the abuse I was going through. They were there when some of the abuse occurred. True friends are hard to find but once you find them, you know they are there for you and will never let you go at it alone.